Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.CHAPTER 3
1. The builders of the sheep gate (Nehemiah 3:1-2)
2. The builders of the fish gate (Nehemiah 3:3-5)
3. The repairers of the old gate (Nehemiah 3:6-12)
4. The repairers of the valley gate (Nehemiah 3:13)
5. The repairers of the dung gate (Nehemiah 3:14)
6. The repairers of the gate of the fountain (Nehemiah 3:15-25)
7. The repairers of the water gate (Nehemiah 3:26-27)
8. The repairers of the horse gate (Nehemiah 3:28)
9. The builders of the east gate and the Gate Miphkad (Nehemiah 3:29-32)
Neh. 3:1-2. The work is begun at once. We shall not point out the location of these different gates, nor study the topography of Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah, as others have done. There are most helpful, spiritual lessons to be learned from the building of the wall and the repairing of the gates. A wall is for protection and to keep out what does not belong in the city. In Ezra’s work we saw the restoration of the true place of worship. The wall surrounding the place where the people gathered once more in the true worship of Jehovah typifies the guarding of that place of privilege and blessing. A wall of separation is needed to keep out that which is undesirable and which would hinder and mar the true worship. (Even in connection with the millennial temple a wall is mentioned, “to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place” Ezekiel 42:20.) Even so a church, an assembly, composed of true believers who gather together in that worthy Name, and unto that Name, must be protected from the world and all which dishonors Christ, or that which is contrary to sound doctrine, must be excluded. This is the true New Testament principle in connection with the true Church, foreshadowed in the building of the wall surrounding the place where the Lord had set His Name.
The third chapter is a remarkable one. We see the people of God at work building and repairing, every one doing the work in a certain place. Here is the record of the names, where and how they labored. God keeps such a record of all His servants and their labors. When all His people appear before the judgment seat of Christ this book will be opened “and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1Corinthians 3:8).
Ten gates are mentioned in this chapter. In chapter 8:16 we read of “the gate of Ephraim” and in chapter 12:39 of “the prison gate.” If we add these two to the ten mentioned in this chapter we have twelve gates (Revelation 21:12). The first gate at which the work started is the sheep gate. Through this gate the sacrificial animals were led to the altar, the constant witness to the fact that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” and the types of Him who was “led as a lamb to the slaughter.” The sheep gate at which the work started is typical of the blessed work of the Lamb of God, He who bore our sins in His body on the tree, the offering of His spotless, holy body by which we are sanctified. The lesson here is that the person and work of Christ is the starting point of a true restoration, and that the cross of Christ, the work of God’s Son has accomplished, must be guarded above everything else. At the close of this chapter this sheep-gate is mentioned once more. After making the circuit of all the gates, we are led back to this first gate. It is with this great truth, the gospel of Christ, that all repairing of the inroads of the world and the flesh, must start and terminate. This gate suggests Him who said, “I am the door; by me if any man enter in he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9). There is no other gate which leads to life and into God’s presence.
Eliashib (God will restore) the high priest, with his brethren, builded the sheep gate, sanctified it and set it up. It was priestly work. The tower of Meah and the tower of Hananeel are mentioned. Meah means “a hundred” and it reminds us of the parable in which our Lord mentions the man who had a hundred sheep. Hananeel means “to whom God is gracious.” Significant names. There is no doubt that this sheep gate is the same one mentioned in John 5:2, which affords still another application. The men of Jericho, once under the curse, but now in the place of nearness and blessing, toiled next to the high priest. What grace this reveals! Zaccur (well remembered) the son of Imri (the towering one) also was there.
Neh. 3:3-5. Next was the fish gate. This was separated from the sheep gate by the portion of the wall which the men of Jericho and Zaccur repaired. Outside of that gate may have been a fish market, or it may have been the gate through which the fishermen passed to catch fish. It reminds us of the words of our Lord, “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). After we have passed through the sheep gate we must go through the fish gate, to catch fish, to be soul-winners. In this way, leading others to Christ, bringing sinners to a knowledge of the Saviour, the Church is built up. Hassenaah (lifted up) was the builder there. Then Meremoth (strong), Meshullam (repaying a friend) and Zadok (just) repaired next to the fish gate. “And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles did not put their necks to the work of their Lord.” The prophet Amos was a Tekoite who had prophesied many years before, a simple herdman and gatherer of sycamore figs. He was chosen of the Lord, and here other humble instruments of Tekoa, used in doing the work, are immortalized in this record. Their nobles were slackers. They had no interest in the work of their Lord. And so there are such who do not work for the Lord, and in that coming day will suffer loss, though they are saved.
Neh. 3:6-12. The next gate is the old gate. This gate was probably the same which elsewhere is called “the corner gate” (2Kings 14:13; Jeremiah 31:38). Jehoiada (“the Lord knows”) and Meshullam repaired this gate. This gate may also remind us of Him “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” who is the cornerstone, upon whom all rests. Next repaired Melatiah, the Gibeonite, and Jadon, the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and Mizpah. The Gibeonites, on account of their deception by which they had obtained a covenant of peace with Israel in Joshua’s day, had been made “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” Here we behold some of them participating in the great work. Of the others we mention Rephaiah, who was a wealthy man, who did not hire a substitute, but labored with his own hands, toiling with the rest. Shallum, the son of Halohesh, was another man of power and wealth; he and his daughters repaired like the rest. What a sight it must have been when these zealous men cleared away the debris and repaired the gates, and among them the daughters of Shallum!
Nehemiah 3:13. The valley gate was repaired by Hanun (gracious) and the inhabitants of Zanoah (broken). The valley typifies the low place, humility. How needed this is in service for God, for “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”
Nehemiah 3:14. The dung gate was repaired by Malchiah, and he was the ruler of Beth-haccerem (the place of the vineyard). This gate was used to carry out the refuse and filth from the city. This gate reminds of the exhortations that God’s people must cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and the spirit “for God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1Thessalonians 4:7).
Nehemiah 3:15-25. The gate of the fountain was next to the dung gate. The fountain, ever flowing, is a blessed type of the Holy Spirit, who indwells the believer and is in him, the well of living water springing up, like a fountain, into everlasting life (John 4:14). It is suggestive that the fountain gate came after the dung gate. If a believer cleanses himself from that which defiles, the Spirit of God will be unhindered, filling the believer and using him as a vessel meet for the Master’s use. Shallun (recompense) the son of Colhozeh (wholly seer) the ruler of Mizpah (watchtower) repaired and built that gate. And these names fit in beautifully with the Spirit of God as the fountain of life and power. We cannot mention all the names which follow. (A good concordance like Strong’s or Young’s gives most of the Hebrew proper names in a reliable translation. We suggest the study of the names of those who repaired as interesting and helpful.) Nor do we know anything whatever of the individual history of those zealous Israelites, who reconstructed and restored the wall and gates of Jerusalem. God knows each one and has preserved their names, though unknown by the world, in His Word. Surely “the memory of the just is blessed” (Proverbs 10:7) and some day they, with us and all His servants, will receive the reward.
Nehemiah 3:26-27. The water gate is mentioned and the Nethinim, who were servants and dwelt in Ophel (the high place) are connected with this gate. This gate suggests the Word of God so frequently spoken of under the symbol of water (John 3:5; John 13:1-16; Ephesians 5:26; Psalm 119:136). It is very interesting to notice that while the servants are mentioned in connection with the water gate, it does not say that they repaired the gate. The Word of God needs no building up or improving; it builds up those who bow to its blessed authority.
Nehemiah 3:28. The horse gate (2Kings 11:6; Jeremiah 31:40) suggests warfare and victory. In a world of evil the people of God wage a warfare. We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with the wicked spirits. Paul speaks of the believer as a soldier of Christ. Victory is on our side, though the forces of evil may threaten on all sides.
Nehemiah 3:29-32. The east gate was repaired and kept by Shemaiah, the son of Shechaniah. From Ezekiel’s prophecy we learn that the Shekina glory left from the east gate, and that when the glory returns to dwell once more in the temple, the great millennial temple of Ezekiel’s vision, the glory of the Lord will enter through the east gate. The east gate faces the rising sun. It suggests the coming of the Lord for His people. And here the two names fit in beautifully. Shemaiah means “heard of the Lord”; even so He will hear His people and some day will answer their prayer for His coming. Shechaniah means “habitation of the Lord.” We shall be with Him.
The Miphkad gate was repaired by Malchiah (the Lord is King) the goldsmith’s son. Miphkad means “the appointed place” or “a place of visitation.” It was probably the gate in which the judges sat to settle disputes and controversies. It suggests the judgment seat of Christ.
Thus we learn that the wall surrounding and protecting the gathered people suggests the cross as the starting point; service; Christ as Lord; humility; cleansing from defilement; filling with the Spirit; the Word of God and its power; warfare and victory; the coming of the Lord and the judgment seat of Christ.