Nehemiah 1:11
O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.
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Nehemiah 1:11. Who desire to fear thy name — Who are not only called by thy name, but really have a reverence for it: who now worship thee, and thee only, according to thy will, and have an awful sense of all the discoveries which thou art pleased to make of thyself. Those who truly desire to fear his name shall be graciously accepted of God. Grant him mercy in the sight of this man — The king, upon whom he was going to attend: who, though a god by office, was but a man by nature, and therefore his heart was wholly at God’s disposal. Favour with men is then comfortable, when we see it springing from the mercy of God. For I was the king’s cup-bearer — Whereby I had opportunity to speak to him, and some favour with him, which encouraged me to make this prayer, and to hope for some success. Many of the Jews, by the singular favour of God, obtained considerable dignities in their captivity, as Daniel and his companions, Zerubbabel and others; among whom was this pious man, who was advanced to this office of cup-bearer when he was but a youth; which, it must be observed, was a place of great honour and advantage in the Persian court, because of the privilege which it gave him who bore it, of being daily in the king’s presence, and the opportunity which he had thereby of gaining his favour for the procuring of any petition he should make to him. That it was a place of great temporal advantage, seems evident by Nehemiah’s gaining those immense riches which enabled him, for so many years, (Nehemiah 5:14; Nehemiah 5:19,) out of his own privy purse only, to live in his government with great splendour and expense, without burdening the people at all. See Prideaux, Anno 445.

1:15-44 The best reformers can but do their endeavour; when the Redeemer himself shall come to Zion, he shall effectually turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And when sin is repented of and forsaken, God will forgive it; but the blood of Christ, our Sin-offering, is the only atonement which takes away our guilt. No seeming repentance or amendment will benefit those who reject Him, for self-dependence proves them still unhumbled. All the names written in the book of life, are those of penitent sinners, not of self-righteous persons, who think they have no need of repentance.A Persian king had numerous cup-bearers, each of whom probably discharged the office in his turn. 11. I was the king's cupbearer—This officer, in the ancient Oriental courts, was always a person of rank and importance; and, from the confidential nature of his duties and his frequent access to the royal presence, he possessed great influence. In the sight of this man, the king; who though a god by office, is but a man by nature, and therefore his heart is wholly at thy disposal.

I was the king’s cup-bearer; whereby I had opportunity to speak to him, and some favour and freedom with him; which encouraged me to make this prayer, and to hope for some success.

O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant,.... To the prayer of Nehemiah, put up at this time:

and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name; the prayer of the Jews in Judea, whose desire was to worship the Lord in his temple, according to his will:

and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day; meaning himself, who was to wait on the king of Persia that day, and, if he had opportunity, intended to lay the case of the Jews before him, and therefore entreats he might meet with success:

and grant him mercy in the sight of this man; King Artaxerxes, who was but a man, and whose heart was in the hands of God, and he could easily move him to pity and compassion towards his poor people the Jews:

for I was the king's cupbearer; in the execution of which office he was often in the king's presence, and hoped to have an opportunity of speaking to him in the behalf of the Jews; this with the Persians was reckoned a very honourable office (g). A son of Prexaspes, a very honourable man, was made cupbearer to Cambyses; and so it was with the Greeks and Romans (h); and the poets not only make Ganymedes to be Jupiter's cupbearer (i), but even Vulcan himself is put into this office (k).

(g) Herodot. Thalia, sive, l. 3. c. 34. Xenophon. Cyropaedia, l. 5. c. 36. (h) Vid. Athenaei Deipnosophist. l. 10. (i) Homer. Iliad. 21. ver. 234. (k) Homer. Iliad. 1. prope finem.

O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to {d} fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of {e} this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

(d) That is, to worship you.

(e) That is, the king Artaxerxes.

11. The special Intercession (a) generally, that the prayer of Nehemiah and his countrymen might be heard, (b) particularly, that Nehemiah’s application to the king might be successful.

O Lord] The Hebrew word ‘Adonai’ is also used for the Divine name in Neh. (Nehemiah 3:5) Nehemiah 8:10, Nehemiah 10:29 : see also note on Ezra 10:3.

The use of ‘Adonai’ by itself as a Divine title is common in poetry and in prophetical writings (e.g. Job 28:28; Psalm 16:2; Psalm 35:23; Psalm 37:13 &c.; Isaiah 3:17-18; Isaiah 8:7 &c.; Jeremiah 2:22; Ezekiel 18:25; Ezekiel 18:29; Amos 1:8; Amos 5:16; Micah 1:2, and in Lamentations chaps. 2, 3. passim). It is generally used in prayer or humble address, as in Genesis 18:3; Genesis 18:27; Genesis 18:30-32; Exodus 4:10; Exodus 4:13; Exodus 5:22; Exodus 34:9; Numbers 14:17; Joshua 7:8; Jdg 6:15; Jdg 13:8; 2 Samuel 7:19; 1 Kings 8:53; Psalm 39:7; Psalm 51:15; Daniel 9:4; Daniel 9:7-8; Daniel 9:16-17; Daniel 9:19.

I beseech thee] see note on Nehemiah 1:5.

who desire to fear thy name] R.V. who delight &c.

The R.V. gives the true rendering. The Hebrew word is more generally used of ‘delight in’ a person or a thing, e.g. 1 Samuel 19:2; Psalm 22:8; Psalm 112:1; Isaiah 1:11; but it is also found with an infin., e.g. Psalm 40:8 ‘I delight to do thy will, O God.’ Isaiah 58:2 ‘delight to know my ways.’ Esther 6:6 &c. ‘the king delighteth to honour.’

‘delight to fear.’ The union of fear and joy is the paradox of spiritual service. Cf. Psalm 2:11 ‘Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling,’ Psalm 22:23 ‘Ye that fear the Lord praise him.’

thy name] i.e. Thy nature and Thy attributes. As often in the O. T. For ‘fear thy name,’ comp. Psalm 86:11; Malachi 4:2.

this day] The same word as in Nehemiah 1:6 ‘at this time,’ and to be understood here in the same sense. There is an obvious interval of time between ch. 1. and ch. 2.

and grant him mercy] The idiom here employed, literally ‘and give him to mercy’ occurs with the word here used for ‘mercy’ (rachamim = ‘bowels’ or ‘mercies,’ τὰ σπλάγχνα) in 1 Kings 8:50; Psalm 106:46. The sense strictly is ‘and give him over for purposes, or as an object, of mercy and kindness,’ just as in Nehemiah 4:4 ‘give them up to spoiling’ represents an opposite thought.

in the sight of this man] i.e. the king; the final words of the prayer are explained by the parenthetical clause which follows. The word ‘this’ shows that the prayer was the petition of Nehemiah at the king’s court, not necessarily in his presence.

For I was &c.] R.V. (Now I was, &c.) The clause in the Hebrew is parenthetical.

the king’s cupbearer] R.V. cupbearer to the king. The article is wanting before ‘cupbearer.’ Nehemiah stood in the relation of ‘cupbearer’ to the Persian king, but there were others holding the same office. Compare the use of the plural, ‘cupbearers,’ 1 Kings 10:5; 2 Chronicles 9:4; the title of ‘chief butler,’ i.e. chief of the cupbearer, in Genesis 40, 41; and the title Rab-shakeh (= chief cupbearer) in 2 Kings 18:17. This last passage shows the important place occupied at the court by the head of these functionaries. For, although the title probably represents the Assyrian ‘Rab-sak’ = ‘Generalissimo,’ the Hebrew transliteration of it, based on the similarity of sound conveyed the idea of ‘chief cupbearer’ to Hebrew readers, and presupposed his prominence among the ministers of an Oriental king.

A good representation of the duties of a ‘cupbearer’ at the Persian court is given by Xenophon (Cyrop. i. 3, 4). See note on Nehemiah 2:1.

The majority of such attendants at an Oriental court were eunuchs. We must certainly admit the probability that the Jews who occupied places of distinction at the court like Nehemiah, Daniel and his companions (Daniel 1:7), Mordecai (Esther 2:5; Esther 2:19, &c.), Zerubbabel (1Es 3:14; 1Es 4:13), belonged to this class. The words of consolation addressed by the Prophet of the Exile (Isaiah 56:4-5) to pious Jews, who according to the strict letter of the law were excommunicate, were applicable to such cases.

LXX. οἰνοχόος: Vulg. pincerna. The old Rabbinic explanation of the word ‘Tirshatha,’ as equivalent to ‘cupbearer’ and therefore applied to Nehemiah, is an illustration of obsolete methods of derivation (see Ezra 2:63).

Verse 11. - Prosper thy servant this day. "This day" does not perhaps mean more than "at this time"- in connection with this matter which is now in my thoughts. And grant him mercy in the sight of this man. "This man" is, of course, Artaxerxes, though as yet he has not been named. Nehemiah's thoughts have far outstripped his words. He has made up his mind that, in order to remove the reproach of Jerusalem, he must go there in person; that, to do so, he must obtain the king's permission; and that, to get his permission, he needs to be in very special favour with him. All depending on one man only, he has one man only in his mind, who becomes to him, therefore, "this man." I was the king's cupbearer. Literally, "I was cupbearer to the king." Not his sole cupbearer, but one of many. He mentions the fact here, partly to explain the meaning of "this man" to the reader, partly because it was his office which would give him access to Artaxerxes, and enable him to profit by the royal "mercy" or favour.

Nehemiah 1:11The prayer closes with the reiterated entreaty that God would hearken to the prayer of His servant (i.e., Nehemiah), and to the prayer of His servants who delight to fear His name (יראה, infin. like Deuteronomy 4:10 and elsewhere), i.e., of all Israelites who, like Nehemiah, prayed to God to redeem Israel from all his troubles. For himself in particular, Nehemiah also request: "Prosper Thy servant to-day (היּום like Nehemiah 1:6; לעבדּך may be either the accusative of the person, like 2 Chronicles 26:5, or the dative: Prosper his design unto Thy servant, like Nehemiah 2:20), and give him to mercy (i.e., cause him to find mercy; comp. 1 Kings 8:50; Psalm 106:46) before the face of this man." What man he means is explained by the following supplementary remark, "And I was cup-bearer to the king," without whose favour and permission Nehemiah could not have carried his project into execution (as related in Nehemiah 2).
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