Nehemiah 2:13
And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) The gate of the valley, opening on Hinnom, to the south of the city. Nehemiah passed by “the dragon well,” nowhere else mentioned, and not now to be traced, and surveyed the ruins from the “dung port,” whence offal was taken to the valley of Hinnom.

Nehemiah 2:13. I went out by night — The footmen who accompanied him directing and leading him in the way. His design was to go around the city, to observe the compass and condition of the walls and gates, that he might make sufficient provisions for the work. By the gate of the valley — Of which see Nehemiah 3:13. Even before the dragon-well — A fountain of water so called, either from some figure of a dragon or serpent which was by it, or from some living dragon which had taken up its abode there when the city was desolate. To the dung-port — Through which they used to carry the dung out of the city.2:9-18 When Nehemiah had considered the matter, he told the Jews that God had put it into his heart to build the wall of Jerusalem. He does not undertake to do it without them. By stirring up ourselves and one another to that which is good, we strengthen ourselves and one another for it. We are weak in our duty, when we are cold and careless.The gate of the valley - A gate opening on the valley of Hinnom, which skirted Jerusalem to the west and south. The exact position is uncertain; as is also that of "the dragon well."

The dung port - The gate by which offal and excrements were conveyed out of the city, and placed eastward of the valley-gate.

13-15. I went out by night by the gate of the valley—that is, the Jaffa gate, near the tower of Hippicus.

even before the dragon well—that is, fountain on the opposite side of the valley.

and to the dung port—the gate on the east of the city, through which there ran a common sewer to the brook Kedron and the valley of Hinnom.

I went out by night; the footmen which accompanied him directing and leading him in the way. his design was to go round about the city, to observe the compass and condition of the walls and gates, that he might make sufficient provisions for the work.

By the gate of the valley; of which see Nehemiah 3:13.

Before the dragon well; a fountain of water so called, either from some figure of a dragon or serpent which was by it; or from some living dragon which abode there when the city was desolate; for dragons delight to be in desolate places, and nigh to springs of water, as divers have observed.

To the dung-port; through which they used to carry the dung out of the city. And I went out by night, by the gate of the valley,.... Where that formerly stood, for the gates had been burnt, and were not as yet rebuilt; this was the gate that led to the valley of Jehoshaphat, according to some; or rather to the valley of dead bodies, through which the brook Kidron ran, see 2 Chronicles 26:9 it is the gate through which Christ went to Calvary; it led to Shiloh, Bethhoron, and Golan:

even before the dragon well; so called from its winding about, just as a crooked winding river is called serpentine; though some think here stood an image of a dragon, either in wood, or stone, or brass, out of the mouth of which the water flowed from the well; and others, that since the desolations of Jerusalem, serpents or dragons had their abode here:

and to the dung port; by which they used to carry the dung out of the city, and by which they went to Joppa, the sea, and all the western parts:

and viewed the walls of Jerusalem: in what condition they were, what was necessary to be wholly taken down, and where to begin to build: it must have been a moonlight night or he could not have taken a view; for to have carried torches or lamps with them would have discovered them:

and the gates thereof were consumed with fire; nothing of them remained.

And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. by the gate of the valley] R.V. by the valley gate. The R.V. rendering is preferable, showing that Nehemiah is not merely defining the position of the gate but is referring to it by its recognised name.

The valley-gate is mentioned again in Nehemiah 3:13. The king Uzziah according to 2 Chronicles 26:9 had fortified this gate with towers. We may safely identify this gate as the chief gate in the western wall of Jerusalem, and as thus corresponding to the modern Jaffa Gate, although very possibly not standing at precisely the same spot. There were two well-known valleys outside the walls of Jerusalem, (1) the ‘valley’ or ‘ravine’ (gai) of Hinnom or ‘the son of Hinnom,’ i.e. Gehenna, cf. Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Nehemiah 11:30; Jeremiah 7:31-32; Jeremiah 19:6; (2) the ‘valley’ or ‘brook’ or ‘watercourse’ (nakhal) of Kedron. In the present verse the word for ‘valley’ is ‘gai,’ and this fact coupled with the general topographical description here and in Nehemiah 3:13, shows that ‘the valley-gate’ was the western gate leading out into the ravine of Hinnom.

Recent investigations, however, have given rise to the supposition that pre-exilic Jerusalem was much smaller in circuit and that the western wall passed down the valley of the Tyropoeon. If so, ‘the valley-gate’ would be the gate opening into the Tyropoeon, which in those days was a considerable ravine but has since become almost completely choked with accumulations of ruin. According to this view the Tyropoeon is to be identified with the Valley of the Son of Hinnom.

even before the dragon well] R.V. even towards the dragon’s well. The LXX. misreading the less common word in the Hebrew for ‘dragon,’ renders καὶ πρὸς στὸμα πηγῆς τῶν συκῶν. The name is doubtless connected with some sanctuary at this fountain in prehistoric times, when ‘living water’ was associated with the worship of a deity often represented by a ‘dragon.’ Prof. Robertson Smith (Religion of the Semites, pp. 156, 157) calls attention to ‘the connection of jinns in the form of dragons or serpents with sacred or healing springs’ … ‘The river of Coele-Syria, the Orontes, was carved out, according to local tradition, by a great dragon, which disappeared in the earth at its source.’ The explanation that the well was so called ‘because some curious large watersnake or crocodile was kept in it in Nehemiah’s time’ may be disregarded as fanciful and improbable.

The identification of the well is uncertain. By some it has been identified with ‘En-Rogel,’ near ‘the serpent’s stone,’ the stone of Zoheleth (1 Kings 1:9). But see Nehemiah 2:15. By others it has been identified with ‘the fountain of Gihon’ (1 Kings 1:33). Neither of these suggestions suits the present verse, from which we gather that ‘the dragon fountain stood on the W. or S.W. wall of the city.’ If it was a spring in the Tyropoeon Valley, it has long since been choked up. ‘The rock-hewn conduit which has been found running along the bed of the Tyropoeon Valley’ (Sir Chas. Wilson’s Jerusalem, p. 113, 1889) may very well have conducted the water from such a spring. The ‘serpent,’ or Mamilla Pool, lay at the N. end of the modern Hinnom Valley (Joseph. Bell. Jud. v. 3. 2).

dung port] R.V. dung gate. The A.V. probably introduced the rendering ‘port’ as an intentional variation. For ‘port’ as the old English word for ‘gate,’ compare in the Prayer-book Version Psalm 9:14, ‘within the ports of the daughter of Sion.’ Shakespeare, Coriolanus, i. 7, ‘So let the ports be guarded’ (see The Bible Word-Book, by W. Aldis Wright).

The dung-gate was probably so called because the refuse of the town was carried out through this gate. Some scholars suppose this to be the same as ‘the gate Harsith’ or ‘gate of potsherds’ mentioned in Jeremiah 19:2. It is mentioned also in Nehemiah 3:13-14; Nehemiah 12:31. The proposal to identify it with the modern ‘dung-gate,’ the ‘Bâb-el-Mughâribe,’ is very natural; but the similarity of the name may be misleading. We might however assume that such a gate would be near the Southern extremity of the city, or at any rate not far from the lowest depression in the neighbourhood of the city.

and viewed the walls, &c.] ‘viewed,’ that is, ‘surveyed,’ as in Shakespeare Hen. V. ii. 4, ‘Therefore, I say ‘tis meet we all go forth To view the sick and feeble parts of France.’—So the Vulg. ‘considerabam.’

The Hebrew word, ‘shobhêr,’ which it translates is very unusual in this sense. It ordinarily means to ‘break’ or ‘burst,’ and hence some have rendered ‘and broke my way through the walls,’ and even ‘made my way over the broken fragments;’ while the LXX. has καὶ ᾔμην συντρίβων ἐν τῷ τείχει Ἱερουσαλήμ. The similar late Hebrew verb ‘sabhar,’ rendered ‘hope’ (Esther 9:1; Isaiah 38:18; Psalm 119:166), ‘wait’ (Psalm 104:27; Psalm 145:15), ‘tarry’ (Ruth 1:13), is probably only a variant of the word which occurs here. It was the misunderstanding of this word which caused Rashi to suggest in his note on Nehemiah 2:12 that the object of Nehemiah and his companions was to break down portions of the wall that remained, in order that on the next morning the Jews might the more readily assent to his proposals!

broken down, … consumed with fire] Cf. Nehemiah 1:3, Nehemiah 2:3. It is uncertain whether the Hebrew text had ‘wall’ or ‘walls.’ The LXX. and Latin versions both have the singular (τείχει, murum). The traditional Hebrew vocalization favours the plural.

13–15. Nehemiah’s tour of inspection[1]

[1] The Topography of the Walls of Jerusalem, in pre-Maccabean times, remains in great obscurity. The places mentioned in Nehemiah 2:13-15; Nehemiah 2:3; Nehemiah 12:37-39 cannot as yet be said to have been certainly identified except in one or two instances. So long as those who are best acquainted with the subject, differ widely from one another, we may be content to forbear expressing any decided opinion, until further evidence be brought to light.Verse 13. - The valley gate. A gate on the western or south-western side of Jerusalem, opening towards the valley of Hinnom. There are no means of fixing its exact position. It was one of those which Uzziah fortified (2 Chronicles 26:9). The dragon well. Dean Stanley suggests that "the dragon well" is the spring known generally as "the pool of Siloam," and that the legend, which describes the intermittent flow of the Siloam water as produced by the opening and closing of a dragon s mouth, had already sprung up ('Lectures on the Jewish Church,' Third Series, p. 125); but the Siloam spring seems to lie too far to the eastward to suit the present passage, and is most likely represented by the "king's pool" of ver. 14. The dung port. "The gate outside of which lay the piles of the sweepings and offscourings of the streets" ('Stanley,' 1. s.c.); situated towards the middle of the southern wall Hereupon Nehemiah also requested from the king letters to the governors beyond (west of) the river (Euphrates), to allow him to travel unmolested through their provinces to Judah (לי יתּנוּ, let them give me equals let there be given me; העביר, to pass or travel through a country, comp. Deuteronomy 3:20); and a letter to Asaph, the keeper (inspector) of the royal forests, to give him timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple, and for the walls of the city, and for the governor's own house. These requests were also granted. פּרדּס in Sol 4:13; Ecclesiastes 2:5, signifies a park or orchard; it is a word of Aryan origin (in Armenian pardez, the garden round the house, in Greek παράδεισος), and is explained either from the Sanscrit parta-da, a superior district, or (by Haug) from the Zend. pairi-daza, a fenced-in place. In Old-Persian it probably denoted the king's pleasure-grounds, and in our verse a royal wood or forest. Of the situation of this park nothing reliable can be ascertained. As wood for extensive buildings was to be taken from it, the sycamore forest in the low plains, which had been the property of King David (1 Chronicles 27:28), and became, after the overthrow of the Davidic dynasty, first a Babylonian, and then a Persian possession, may be intended.

(Note: Older expositors supposed a regio a Libano ad Antilibanum protensa et arboribus amoenissimus consita to be meant. In this view, indeed, they followed Sol 4:13, but incorrectly. Cler. thought it to be a tractus terrarum in Judaea, qui Paradisus regius dicebatur. Josephus speaks (Ant. viii. 7. 3) of fine gardens and ponds at Etham, seven miles south of Jerusalem, where Solomon often made pleasure excursions. Hence Ewald (Gesch. iv. p. 169, comp. iii. p. 328) thinks that the פּרדּס which belonged to the king must have been Solomon's old royal park at Aetham, which in the time of Nehemiah had become a Persian domain, and that the hill town lying not far to the west of it, and now called by the Arabs Fureidis, i.e., paradisaic, may have received its Hebrew name Beth-Kerem, i.e., house of vineyards, from similar pleasure-grounds. Hereupon Bertheau grounds the further conjecture, that "the whole district from Aetham to the hill of Paradise, situate about a league east-south-east of Aetham, may from its nature have been once covered with forest; and no hesitation would be felt in connecting the name of the mountain Gebel el-Fureidis or el-Feridis (Paradise-hill - hill which rises in a Pardes) with the Pardes in question, if it could be proved that this name was already in existence in prae-Christian times." All these conjectures rest on very uncertain bases. The Dshebel Fureidis is also called the Hill of the Franks. See the description of it in Robinson's Palestine, ii. p. 392f., and Tobler, Topographie von Jerusalem, ii. pp. 565-572.)

לקרות, to timber, to overlay, to cover with beams (comp. 2 Chronicles 34:11) the gates of the citadel which belongs to the house, i.e., to the temple. This citadel - בּירה, in Greek Βᾶρις - by the temple is mentioned here for the first time; for in 1 Chronicles 29:1, 1 Chronicles 29:19, the whole temple is called בּירה. It was certainly situate on the same place where Hyrcanus I, son of Simon Maccabaeus, or the kings of the Asmonean race, built the akro'polis and called it Baris (Jos. Ant. xv. 11. 4, comp. with xviii. 4. 3). This was subsequently rebuilt by Herod when he repaired and enlarged the temple, and named Antonia, in honour of his friend Mark Antony. It was a citadel of considerable size, provided with corner towers, walls, chambers, and spacious courts, built on a north-western side of the external chambers of the temple, for the defence of that edifice, and did not extend the entire length of the north side of the present Haram, as Robinson (see Biblical Researches, p. 300) seeks to show; comp., on the other hand, Tobler, Topographic von Jerusalem, i. p. 688f., and Rosen, Haram von Jerusalem, p. 25f. וּלחומת is coordinate with לקרות: "and for the walls of the city;" the timber not being used for building the wall itself, but for the gates (Nehemiah 3:3, Nehemiah 3:6). "And for the house into which I come (to dwell)." This must be Nehemiah's official residence as Pecha. For though it is not expressly stated in the present chapter that Nehemiah was appointed Pecha (governor) by Artaxerxes, yet Nehemiah himself tells us, Nehemiah 5:14, that he had been Pecha from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. Former governors had perhaps no official residence becoming their position. By לבּית the temple cannot, as older expositors thought, be intended. This request also was granted by the king, "according to the good hand of my God upon me;" comp. rem. on Ezra 7:6.

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