Nehemiah 2:6
And the king said to me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall your journey be? and when will you return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) The queen also sitting by him.—Probably Damaspia, the one legitimate queen: Shegal, as in Ps. 14:13, where, however, she stands as in the presenco of her Divine-human Lord. This was not a public feast, as in that case the queen would not be present (Esther 1:9-12).

I set him a time.—Whatever that was, circumstances afterwards prolonged it.

Nehemiah 2:6. The queen also sitting by him — Which is here noted as an unusual thing, for commonly the kings of Persia dined alone; and perhaps because the queen expressed some kindness to him, and promoted his request. How long shall thy journey be? — This question showed the king’s affection for him, and that he was not willing to want his attendance longer than was necessary. So it pleased the king to send me — Having told the king how long he desired to be absent from his office, the king permitted him to go. How long that was, is not certain. But it is not likely it was for twelve years, mentioned Nehemiah 5:14; Nehemiah 13:6, but rather, he asked leave for a year, or perhaps for half that time: which made him so quick in despatching the building of the wall, which he finished in fifty-two days, chap. Nehemiah 6:15. After which, it is likely, he returned to Shushan, according to his appointment, and that the king sent him back as his governor for twelve years; his presence being very serviceable, or perhaps necessary there, for the better ordering of that province to the king’s satisfaction.2:1-8 Our prayers must be seconded with serious endeavours, else we mock God. We are not limited to certain moments in our addresses to the King of kings, but have liberty to go to him at all times; approaches to the throne of grace are never out of season. But the sense of God's displeasure and the afflictions of his people, are causes of sorrow to the children of God, under which no earthly delights can comfort. The king encouraged Nehemiah to tell his mind. This gave him boldness to speak; much more may the invitation Christ has given us to pray, and the promise that we shall speed, encourage us to come boldly to the throne of grace. Nehemiah prayed to the God of heaven, as infinitely above even this mighty monarch. He lifted up his heart to that God who understands the language of the heart. Nor should we ever engage in any pursuit in which it would be wrong for us thus to seek and expect the Divine direction, assistance, and blessing. There was an immediate answer to his prayer; for the seed of Jacob never sought the God of Jacob in vain.The queen - Though the Persian kings practiced polygamy, they always had one chief wife, who alone was recognized as "queen." The chief wife of Longimanus was Damaspia.

I set him a time - Nehemiah appears to have stayed at Jerusalem twelve years from his first arrival Nehemiah 5:14; but he can scarcely have mentioned so long a term to the king. Probably his leave of absence was prolonged from time to time.

6-9. the queen also sitting by him—As the Persian monarchs did not admit their wives to be present at their state festivals, this must have been a private occasion. The queen referred to was probably Esther, whose presence would tend greatly to embolden Nehemiah in stating his request; and through her influence, powerfully exerted it may be supposed, also by her sympathy with the patriotic design, his petition was granted, to go as deputy governor of Judea, accompanied by a military guard, and invested with full powers to obtain materials for the building in Jerusalem, as well as to get all requisite aid in promoting his enterprise.

I set him a time—Considering the great despatch made in raising the walls, it is probable that this leave of absence was limited at first to a year or six months, after which he returned to his duties in Shushan. The circumstance of fixing a set time for his return, as well as entrusting so important a work as the refortification of Jerusalem to his care, proves the high favor and confidence Nehemiah enjoyed at the Persian court, and the great estimation in which his services were held. At a later period he received a new commission for the better settlement of the affairs of Judea and remained governor of that province for twelve years (Ne 5:14).

The queen also sitting by him; which is here noted, partly as an unusual thing; for commonly the kings of Persia dined alone, and their queens seldom dined with them, as historians note; and peradventure because the queen expressed some kindness to him, and promoted his request with the king.

When wilt thou return? this question showed the king’s respect and affection to him, and that he was not willing to want his attendance longer than was necessary.

I set him a time; either that twelve years mentioned Nehemiah 5:14 13:6, or rather a far shorter time; for which cause, among others, he built the walls with such despatch, even in fifty-two days, Nehemiah 6:15; and probably not very long after that returned to the king, by whom he was sent a second time with more ample commission, and for the king’s service, and the government of that part of his dominions. And the king said unto me, the queen also sitting by him,.... Which it seems was not very common for the queens of Persia to dine with the kings their husbands; though this may be observed, not so much for the singularity of it, as for the providence of God in it, that so it should be, she having a good respect for Nehemiah, and the Jewish nation, and forwarded the king in his grant to him: if this king was Darius Hystaspis, this his queen was Atossa, daughter of Cyrus (q), who might be the more friendly to the Jews, on account of her father's great regard unto them:

for how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? what time would he ask to do this business in? this shows the king had a great respect for him, and was loath to part with him, at least for any great length of time:

so it pleased the king to send me, when he promised to return unto him, not in twelve years, which was the time of his government in Judea, but in a lesser space, perhaps a year at most, since in less than two months the wall of Jerusalem was finished; and it may be that he then returned to the king of Persia, who sent him again under the character of a governor, finding it was for his interest to have such a man in those parts.

(q) Herodot. Polymnia, sive l. 7. c. 1.

And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. The account is very condensed. Nehemiah’s request is favourably received, but only the general results of the conversation are related. The king seems at once to have appointed Nehemiah to be ‘governor’ at Jerusalem (cf. Nehemiah 5:14), and to have approved the policy of restoring the walls.

the queen] The royal consort (cf. Psalm 45:10; Daniel 5:2-3; Daniel 5:23) the head of the Harem. She may possibly have been Damaspia, who is mentioned by the historian Ctesias as the consort of Artaxerxes.

sitting by him] It was clearly not a public banquet (cf. Esther 1). The position of the queen sitting by or before the king corresponds with representations in the monuments. Compare especially the representation of Assurbanipal reclining at a banquet, his queen being seated on a chair at the foot of his couch (Brit. Mus.).

and I set him a time] The duration of this period is not stated. And the length of Nehemiah’s first residence in Jerusalem has been much disputed, some holding that he returned to the king’s court immediately after the completion of the walls, others saying that he remained as governor (cf. Nehemiah 5:14) for twelve years, having obtained an extension of the time of absence originally agreed upon.Verse 6. - The queen. It appears from Ctesias ('Exc. Pers.,' § 44) that Artaxerxes Longimanus had but one legitimate wife - a certain Damaspia. Nothing more is known of her besides this mention, and the fact that she died on the same day as her husband. (The Septuagint rendering of hashegal by ἡ παλλακὴ is wrong.) Sitting by him. Not an unusual circumstance. Though, when the monarch entertained guests, the queen remained in her private apartments (Esther 1:9-12), yet on other occasions she frequently took her meals with him ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 3. p. 214). I set him a time. Nehemiah probably mentioned some such time as a year, or two years - such a space as would suffice for the double journey, and the restoration of the fortifications. He stayed away, however, as he tells us (Nehemiah 5:14), twelve years, obtaining no doubt from time to time an extension of his leave (Bertheau). The 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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