Nehemiah 3:1
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even to the tower of Meah they sanctified it, to the tower of Hananeel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Then Eliashib.—The account begins with due honour to the high priest and the priesthood.

The sheep gate was in the neighbourhood of the priests’ quarter. Through it the victims passed for sacrifice, first being washed in the neighbouring pool of Bethesda. This being built, “they sanctified it,” as an earnest of the subsequent consecration of the entire wall. Their work and the sanctification of it extended to two towns near each other at the north-east corner.

Nehemiah 3:1. Then Eliashib the high-priest rose up — The grandchild of Jeshua, the first high-priest after their return from Babylon. He, with his brethren, set a noble example, in being the first that began to rebuild the walls of the holy city, which the Babylonians had demolished. Ministers should be foremost in every good work, animating others by their example as well as doctrine. And they built the sheep-gate — Which was on the south side of the city, in that part of the valley which looked toward mount Zion and the temple; called the sheep-gate, because the sheep were brought through it to be sacrificed. Thus he not only shows by whom, but in what order, the wall was built. They sanctified it — Or they prepared, or repaired it; for so the word sometimes signifies. But our translation seems best, both because that use of the word is most common, and because this is spoken only of this gate, which, being built by the priests, and nearest to the temple, and with a special eye to the service of the temple, for which both men and things were most commonly brought in this way, and being also the first part of the building, might be in a peculiar manner sanctified by solemn prayer and sacrifice, whereby it was dedicated to God’s service. Even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it — That is, they sanctified the rest of the wall which they built as far as the tower of Meah on one side, and the tower of Hananeel on the other.3:1-32 The rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. - The work was divided, so that every one might know what he had to do, and mind it, with a desire to excel; yet without contention, or separate interests. No strife appears among them, but which should do most for the public good. Every Israelite should lend a hand toward the building up of Jerusalem. Let not nobles think any thing below them, by which they may advance the good of their country. Even some females helped forward the work. Some repaired over against their houses, and one repaired over against his chamber. When a general good work is to be done, each should apply himself to that part which is within his reach. If every one will sweep before his own door, the street will be clean; if every one will mend one, we shall all be mended. Some that had first done helped their fellows. The walls of Jerusalem, in heaps of rubbish, represent the desperate state of the world around, while the number and malice of those who hindered the building, give some faint idea of the enemies we have to contend with, while executing the work of God. Every one must begin at home; for it is by getting the work of God advanced in our own souls that we shall best contribute to the good of the church of Christ. May the Lord thus stir up the hearts of his people, to lay aside their petty disputes, and to disregard their worldly interests, compared with building the walls of Jerusalem, and defending the cause of truth and godliness against the assaults of avowed enemies.Eliashib (compare the marginal reference) was the grandson of Joshua, the high priest contemporary with Zerubbabel.

The sheep gate - This was a gate in the eastern wall, not far from the pool of Bethesda, marginal reference, which was perhaps originally a sheep-pool.

The exact line which the writer follows in describing the circuit of the wall will probably be always a matter of dispute. According to the view here taken, the line described commences near the pool of Bethesda, on the east of the city, and is traced thence, first, northward, then westward, then southward, and finally eastward, as far as the pool of Siloam Nehemiah 3:15. From this point, it seems to the writer of this note that the line of the outer wall is not followed, but, instead of this, the inner wall of the "city of David," which included the temple, is traced. This wall is followed northward from the pool of Siloam, past the "sepulchres of David" and Hezekiah's pool to the "armoury" Nehemiah 3:19 at its northwest corner; it is then followed eastward to "the tower which lieth out from the king's house" Nehemiah 3:25; from this it is carried southward, along the western edge of the Kidron valley to the "great tower which lieth out" Nehemiah 3:27, and then southwestward to the point at which it commenced near Siloam Nehemiah 3:27. The special wall of the "city of David" being thus completed, the writer finishes his entire account by filling up the small interval between the northeast angle of this fortification and the "sheep-gate" Nehemiah 3:28-32, from which he started.

They sanctified it - The priests commenced the work with a formal ceremony of consecration. When the work was completed, there was a solemn dedication of the entire circuit (see Nehemiah 12:27-43).

The tower of Hananeel is often mentioned; that of Meah, or rather Hammeah, or "the Hundred," in Nehemiah only. Both towers must have been situated toward the northeastern corner of the city.

CHAPTER 3

Ne 3:1-32. The Names and Order of Them That Builded the Wall of Jerusalem.

1. Then Eliashib the high priest—the grandson of Jeshua, and the first high priest after the return from Babylon.

rose up with his brethren the priests—that is, set an example by commencing the work, their labors being confined to the sacred localities.

and they builded the sheep gate—close to the temple. Its name arose either from the sheep market, or from the pool of Bethesda, which was there (Joh 5:2). There the sheep were washed and then taken to the temple for sacrifice.

they sanctified it, and set up the doors—Being the common entrance into the temple, and the first part of the building repaired, it is probable that some religious ceremonies were observed in gratitude for its completion. "It was the first-fruits, and therefore, in the sanctification of it, the whole lump and building was sanctified" [Poole].

the tower of Meah—This word is improperly considered, in our version, as the name of a tower; it is the Hebrew word for "a hundred," so that the meaning is: they not only rebuilt the sheep gate, but also a hundred cubits of the wall, which extended as far as the tower of Hananeel.The names of the several families that builded; their order wherein, and the proportion how much, they builded.

Eliashib the high priest; grandchild of Joshua, the first high priest after their return from Babylon.

Rose up; began the work.

They builded the sheep-gate; which was next to the temple; so called, either from the sheep-market, or the sheep-pool of Bethesda, John 5:2, where the sheep were washed, and then brought to the temple to be sacrificed.

They sanctified it; or, they prepared or repaired it; for so the word sometimes signifies. But our translation seems best, both because that use of the word is most common, and because this is spoken only of this gate, which being built by the priests, and nighest to the temple, and with a special eye to the service of the temple, for which both men and things were most commonly brought in this way, and being also the first part of the building, might be in a peculiar manner sanctified by solemn prayer and sacrifice, whereby it was dedicated to God’s service; and this either as it was considered in itself, or with respect to the rest of the building, of which this was the beginning, and in a manner the first-fruits, and therefore in the sanctification of it the whole lump and building was sanctified. And seeing the whole city is oft called the holy city, it is not strange if the walls and gates of it be also holy, and said to be sanctified, and especially this gate. Compare Deu 20:5.

The tower of Meah, or, of a hundred; so called, either because it was a hundred cubits high, or so far distant from the sheep-gate.

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests,.... This was the grandson of Jeshua or Joshua the high priest, his father's name was Joiakim, Nehemiah 12:10, being high priest, and rising first, he set a good example both to the priests and to the people, and served no doubt greatly to animate and encourage them:

and they built the sheep gate; so called, because the sheep were led through it to the temple, and near it was the sheep market, where they were sold, and the sheep pool, where the sacrifices were washed; and this being near the temple, and for the service of it, the priests undertook that; not that they laboured with their hands at it, though it is possible some of them might; but they were at the expense of it, employed labourers, and paid them, and directed them, and had the oversight of them: this gate was to the south of the city; and Rauwolff (u) says, it was still standing by Moriah, the mountain of the temple, which the Turks have taken to themselves, and built on it a Turkish mosque or temple. Near the gate you see still, he says, the sheep pond, which is large and deep, wherein the Nethinims used to wash the beasts, and then gave them to the priests; it is said (w) to lead to the mount of Olives, to Bethany, to Jericho, the desert, and all the east country to Jordan:

they sanctified it; this being for sacred use, and they sacred persons; and this the first part of the building, they prayed for a blessing on it, and in it on the whole work undertaken, of which this was the firstfruits:

and set up the doors of it; and so finished it:

even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel; so far they built, and what they built they sanctified. The tower of Meah, or a "hundred", as the word signifies, might be so called, either because it was one hundred cubits from the sheep gate on one side, and as many from the tower of Hananeel on the other side, standing between both; or because it was one hundred cubits high: these two towers, perhaps, were firm and strong, and needed no repair, since no mention is made of any; though they seem to me to be one and the same tower; see Jeremiah 31:38.

(u) Travels, par. 3. c. 3. p. 226, 228. (w) Vid. Quistorp. in loc.

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they {a} sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.

(a) In Hebrew they sanctified it, that is, they finished it, and so dedicated it to the Lord by prayer, in desiring him to maintain it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ch. Nehemiah 3:1-32. The Distribution of the Work

The Rebuilding of the Wall. The present chapter mentions 42 portions of the work. But the description is clearly incomplete; and we may suppose that Nehemiah’s list either has been only partially reproduced by the Compiler or had been preserved in a mutilated copy. See notes on Nehemiah 3:7; Nehemiah 3:25-28.

Eliashib the high priest] Eliashib was the son of Joiakim, and the grandson of Jeshua (Ezra 3:2; Nehemiah 12:10). Though he co-operated in the work of rebuilding the walls, his close connexion with Tobiah, as described in chap. Nehemiah 13:4, shows that he did not sympathize with the policy of Ezra and Nehemiah in separating the Jews from any alliance or combination with other nations.

The technical title ‘the high-priest,’ literally ‘the great priest,’ which is used here and in Nehemiah 3:20, Nehemiah 13:28, is found in Leviticus 21:10; Numbers 35:25; Numbers 35:28; Joshua 20:6; 2 Kings 12:10; 2 Kings 22:4; 2 Chronicles 34:9; Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:12; Haggai 1:14; Haggai 2:2; Haggai 2:4; Zechariah 3:1; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:11. Elsewhere we find him called ‘the chief priest,’ e.g. 2 Kings 25:18; 2 Chronicles 24:11; 2 Chronicles 26:20; Ezra 7:5; Ezra 8:17; Jeremiah 52:24.

the sheep gate] This gate is also referred to in Nehemiah 3:32 and Nehemiah 12:39. There can be little doubt that it is the same gate as that mentioned by St John 5:2, ‘Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda.’ The fact that the priests restored it suggests its proximity to the Temple. This is confirmed by the reference to it in chap. Nehemiah 12:39. Its position was in the N.E. portion of the city, and corresponded to the modern St Stephen’s gate, so far as the change in walls and ground-level permits of comparison. We may suppose that the name was taken from a sheep-market in the immediate neighbourhood. Large numbers of sheep would be required for the Temple sacrifices. The chief supplies of sheep would come from Eastern Palestine and the land of Moab. Their arrival through this eastern gate, whether a market stood near or not, was sufficient to account for the name.

Socin (Baedeker, Palestine and Syria, p. 151) says ‘As the pool of Bethesda is now believed to have been near the present ‘Ain esh-Shifâ,’ and not at the place assigned to it by tradition, we must inter that the sheep gate led from the industrial quarter of the Tyropœon into the Temple precincts.’ Comparing, however, this passage with Zechariah 14:10, it is tempting to identify ‘the sheep gate’ with ‘the gate of Benjamin,’ which is not mentioned in our chapter, but which clearly stood at the N.E. of the city (cf. Jeremiah 37:13).

they sanctified it] The same Hebrew word occurs in connexion with the completion of a building in 1 Kings 8:64, ‘The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court.’ It does not anticipate the solemn dedication of the walls in chap. 12. The completion of the priests’ work was signalised by a special sacred function. (See note on the word ‘sanctify’ in Nehemiah 12:47.)

set up the doors] This was the final act. See 1 Kings 16:34, where ‘gates’ is kept by the R.V. as the rendering of the same word.

unto the tower of Meah] R.V. unto the tower of Hammeah. Marg., unto the tower of ‘The hundred.’ What is intended by ‘the tower of Hammeah,’ we have no means of determining. The alternative rendering ‘the tower of The hundred,’ supposes either that the tower was approached by 100 steps, or that it required 100 men to defend it. It is possible that there has been some early defect in the reading.

they sanctified it] The repetition of these words shows that the wall running from the sheep gate to the tower is here intended. But the omission of the object to the verb creates a difficulty.

unto the tower of Hananeel] R.V. Hananel. This was a well-known building, which is mentioned also in chap. Nehemiah 12:39; Jeremiah 31:38; Zechariah 14:10. From the first of these passages we gather that the tower stood midway between the sheep gate and the fish gate. From the two others, that it stood at the N.E. corner of the city. Probably from this point the wall, which had run N.W., now turned due W. It may have owed its name to its builder.

The way in which it is mentioned here occasions some difficulty. If it is the same as the tower of Hammeah, there seems no reason why the writer should first of all have designated the well-known tower of Hananel by the name of Hammeah. If it is a different tower, how does it happen that two towers are mentioned as the limit of the priests’ restoration of the wall?

Supposing the text to be correct, the tower of Hammeah may have been the Eastern tower of the same stronghold which is also called Hananel. From the emphatic way in which it is mentioned this fortress probably represented an important strategic point. Now ‘the castle (or bîrah) which appertaineth to the house’ may have stood on high ground near this point. And the conjecture is plausible that the tower of Hananel was the name given to an outwork of the great fortress at the point where the city wall ran into it.

According to this theory, Eliashib and the priests restored the city wall between the sheep gate and a portion of the great fortress which commanded the Temple. It does not appear from this chapter that these towers had been pulled down. They had possibly been left to receive a garrison or were not so easily dismantled as the walls.Verse 1. - Then Eliashib the high priest rose up. It is satisfactory to find Eliashib the high priest taking the part which befitted him on this occasion. Subsequently we find him "allied by marriage to Tobiah (Nehemiah 13:4), and guilty of a profanation of the temple (ibid. ver. 5). By the line of high priests given in Nehemiah 12:10, 11, it appears that Eliashib was the son of Joiakim, and the grandson of the Jeshua who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2; Ezra 3:2). With his brethren. The priests generally. Compare ver. 28, which shows that the priests undertook a portion of the eastern wall, besides the work here mentioned. Builded the sheep gate. The "sheep gate" appears to have been a gate in the eastern wall, the προβατική of St. John (John %;2), which was close to the pool of Bethesda. By this gate were brought in the sheep needed for sacrifice, which were then washed in the adjoining pool, and conveyed from it into the temple area, whereon the pool abuts. The priests dwelt principally in this portion of the city. They sanctified it. This appears to have been a dedication quite distinct from that which is described in Nehemiah 12:27-43. The priests, having completed the rebuilding of the sheep gate, and of the wall extending from it northwards as far as the tower of Hananeel, anticipated the general dedication by a special one, which "sanctified," or consecrated, their own portion of the wall Thus a sacred character was impressed on the work at the earliest possible moment, and it was placed under the protection of the Almighty. The tower of Meah (or rather Hammeah, i.e. "the Hundred") and the tower of Hananeel appear to have been situated almost at the same point of the wall. Perhaps they were opposite each other, like the towers in the walls of Babylon (Herod., 1:179). Then I((went on) ascending the valley and viewing the wall, and so entered by the valley-gate, and returned. ואהי with the participle expresses the continuance of an action, and hence in this place the continuous ascent of the valley and survey of the wall. The נחל which he ascended was doubtless the valley of Kidron (קדרון נחל, 2 Samuel 20:23; 1 Kings 2:37, and elsewhere). ואבוא ואשׁוּב are connected, שׁוּב expressing merely the idea of repetition (Gesenius, heb. Gram. 142, 3): I came again into the valley-gate. Older expositors incorrectly explain these words to mean, I turned round, traversing again the road by which I had come; Bertheau: I turned to go farther in a westerly direction, and after making the circuit of the entire city, I-re-entered by the valley-gate. This sense is correct as to fact, but inadmissible, as requiring too much to complete it. If we take אשׁוּב adverbially, these completions are unnecessary. Nehemiah does not give the particulars of the latter portion of his circuit, but merely tells us that after having ascended the valley of Kidron, he re-entered by the valley-gate, and returned to his residence, obviously assuming, that from the upper part of the vale of Kidron he could only return to the valley-gate at the west by passing along the northern part of the wall.
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