Nehemiah 3:5
And next to them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their LORD.
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(5) The Tekoites.—This verse is remarkable, as introducing men of Tekoah, not mentioned among Zerubbabel’s Returned, who furnish the solitary instance of internal opposition to the building; and as terming the common work “the work of the Lord.” The ordinary people of the place, however, did double duty. (See Nehemiah 3:27.)

Nehemiah 3:5. Next unto them the Tekoites repaired — The inhabitants of the city of Tekoa, in the tribe of Judah. But their nobles put not their necks to the work — Would not submit to it, would not further it, either through pride, or sloth, or covetousness, or secret compliance with the enemies of the Jews. Of their Lord — Of God, whom they owned for their Lord, whose work this was, because it had proceeded thus far by his singular providence; and because it was done for the defence of the city, and people, and temple of God. And therefore they are branded to all posterity. Let not nobles think any thing beneath them, by which they may benefit their country. What is their nobility good for, but that it places them in a higher and larger sphere of usefulness?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.Tekoites - See 2 Samuel 14:2 note. 2. next unto him builded the men of Jericho, &c.—The wall was divided into portions, one of which was assigned respectively to each of the great families which had returned from the captivity. This distribution, by which the building was carried on in all parts simultaneously with great energy, was eminently favorable to despatch. "The villages where the restorers resided being mostly mentioned, it will be seen that this circumstance affords a general indication of the part of the wall upon which they labored, such places being on that side of the city nearest their place of abode; the only apparent exception being, perhaps, where they repaired more than their piece. Having completed their first undertaking (if they worked any more), there being no more work to be done on the side next their residence, or having arrived after the repairs on that part of the city nearest them under operation were completed, they would go wherever their services would be required" [Barclay, City of the Great King]. i.e. Did not submit to it, would not further it, either through pride, or sloth and carelessness, or covetousness, or secret compliance with the enemies of the Jews.

To the work of their Lord; either,

1. Of Nehemiah, who was their lord and governor, and had given a general command for the carrying on of this work. Or,

2. Of God, whom they owned for their Lord, whose work this was, partly because it had proceeded thus far by God’s singular providence and blessing; and partly because it was done for the defence of the city, and people, and temple of God. And therefore they are branded to all posterity for the neglect of so great and pious a work. And next unto them the Tekoites repaired,.... The inhabitants of Tekoa, a city in the tribe of Judah; see Amos 1:1

but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord; either of Nehemiah, as some, or rather of the lord and prince appointed over their families, as Aben Ezra, to whom they would not be subject; though it seems best, with Jarchi, to understand it of the Lord their God, by whose command this work was begun; but they refused to give any assistance to it with their purses or presence, but withdrew from it, as refractory oxen withdraw their necks from the yoke. This is observed to their disgrace, when the common people of their city were ready to work, and did.

And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles {b} put not their necks to the work of their Lord.

(b) The rich and mighty would not obey those who were appointed officers in this work, neither would they help them.

5. the Tekoites] Tekoa was a town about 10 miles due S. of Jerusalem on the edge of the ‘Wilderness.’ It is well known as the home of the prophet Amos (Amos 1:1; Amos 7:14), and as the dwelling-place of ‘the wise woman’ of 2 Samuel 14:2. The absence of the name of Tekoa from the list of towns in Ezra 2. is remarkable. Perhaps the Jews in Zerubbabel’s time could not extend so far south. Here the mention of the Tekoites implies that the town was now occupied by Jews, or that old dwellers in Tekoa still formed a distinct community (cf. Nehemiah 3:2) in Jerusalem. Their ardour in restoring the walls of Jerusalem receives further confirmation from Nehemiah 3:27.

but their nobles] ‘Nobles’ (addirim = LXX. ἀδωρὶμ, Vulg. optimates), the same word is thus rendered in Nehemiah 10:29; 2 Chronicles 23:20; it differs from that used in Nehemiah 2:16, Nehemiah 4:14, Nehemiah 5:7, Nehemiah 6:17, Nehemiah 7:5, Nehemiah 13:17.

put not their necks] The metaphor is taken from the ox ploughing with its neck in the yoke, cf. Jeremiah 27:12.

the work of their Lord] R.V. of their lord. Marg. ‘Or lords or Lord’. There are here three alternative renderings. (1) A.V. ‘of their Lord.’ The somewhat unusual phrase ‘the work of their Lord’ (Adonai) instead of ‘the work of the Lord (Jehovah),’ or ‘the work of their God,’ has been defended on the ground that it carries out the metaphor of the clause. This is the traditional Jewish interpretation. But the word is not common in these books as a Divine name (see note on Nehemiah 1:11), and the use of the pronoun ‘their’ makes the interpretation improbable (Vulg. in opere Domini sui). The use of this title for God in plain narrative is most improbable.

(2) R.V. marg. ‘their lords,’ namely, the leaders of the Jews; but this would not be at all a suitable word to describe the relation of the ‘nobles’ of a town to the ‘rulers’ of Jerusalem.

(3) ‘their lord.’ This rendering of the R.V. seems the most natural, and is best understood to mean a reference to Nehemiah himself (cf. Ezra 10:3). He was ‘the lord’ of the Jews, appointed by the king, and ‘the nobles’ of the Jewish towns as well as of Jerusalem owed him service and assistance in his great work.

The hostility of Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem to Nehemiah would make itself felt on the towns upon the borders of the neighbouring races. The nobles of ‘Tekoa,’ which lay on the outskirts of the wilderness, may very possibly have sympathised with the Arabian chiefs represented by Geshem, or have had intimate relations with the outlying peoples.Verse 5. - The Tekoites are the people of Tekoah, whence came the "wise woman" whom Joab sent to incline David to fetch home Absalom (2 Kings 14:2, 3). It was a small place, and does not appear, either in the catalogue of those who returned with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:20-35; Nehemiah 7:25-38), or in the census list of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 11:25-35). Their nobles put not their necks to the work. This imputation of blame has been thought out of harmony with the general narrative contained in the chapter, and various emendations have been proposed to remove the so-called difficulty. But it has really first to be shown that a difficulty exists. Surely it would have been more strange if there had been no opposition to Nehemiah's wishes - no withdrawal from the work, than if there were the amount of opposition that is recorded. And supposing opposition to be made, why should Nehemiah not notice it? In music, the force and value of harmonious notes is brought out by an occasional discord. A desire to do honour to those who deserved it would be quite compatible with a determination to brand with disgrace the undeserving. And the contrast would enhance the value of the praise. Thus, there is no reason for disturbing the existing text, nor for questioning its plain meaning. The upper classes at Tekoah, the adirim or "exalted, withdrew from the work, like oxen withdrawing their necks from the yoke, and stood aloof, leaving it to the common people to engage in it, or not, as they pleased. The common people were perhaps moved to the greater zeal by the defection of their natural leaders. They were among those who accomplished a double task, repairing a second portion of the wall (ver. 27) after having finished their first. When the adversaries of the Jews heard this, they derided their resolution. Beside Sanballat and Tobiah (comp. Nehemiah 2:10), Geshem the Arabian is also named as an adversary: so, too, Nehemiah 6:1-2, and Nehemiah 6:6, where Gashmu, the fuller pronunciation of his name, occurs. He was probably the chief of some Arab race dwelling in South Palestine, not far from Jerusalem (comp. the Arabians, Nehemiah 6:1). These enemies ironically exclaimed: What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king? The irony lies in the fact that they did not give the Jews credit for power to build fortifications, so as to be able to rebel. Comp. Nehemiah 6:6, where Sanballat, in an open letter to Nehemiah, again reproaches them with rebellion.
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