Nehemiah 6:15
So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15, 16) The finishing of the wall is recorded in the implest manner: first, with a formal specification of the date and time; then in its effect upon the enemies, and as redounding to the glory of God.

(15) In fifty and two days.—The twenty-fifth day of Elul answers to about our September 15th; and, dating back, the wall began in the latter part of July, soon after Nehemiah’s arrival. If we bear in mind that the wall was only partially overthrown, that the materials for restoration were at hand, and that the utmost skill had been shown in organising the bands of workmen, the time will not appear too short. There is no need to adopt the suggestion of Josephus, that the rebuilding occupied two years and four months.

They perceived that this work was wrought of our God.—Not miraculously, but under the Divine sanction and help. By this expression Nehemiah at once triumphs over his foes, and gives the glory where it was due. His own heroic part in the work is utterly forgotten.

Nehemiah 6:15. The wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul — Answering part to our August and part to September. In fifty and two days — To be computed either from the time of Sanballat’s sending this letter to him, or, as most judge, from the beginning of the work, which, though a great thing, yet it is not at all incredible, considering, 1st, That the walls and gates were not wholly pulled down by the Chaldeans: for to what purpose should they make that waste of time and labour? 2d, That where the walls were thrown down, yet the materials remained, which they now used. 3d, That, in building the walls, they regarded not ornament, but only strength and safety. 4th, The great numbers of the builders, and the prudent distribution of the work among them, and their admirable zeal and diligence therein. 5th, That there want not parallel instances, even in heathen authors; for both Quintus Curtius and Arrian relate that Alexander the Great built the walls of new Alexandria, which were seven miles in compass, within twenty days’ space. 6th, That the hand of God was manifest in carrying on this work, which their very enemies here acknowledge.6:15-19 The wall was begun and finished in fifty-two days, though they rested on the sabbaths. A great deal of work may be done in a little time, if we set about it in earnest, and keep close to it. See the mischief of marrying with strangers. When men once became akin to Tobiah, they soon became sworn to him. A sinful love leads to a sinful league. The enemy of souls employs many instruments, and forms many projects, to bring reproach on the active servants of God, or to take them from their work. But we should follow the example of Him who laid down his life for the sheep. Those that simply cleave to the Lord and his work will be supported.Elul - The sixth month, corresponding to the latter part of August and the beginning of September.

In fifty and two days - Josephus states that the repairs of the wall occupied two years and four months. But Nehemiah's narrative is thoroughly consistent with itself, and contains in it nothing that is improbable. The walls everywhere existed at the time that he commenced his task, and only needed repairs. The work was partitioned among at least 37 working parties, who labored simultaneously, with material ready at hand; and, notwithstanding all menaces, uninterruptedly.

10-14. Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah, &c.—This man was the son of a priest, who was an intimate and confidential friend of Nehemiah. The young man claimed to be endowed with the gift of prophecy. Having been secretly bribed by Sanballat, he, in his pretended capacity of prophet, told Nehemiah that his enemies were that night to make an attempt upon his life. He advised him, at the same time, to consult his safety by concealing himself in the sanctuary, a crypt which, from its sanctity, was strong and secure. But the noble-minded governor determined at all hazards to remain at his post, and not bring discredit on the cause of God and religion by his unworthy cowardice in leaving the temple and city unprotected. This plot, together with a secret collusion between the enemy and the nobles of Judah who were favorably disposed towards the bad Samaritan in consequence of his Jewish connections (Ne 6:18), the undaunted courage and vigilance of Nehemiah were enabled, with the blessing of God, to defeat, and the erection of the walls thus built in troublous times (Da 9:25) was happily completed (Ne 6:15) in the brief space of fifty-two days. So rapid execution, even supposing some parts of the old wall standing, cannot be sufficiently accounted for, except by the consideration that the builders labored with the ardor of religious zeal, as men employed in the work of God. The month Elul; answering part to our August and part to September.

In fifty and two days; to be computed, either,

1. From the time of Sanballat’s sending this letter to him; or,

2. As most judge, from the beginning of the work; which though a great thing, yet it is not at all incredible, considering,

1. That the walls and gates were not wholly pulled down by the Chaldeans; for to what purpose should they make that waste of time and labour?

2. That where the walls were thrown down, yet the materials remained, which they now used.

3. That in the building of the walls they minded not curiosity, but only strength and safety.

4. The great numbers of the builders, and the prudent distribution of the work among them, and their admirable zeal and diligence in the work.

5. That there want not parallel instances even in heathen authors; for both Curtius and Arrian report, that Alexander the Great built the walls of new Alexandria, which contained above seven miles in length, within twenty days’ space.

6. That there was an eminent hand of God in carrying on this work, which their very enemies here acknowledge. So the wall was finished in the twenty fifth day of the month Elul,.... The sixth month, answering to part of August and part of September:

in fifty and two days; which Aben Ezra reckons from the time that Sanballat sent his letter to Nehemiah, when no more were wanting than to set the doors upon the gates, Nehemiah 6:1, but rather these, with Jarchi, must be reckoned from the time the building was begun; which, reckoning back from the twenty fifth of Elul, it will appear it was begun the third day of the fifth month Ab; nor need this be thought incredible, considering the number of workmen, their ardour and diligence in building, and that the walls were not wholly built all around, only repaired, and breaches made up, and much of the old materials were made use of, which were at hand, and stone unhewed, and especially being attended with the blessing of God, which succeeded the undertaking: nor are there wanting examples similar to this; and as it is observed by many from Curtius (x), the walls of new Alexandria, which were sixty furlongs in length, or more than seven miles, were finished in seventeen days; if Nicephorus (y) is to be credited, the high walls which surrounded Constantinople, and were twenty miles in circumference, were finished in two months time. Josephus is not to be regarded, who, contrary to the Scriptures says (z), this wall of Jerusalem was two years and four months in building.

(x) Hist. l. 7. c. 6. Justin e Trogo, l. 12. c. 5. (y) Hist. l. 14. c. 1.((z) Antiqu. l. 11. c. 5. sect. 8.

So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month {h} Elul, in {i} fifty and two days.

(h) Which was the sixth month and contained part of August, and part of September.

(i) After I had sent Sanballat his answer.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15–19. The Completion of the Wall (Nehemiah 6:15); and the impression produced (Nehemiah 6:16): treasonable correspondence (Nehemiah 6:17-19)

15. Elul] This month, which is the same as the Assyrian U-lu-lu, corresponds to the end of August and beginning of September. It is mentioned in 1Ma 14:27. The 25th of Elul would be September 444. Elul, the 6th of the sacred year, was the last month of the civil year.

in fifty and two days] Nehemiah is evidently calling attention to the remarkable rapidity with which the wall was built. But though a remarkable performance, there is nothing incredible in it; and the suggestion to append to the text ‘and two years’ (so Ewald) would give a period of time strangely at variance with the description of haste and urgency in chap. 5. It is true this would nearly agree with Josephus’ statement that the wall took two years and four months building; but Josephus’s chronology is not to be preferred to our text, when the LXX. and the Vulgate show no variation. We do not know the grounds which Josephus had for giving ‘two years and four months;’ but even this circumstantial statement disagrees with the proposed reading.

In order to account for the speed with which the wall was built, we must bear in mind, (a) that large numbers of people were employed upon the work, and a thorough system of distribution facilitated its execution; (b) the walls in many parts probably only required repairing, while the materials for the most part lay all ready to hand: (c) Nehemiah and his companions constantly stimulated the people to persevere in the work: (d) according to a very reasonable computation, the 40 lots into which the wall (cf. ch. 3) was distributed averaged about 80 yards apiece, and many lots were omitted in the list.

For another instance of the rapid erection of walls under patriotic stimulus, compare the action of Themistocles and the Athenians (see Grote’s Hist. of Greece, vol. IV. p. 333 f.).Verse 15. - So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. According to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 11:5, § 8), the work of restoration occupied two years and four months, or 840 days, instead of fifty-two. And this period has been thought so much more probable than the smaller one, that moderns generally have accepted it, while some have even proposed to alter our present text of Nehemiah by the insertion of u-shnathayim, "and two years," at the end of this verse (Ewald). But the authority of Josephus on matters of remote history is so small, and the whole account of Nehemiah is so harmonious and consistent with itself, that alteration seems quite unnecessary. Nehemiah leaves Susa in Nisan, probably towards the middle or close of the month, for his preparations must have taken him some time. He would be likely to be nearly three months on his journey, and would thus reach Jerusalem about the middle of July - say July 15. He then rested three days, surveyed the wall, laid his plan before the nobles, arranged the working parties, and set to work. It was his object to hasten matters as much as possible; and he may well have commenced the rebuilding within ten days of his arrival. Fifty-two days from July 25 would bring him to Sept. 15, which corresponds, as nearly as may be, to the 25th of Elul. There is no difficulty in supposing that the wall could have been repaired in this space. The materials were ready at hand; the working parties were numerous; the workmen full of zeal. If we estimate the circumference of the wall at four miles, which is probably beyond the truth, and the working parties at forty-two (Ewald), it will follow that each party had, on the average, to repair 168 yards, or at the rate of between three and four yards a day. There was probably no work done on the sabbaths, and there may have been one or two days of interruption, when attack seemed imminent (Nehemiah 4:13-15); but otherwise the work was carried on without pause from early dawn to dark (ibid. ver. 21). The wall attained to half its height in a very short time (ibid. ver. 6), - there was then a brief interruption, - after which came the main work of completing the entire circuit to its full height. It is possible that the fifty-two days are counted from the "return to work (ibid. ver. 15). "For," adds Nehemiah when writing of these things, "they all desired to make us afraid, thinking (לאמר) their hands will cease from the work, that it be not done." The last words, "And now strengthen my hands," are to be explained by the fact that Nehemiah hastily transports himself into the situation and feelings of those days when he prayed to God for strength. To make this request fit into the train of thought, we must supply: I however thought, or said, Strengthen, O God, my hands. חזּק is imperative. The translation, in the first pers. sing. of the imperfect, "I strengthened" (lxx, Vulg., Syr.), is only an attempt to fit into their context words not understood by the translators.
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