Nehemiah 7:4
Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not built.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Nehemiah 7:4. The houses were not builded — That is, not all, nor completely built; but only some slight buildings of boards or stones were erected, for the present use of the generality of the people.7:1-4 Nehemiah, having finished the wall, returned to the Persian court, and came to Jerusalem again with a new commission. The public safety depends on every one's care to guard himself and his family against sin.The people were few - The number of those who returned with Zerubbabel was no more than 42,360 Nehemiah 7:66. Less than 2,000 people had come with Ezra Ezra 8:1-20. 4. Now the city was large and great—The walls being evidently built on the old foundations, the city covered a large extent of surface, as all Oriental towns do, the houses standing apart with gardens and orchards intervening. This extent, in the then state of Jerusalem, was the more observable as the population was comparatively small, and the habitations of the most rude and simple construction—mere wooden sheds or coverings of loose, unmortared stones. i.e. Not all, nor completely built; but only some slight buildings of boards or stones were made for the present use of the generality of the people. Now the city was large and great,.... The circumference of it, all within the wall; for that was built on its old foundation, and enclosed as much ground as ever it did: Hecataeus (b), an Heathen writer, says the circumference of Jerusalem was fifty furlongs, which was more than six miles; but Josephus (c) makes the circuit of it but thirty three furlongs or about six miles:

but the people were few therein; in comparison of the largeness of the place; for though there were 42,360 that came up at first with Zerubbabel, and many more with Ezra, yet a great number chose to settle in the towns and cities in the country, Jerusalem being in such a desolate condition:

and the houses were not builded; some were, but they were but few, many of them still lay in ruins.

(b) Apud Euseb. Praepar. par. Evangel. l. 9. c. 4. p. 408. & apud Joseph. contr. Apion, l. 1. c. 22. (c) De Bell. Jud. l. 5. c. 4. sect. 3.

Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. large and great] R.V. wide and large. The phrase rendered ‘wide’ (cf. Genesis 34:21; Jdg 18:10) denotes extension on every side; its literal rendering would be ‘wide on both hands.’

the people were few] The inhabitants of Jerusalem were in Nehemiah’s time very few in comparison with what they had been before the captivity, see Nehemiah 11:1-2. The number of Jews that had returned with Zerubbabel had been 42360 (Ezra 2:64; Nehemiah 7:66). With Ezra there had come rather more than 1500 (Ezra 8:1-20). Others had come from time to time. But of the whole number of 50,000 or so, a very large proportion were settled in the country and towns in the neighbourhood, as appears from Nehemiah 7:73, Nehemiah 11:25-36, Nehemiah 12:27-29.

the houses were not builded] An expression that cannot be understood literally. The meaning is, there were large open spaces within the walls unoccupied.Verse 4. - The city was large. Literally, "broad every way." The houses were not builded. Much of the city consisted of open spaces, in which no houses had been as yet built. To this Nehemiah adds the supplementary remark, that in those days even nobles of Judah were in alliance and active correspondence with Tobiah, because he had married into a respectable Jewish family.

Nehemiah 6:17

"Also in those days the nobles of Judah wrote many letters (אגּרתיהם מרבּים, they made many, multiplied, their letters) passing to Tobiah, and those of Tobiah came to them."

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