Nehemiah 1-3

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

March 19, 2003


The events of Nehemiah take place after the events of the book of Ezra.  The book of Ezra covers the rebuilding of the Temple and the reestablishing Temple worship.  The book of Nehemiah tells us about the rebuilding of the city and it’s walls.

Nehemiah 1

:1-3 Nehemiah gets bad news

:1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

Nehemiah[email protected] – “Yahweh comforts”. Not much is known about Nehemiah outside of what is written in this book. It is thought that Nehemiah was of the tribe of Judah since Jerusalem was the place of his “father’s sepulchres” (Neh. 2:3). Some have suggested he may have even been related to David, though this can’t be proven. Because there is no mention of a wife, some have suggested that Nehemiah may have been a eunuch.

HachaliahChakalyah – “whom Yahweh enlightens”

ChisleuKiclev – “his confidence”; the 9th month of the calendar corresponding to Nov-Dec

the twentieth year – of Artaxerxes, 445 BC

ShushanShuwshan – “lily”; the winter residence of the Persian kings; located on the river Ulai

Daniel was taken there in a vision:

(Dan 8:2 KJV) And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.

This was the home of Esther:

(Est 1:2 KJV) That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,

:2 That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

HananiChananiy – “gracious”; brother of Nehemiah whom Nehemiah appointed governor of Jerusalem

one of my brethren – a real biological brother of Nehemiah.

that had escaped[email protected] – escape, deliverance; remnant

:3 And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach:

afflictionra‘– bad, evil; unpleasant (giving pain, unhappiness, misery)

reproachcherpah – reproach; taunt, scorn (upon enemy)

Josephus records:

that the neighboring nations did a great deal of mischief to the Jews, while in the daytime they overran the country and pillaged it, and in the night did them mischief, insomuch that not a few were led away captive out of the country, and out of Jerusalem itself, and that the roads were in the daytime found full of dead men.[1]

:3 the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

The importance of walls

Walls are the structures in ancient times that provided protection against your enemies. It’s what kept the wrong stuff out of your city.

Without walls, a city could be attacked at any time.

Gates are the structures in the wall that allow people to go in and out. It’s the place where decisions are made as to who is allowed into a city and who isn’t. When the enemy approaches your city, you close the gates and lock them.


The need of walls and gates

We have a need in our own lives for walls and gates.
We need to have things in place to protect us from the things that can hurt us.
(Job 31:1 KJV)  I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?

:4-11 Nehemiah’s prayer

:4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

sat downyashab – to dwell, remain, sit, abide

weptbakah – to weep, bewail, cry, shed tears

mourned‘abal – to mourn, lament; (Hithpael) to mourn; play the mourner

fastedtsuwm – (Qal) to abstain from food, fast

prayedpalal – to intervene, interpose, pray; to intercede


Handle bad news with prayer

This isn’t just a one time prayer.  He will be praying for several months before he does anything.  This is serious prayer – it includes fasting.

:5 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

I beseech‘anna’ – ah now! I/we beseech you, oh now!, pray now! (participle of entreaty usually followed by the imperative verb)

terribleyare’ – to fear, revere, be afraid

covenant[email protected] – covenant, alliance, pledge

mercycheced – goodness, kindness, faithfulness

love‘ahab – to love

observeshamar – to keep, guard, observe, give heed

:6 Let thine ear now be attentive…confess the sins of the children of Israel

attentiveqashshab – attentive

confessyadah – to throw, shoot, cast; (Hithpael) to confess (sin); to give thanks

:7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee

corruptlychabal – to bind; to take a pledge, lay to pledge; to destroy, spoil, deal corruptly, offend

:11 prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.

mercyracham – compassion; from racham – to love, love deeply, have mercy, be compassionate, have tender affection, have compassion

Nehemiah is asking that God will give the king a merciful disposition when he speaks to him.

cupbearershaqah – to give to drink, irrigate, drink, water, cause to drink water

This was an official position in the court of a king. The position not only included pouring wine, but tasting it first (to see if it was poisoned). A cupbearer was a person who had a close relationship to a king and was often a confidant, a counselor, and a person who had political influence.


Using your position

Nehemiah is moved by the account of things in Jerusalem. He intends to use his influence on the king to further the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
A few years earlier, a young Jewish gal named Esther was faced with a similar situation. The Jews were being threatened with extinction by a man named Haman. And she was the queen of the empire. She struggled with whether or not to use her position of influence for God’s people. Her cousin Mordecai said this:
(Est 4:13-14 KJV) Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. {14} For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Sometimes God’s miraculous deliverance comes through ordinary human beings. We might think that God would rather do something like part the heavens and rain daisies on everyone. Sometimes God wants to use us.

Nehemiah 2

:1-8 Nehemiah asks for help

:1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.

NisanNiycan – “their flight”; the 1st month of the Jewish calendar corresponding to March or April

This is not a car, but a month. It’s been five months since the events in chapter 1.

the twentieth year of Artaxerxes – It is 445 BC.

wine was before him – It seems that this must simply mean that it was Nehemiah’s shift. He was on duty as the cupbearer.

sadra‘– bad, evil; unpleasant (giving pain, unhappiness, misery); sad, unhappy

Nehemiah made it a practice to keep his emotions separate from his work. It was his job to be encouraging to the king.



It seems that Nehemiah didn’t rush into something concerning how to deal with the problem.
It seems that he was doing two things before acting:
He prayed
He waited for the right time

:2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,

countenancepaniym – face

very[email protected]‘od – exceedingly, much

sorerabah – be or become great, be or become many, be or become much, be or become numerous

afraidyare’ – to fear, revere, be afraid

Nehemiah’s job is to serve his king, not to be bummed around him. I imagine people lost their jobs for stuff like this, perhaps even lost their lives.

:4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.

I prayedpalal – to intervene, interpose, pray; to intercede


Pray before you respond

Nehemiah has spent months praying about this.  But before he responds, he stops and shoots up a quick prayer for help.

:5 if thy servant have found favour in thy sight

favouryatab – to be good, be pleasing, be well, be glad


Favor with your boss

I believe that one of the keys to gaining “favor” with your boss is by not working for him.
(Eph 6:5-8 KJV) Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; {6} Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; {7} With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: {8} Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

Do what’s right. Behave with integrity. Be honest and trustworthy. Support your boss.

But overall, do all this because you’re serving Jesus, not your boss.


Howard Hendricks is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. He does a lot of traveling and speaking and American Airlines has made him kind of an “inspector”, a person who writes critiques about his flights, given to the managers. He tells a story about one flight, where the stewardess did a wonderful job. Crying babies, drunk businessmen, nothing stopped her from smiling and politely serving. At the end of the flight, he stopped to talk to her, to tell her that he was going to write some good things about her. She replied, “Well Mr. Hendricks, I don’t work for American Airlines.” Seeing he was puzzled, she continued, “I work for Jesus Christ.”

:6 …(the queen also sitting by him,) …I set him a time.

It was not customary for the queen to be present at formal banquets. It is thought that this might have been a private dinner.

setnathan – to give, put, set; to put, set, put on, put upon, set, appoint, assign, designate

a time[email protected] – a set time, appointed time, time


Setting limits

It seems that Nehemiah stayed for twelve years.
But he didn’t have surprises for his boss. He talked about it first.

:8 timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city…

beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house –

(NLT) beams for the gates of the Temple fortress,


Messiah is coming

This is a pretty important verse.  It begins a timeclock of sorts.  A few years before Nehemiah’s time, Daniel had wrote,
(Dan 9:25 KJV)  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

7 weeks and 62 weeks = 69 weeks.

Daniel worked off of the Babylonian calendar:

Prophetic year = 360 days (compare Dan.9:27, 7:24,25; Rev.13:4-7; Rev. 12:13,14; Rev.12:6)

69 weeks x 7 years x 360 days = 173,880 days

March 14, 445 B.C. + 173,880 days = April 6, 32 A.D.

The event that occurred on April 6, 31 A.D. is recorded in Luke 19:28-44 and Psalm 118:22-26.

(Luke 19:41-42 KJV)  And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, {42} Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.

(Psa 118:22-26 KJV)  The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. {23} This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. {24} This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. {25} Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. {26} Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.

:9-10 Nehemiah’s trip

:9 …the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.

captains … horsemen – whereas Ezra was embarrassed to ask for a military escort, Nehemiah doesn’t mind asking.


Personal conviction

We ought to be careful about condemning others for not doing something that is our own personal conviction.

:10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.

SanballatCanballat – “strength”; He is mentioned in the Elephantine Papyri as governor of Samaria

HoroniteChoroniy – “native of Horonaim”; an inhabitant of Horonaim in Moab

TobiahTowbiyah – “Jehovah is good”; He was thought to have been an ex-slave, but now the governor of Ammon.

Ammonite – from the people of Ammon, descendants of Lot.

grievedyara‘– to tremble, quiver

:11-20 Nehemiah encourages

:12 …the beast that I rode upon.

beast[email protected] – beast, cattle, animal; NLT “donkey”

:14 …there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.

There is too much rubble for Nehemiah’s donkey to get through.

the king’s pool – probably the Pool of Siloam

:15 Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.

the brook – the Kidron valley


Assessing the problem

Before Nehemiah does anything, he checks out things for himself.
Sometimes we don’t really know what the real problem is we’re facing. Then we come up with a solution for a problem that doesn’t really exist.
For example: You hear some bad news about some situation. You decide to respond to what you’ve heard. What if the person who told you didn’t get the story straight? What if things were exaggerated?
(Prov 18:13 KJV) He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

:17 how Jerusalem lieth waste

The walls have been broken down since Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city in 586 BC.  It is now 445 BC.

:18 Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

the hand of my God which was good upon me –

they strengthened chazaq – to strengthen, prevail, harden, be strong, become strong, be courageous, be firm, grow firm, be resolute, be sore


Encourage others to build

(Heb 10:23-25 KJV) Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) {24} And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: {25} Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

:19 …Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us

GeshemGeshem – “rain”. A powerful chieftain of Dedan in NW Arabia.

laughed us to scornla‘ag – to mock, deride, ridicule

despisedbazah – to despise, hold in contempt, disdain

Nehemiah 3

:1-32 The Builders

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

Eliashib‘Elyashiyb – “God restores”

the sheep gate – (gate #1). This was on the northern wall of the city, close to the Temple. It is thought that this was where the sacrificial animals were taken on their way to the Temple.

sanctifiedqadash – to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate

There is a sense in which these people see this building project as a “holy” thing.

MeahMe’ah – “hundred”

HananeelChanan’el – “God has favoured”

Map of walls:

There were ten gates:

1.     Sheep (vs. 1)

2.     Fish (vs. 3)

3.     Old (vs. 6)

4.     Valley (vs. 13)

5.     Dung (vs. 14)

6.     Fountain (vs. 15)

7.     Water (vs. 26)

8.     Horse (vs. 28)

9.     East (vs. 29)

10. Miphkad (vs. 31)

In the New Jerusalem, there will be 12 gates:

(Rev 21:12 KJV) And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
(Rev 21:21 KJV) And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

:2 And next unto him builded the men of Jericho

Jericho – There will be people from the various cities participating in the wall building project. It’s not just the people of Jerusalem that are building.

:3 But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build

the fish gate – (gate #2) located on the northern part of the wall, to the west of the Sheep Gate.

:5 but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.

nobles‘addiyr – great, majestic; great one, majestic one; of nobles, chieftains

neckstsavva’r – neck, back of neck


Humility to help

It appears that these men thought they were too good to be doing manual labor.
Yet the high priest helped. Nehemiah helped. You will see lots of groups of “rulers” building as well.
Perhaps they were simply too lazy

:6 Moreover the old gate

the old gate – (gate #3) located on the northwest corner of the city.

:7 unto the throne of the governor on this side the river.

(NLT) the headquarters of the governor of the province west of the Euphrates River.

This was located in Mizpah.

:8 …the goldsmiths…the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall.

goldsmithstsaraph – to smelt, refine, test; smelter, refiner, goldsmith (participle)

apothecariesraqqach – ointment-maker, perfumer

broad wall – the western wall.

:10 even over against his house


Build where you are

Sometimes God has many things for you to do right in your own neighborhood.
God has put you in places that are unique. Places only you can go.

:11 Malchijah the son of Harim

This was one of the guys a few years back who had married a foreign woman but had repented:

(Ezra 10:31 KJV)  And of the sons of Harim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,

:11 the tower of the furnaces.

furnacestannuwr – furnace, oven, fire-pot, (portable) stove. Maybe this was near the bakery?

:12 he and his daughters.

A “father-daughter” kind of thing

:13 The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah

the valley gate – Did the people who built this gate, like, come from a cool place, for sure! (gate #4)

ZanoahZanowach – “cast off”

:14 But the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Bethhaccerem

the dung gate – (gate #5) This was in the southern part of the wall.  Trash and refuse were taken through this gate into the Valley of Hinnom where it was burnt.

BethhacceremBeyth hak-Kerem – “house of the vineyard”

:15 But the gate of the fountain

the gate of the fountain – (gate #6) near the southern part of the wall, near the Pool of Siloam

:16 …unto the house of the mighty.

the housebayith – house

of the mightygibbowr – strong, mighty

(NLT) the House of the Warriors.


Offense AND Defense

Though there had been a “house of warriors”, the people had come to find they still had a great need for walls.
They say that the best defense is a good offense. But it’s not a matter of either/or in the Christian life. We need defenses AND offenses.
I’ve seen guys who get excited about following the Lord. They study their Bible and off they go witnessing out in the streets.
But I’ve seen some of these same guys who are strong offensively be very weak defensively. And without “walls” around their lives, they are attacked by the enemy.

:21 from the door of the house of Eliashib even to the end of the house of Eliashib.


Building for others too

Even though some people built near their own houses, it appears that Eliashib the High Priest did not build near his own house. He let someone else do that part.
Where did Eliashib build?
The “sheep gate” (Neh. 3:1)

It reminds us of sacrifice

The “sheep gate” was where the sheep were brought in to be sacrificed in the Temple.

It reminds us of people.

God’s people are often called “sheep”. They built the gate for the people.

It reminds us of Jesus.

(John 10:7-10 KJV) Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. {8} All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. {9} I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. {10} The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

:26 Moreover the Nethinims dwelt in Ophel, unto the place over against the water gate

the NethinimsNathiyn – Nethinims; temple slaves assigned to the Levites and priests for service in the sanctuary; it is thought that these were the people originally from Gibeon (Josh. 9) who were made slaves of the Tabernacle.

Ophel‘Ophel – hill"; a ridge of hills in Jerusalem, fortified for defense of the city

the water gate – (gate #7) something about Richard Nixon?

:28 From above the horse gate

the horse gate – (gate #8)

:29 …the keeper of the east gate.

the east gate – (gate #9)

Messianic significance.  Some think this is where Jesus will return through.

:31 …unto the place of the Nethinims…against the gate Miphkad

the place of the Nethinims – if the sheep gate (vs. 3:1, 32) is next to the Temple, then these guys lived near the Temple

the gate MiphkadMiphqad – “command”; (gate #10)

It is thought that Jesus came either through this gate or the eastern gate on His triumphal entry.

(Mat 21:10 KJV)  And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?

[1]Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1996, c1987). The works of Josephus : Complete and unabridged. Includes index. (Ant XI, v 6). Peabody: Hendrickson.