NEHEMIAH CHAPTER 3
Rebuilding the Walls
– On the section comprising 3:1 – 7:4, ESV Study Bible writes, “This section records the building and repairing of the walls by all the people of Judah, despite the efforts of certain groups to stop them. Excavations on the Ophel hill of Jerusalem have uncovered remains of Nehemiah’s wall system. This wall system apparently incorporated walls from previous ages. It was not strongly built, and it reflects Jerusalem’s diminutive size at the time.”
– On chapter 3, NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “This chapter describes how Nehemiah effectively organized work crews to repair sections of the city wall, beginning at the Sheep Gate in the north and proceeding in a counterclockwise direction for the 1.5 mile circuit of the wall. Some cities, such as Bethlehem, are not represented; some segments of society, such as ‘the nobles’ of Tekoa, refused to participate (v. 5), but others repaired double sections (v. 27). Archaeological evidence indicates that Nehemiah must have abandoned areas on the steep eastern slope of Ophel. Only one crew was needed to repair the southern half of the western wall (from the Valley Gate to the Dung Gate). On the other hand, the eastern section required twice as many work crews as the western section.”
– Then Eliashib, the high priest, and his fellow priests went to work and built the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and installed its doors. After building the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel, they dedicated it. The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Imri’s son Zakkur built next to them.
– ESV Archaeology Study Bible says, “Eliashib the high priest was the grandson of Jeshua, the priest in Zerubbabel’s time. The work was allocated to groups within the community, identified mainly by family and sometimes by hometown. The work began and ended at the Sheep Gate, on the northern side of the city (cf John 5:2). This was near the temple, where sheep were brought for sacrifice. The precise line of the walls followed by Nehemiah cannot be completely reconstructed. Regarding many of the features mentioned, such as the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel, little is known.”
– NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “Eliashib the priest [was] the son of Joiakim and father of Joiada (12:10). His ‘house’ is mentioned in 3:20- 21…The [Sheep Gate was] the only gate that was ‘dedicated’ by the priests… Jn 5:2 locates a Sheep Gate near the Bethesda Pool, whose ruins have been excavated on the grounds of St. Anne’s Church near the current St. Stephen’s Gate in the northeastern part of the Ottoman walls. This may have replaced the earlier Benjamin Gate (Jer 37:13; 38:7) that led to Anathoth in Benjamin (Zec 14:10). [The] Tower of the Hundred [is] mentioned only here and in 12:39. What the ‘hundred’ refers to is unclear- its height (100 cubits), or 100 steps, or a military unit (cf Deut 1:15). [The] Tower of Hananel [is] also mentioned in Jer 31:38 and Zec 14:10 as the northernmost part of the city. Some scholars believe that the ‘Tower of the Hundred’ may be a popular name for this tower, but other scholars believe that these were two separate towers, with the Tower of Hananel to the west of the Tower of the Hundred. The towers were associated with ‘the citadel by the temple’ (2:8) in protecting the vulnerable northwestern approaches to the city.”
– Hassenaah’s sons rebuilt the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and put its doors, bolts, and bars in place. Meremoth, who was Uriah’s son and Hakkoz’s grandson, worked on the section adjacent to them. Working on the section next to him was, Meshullum, who was Berekiah’s son and Meshezabel’s grandson, and working on the section next to him was Zadok, who was Baana’s son. The men of Tekoa worked on the section adjacent to them, but their nobles would not assist with the work of their Lord.
– ESV Study Bible writes, “The work is sometimes building and sometimes repairing, suggesting that the walls were in various states of dilapidation. The Fish Gate (through which fish from Tyre and the Sea of Galilee came, see 13:16) and the Gate of Ephraim (8:16, 12:39) were likely opposite the temple, in the western wall…Six centuries later, Bar Kokhba still complained that the Tekoites did not carry their weight.”
– There is disagreement over who the nobles would not assist. Some translations indicate it was their supervisors, some indicate that it was “their Lord,” meaning Nehemiah, still others think it refers to God. I’ve sided with NET Bible in viewing Nehemiah as the “Lord” they would not assist. NET Bible explains, “The plural form… (ʾadonehem, ‘lords’) is probably a plural of majesty referring to Nehemiah (e.g., Isa 19:4…). However, some English versions take the plural to refer to the ‘supervisors’ (NIV, NCV, TEV) and others to ‘their Lord’ (KJV, NRSV).” ESV Study Bible remarks, “In view of the use in Nehemiah, this probably refers to God; but perhaps the form, which could refer to Nehemiah, is used to convey the notion that one properly serves God by obeying Nehemiah.”
– NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “Tekoa [was] a small town five miles south of Bethlehem, famed as the home of the prophet Amos (Am 1:1). Some have suggested that its southern location near the territory of Geshem may have meant the nobles were influenced to cooperate with him. These aristocrats [nobles] disdained manual labor…”
– The Jeshanah Gate was repaired by Joiada, who was Paseah’s son, and Meshullum, who was Besodeiah’s son. They laid its beams and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place. Next to them, repairs were made by men of Gibeon and Mizpah- Melatiah from Gibeon and Jadon from Meronoth. Those cities were under the authority of the governor of the province Beyond the River. Harhaiah’s son Uzziel, who was a member of the goldsmiths’ guild, worked on the section next to them. Hananiah, a member of the perfume makers’ guild, made repairs next to him. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. Hur’s son Rephaiah, who was ruler over a half-district of Jerusalem, worked on the section adjacent to them. Harumaph’s son Jedaiah worked on the section next to them, which was across from his house, and Hashabneiah’s son Hattush made repairs on the section next to him. Harim’s son Malkijah and Pahath-Moab’s son Hasshub repaired another section as well as the Tower of Ovens. Hallohesh’s son Shallum, who was ruler over a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the adjacent section with the help of his daughters.
– NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “Gibeon and Mizpah were about six miles north of Jerusalem.”
– On Mizpah, ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds that it was, “…evidently at least one seat of the governor of the ‘Beyond the River’ satrapy. See Jer 40:7-8, where the Babylonians appointed Gedaliah governor of Judea with his seat at Mizpah, undoubtedly because Jerusalem was destroyed.”
– The same source says the following about the Broad Wall, “This wall once enclosed part of the western city, some of which has been excavated since 1967, including a candidate for this wall preserved for visitors to see. Evidently, however, it was not part of the city repaired by Nehemiah.”
– NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “The industrial district of the goldsmiths and perfumers may have been located outside the wall. Craft guilds were often made up of families that had perfected their own secrets and techniques that would be passed down from generation to generation… Tower of the Ovens…is mentioned only here and was located on the western wall, perhaps in the same location as the one Uzziah built at the Corner Gate. The ovens may have been those situated on the bakers’ street. Another possibility is that they overlooked the potters’ quarter.”
– On the mention of half-districts of Jerusalem, ESV Study Bible says, “Similar expressions occur six times in vv. 12-18, referring to an administrative system that divided the province into perhaps six sections.”
– NET Bible adds the following on the mention of Hallohesh’s daughters helping, “The reference to daughters, while not impossible, is odd in light of the cultural improbability that young women would participate in the strenuous labor of rebuilding city walls. All other such references in the Book of Nehemiah presuppose male laborers. Not surprisingly, some scholars suspect a textual problem. One medieval Hebrew MS and the Syriac Peshitta read …(uvanayv, ‘and his sons’) rather than the MT reading…(uvnotayv, ‘and his daughters’). Some scholars emend the MT to… (uvonayv, ‘and his builders’). On the other hand, the MT is clearly the more difficult reading, and so it is preferred.”
– Hanun and the residents of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts in place. They also repaired 1,500 feet of the wall as far as the Dung Gate.
– NLT Illustrated Study Bible remarks that, “Zanoah was a village about thirteen miles southwest of Jerusalem.”
– Rekab’s son Malkijah, who was the ruler of the Beth Hakkerem district, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place.
– Kol-Hozeh’s son Shallun, who was the ruler of the Mizpah district, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it, put on its roof, and put its doors, bolts, and bars in place. He also repaired the wall of the Pool of Siloam, by the King’s Garden, as far as the steps that go down from the City of David. Beyond him, Azbuk’s son Nehemiah, who was ruler of the half-district Beth Zur, made repairs as far as the tombs of David, the artificial pool, and the House of the Warriors.
– ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “This is probably the same pool known as Shiloah in Isa 8:6 and Siloam in John 9:7, 11. The rock tunnel constructed by Hezekiah..still supplies the Pool of Siloam from the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley…The city of David is the section of Jerusalem originally occupied by David, extending south of what is now the Temple Mount. The exact location of these tombs [tombs of David] is unknown today, although it was known at the time of the apostles (Acts 2:29). The tombs were located somewhere within the city (1 Kings 2:10; 11:43); the so-called Tomb of David today on Mount Zion is medieval in date. On the eastern side of the city, Nehemiah built a new line of wall, rather than repairing the old one, because the preexilic wall was badly destroyed. The new wall, positioned higher up the slope of the Kidron Valley, is described in relation to a variety of features of the city, most of which can no longer be certainly located.”
– Next to him, the repairs were made by the Levites under Rehum, who was Bani’s son. Beside him, Hashabiah, who was ruler of the half-district Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. Next to him, the repairs were made by their fellow Levites under Henadad’s son Binnui, who was the ruler of the other half-district of Keilah. Adjacent to him, Jeshua’s son Ezer, who was the ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section which was across from the ascent to the armory, as far as the angle of the wall. Next to him, Zabbai’s son Baruch worked on another section, from the angle to the entrance of the high priest Eliashib’s house. After him, Meremoth, who was Uriah’s son and Hakkoz’s grandson, worked on another section from the entrance of Eliashib’s house to the end of it.
– The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region. Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house. After them, Azariah, who was Maaseiah’s son and Ananiah’s grandson, worked near his house. Next to him, Henadad’s son Binnui repaired another section from Azariah’s house to the angle and the corner. After him, Parosh’s son Pedaiah and the temple servants who were living on the Ophel made repairs up to a point across from the Water Gate, toward the east and the projecting tower. Next to them, the men of Tekoa repaired another section from opposite the great protruding tower to the wall of Ophel.
– ESV Study Bible notes that the “Ophel [is] a name for the whole southeastern hill. The Water Gate, in the old wall, had probably opened onto the Gihon Spring, the main water source outside the city wall.”
– The priests worked above the Horse Gate, each in front of his own house. Next to them, Immer’s son Zadok made repairs across from his house. After him, Shekaniah’s son Shemaiah, who was the guard at the East Gate, worked. Next to him, Shelemiah’s son Hananiah, and Zalaph’s sixth son Hanun, repaired another section. After them, Berekiah’s son Meshullum worked across from his living quarters. Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and traders, across from the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner. The goldsmiths and the traders worked between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate.
– NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “This final group of workers connected the repairs to the Sheep Gate, where the work had started (3:1).”