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Nehemiah 3

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Rebuilding the Wall Work on the Wall Rebuilding the Wall of Jerusalem How the Walls were Rebuilt
3:1-5 3:1-2 3:1 3:1-8
    3:2a  
    3:2b  
  3:3-5 3:3  
    3:4a  
    3:4b  
    3:4c  
    3:5  
3:6-13 3:6-12 3:6  
    3:7  
    3:8a  
    3:8b  
    3:9 3:9-14
    3:10a  
    3:10b  
    3:11  
  3:13 3:13  
3:14-27 3:14 3:14  
  3:15-27 3:15 3:15-19
    3:16  
    Levites Who Worked on the Wall  
    3:17a  
    3:17b  
    3:17c  
    3:18  
    3:19  
    3:20 3:20-27
    3:21  
    Priests Who Worked on the Wall  
    3:22a  
    3:22b  
    3:23a  
    3:23b  
    3:24  
    3:25a  
    3:25b-26  
    Other Builders  
    3:27  
3:28-32 3:28-32 3:28 3:28-32
    3:29  
    3:30a  
    3:30b  
    3:31  
    3:32  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND

A. Chapter 3 deals with forty specific segments of the walls of Jerusalem moving in a counterclockwise movement from the Sheep Gate in the northeast corner, close to the pool of Bethesda (cf. John 5:2). A good brief discussion is found in the Tyndale Commentary, pp. 84-90. Most of the specific locations are still best guesses.

 

B. We know from Kathleen Kenyon's archaeological work on Jerusalem that this wall was about 2,600 meters if the north wall is not included, and 4,150 meters if it is included. Most of the wall was simply a repair job, while a new Eastern wall was built running along the top of the ridge. This new wall was built in rapid fashion, but was nine feet thick.

 

C. Nehemiah secured the help of different groups of society (i.e., businessmen, priests, surrounding cities) to work on the wall which fit their own interests.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:1-2
 1Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel. 2Next to him the men of Jericho built, and next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.

3:1 "Eliashib the high priest" This is the grandson of Jeshua (cf. Ezra 2:2), who was the high priest under Zerubbabel. This shows that the priests and Levites were actively involved in the rebuilding of the wall, especially that portion close to the temple.

▣ "built" This Hebrew term (BDB 124) can mean build or rebuild or even repair. It is probable that this was a symbolic act by the priestly leaders to show their personal and energetic support for the building project.

"the Sheep Gate" The Sheep Gate seems to be connected with the sacrificial cultus (cf. John 5:2). It was probably the gate closest to where the sacrificial sheep were brought into the temple from Bethlehem.

"they consecrated it" The VERB (BDB 872, 1073) is a Peel PERFECT. This was a separate consecration of this specific section of the wall done by the priests and Levites, and it is not connected to the general consecration of the whole wall found later in the book of Nehemiah (cf. 12:27-43).

The word "consecration" occurs twice in this verse, but for stylistic (parallel structure) reasons.

▣ "the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel" These may be connected with the fortifications of the north wall closest to the temple. The Tower of the Hundred probably refers to an elite military unit connected to this fortification. The Tower of Hananel is mentioned in a prophecy of restoration in Jer. 31:38.

3:2 "the men of Jericho" There are several groups listed from different cities in Judah. These different groups seem to work on the section of the wall and gate closest to their home city. It is somewhat surprising that the cities of chapter 3 differ from the ones mentioned in 11:25-36. There is no easy explanation for this. We learn from Ezra 2:34 that Jericho was included in the province of Judah during this time.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:3-5
 3Now the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. 4Next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz made repairs. And next to him Meshullam the son of Berechiah the son of Meshezabel made repairs. And next to him Zadok the son of Baana also made repairs. 5Moreover, next to him the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters.

3:3 "sons of Hassenaah" Often places take on the names of the people who live there. This Hebrew term is the name of a returning family in Ezra 2:35, but here it has the ARTICLE, which implies a place, possibly a village.

▣ "the Fish Gate" This may be another gate on the north wall that connected to a road that led to the Seaof Galilee and/or the city of Tyre (cf. 13:16) because this was the source of most of the fish for Jerusalem.

▣ "laid its beams" This might be a Hebrew idiom for finishing the roof (cf. Gen. 19:8; I Kgs. 6:15; II Kgs. 6:5; II Chr. 3:7). The NJB has "they made the framework."

3:4 "Meremoth" This man and his father are both mentioned in Ezra 8:33, which shows a definite historical link between Ezra and Nehemiah. He is also mentioned as helping repair a section of the wall in v. 21.

"made repairs" This recurrent term (BDB 304, KB 302, Hiphil PERFECT) is used 34 times in vv. 4-32. It strongly implies repairing the old wall as well as constructing the new, shorter wall.

3:5 "the Tekoites" It is surprising that these people are not mentioned in Ezra 2 or Nehemiah 7. Tekoa is about eleven miles south of Jerusalem. Men of this city are mentioned again in v. 27.

"their nobles did not support the work of their masters" This shows us that the support for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem was not unanimous. These "nobles" (BDB 12 [this is a different word from 2:16]) seem to refer to the rich and landed aristocracy of the city of Tekoa (cf. 10:29). They acted exactly opposite of the High Priest in v. 1.

The "their masters" (BDB 10, adon, "Lords") is unusual. It seems to refer to Nehemiah (i.e., a PLURAL of MAJESTY) or the project foremen of the area (cf. vv. 9,12,16,17,18,19) who were involved in God's work. Option one seems best in this context.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:6-12
 6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars. 7Next to them Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, also made repairs for the official seat of the governor of the province beyond the River. 8Next to him Uzziel the son of Harhaiah of the goldsmiths made repairs. And next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah made repairs. 11Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of Furnaces. 12Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters.

3:6 "the Old Gate" The Jerusalem Bible calls this "the Gate of New Quarter" (corruption of Mishneh, cf. Zeph. 1:10), while some translations simply use the Hebrew term Jeshanah, which is a village north of Jerusalem (cf. II Chr. 13:19). It was possibly on the northwest corner of the newly enclosed city. The root can also mean "old") (BDB 445). The Old Gate or Jeshanah Gate is synonymous with the Ephraim Gate of 12:39.

3:7 "the men of Gibeon and Mizpah" These cities were about 4 or 5 miles north of Jerusalem.

NASB"repairs for the official seat of the governor"
NKJV"repaired the residence of the governor"
NRSV"who were under the jurisdiction of the governor"
TEV"built the next section, as far as the residence of the governor"
NJB"repairs for the sake of the governor"

Literally this is "to the throne of the governor." Since the context is about the wall, this must refer to the wall which was connected to the satrap's official residence in Jerusalem.

If you take "throne" in the sense of power (NASB 1970 marginal note) then the phrase becomes metaphorical for authority (NET, "jurisdiction"). Why the men in cities just four or five miles away were under another governor's authority is unexplainable unless the boundaries of Judah were close.

"the province beyond the River" This was the official Persian title for the land of Syria and Palestine. The river referred to the Euphrates.

3:8 "the goldsmiths. . .the perfumers" This chapter is divided between those of (1) certain professions, (2) certain cities, and (3) certain families who rebuilt certain sections of the wall. This also shows the presence of commercial guilds at this period in the life of the Jewish nation.

NASB"restored"
NKJV, NRSV"made repairs"
TEV"built"
NJB"renovated"

The BDB 738 II and KB 807 relate this term to the root for "repair" or "restore" from a Ugaritic root. The question remains, "Did the workers build a new wall or repair a damaged one?" The answer is they did both. Part of the old wall was repaired, but another part took a new and shorter route down a commercial street.

The Septuagint understands this term as being from the Hebrew root "to abandon" (BDB 736), therefore, denotes a change in the location of the new wall.

"the Broad Wall" This refers to the wall on the west side (cf. 12:38). This same ter (BDB 932) describes the thick wall of the city of Babylon in Jer. 51:58.

3:9

NASB"the official of half the district of Jerusalem"
NKJV"leader of half the district of Jerusalem"
NRSV"rule of half the district of Jerusalem"
TEV"rule of half of the Jerusalem district"
NJB"who was head of one half of the district of Jerusalem"

The term "official" (BDB 978) is the Hebrew rosh, which means "chief," "head," "official," "captain," "prince." Apparently this was the foreman for a work crew (cf. "made repairs," vv. 9,12). Persian documents reveal that they used several layers of administrative officials (cf. Vv. 12,16,17,18,19).

The term "district" (BDB 813) means "circle" or "circuit." The Rotherhams' Emphasized Bible has "ruler of a half-circuit." This could refer to an area of land around Jerusalem. The term in Assyrian means "a district" and this is how it is consistently used in the OT. Each section of the project was further divided into two work crews with its own foreman.

3:10 "made repairs opposite his house" This is another example that Nehemiah assigned sections of the wall to those who had some personal interest in its repair.

3:11 "Malchijah the son of Harim" The name means "My king is YHWH" (BDB 575). There are several people by this name in the OT. However, it is probable that the same son and father mentioned in Ezra 10:31 is the same person as mentioned here (cf. Maremoth son of Uriah, Ezra 8:33; Neh. 3:4).

▣ "the Tower of Furnaces" This is another example of certain professions (i.e., perfumers, bakers) locating in the same area (i.e., "baker's street," cf. Jer. 37:21). Apparently the relocated wall ran down a commercial street. Those doing business on that street helped build the wall close to their business.

▣ "another section" This shows the partial nature of this listing of repairs because the first section is never mentioned. This same unusual construction is seen in v. 11,19-21,24, and 30.

3:12 "Hallohesh" The term or name (BDB 538) occurs only here and means "whisperer." Some commentators see this as a reference to a family of diviners (cf. Ps. 58:5 and The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, pp. 696-697), but this seems impossible at a time of such fervor for the Law of God. The same term is used of "whispering" in prayer in Isa. 26:16.

"he and his daughters" It is unusual in this culture that this man's daughters would help him in manual labor. It is so unusual that it is specifically stated!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:13
 13Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and a thousand cubits of the wall to the Refuse Gate.

3:13 "Zanoah" This village was located nine miles west of Jerusalem.

"the Valley Gate" This is the gate by which Nehemiah started his nightly inspection of the southern walls (west then east, cf. 2:13).

"a thousand cubits" A cubit is the distance from a man's longest finger to his elbow. It ranged from eighteen to twenty inches. This seems to be too long of a section for the men from small towns to repair, so apparently this is only a measurement between the Valley Gate (middle of the western wall leading to the Valley of Hinnom) and the Refuse Gate (southern tip of the wall).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:14
 14Malchijah the son of Rechab, the official of the district of Beth-haccherem repaired the Refuse Gate. He built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars.

3:14 "the district of Beth-haccherem" This was a village close to Tekoa. The name itself (BDB 11) means "house of vineyard." It is also mentioned in Jer. 6:1, where it is a height to watch for fires about six miles south of Jerusalem. Some commentators think it was the residence of the Persian governor (NIV Study Bible footnote, p. 698).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:15
 15Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, the official of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He built it, covered it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and the wall of the Pool of Shelah at the king's garden as far as the steps that descend from the city of David.

3:15 "mizpah" The name (BDB 859) means "watchtower" and is used of several sites in Palestine. This is possibly the one in the tribal allocation of Judah (cf. Josh. 15:38) or the one in Benjamin (cf. Josh. 18:26). The one in Benjamin is the one mentioned most in the OT (location is uncertain, but probably the height five miles north of Jerusalem.

"covered it" Apparently the gates had some type of roof. In vv. 3 and 6 "beams" refers to roof beams.

▣ "the Pool of Shelah at the King's Garden" Many believe this to be the Pool of Siloam, which was in the most southern end of the walled city. Its water came from a water channel cut through rock from the Gihom spring outside the walls during Hezekiah's reign (701 b.c.).

"the steps that descend from the city of David" David captured the heights of Jebus (later Jerusalem) and made it his city. It encompassed several hills. The walls were placed on the sides of the hills, part way from the bottom. Later as the city grew a suburb to the north developed outside the wall.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:16-27
 16After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, official of half the district of Beth-zur, made repairs as far as a point opposite the tombs of David, and as far as the artificial pool and the house of the mighty men. 17After him the Levites carried out repairs under Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, the official of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18After him their brothers carried out repairs under Bavvai the son of Henadad, official of the other half of the district of Keilah. 19Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, the official of Mizpah, repaired another section in front of the ascent of the armory at the Angle. 20After him Baruch the son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21After him Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz repaired another section, from the doorway of Eliashib's house even as far as the end of his house. 22After him the priests, the men of the valley, carried out repairs. 23After them Benjamin and Hasshub carried out repairs in front of their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah, carried out repairs beside his house. 24After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah as far as the Angle and as far as the corner. 25Palal the son of Uzai made repairs in front of the Angle and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king, which is by the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh made repairs. 26The temple servants living in Ophel made repairs as far as the front of the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. 27After them the Tekoites repaired another section in front of the great projecting tower and as far as the wall of Ophel.

3:16 "Beth-zur" This (BDB 112 & 813) means the "house of rock," and it was located fifteen miles south of Jerusalem.

"a point opposite the tombs of David, and as far as the Artificial Pool, and the House of the Mighty Men" Since "the tombs of David" is plural, it must refer to his family's burial tomb(s). The modern location on Mt. Zion is not original. The location of "the house of the mighty men" is uncertain. This may refer to quarters of an elite group of men of David's army (cf. II Sam. 23:8-39; I Chr. 11:10), also known as the royal body guard (cf. I Kgs. 1:8,10; I Chr. 29:24).

The "Artificial Pool" was created by Hezekiah (cf. II Kgs. 20:20; Neh. 2:14). It served as a source of water under the city's wall in case of siege.

3:17 "the Levites" The construction and repair referred to is on the southern part of the new city wall. Why Levites would be involved this far from the temple area is uncertain. It probably was the area of their homes (cf. vv. 20-22).

"Keilah" This was a village eighteen miles south/southwest of Jerusalem in the Philistine coastal plain (cf. Josh. 15:44).

3:18 "Bavvai the son of Henadad" This is not a Hebrew name. It may be a copyist's corruption of "Binnui, son of Henadad" of v. 24 and the Peshitta.

3:19,24 "at the Angle" This turn in the walls of Jerusalem is also mentioned in vv. 24, 25, and II Chr. 26:9. It was close to the palace (cf. V. 25; IDB, vol. 1, p. 137). Apparently it ran from Gihon spring to the armory (ZPBE, vol. 1, p. 168). The wall was straight so the term must refer to something on the inside like the corner of a building or open court.

3:20 Zabbai" This is how the MT writes this name, but the note says, read as Zakkai, which is followed by the Peshitta, the Vulgate, and a few Hebrew manuscripts.

"zealously repaired" The term translated "zealously" (from the root "to burn") is unusual because it occurs only here in this list. Was he the only "zealous" worker? The PRONOUN "him" and the ADJECTIVE are spelled almost exactly alike. The BDB (354 thinks it is a copyist's error [dittography]). This ADJECTIVE is missing in the Septuagint.

▣ "to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest" This begins a series of new geographical locations which are connected with personal houses. Many assume that at this point the wall began its new direction along the eastern ridge.

3:22

NASB"the priests, the men of the valley"
NKJV, Peshitta"the priests, the men of the plain"
NRSV"the priests, the men of the surrounding area"
TEV"priests from the area around Jerusalem"
NJB"the priests who lived in the district"
LXX"the priests, the men of Ecchechar"

The memories of the siege of Jerusalem had been passed down through the families who survived. No one wanted to live in the rebuilt city (cf. 11:1-2). These priests who repaired this section lived in the surrounding area.

The term "valley" is literally "the circle" (BDB 503), but here is used in a specialized sense of "a plain" or lowland.

3:25 "the court of the guard" If this is the same location mentioned in Jer. 32:2 it was associated with the palace.

3:26 "the temple servants" See note at Ezra 2:43.

▣ "Ophel" this term (BDB 779 I) refers to a filled area on the east between Mt. Zion and Mt. Moriah (cf. II Chr. 27:3; 33:14; Isa. 32:14; Micah 4:8).

▣ "Water Gate" The gate on the eastern wall, where the people met to hear Ezra read the law of God (cf. 8:1-8).

3:27 "the Tekoites" See note at 3:5.

▣ "the great projecting tower" Apparently, there were two towers by the Water Gate, one noticeably larger.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 3:28-32
 28Above the Horse Gate the priests carried out repairs, each in front of his house. 29After them Zadok the son of Immer carried out repairs in front of his house. And after him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, carried out repairs. 30After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah carried out repairs in front of his own quarters. 31After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, carried out repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, in front of the Inspection Gate and as far as the upper room of the corner. 32Between the upper room of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants carried out repairs.

3:28 "the Horse Gate" There has been some confusion over this gate because the name seems to refer both to an inner gate (cf. II Kgs. 11:16; II Chr. 23:15), and a walled gate (cf. Jer. 31:40). It was on the east wall close to the temple, next to the East Gate.

3:29 "the keeper of" There were several divisions of gatekeepers. See note at Ezra 2:42.

▣ "the East Gate" This is the temple gate mentioned in Ezek. 10:19; 11:1; 40:6, 10. It is the entrance for the coming Messiah. The modern wall of Jerusalem is not original, but was built by the Muslims in the a.d. period. Many Jewish archaeologists tell us that the currently walled up Eastern gate is not exactly the location of the ancient Eastern gate.

3:31

NASB"the Inspection Gate"
NKJV, REV,
NJB, LXX"the Miphkad Gate"
NRSV"the Muster Gate"

The term (BDB 874) means "place of muster" (cf. II Sam. 24:9; I Chr. 21:5), "place of appointment" (cf. II Chr. 31:13), or "guard-house" (cf. Jer. 52:11). It was on the eastern wall, just north of the East Gate.

▣ "the upper room of the corner" this refers to the northern most point of the eastern wall, where the wall bent. The next gate on the northern wall was the Sheep Gate (cf. 3:1).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is it so hard to identify these different locations in the city of Jerusalem?

2. Why are the cities mentioned in chapter 3 different from those in chapter 10?