Thursday, November 22, 2012

Nehemiah 2 notes

[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.
·         So having heard that Nehemiah was the cup bearer, it’s not surprising that he is bearing the cup for the king. The cupbearer was an intensely honorable and loyal person, with the highest moral character. Only the most carefully vetted person would be trusted, which tells us something of the character of Nehemiah.
·         The month of Nisan was approximately March, four months after hearing the news initially. God had apparently not provided the right time for Nehemiah to bring the subject up, which is a tricky situation.
·         The cup bearer was to be happy at all times as an indicator of his state. If he was feeling badly or was sad it would communicate to the king that something was amiss or he was in danger. The ancient monarchs also would not want a bunch of sad or ruined people around him, he wanted the happy healthy ones. Being sad in his presence could spell doom for the person.

[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.
·         Obviously the king was concerned about Nehemiah if not for his own sake, and it did not appear that Nehemiah was suffering except for a broken spirit.
·         The king is pretty perceptive, obviously Nehemiah was trying to be happy and do his duty.

Then I was very sore afraid,
·         This could mean death for Nehemiah.
·         It also might mean a lost chance for the Jews, which would be the biggest failure of all. If the Jews offend the king he would think little of wiping them out, continuing their oppression, or any number of unpleasant alternatives.

[3] And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
·         This is exactly why Nehemiah has ascended to the place he has. The tempting thing is to lie and fudge, but Nehemiah comes right out with the answer. The king appointed him because he was honest and true, spoke his mind, and was not a kind of ‘yes man’ sycophant.
·         The tombs and the gates together represent the past and future of Jerusalem.
·         At this point Artaxerxes likely does not know that Nehemiah is talking about Jerusalem. The same city that he had a stop work order put on.

[4] Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.
·         It seems like there is no time here, but in reality there may be a short gap where the king looks at Nehemiah as he prays and thinks this through.
·         Before he speaks, he prays. He has a very short amount of time and still he uses it to ask God for help.
·         This is indicative of a robust and continual prayer life. The NT tells us to pray continuously, and Nehemiah is a good model for this.

[5] And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.
·         Nehemiah wanted to personally address the issue. It’s not enough that it gets done. This is wise because the King would know him to be a trustworthy person.

[6] And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return?
·         It’s interesting that the queen is recorded as sitting by here. This indicates that the King was at a banquet and is throwing a party when Nehemiah asks him these things. Imagine the waiter at your restaurant looking unusually grim.
·         The king immediately asks the obvious questions: how long, how much, how far, what is your plan for returning?

So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
·         The answers are not given, but guessing he said he would be gone about a year. It’s interesting that he stayed on 12 or so years more, what could have happened was he built the wall in such short order that the king decided to leave him there to keep governing for a time.
·         It could also be that he gave himself 12 years, about the time Ezra took to do it, and stayed on as Governor in the remaining years.

[7] Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;
·         When Ezra was appointed there was not as much a pressing need for these letters. When Nehemiah goes, the nations are hostile, and successful. There is a great need for them.

[8] And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.
·         But you will notice that he does not request access to the stone quarries, just the access to the royal forest to procure the timber needed.

[9] Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.
·         Undoubtedly this was part of the request. Nehemiah would need an armed escort if he was going to make it across the distances. A large party like Ezra’s would go unmolested, but a single man, the dress or robes of a fancy, high ranking eunuch, was sure to be noticed.

[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.
·         This is what we expected, and this is what we find. The three chief antagonists were resting pretty comfortably on the fact that Judah had been humiliated. That someone in the king’s presence had come with a royal commission to undo their work troubled them.
·         Sandballat was the governor of Samaria (the title Horonite suggests he might have come from Beth-horon in Samaria (formerly was under the tribe of Ephraim, Josh 16:3 for example). Sandballat was married to one of the priestly families either at this time, or more likely shortly after this. See Nehemiah 13:28.
·         Tobiah was a servant to the King, he may have been the one to carry the permission to Samaria regarding the burning of the walls. Tobiah is a Jewish name, and he was well connected to the priests, see Nehemiah 13:4, so he was a turn coat.
·         If they opposed Nehemiah, they opposed the King. This called for them to be clever.

[11] So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.
·         Nehemiah takes time out to think over his next move. He decides at this time what is the best course of action after seeing everything for himself.
·         Most likely Nehemiah had set down a plan, telling no one, nor writing it down, of what he would do to fix everything once he got there. Once arrived, Nehemiah spends the time reconciling and improving the plan he had made with the reality before him.
·         That’s what happens when you have this kind of person appointed to the task. Ezra was a priest acting as a project manager, and it takes him 13 years. Get a real project manager and you can have it done in under 2 months.

[12] And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.
·         He sneaks out at night so that nobody will know what he knows. Nehemiah is going to conduct an intelligence operation in secret

[13] And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.
·         He starts on the west side. He then goes around in a circle, counter-clockwise and inspects the walls.
·         The dung gate was more of a sewage drain, not really used for heavy travel. It was on the southern end of the city.
·         The word viewed is a medical word that means to probe a wound. He was carefully examining the holes in the wall and the quality of the stones that had fallen from them.

[14] Then I went on to the gate of the fountain,
·         The southern most point in the tip of the wall that would be used for going in and out.

and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.
·         This is a small circuit around the royal residence and sepulchers

[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.
·         Nehemiah then follows that course up to the Horse, East, Muster, Sheep gates, past the fish gates on the north side, the old gate on the near western side, then comes back down.

[16] And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.
·         Nehemiah puts everything together first. There is a long list here, the nobles, the priests, the rulers and the Jews, all four groups, have no real knowledge of what Nehemiah is up to.

[17] Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.
·         Now Nehemiah unveils his plans, and that’s to rebuild the walls so that the city can once again prosper.

[18] Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
·         Nehemiah relates the story of his diary, about how he felt and thought. And the result was that the people stood up and said, ‘let’s build it.’
·         They may have been waiting for something like this to happen that they could get out and start building. They could have been eager to repair that wall, but were forbidden by the king and his army.

[19] But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?
·         Nehemiah has already foreshadowed this hostility from earlier.
·         Their taunt is that this is the Jews rebelling against the King, but their statement is “you are too weak to rebel, why bother building the walls?” This is interesting, because the letter they sent to the king was that the city was rebelling.
·         Aeshem the Arabian is likely the leader of a tribe of Arabs in the southern regions. He too has no love for God’s people.
·         They are just like sin in doctrine today: unless you are off balanced and scared you will never obey. If we have eternal security then you will just rebel against God. Is this not the same argument used?

[20] Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.
·         A strong rebuke. Get lost clowns, God has appointed me to watch over this city, and there is no way that you are going to prosper here.
·         Opposition to Christ means that you are enemies of God.
·         Nehemiah dismisses them outright as enemies of God.