habitual cheerfulness had suddenly forsaken him. This led to those A.M. 3559 inquiries through which the king learned the deplorable condition of B.C. 4+5. Nehemiah's native country, and especially of its metropolis, which affected him with the deepest grief. He took occasion, therefore, to request the royal permission to revisit the land of his ancestors, and to undertake the rebuilding of the city. This request, seconded by the intercession of the queen, was favourably accepted, and he received a commission, as governor of the province of Judea, to repair the walls of the place, and restore it to the same condition in which it was previous to the Babylonish incursion. Royal letters His were, at the same time, despatched to the governors beyond the commission Euphrates to afford every requisite assistance. Asaph, the keeper Jerusalem. of the forests, was to furnish whatever timber might be found necessary to accomplish the work, and a guard of horse was appointed to accompany him on his journey.

Having reached the place of his destination, Nehemiah continued three days among the people without communicating to them any information with regard to the design of his visit: and it was not until the fourth day, after going privately round the walls in the preceding night, that he summoned the principal people together, produced his commission, and solicited their concurrence in the laborious undertaking. To this proposal they instantly gave an unanimous and most joyous assent. The plan adopted for the Plan for execution of the project was to divide the people into companies, rebuilding assigning to each his proper district and portion of labour, while Nehemiah himself superintended the whole.

Great and good works are seldom suffered to advance far without opposition. A misunderstanding of their design, or an envy of the parties engaged in them, often sets a thousand engines in motion to obstruct or counteract the proceedings. Such is human nature, and such will ever be the sad development of its deformity. Sanballat, Opposition. a Moabitish officer, and Tobiah, an Ammonite, both equally inimical to the prosperity of the Jews, soon began to use the frequent and ready-made weapons of hostility, scoffing and ridicule. As the persons who had undertaken the business, however, were not acting without being duly authorized, and were not to be easily shaken in their purpose or counteracted in their plan, these wretched confederates sent to some of the neighbouring nations to induce them to unite in attempting the demolition of the works and the destruction of the people engaged in their execution. But the governor, having discovered the plot, took care to watch their motions, and to form a proper guard to defend the workmen, ordering each one for himself to provide arms in case of attack. He moreover poured out earnest supplications to heaven, the necessity for which he did not suppose was superseded even by the best preparations for defence, and urged the people to proceed by every encouraging address and argument.

the city.


A.M. 3559. These measures completely overawed their enemies, who now tried B.C. 445. other expedients, and pretending to adjust their differences amicably,

several times invited Nehemiah to a conference in one of the villages in the plain of Ono, in the tribe of Benjamin ; but he, aware,

no doubt, of their treacherous intentions, absolutely declined the Stratagems interview. Sanballat next resorted to the stratagem of sending a of the Jews' letter with the following statement: “It is reported among the

heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king, according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.” (Nehem. vi. 6, 7.) To these allegations a reply was sent, consisting of a manly and positive denial, and charging Sanballat as their contriver. He had now only one last resource, the bribing to his interest Shemaiah, the son of Delaiah the priest, a friend of his enemy. Nehemiah, going one day to the house of Shemaiah, he pretended to prophecy that his enemies would that night make an attempt upon his life, and advised him to seek security by accompanying him into the inner part of the temple, or sanctuary, which was, indeed, a place of great safety, being guarded by the Levites; and, on account of its holiness, could not be hostilely entered. The design of this was twofold—to dishearten the people, by convincing them of their governor's apprehensions; and to facilitate the capture and destruction of the place, by depriving them of their general. It also had a tendency to give countenance to the report of his departure from his allegiance to the king, since he would thus have fled when the report was put in circulation; and, besides, he might, by this means, have been secured by some priestly confederates, till the season of action was passed. The contrivance, however, did not avail, since Nehemiah refused the advice that was given him, on the ground of its being inconsistent with honour and religion. He,

moreover, soon perceived the true origin of this insidious suggestion. The walls

In the space of fifty-two days the whole work was completed, such was the extraordinary zeal of the governor, and such the indefatigable industry of the people. A dedication of the walls and gates of Jerusalem was then solemnly observed, to appropriate the whole to the service of God, and to perpetuate the remembrance of the divine goodness, as well as to serve the purpose of a public celebration. Sacrifices and offerings were presented in the temple, and the great feast of tabernacles religiously observed. Nehemiah's conclusion and testimony at this happy termination of his labours are interesting. “And it came to pass,” says he, “ that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.”.


returns to

With the view probably of returning to Shushan, to inform the A.M. 3559. king of the present aspect of his affairs in Judea, and perhaps to B.C. 455. counteract the reports which his inveterate enemies might have put Nehemiah in circulation to a wide extent, Nehemiah appointed his brother Persia Hanani (who had proved his zeal by going from Jerusalem to Shusan, first to communicate information of the state of his country,) to the charge of the gates; and Hananiah, another person of unquestionable principle, to the direction of his house or palace; and to both in conjunction, the general superintendence of the affairs of the city. He afterwards arranged for the chief men of the state to fix their abodes at Jerusalem, on account of the present diminished condition of the population, which required to be recruited, while the remainder were to cast lots, by which a tenth part of all the people of Judah and Benjamin were obliged to reside in the city. These were the two tribes that anciently possessed Jerusalem, which was situated partly in one tribe, and partly in the other; but the precise divisions have never been accurately ascertained.

Immediately previous to Nehemiah's return to Shushan, Ezra produced the Sacred Code, which he had been zealously engaged in completing, and, assisted by thirteen other priests, publicly read and expounded it to the assembled multitudes from a raised platform or pulpit, which was erected for the purpose of rendering him the more conspicuous and the more easily heard. To this circumstance we have already adverted in our preceding account of this celebrated scribe.

Notwithstanding the precautions taken by Nehemiah, especially in the appointment of the solemn reading of the law, and the public renewal of their attachment to it, he had not left the capital long before the people became exceedingly corrupt, which may be chiefly Corruptions attributed to Eliashib, the high priest, who was allied by marriage

absence. to Tobiah, one of the great enemies of the Jews, but who had, in consequence of this connection, obtained apartments in the temple. Upon his return, therefore, Nehemiah resolved to correct this shameful abuse; but so much had Tobiah insinuated himself into the affections of the people, that he was compelled to proceed most cautiously. He accordingly caused the book of the law to be read, and when a passage in Deuteronomy was recited, which states that Deut. xxiii.. an Ammonite or Moabite should not come into the congregation of the Lord, even to the tenth generation for ever, they were instantly convinced of their error, and, under the governor's directions, who availed himself of the favourable moment, Tobiah's furniture was cast out of the sacred chambers, and they were again purified and, restored to their legitimate use. Nehemiah zealously proceeded return.

[ocr errors]


in his

1 “We are not to think,” says Patrick, in his Commentary on the book of Nehemiah, “that this pulpit was made in he fashion of ours, which will hold no

S. H.

more than one person, for (as we may
observe by the very next words,) it was
made large and long enough to contain
fourteen people at once.”



A.M. 3559. with the work of reformation, restoring to its holy design the sabbath, B.C. 415. which had been profaned by secular employments, dissolving irregular

associations in marriage which had been unlawfully formed with strangers, and re-organizing other parts of the state which had fallen into decay and corruption. This last act of salutary government took place about the fifteenth year of the reign of Darius.

It is not known how many years Nehemiah lived after his return from Persia ; it seems probable that he attained a great age, and was the last governor of the province delegated by the Persian kings, who, it is thought, afterwards left its general superintendence to the Jewish high priest, till Alexander the Great subjugated the empire. Nehemiah is believed to have continued in his government to the period of his death, notwithstanding all the revolutions of the Persian court, which were by no means few or trifling; for Xerxes his son succeeded Ahasuerus, or the Artaxerxes of profane history, and was followed by Sogdianus, who slew him, after he had reigned only forty-five days. Sogdianus was, in his turn, put to a violent death, after six months and fifteen days, by his successor Ochus; who seized him by a stratagem, and cast him headlong into ashes. Ochus assumed the name of Darius, and after murdering his brother Arsites, and suppressing several insurrections, ruled over Persia nineteen years, at which period Nehemiah was living, and whether he or his prince paid the debt of nature first is uncertain.”

2 Vide Prideaux's Connection, an. 425.




FLOURISHED FROM ABOUT A.M. 3416, B.C. 588; TO A.M. 3607, B.C. 397.

To this latter period of history belongs the prophet MALACHI, who Malachi. maintains the singular and interesting position of the last individual of the Jewish church to whom the prophetic inspiration was communicated. Justyn Martyr, indeed, has maintained that this inspiration did not cease till the Christian æra, but this idea is wholly unsupported by evidence. We have before alluded to the notion that the name assigned to this prophet was merely a term descriptive of the character of Ezra, as the messenger of the Lord, commissioned to execute an important business on behalf of his nation, and that, consequently, these supposed different persons ought to be regarded as one and the same individual. The contrary, however, is by far more probable; for, in addition to the general consideration that the names of the prophets were frequently given to designate their office, his writings have always held a distinct situation in the Hebrew canon, and there is no sufficient reason for displacing them.

Previously, however, to the mention of further particulars of Malachi, we must not wholly omit three others, which have been classified under the general appellation of minor prophets, and who stand in immediate connection. We have already spoken, in the Minor proper place, of Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Joel, Zepha- prophets. niah, and Habakkuk. It now remains to furnish a brief notice of those who succeed in chronological order; premising, what should not be forgotten with regard to the common, and perhaps improper epithet applied to these illustrious men, that they are not called minor prophets with reference to any inferiority in their writings, either in respect of the composition, the diction, or the subjects of their prophecies, but solely on account of their small extent in point of quantity. In the Hebrew canon their writings are comprised in a single volume, and were, probably, collected into that form by Ezra, or some other member of the great synagogue.

OBADIAH is to be placed next in chronological order to Habakkuk. Obadiah. His name signifies « servant of the Lord;” but he has himself fur- A.M. 3416. nished us with no account of his origin, nor of the period when he B.C. 588. was honoured with revelations from heaven, nor, indeed, with a

« 前へ次へ »