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It is worthy of remark, that God always finds proper instruments to perform the work of His providence, and frequently makes the enemies of His church guards and protectors to its friends and patrons.
NEHEMIAH ARRIVES AT JERUSALEM—HE INCITETH
THE JEWS TO REBUILD THE WALLS.
From Nehemiah, Chap. ii.
THEN came Nehemiah 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 him.
When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the sere vant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them ex. ceedingly, that there was come a man to seek the wel. fare of the children of Israel.
So Nehemiah came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. And he arose in the night, and some few men with him ; neither told he any man what his God had put into his heart to do at Jerusalem, neither was there any beast with him, save the beast that he rode upon.
And he 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.
Then he went on to the gate of the fountain, and to : the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under him to pass.
Then he went 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.
And the rulers knew not whither he went, or what he did : neither had he 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.
Then said he 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.
The hand of my God is with 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.
But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed them to scorn, and despised them, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?
Then answered Nehemiah, 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.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS. We find from this Section, that Nehemiah, having once taken up the idea of serving his brethren the Jews, he never lost sight of his pious and generous design.
It seems that the agitation of his mind was perceived by the king, who appears to have been glad of giving to his beloved Esther a fresh proof of his kindness to her people.
Nehemiah did not proceed in the business with haste and precipitation: for though he trusted that the good Providence of God attended him, he did not expect a miracle to be wrought, where human means, under the Divine blessing, were likely to succeed.
We We here learn, that as soon as Nehemiah's design was known, the Ammonites, Moabites, Samaritans, and other neighbouring nations, joined to oppose it. The ancient enmity of the Samaritans has been already mentioned; but they had an additional motive in common with the other nations, for oppressing the Jews at that time; and this was, their having all seized upon different parts of the Jewish territories during the captivity, which, on the return of the Jews, they had been obliged to restore; for this reason the Samaritans did all in their power to prevent the settlement of the Jews, hoping they should find an opportunity of resuming the prey they had lost.
We find that * Nehemiah was not discouraged by these malicious enemies, nor by the insinuations of disaffected people and false prophets within the walls, but resolutely persisted; and the people used their utmost exertions, laying their weapons by them, and working and standing guard alternately, by which means they accomplished the work in fifty-two days. Nehemiah and the rulers, during this time, did not even pull off their clothes, but to change them for clean ones.
After this, Nehemiah relieved the poor from the oppression of the rich, who having lent them money to supply their necessities, had exacted great interest; to pay which they had been obliged to mortgage their lands, and even give up their children to servitude. Shortly after, he returned into Persia, to acquaint the king of his success, and having obtained a new commission, he with the assistance of Ezra, set about a farther reformation of the church and state ; and as Jerusalem was but thinly inhabited, they prevailed on the rulers and other great men to build houses and dwell in the city; and of the common people, every tenth man was * See Chap iii. and sequel.
taken by lot, and obliged to settle there with their families; by which means the Jews were enabled to defend the place against their enemies.
. Nehemiah next caused the genealogies of the people "to be exactly scrutinized, that all might be directed in what parts to take their possessions; and the tribe of Levi to be ascertained, that those who were not of the family of Aaron might be excluded the sanctuary. It is very curious to trace these genealogies, but it would take our attention too long from the history.
. Ezra having completed his copy of the law of God, and written it out fair in the Chaldee character, read it publicly, as we learn from the following Section,
THE SOLEMN READING OF THE LAW.
From Nehemiah, Chap. viii.
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man, into the street that was before the water-gate, and they spake unto Ezra the scribe, to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel.
And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation, both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
And he read therein before the street that was before the water-gate, from the morning until mid-day, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose, and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people (for he was above all the people,) and when he opened it all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the Lord the great God: and all the people answered, Amen, amen, with lifting up their hands : and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
And the Levites who stood by Ezra, caused the people to understand the law : and the people stood in their place.
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God, mourn not, nor weep: for all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.
Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord; neither be you sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy, neither be ye grieved.
And all the people went their way to eat, and te drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.