COMMENTARY ON NEHEMIAH
“ 3:6 Moreover the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.7 And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite, and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon, and of Mizpah, unto the throne of the governor on this side the river. 8 Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths. Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall. 9 And next unto them repaired Rephaiah the son of Hur, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem. 10 And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabniah. (Nehemiah 3:1-5)
As we proceed through this very detailed section of Nehemiah, we do not want to miss the individual trees for the forest. There were particular people who worked together on a specific project. The result of their work must blend together, and their individual workmanship must not detract from the project itself. One person’s work must fit precisely with the work of the one next to him. No one’s work will stand by itself, nor, indeed, does it have any relevance if it does not fit in with the rest of the work. This is remarkable when you consider that the work must be accomplished quickly. It must also be thorough and strong. The wall must actually fortify the city, and it must add to the beauty of it as well. If this were not in the context of the will of God, it is difficult to conceive of it ever being accomplished. However, the blessing of the Lord is upon the work of the Lord. If ever a person can become involved in the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, He will experience the support and blessing of God. We will view the following details of the wall- building with these things in mind. They will shed light some otherwise obscured facts.
THE THOROUGHNESS OF THE WORK
“ 3:6 Moreover the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.” The building of the wall began at the sheep gate (verse one), and will end there as well (verse 32). This was the gate closest to the temple itself, which appeared to set the tone for the work. They started in close proximity to the temple, with the gate through which sheep were brought for sacrifices. Applying that to our own situation, any spiritual repairs should start with God and the sacrifice of Christ in mind.
THE OLD GATE. Nehemiah is the only one who mentions this gate, here and in 12:39. We do not know anything more about it, even though commentators have speculated what it might be. Some have conjectured it was a gate that pertained to the oldest part of the wall. The point to be seen here is that repairing something “old” requires considerable effort. Extensive repairs would probably be required, as well as some understanding concerning the purpose and materials of the original. These two men headed up this difficult work, determined to restore what had been devastated.
JEHOIADA AND MESHULLAM. There is more than one Jehoiada mentioned in Scripture. There is the father of Benaiah, one of David’s strong men (2 Sam 8:18). There was also a priest by that name during the reigns of Ahaziah, Athaliah, and Joash of Judah (2 Kgs 11:1-12:16). There was also a leader of the Aaronites who had this name, who joined with David at Ziklag (1 Chron 12:27). And, there was a priest by bearing this name who ministered during the days of Jeremiah (Jer 29:26). This Jehoiada is distinguished from the others by three things. (1) He was the son of Paseah. (2) He joined in a work with Meshullam. (3) He repaired the “old gate.” Paseah, Jehoiada’s father, is probably the founder of a family of Temple servants who returned from the captivity with Zerubbabel (Neh 7:51). Meshullam is an even more common name, given to no less than twenty-one men in Scripture. The following men had a son by this name: Zerubbabel (1 Chron 3:19), Shephatiah (1 Chron 9:8), and Berechiah (this Meshullum worked on another section of the wall, Neh 3:4). The Meshullum of our text is distinguished as “the son of Besodeiah.” This is the only place his father is mentioned, thereby distinguishing this man from others bearing the same name. The other distinctions are his association with Jehoiada, and the building of “the old gate.” However, that is enough to get his name in the Bible.
A THOROUGH REPAIR. The thoroughness of this repair is noted by the mentioning of (1) laying the beams, (2) setting up the doors, (3) setting up the locks, and (4) setting up the bars. The same thing is said of the repair of the “fish gate,”which was accomplished under “the sons of Hassenaah” (verse 3). Although most, if not all, of these men had not been in Jerusalem during the days of its glory, yet they were given wisdom to restore its wall to its ancient beauty and functionality. This required considerable effort and detail – particularly when both age and destruction had devastated the work being restored. Yet, no shortcuts were taken. These men did the work from the foundation to the finishing touches. They stabilized the gate by laying the timbers and setting up the doors. They made it usable by setting up the locks and the bars. A rebuilt gate is of no value unless it can be used, and a gate that is used is of no value unless it is stable.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS? First, souls can join together to accomplish a difficult work. If Jehoiada and Meshullum could repair “the old gate” of Jerusalem, there is no reason why nobles cannot join together in reviving old pillars of truth that have lain waste for many years. The Philistines stopped the wells that Abraham’s servants had dug, filling them with earth. But Isaac dug them again, reviving their flow of fresh water (Gen 26:15-18). Whether it is wells of refreshing water, or sacred gates through which men gain access to the holy things of God, if they are no longer available to men, they need to be repaired. Someone must rise up like these two good men, and build.
Second, what is done for the Lord must not be slipshod. Whatever is related to the Lord must not be associated with half-heartedness or inferior work. Men will never take hold of the truth if it is couched in sloppy language, and carried by undisciplined and uncommitted people. There is a certain precision that characterizes everything that is related to the salvation of God. Thus, we are to “speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” NASB (1 Cor 2:13). In a day when speech has been greatly corrupted, this is particularly important to note. If the details of the gates had to be set in place, like the locks and bars, so the details of our work must be accompanied by “sound words” and godly expression.
DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS, SAME WORK
“ 3:7And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite, and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon, and of Mizpah, unto the throne of the governor on this side the river.” As we proceed through this lengthy description of the workers and the work, there is something of particular interest to again note. Most of these people are ONLY mentioned because their hand was upon the work of God. If nothing was being done for the Lord, they probably would not have been mentioned. Further, the mentioning of them is inspired by God. This is not secular history, but a Divine revelation. In these verses, therefore, we have a vivid example of what is stated in Hebrews 6:10: “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love.” Further, the record of these men in Scripture is an introduction to the involvements of the day of judgment, when all things will be brought to light, whether they relate to those who oppose the work of the Lord, or those who joined in the doing of it.
MELATIAH, JADON, AND THE MEN. Some men are distinguished by their father’s, and others by the tribes or region from which they came. These workers were not cut out of the same mold; they were not “clones,” all having the same background. This is the only verse in the entire Bible where the names Melatiah and Jadon appear. All we know of them is right here.
Meltiah was a “Gibeonite.” The only other man called a “Gibeonite” is Ismaiah, a mighty man who was over the thirty mighty men of David (1 Chron 12:4). The Gibeonites were originally the Canaanite inhabitants of the city of Gibeon. You may remember they are the ones who feigned themselves as journeying from a far country, even putting moldy bread in their sacks. By doing this, they were able talk Joshua into making an agreement not to destroy their city as he did Jericho (Josh 9:4-5). Years later, king Saul broke this covenant by slaying the Gibeonites in contradiction of that covenant. Because of that, God brought a grievous three-year famine upon the land during the reign of David, revealing to David it was because of Saul’s “bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites” (2 Sam 21:1-6). Now, in Nehemiah’s time, the Gibeonites are again exonerated by one of their number being involved in the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall!
Jadon was a Meronothite. The only other Meronothite mentioned in Scripture is a man named Jehdeiah, who was a member of king David’s staff, being “over the donkeys” (1 Chron 27:30). The word “Meronothite” means “of Meronoth” – but we have no Scriptural record concerning this place. Because the word means “fertility,” it is assumed it was located in a area with especially rich soil.
Men of Gibeon and Mizpah. Again, the ancient treaty Joshua made with Gibeon is honored by men from that city participating in the building of the wall. Mizpah is mentioned in verse nineteen, where its ruler worked on another part of the wall. After the fall of Jerusalem, Mizpah of Judah became a captive city of Babylon (2 Kgs 25:23-25). The “men of Mizpah” were probably Israelites who had reinhabited the city. Here are workers whose names we do not know, yet they are noted in heaven “for their work’s sake”(1 Thess 5:13).
“Unto the throne of the governor on this side the river.” Recent versions have this verse saying the men were “under the authority of the governor” in that area. NIV,NRSV,RSV It is generally agreed, however, that this is a misrepresentation. The idea is that the governor’s house was either in this part of the wall, or adjacent to it. The builders repaired it also. Thus the readings, “repaired the residence of the governor,” NKJV and “also made repairs for the official seat of the governor.” NASB You see the thoroughness of the work of this group, even to the repairing of a ruler’s house that was in the area of their responsibility.
I cannot help but note how men from differing backgrounds joined harmoniously in the work of the Lord. It would be difficult to draw such people into such concord without a common work. It was the work itself that united them. It is the manner of men to attempt to bring accord before the work begins. While there may be some measure of value in this view, it appears to me to be far better to set a work before the people that is a worthy one, and in which they can be blessed. Having the same mind and the same judgment (1 Cor 1:10) has little value if nothing is being accomplished. Many of the attempts to unify professed believers have very little to do with serving the Lord, or putting their hands to His good work. In Nehemiah’s day, the people of God were scattered about, just as they are today. But when he came to help them, and set a noble and God-blessed work before them, they put their shoulders to the task, working side by side. Whether from Gibeon, Meronoth, or Mizpah, they came together to work orderly, thoroughly, and with great precision.
SIDE BY SIDE IN A NOBLE WORK
“ 8 Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths. Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall. 9 And next unto them repaired Rephaiah the son of Hur, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem. 10 And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabniah.” The wide variety of workers, and their generally unknown persons, is most remarkable. In the world, men look for works from well known or famous people. They suppose the reputations of such individuals will add much to the work. Thus, religious conventions, books, and the likes, call for well known people, thinking to draw the crowd. But Nehemiah does not work this way at all. His workers are no-names, but what a work they will do!
UZZIEL AND HANANIAH. Immediately adjacent to Melatiah, Jadob, and the men of Gibeon and Mizpah, Uzziel and Hananiah worked. There are six men with the name “Uzziel” in Scripture. One of them was the ancestor of the“Uzzielites” (Num 3:27). This man is distinguished by his father Harhaiah, of whom we know nothing. Uzziel was “one of the goldsmiths,” NIV who worked as a group on another part of the wall (3:32). Next to him Hananiah did repairs. In Scripture, there are fifteen men with this name. One of them worked on a section further down the wall (3:30). Another was a local ruler (7:2). Still another was a clan leader (10:23). This man is distinguished as “one of the apothecaries,” or “perfume-makers.” NIVThey were similar to a pharmacist, except they specialized in oils and ointments. The ancient Tabernacle staff included apothecaries, who made the anointing oil (Ex 30:25). When Asa died, “they laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odors and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art” (2 Chron 16:14).
Now, these specialists in gold and perfume are wall builders, laying stones and other things related to the restoration. This wall had no place for gold or perfume, yet these men put their hand to the work. They left their speciality for God’sspecial work. It seems to me that something can be learned from all of this. There is a work that is more noble than our ordinary occupations. We can come together for a more significant activity than what we do individually. When the work of God is perceived as worthy enough for goldsmiths and apothecaries to work with stone and mortar, we will be on the verge of great things!
Note, these workers are said to have “fortified Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall.” NKJV Only Nehemiah mentions “the Broad Wall” (also in 12:38). This was probably the four hundred cubits of wall broken down by Joash (2 Kgs 14:13). It was rebuilt by Uzziah, and fortified (2 Chron 26:9), apparently not requiring extensive repairs like the rest of the wall. In repairing this section of the wall, the wall itself was not the point, but the holy city. Thus they “fortified Jerusalem” by repairing that section of the wall.
REPHAIAH, JEDAIAH, AND HATTUSH. Immediately next to Uzziel and Hananiah’s group, and without interruption, three other groups joined in the work.
In Scripture, five man have the name Rephaiah – but this is the only place the “son of Hur” is mentioned. We learn something additional about him. He was the ruler, or leader, of half of Jerusalem. Unlike the “nobles” of the Tekoites, which “put not their necks to the work of their Lord” (3:5), here was a ruler who joined in the work.
There are seven men in Scripture with the name Jedaiah. Two other priests with this name are mentioned in Nehemiah (11:10; 12:7,10). This is the only place “the son of Harumaph” is mentioned. He “made repairs opposite his house” NIV Apparently he lived close to the wall itself, and refused to remain by a broken down segment of it. While some are quite able to live next to ruin, he was not.
Scripture records three men with the name Hattush. One of them was a priest, and is mentioned later in Nehemiah (10:4). This is the only place “the son of Hashabniah” is mentioned.
Thus we have unknown individuals, Gibeonites, a Meronothite, a goldsmith, an apothecary, and a ruler – all working side by side in a good work. The unknown men now became known. The Gibeonites were again exonerated. An unknown region became known. A goldsmith is now known for a work in which no gold was found. An apothecary is now famous for working on a project that did not require his expertise. And, a ruler is now known for serving among those over whom he ruled.
That is what the work of the Lord involves. It embraces a body with differing parts. It requires the establishing of new priorities, and being occupied in new and fresh areas. There are few things that register such an impact upon people as working together for God.