COMMENTARY ON NEHEMIAH
“ 3:11 Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hashub the son of Pahathmoab, repaired the other piece, and the tower of the furnaces. 12 And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters. 13 The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits on the wall unto the dung gate. 14 But the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Bethhaccerem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof. 15 But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David.” (Nehemiah 3:11-15)
The massiveness of Nehemiah’s restoration project is impressive. Twelve gates are mentioned in Nehemiah. Seven of them are said to have been repaired (Sheep 3:1, Fish 3:3, Old 3:6, Valley 3:7, Dung 3:14, Fountain 3:15, Horse 3:28). Three of them were reference points in the project (Water 3:28, East 3:26,29, and Miphkad 3:31). Two other gates are mentioned in this book (Ephraim 12:39 and Prison 12:39). Towers are associated with the project (Meah 3:1, Hananeel 3:1, Furnaces 3:11, from the King’s house 3:25, Great 3:27). Thus, the work not only involved repairing gates and towers, but doing so in a way that blended well with what remained. No ones’ work stood by itself. First, what was done had to be according to the original structure. Second, their work must fit together with sections of the wall, towers, and any gates that remained. Considering the number of years that the wall had been in shambles, and the extent of the damage, this is a most remarkable consideration. It sets before us the nature of the work of God throughout the ages. Nothing true and stable must be removed. Things that are new must fit together with what has already been established. In matters of the truth, God’s people must not give themselves to needless change or passing fads.
THE THOROUGHNESS OF THE WORK
“ 3:11 Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hashub the son of Pahathmoab, repaired the other piece, and the tower of the furnaces. 12 And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters.”
MALCHIJAH AND HASHUB. There are nine men in Scripture with the name Malchijah. This one is distinguished as “the son of Harim.” He is first mentioned in Ezra 10:31, where he is noted as one of the Jews who had taken strange wives. His father came out of the captivity with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:32). In response to Ezra’s stirring challenge, and in a covenant with God, Malchijah and others had put away their strange wives (Ezra 10:3-11). Now, nearly thirteen years later, he has fully recovered and is working on the wall of the holy city. Four men named Hashub are mentioned in Nehemiah. Another builder who worked with Benjamin on another section (3:23), one who signed the covenant with God (10:23), and a chief among the Levites (11:15). This Hashub is distinguished as “the son of Pahathmoab.” His father also came out of the captivity with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:6). Both of these men had been taught well by their fathers, and continued the work their fathers had started – in a different time, and under a different leader.
The same work can be taken up by others, even after much time has elapsed. Also, consider that those with uncomely backgrounds, like Malchijah, can fully recover and put their hand to the work of the Lord.
THE OTHER PIECE. Some versions read “another section.” NKJV,NIV These men did not simply do work on another part of the wall. They continued the repair of the workman before them (under leadership of Hattush, v10). Their craftmanship blended with the work of those next to them. They were able to take the project forward, continuing where the others left off, without any break in the appearance, quality, or stability of the wall. There is surely a lesson to be learned here. In the exercise of our various gifts, the results should fit well together, with nothing detracting from work of the Lord.
TOWER OF THE FURNACES. This tower is mentioned again in 12:38. It was located in the wall itself, and is referred to as “the Tower of the Ovens” in the NIV. It was a location in which baking was done, and is thought to be “the baker’s street” mentioned in Jeremiah 37:21, from which Jeremiah received a piece of bread daily. It would be something like a series of bakery shops in a modern-day shopping mall.
We learn from these references about the nature of the wall around Jerusalem. Not only did it afford protection for the city, but it served other purposes as well. Gates of entrance and exit were located in it. Some houses were built into it, so that people actually lived in the wall (3:10,20). There were places where food was made (3:11), and towers for fortification of the city (3:27). Because salvation is likened to great “walls and bulwarks” (Isa 26:1), this assists us in comprehending something of its magnitude. The salvation of God not only affords protection, but it is a place where we may live, finding food for the soul.
ANOTHER RULER. Immediately next to Hashub, Shallum the son of Halohesh continued the repairs. There are fourteen men in Scripture with this name. This man is distinguished in two way: “as the son of Halohesh,” and “the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem.” NO mention of his father is made elsewhere. This is probably the same “Shallum” whose children were “porters,” or gatekeepers when the work was completed (7:45).
Another ruler of the half part of Jerusalem has already been mentioned: “Rephaiah the son of Hur” (3:9). Under normal conditions, a divided city is noted for NOT being united (as in the former East/West Berlin). In this case, however, the two rulers united in the work of the Lord. We conclude they were also united in the execution of their governmental duties. An excellent picture is seen of leaders working together, even though their formal responsibilities may differ, or they may be overseeing different works.
AND HIS DAUGHTERS. A most interesting thing is said of this ruler. Not only was he willing to work side-by-side with those under him, his “daughters” also joined in the work. In this, these “daughters” distinguished themselves as the only women who worked on the project. That tells us something about them: they were devoted to the work of the Lord. It also tells us something about Shallum: he had taught his daughters well. It tells us something about the mass of the workers: like Paul (Phil 4:3), they had no objection to working with women. And last, it tells us something about Nehemiah: he did not discriminate among those who had a real heart for the work. In a sense, Shallum was much like Philip, who “had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy” (Acts 21:9). Without shame, they joined in the work of the Lord, thereby fulfilling the promise of Acts 2:17-18.
THE VALLEY GATE AND THE DUNG GATE ARE REPAIRED
“ 3:13 The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits on the wall unto the dung gate. 14 But the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Bethhaccerem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.”
THE VALLEY GATE. This gate is first mentioned in Second Chronicles, where Uzziah built a tower, thus fortifying the wall (26:9). This was an entrance, thought to be at the southwest corner of Jerusalem.ISBE This was the gate through which Nehemiah originally went at night to survey the wall (2:13). It opened into the valley of Hinnom which skirted Jerusalem on the west and south. The valley is first mentioned in Joshua 15:8, and is there directly related to the city of Jerusalem. Kings Asa and Manasseh burned their children in sacrifice to false gods in this valley (2 Chron 28:3; 33:6).
HANUN AND THE INHABITANTS OF ZANOAH. In Scripture, there are three men who bear the name “Hanun.” Two of them are mentioned in Nehemiah, both of whom worked on the wall. Further down the wall, the other Hanun worked, who was distinguished as “the sixth son of Zalaph” (3:30). Our text is the only mention of this man that is found in Scripture.
The “inhabitants of Zanoah” were from Zanoah, a little town in the low country of Judah, and about ten miles from Jerusalem. It is first mentioned in Joshua 15:34 as one of the “southernmost towns of the tribe of Judah” NIV (Josh 15:21). It was not a town of much importance, and was apparently very small. It is never associated with any significant person or happening. Yet, its inhabitants worked on the wall, side by side with the rulers of Jerusalem. They provide an excellent example of “no respect of persons” (2 Chron 19:7). Nehemiah established criteria for workers that did not exclude any capable person of a willing heart. Rulers, servants, men, women, and those from large and small cities were included. We do well to follow his example.
THEY BUILT IT. This is the first time any group is said to have “built” something. To this point, the word “repaired” has been used (vs 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12). The word “repair” signifies strengthening, or fortifying. It implies the people had something to work with; i.e., a significant part of the wall remained. The word “built” emphasizes “making,” implying they started with very little, and that most of the area on which they worked had been destroyed. We do not know how many were included in “the inhabitants of Zanoah,” but apparently it was a significant number. As a city, they were small. As a group of workers, they were large. We learn from this that those who are insignificant within the context of cities and institutions are large when it comes to accomplishing something for God.
A THOUSAND CUBITS. The section of wall on which this group worked is staggering for length. A thousand cubits are approximately 500 yards, or a quarter of a mile. That would be roughly three to four city blocks. Not only was the area for which they were responsible large, it appears it required more extensive work than other parts. Yet, these unknown people, from an insignificant city, and led by an unknown man, put their shoulders to the work. The significance of their assignment is seen when you consider the total circumference of the wall was about four miles. This group, then, was responsible for over 6% of the total project. We learn from this what faith and love enable people to do!
THE DUNG GATE. The work of this group went up to the “dung gate,” which was being repaired by another group. The “dung gate” is where this group ended. It is where the other group began. That means their work had to be most precise, so that the wall would join together perfectly. The walls had to meet where this group ended.
ANOTHER RULER. This is now the third “ruler” that is mentioned as working on the wall. “Malchiah the son of Rechab.” Another Malchiah, a goldsmith, worked further down the wall (3:31). There are nine other men in Scripture by this name. This one is distinguished by his father and his occupation. He was “ruler of part of Bethhaccerem.” This was a small place in Judah where the children of Benjamin blew trumpets at Tekoa against the invading armies of Babylon (Jer 6:1). We know nothing more of this place.
THE DUNG GATE. Thus, another ruler works on the wall. But this ruler is from a small and unknown place. He works on the gate from which refuse was carried out of the holy city, where it had no place. Whether coming from man or beast, dung had to be removed from the city, and a special gate was established for this work. Although he was a ruler, Malchiah did not hesitate to work on such a gate, doing it thoroughly.
THE GATE OF THE FOUNTAIN, AND THE WALL OF THE POOL
“ 9 But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David.”
GATE OF THE FOUNTAIN. This was the place where Nehemiah found such rubble that no place was found for his beast to go (2:14). It must have been especially wasted and ruined. After it was restored, it is mentioned again (12:39). It is thought that the fountain to which this gate led was the result of Hezekiah’s work. He “blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David” NIV (2 Chron 32:30). Thus the waters erupted on the west side of Jerusalem, where the Fountain Gate was situated. It certainly was a worthy gate to restore.
ANOTHER RULER. The individual working on this phase of the project was also a ruler – the fourth one that has been mentioned. This is the only place in the Bible where the name “Shallun” is mentioned. He was the ruler of Mizpah (also spelled Mizpeh). There are six sites in Scripture named Mizpah. This one is considered to be a city of Benjamin in the region of Ramah (1 Kgs 15:22). Samuel assembled the children of Israel here (1 Sam 7:5-6). This is where Saul was first presented to Israel as king (1 Sam 10:17). Samuel annually judged the children of Israel in this city (1 Sam 7:16-17). This was a city fortified by Asa (2 Chron 16:6). This brief overview confirms this city to be one of note in God’s dealings with his people. Yet, its ruler Shallun is mentioned side-by-side with Malchiah, the ruler of a relatively unknown town. It was the work of the Lord that joined them together, not their everyday roles in Jewish life.
BUILDING AND COVERING. This is the second time a gate is said to be “built.” Both gates were significant. One was to carry out refuse. This one was to carry in life-giving water. Both had been especially devastated, and considerable effort was required to restore them. Not only did Shallun build the gate, setting up its doors, locks, and bars, he also “COVERED” it. This is the only gate said to have been “covered.” This word means they put a roof over the gate. Whether the “fountain” was precisely at the gate, or just outside of it, we do not know. It appears, however, that the covering, or roof, was intended to protect the water, keeping it from contamination.
I cannot help but note how care must be taken to protect the pure water of life, that it be not contaminated with the defilements of this present evil world. The presence of a pure heart, strong faith, and unwavering love, are like a covering over the water of life. They keep it from being diluted with the contaminants or worldly lusts and wisdom. If we are not to cast our pearls before swine (Matt 7:6), it is certain that the pureness of what sustains the soul is not to be exposed to things or people that would defile it. There is such a thing as making the commandment of God of “none effect” by human traditions (Matt 15:6).
WALL OF THE POOL. Not only did Shallun build the Fountain Gate, he repaired the wall of the pool of Siloah. The Fountain Gate was next to the pool of “Siloah.” The word “Siloah” is used in three different forms: Siloah, Shiloah, and Siloam. The root word for all three is the same. Isaiah mentions the “waters of Shiloah,” which flowed gently and brought great refreshment (Isa 8:6). The “pool of Siloam” is the place where the blind man washed clay from his eyes at the command of Jesus, and received his sight (John 9:7-11). Our text refers to “the pool of Siloah,” which was “by the king’s garden.” This parallels the reference to Hezekiah’s work, which brought the waters to the West side of Jerusalem, the very vicinity where this section of the wall was located.
THE KING’S GARDEN. This garden is mentioned three places (2 Kgs 25:4; Jer 39:4; 52:7). It was near the pool of Siloam, and was formed by the meeting of the valleys of Jehosaphat and Ben-Hinnom. McStrong Some believe this was “the garden of Uzza,” in which kings Manasseh and Amon were buried. The garden was attached to Manasseh’s house (2 Chron 33:20). Notice the reference points are all integral to Jewish history.
THE STAIRS THAT WENT DOWN. Jerusalem was located on a number of hills, one of which was the Mount Moriah, on which Solomon built the temple – also the one on which Abraham was commanded to offer Isaac (2 Chron 3:1). Hence, any exit from the city was downward (Lk 10:30; Acts 8:26). This area of the wall must have been very high, for the stairs of the city of David went “up” to the Fountain Gate (Neh 12:37).
Thus, we again see a diversity of people, working on different sections, which were in various stages of deterioration.
Yet their work blended together, and had no weakness.