COMMENTRAY ON NEHEMIAH
“ 3:16 After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of the half part of Bethzur, unto the place over against the sepulchres of David, and to the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty. 17 After him repaired the Levites, Rehum the son of Bani. Next unto him repaired Hashabiah, the ruler of the half part of Keilah, in his part. 18 After him repaired their brethren, Bavai the son of Henadad, the ruler of the half part of Keilah. 19 And next to him repaired Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, another piece over against the going up to the armory at the turning of the wall. 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.” (Nehemiah 3:16-20)
Thus far, on TWENTY sections, the workers have included the high priest 3:1a, the priests 3:1b, a goldsmith 3:8a, an apothecary 3:8b, and four rulers 3:9,12,14,15 There were “the men of Jericho,” 3:2 “the Tekoites,” 3:5 a “Gibeonite,” 3:7a a “Meronothite,” 3:7b the “men of Gibeon,” 3:7a the men of “Mizpah,” 3:7b a man’s “daughters,” 3:12 and “the inhabitants of Zanoah.” 3:13 Repairs are being made on the following gates: Sheep, 3:1 Fish, 3:3 Old, 3:6 Valley, 3:13 Dung, 3:14 and Fountain. 3:15 The references points associated with the repairs include “the tower of Meah,” 3:1 “the tower of Hananeel,” 3:1 “the throne of the governor.” 3:7 “the broad wall,” 3:8 Jedaiah’s “house,” 3:10 “the tower of the furnaces,” 3:11 “the pool of Siloah,” 3:15a “the king's garden,” 3:15b and “the stairs that go down from the city of David.” 3:15c The repairs and building have included gates, beams, doors, locks, bars, and a covering. 3:15 The magnitude of this project, together with the diversity of those working upon it, declare the nature of Kingdom work. God does not call people to insignificant things. His works are those in which people of faith can unite without regard to fleshly distinctions. Rulers and servants, men and women, skilled and unskilled, known and unknown, priests and people – all joined together in the work.
RULERS AND LEVITES WORK TOGETHER
“ 3:16 After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of the half part of Bethzur, unto the place over against the sepulchers of David, and to the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty. 17 After him repaired the Levites, Rehum the son of Bani. Next unto him repaired Hashabiah, the ruler of the half part of Keilah, in his part.” This section of the wall begins where Shallun ended – the repair and building of the “gate of the Fountain,” and all of the wall up to “the stairs that go down from the city of David.” 3:15 The work had to be thorough and exact, for the fortification of the city was at issue, as well as the glory of the city of God. No part can be neglected or left in a state of repairs. Everyone’s work must fit together, for this is a functional, as well as beautiful, wall.
NEHEMIAH. This is not the Nehemiah who wrote this book, but another one. The one who was moved by God to initiate this project was “Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah.” 1:1 This is “Nehemiah the son of Azbuk.” In Scripture, there are three men with this name. The other is a man who returned with Zerubbabel from the captivity (Ezra 2:2). One name, three different men, all of whom were involved in the work of the Lord. This is the only place this Nehemiah or his father (Azbuk) are mentioned. He was also a ruler of half a city, Bethzur. This city was one of a strong fortified cluster of the cities of Judah, established when Israel conquered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua (Josh 15:58). This is now the fifth ruler associated with this project.
THE SEPULCHERS OF DAVID. Once again, the wall is associated with key places among God’s people. This was the place where David and the kings who were his descendants were interred. The kings buried here were up until Hezekiah, at which time God refused to have His land defiled any longer with the bodies of evil kings (Ezek 47:7-9). This area remain untouched by the Babylonians. On the day of Pentecost, Peter referred to David’s sepulcher, saying it remained until that day (Acts 2:29). It was on the western side of the city, and near the vicinity of the Temple. Faithful rulers were held in remembrance by the people of God.
THE POOL THAT WAS MADE. This pool is distinguished from a natural one – it was one that “was made.” We understand this to be the pool Hezekiah made, about 268 years before, as recorded in 2 Kings 20:20. It probably was filled with water that came from the “fountain” referenced in verse 15. I cannot help but note the high regard that is given to antiquity in this project. This is particularly appropriate to note in view of the current practice of replacing the old with faddish and inferior things and practices.
THE HOUSE OF THE MIGHTY. Another structure is associated with the wall: the “house of the mighty,” or “the mighty men.” NKJV Other versions read “warriors,” NRSV and “heroes” NIV This was where a garrison of soldiers resided, set for the defense of the city – close by the wall. I understand this to refer to David’s mighty men, who had special barrack’s by the wall. They are mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:8 and 1 Chronicles 11:10, where they are called “the mighty men whom David had.” Thus, the best warriors were stationed close to the wall, set for the defense of the holy city. This is not where inferior soldiers resided.
THE LEVITES. After Nehemiah, the work was done by “the Levites,” the tribe wholly devoted to the work of the Lord. They were assistants to the high priest, who continually worked around and within the tabernacle, and later the Temple. They were chosen by God because they volunteered to side with the Lord in bringing the rebellion at Sinai to an abrupt halt (Ex 32:26-28). They belonged exclusively to the Lord (Num 3:12), and had no inheritance in the promised land (Num 18:20). Yet, they worked on the wall, inheritance or not. This section of the wall is considered to be in the vicinity of the Temple – an area in which the Levites would have a special interest.
REHUM. This was one of the Levites, and, with Hashabiah, headed up this section of the work. There are five men in Scripture with this name. This one is distinguished as “the son of Bani,” who is identified with the Levites in the eighth chapter (8:7).
HASHABIAH. In Scripture, fourteen men bear this name. This man was “the ruler of the half part of Keilah,” and is the sixth ruler mentioned on the project. Keilah was a fortified city of Judah about eighteen miles from Jerusalem. Ir was established early in Israel’s history under Joshua (Josh 15:44).
HIS PART. All other versions read “made repairs for his district.” NKJV The idea is that he worked with representatives of his half of Keilah, and that the area he ruled funded their part of the project. This is the first time we read of this kind of arrangement. It confirms the level of interest that existed in this project. People and resources were devoted to it.
TWO RULERS LEAD REPAIRS UP TO THE ARMORY
“ 3:18 After him repaired their brethren, Bavai the son of Henadad, the ruler of the half part of Keilah. 19 And next to him repaired Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, another piece over against the going up to the armory at the turning of the wall.” We must take care to note the unbroken nature of the work. Each group took over where the previous was to leave off, and continued to the place where the next group began. Thus we read “next unto him,”3,8,10,12,17 “next unto them,” 4,5,7,9,10 and “after him.” 16,17 We are beholding an example of “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3), and “the unity of the faith” (Eph 4:13). Everyone was working on the same project, yet doing something different.
BAVAI. This is the only reference to this man in the entire Scripture. He is distinguished as “the son of Henadad,” who is later said to be a Levite associated with the project, whose sons worked on it (10:9). Bavai was also the ruler of the other half of Keilah, the Nehemiah of the preceding verse being the other. Thus we see a single city working on two separate sections of the wall. Two rulers, but one work. Two parts of the city, yet a single heart for the work of the Lord.
EZER. In Scripture, six men have this name, which means “God is Help.” This one is distinguished as “the son of Jeshua.” Several man are mentioned in Scripture by the name of “Jeshua” – two of them in Nehemiah (8:7; 11:26). We do not know which one of them, or possibly another, was the father of Ezer. Ezer is also said to be “the ruler of Mizpah.” This same designation was given to Shallun, who repaired the “gate of the Fountain.” We are not sure if he ruled half of the city, or if this was another Mizpah. Cities with this name are mentioned as being in Judah (Josh 15:38), Ramah (1 Kgs 15:22), Gilead (Judges 11:29), and Moab (1 Sam 22:3). The Spirit did not see fit to be more specific about the area ruled by Ezer. It was enough that he was associated with God’s work around God’s city. That is what gave him his true distinction. That, of course, is the manner of the Kingdom.
ANOTHER PIECE. This expression means “another section.” NKJV This was another section of the total project – the wall – which was the point of the work. The purpose of each working party was not simply to do something independently, but to complete their portion of the wall. In the flesh, men do different things, then compare what they have done in order to receive greater glory. In the Kingdom, people work together on the work of the Lord, He receives the glory, and the people of God receive the benefit. In this section, we see a vivid picture of the principle stated in First Corinthians. “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (12:7).
THE ARMORY. Here is yet another place associated with the wall – “the going up to the armory,” or “the Ascent to the Armory.” NKJV This refers to the beginning point of a section of the wall they repaired (“from a point facing the ascent to the armory” NIV), up to the angle, or turning point, of the wall. An armory was a storehouse for weapons, also called “the house of his armor.” The word “ascent” refers to stairs leading up to this storage area. Previous stairs led down (3:15). These went up. The stairs themselves were no doubt carefully examined and repairs made where required. Amories are mentioned in Scripture (1 Kgs 20:13; Isa 39:2). Not only, therefore, was there a garrison for the soldiers associated with this great wall (3:16), but a place in which active and reserve weapons were stored. The protection of the wall required that both the soldiers and their weapons be by it. The armory, therefore, was a key reference point. This group fortified the wall in that area, thereby ensuring the protection of their weaponry.
THE TURNING OF THE WALL. This is where the wall took another direction, in order that the whole of the city might be protected. Other translations refer to it as “the Angle.” NASB, NIV,NRSV The NKJV calls it “the buttress.” This very part of the wall had been “fortified” by Uzziah around 350 years earlier. “Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and fortified them” (2 Chron 26:9). Because corners were particularly vulnerable, special attention was given to their protection. This is true whenever there is a change in direction. If the enemy entered at this point, they could gain access to two directions, and could quickly penetrate the city. Thus, this critical point of the wall became a reference point. Everything leading up to it must be strong. Here also is where the armory was positioned.
Thus we have people from different occupations and regions working on the wall, bringing it together with precision, beauty, and strength. All of the wall leading to and from the armory was fortified. The area of “the Angle,” or where the wall changed directions, was also strengthened. The thoroughness of the work continues to be a source of wonder.
BARUCH MAKES EARNEST REPAIRS
“ 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.” Without any interruption, and with perfect continuity, the work continues from where Ezer left off at “the turning of the wall.” You can imagine the precision that must attend work that leads to and goes from a corner, or angle. This could not be haphazard work.
BARUCH. There are four men in Scripture that have this name. One of them was the scribe of Jeremiah (Jer 32:12-16). Two more are mentioned in Nehemiah. One signed the covenant the people made with God (10:6). Another is mentioned who was “the son of Colhozeh” (11:5). This man was “the son of Zabbai,” who is mentioned in Ezra 10:28 as one of the many who put away their “strange wives” in Ezra’s return. As with several of the wall-project workers, Baruch came from a family who was devoted to the work of the Lord.
EARNESTLY REPAIRED. This man worked in a unique manner. Something is said of his effort that has not been said of anyone else to this point. He “earnestly repaired” the section of the wall for which he was responsible. Other versions read “carefully repaired,” NKJV “zealously repaired,” NASB “was hard at work,” BBE and “hastened to strengthen.” YLT The word “earnestly” indicates the flaming up of passion and zeal, as though Baruch was fired up, as it was, for the work he was to do. Perhaps his zeal arose because of the nature of his work. He was working with the wall on the other wide of a sharp corner, which work would require especial attention and precision. It was also close to the armory, critical to the protection of the city. The word indicates that he did his work emulously, or inspired to do the work as well as those before him. He was ambitious and eager for his work not to detract from the work of those before and after him. Thus he threw himself zealously into the work. The work must be uniform, and it required zeal for this to happen.
This is a marvelous picture of being zealously affected in a good cause. As it is written, “But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing” (Gal 4:18). This is a zeal that is provoked by the good and godly labors of others. There are wicked men who “zealously affect you, but not well” (Gal 4:17). Our day seems to have its share of these lesser people, who appear to be everywhere. They make people eager for the wrong things, and matters that do not pertain to life and godliness. But those who zealously devote themselves to godly endeavors can provoke others to also engage in such labors. Thus the zeal of the Corinthians to contribute to the needy saints in Jerusalem “provoked very many” to do the same thing (2 Cor 9:2). Godly causes must not suffer from a lack of earnest workers, for such provoke others to “love and good works” by their faithful labors.
THE OTHER PIECE. That is, the section of the wall repaired by Ezer and company. The word “piece” does not suggest smallness, but a part of a whole. The word “section” gives a more accurate picture. While the word “piece” is not used in this way in Scripture, some relate it to something independent – something that stands on its own, like a good piece of poetry,” or a sizeable “piece of land.” But that is not how it is used here. Baruch and those with him worked on a section of the wall, which itself was of infinitely greater value and purpose than any of its individual pieces or sections.
It is much like this with the people of God. Individuals and groups of individuals are building upon a common foundation (1 Cor 3:10-11; Eph 2:20). The common building is the church, which is “the habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph 2:22). If the work that we do is unrelated to that “building,” it serves no real purpose, but is actually inhibitive.
THE DOOR OF THE HOUSE. Here is yet another structure connected with the wall. This time, it is the “house of Eliashib the high priest.” The wall came right to the door of this house. Earlier, we read of Jedaiah building next to his house (3:10). Later we will read of Azariah and Zadok repairing next to their houses (3:23,29). The “priests” are also said to have repaired the wall by their houses (3:28). But this was not the case with Eliashib the high priest. He, and priests with him, repaired the sheep gate (3:1). It was Baruch and company that repaired the wall up to the very door of Eliashib’s house. We gather from this passage that the area around the Temple is still under consideration. How appropriate, therefore, that the house of the high priest be located next to the wall, and close by the temple. We do well to learn from this example to live close by the walls of salvation.
Thus each person, and those laboring with him, continued their work on the wall. To the twenty sections already mentioned, we have added six more, bringing the number to twenty-six. Every part fits perfectly together, whether near a tower, or house, or corner, or simply a long stretch of wall. The work continues to be a source of great edification.