The Old Testament history closes with the book of Nehemiah, wherein is recorded the workings of his heart, in the management of public affairs; with many devout reflections.
Nehemiah's distress for the misery of Jerusalem, His prayer.
- Nehemiah was the Persian king's cup-bearer. When God has work to do, he will never want instruments to do it with. Nehemiah lived at ease, and in honour, but does not forget that he is an Israelite, and that his brethren are in distress. He was ready to do them all the good offices he could; and that he might know how best to do them a kindness, he makes inquiries about them. We should inquire especially concerning the state of the church and religion. Every Jerusalem on this side the heavenly one will have some defect, which will require the help and services of its friends. Nehemiah's first application was to God, that he might have the fuller confidence in his application to the king. Our best pleas in prayer are taken from the promise of God, the word on which he has caused us to hope. Other means must be used, but the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails most. Communion with God will best prepare us for our dealings with men. When we have intrusted our concerns to God, the mind is set at liberty; it feels satisfaction and composure, and difficulties vanish. We know that if the affair be hurtful, he can easily hinder it; and if it be good for us, he can as easily forward it.
Nehemiah 1:1-3 . NEHEMIAH, UNDERSTANDING BY HANANI THE AFFLICTED STATE OF JERUSALEM, MOURNS, FASTS, AND PRAYS.
1. Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah--This eminently pious and patriotic Jew is to be carefully distinguished from two other persons of the same name--one of whom is mentioned as helping to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem ( Nehemiah 3:16 ), and the other is noticed in the list of those who accompanied Zerubbabel in the first detachment of returning exiles ( Ezra 2:2 , Nehemiah 7:7 ). Though little is known of his genealogy, it is highly probable that he was a descendant of the tribe of Judah and the royal family of David.
in the month Chisleu--answering to the close of November and the larger part of December.
Shushan the palace--the capital of ancient Susiana, east of the Tigris, a province of Persia. From the time of Cyrus it was the favorite winter residence of the Persian kings.
2, 3. Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah--Hanani is called his brother ( Nehemiah 7:2 ). But as that term was used loosely by Jews as well as other Orientals, it is probable that no more is meant than that he was of the same family. According to JOSEPHUS, Nehemiah, while walking around the palace walls, overheard some persons conversing in the Hebrew language. Having ascertained that they had lately returned from Judea, he was informed by them, in answer to his eager enquiries, of the unfinished and desolate condition of Jerusalem, as well as the defenseless state of the returned exiles. The commissions previously given to Zerubbabel and Ezra extending only to the repair of the temple and private dwellings, the walls and gates of the city had been allowed to remain a mass of shattered ruins, as they had been laid by the Chaldean siege.
Nehemiah 1:4-11 . HIS PRAYER.
4. when I heard these words, that I sat down . . . and mourned . . . and fasted, and prayed--The recital deeply affected the patriotic feelings of this good man, and no comfort could he find but in earnest and protracted prayer, that God would favor the purpose, which he seems to have secretly formed, of asking the royal permission to go to Jerusalem.
11. I was the king's cupbearer--This officer, in the ancient Oriental courts, was always a person of rank and importance; and, from the confidential nature of his duties and his frequent access to the royal presence, he possessed great influence.