Nehemiah 3 – The Building of the Walls
A. The record of the builders.
1. (1-2) Builders near the Sheep Gate.
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They built as far as the Tower of the Hundred, and consecrated it, then as far as the Tower of Hananel. Next to Eliashib the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.
a. They built…. built…. built: Nehemiah 3 is all about work – how individuals pitched in and did the work together, coordinated and led by Nehemiah.
b. And built the Sheep Gate: The work is described in reference to the gates of the wall. The gates were the critical entry and exit points to the city, and the places most likely to see an enemy attack. Therefore, the work started at each gate and worked out from there.
i. The Sheep Gate was so named because it was the gate where shepherds brought their flocks to sell them. Up until a few years ago, this gate was being used for this same purpose in Jerusalem.
c. Eliashib the high priest: This was the first worker mentioned. He rose up to do the work with the other priests, and they worked at rebuilding the Sheep Gate and the section of wall near there.
i. Eliashib the high priest acted as a godly leader should; he was out in front of the work, leading by example. He did not act as if he was too “spiritual” for the hard work of rebuilding the walls.
ii. If you are a leader, others are looking hard at you and they follow your example. If you are slow to work, they will be also; if you are full of discouragement and doubt, they will follow. There is a good reason why Eliashib was first mentioned, and why the rest of the chapter is filled with the names of more than 50 others that followed his example in the work.
iii. In a wonderful way, the servant high priest named Eliashib is a beautiful picture of the High Priest to come who was and is the ultimate servant: Jesus the Messiah.
d. They consecrated it: The idea behind consecration is to recognize something as special, as uniquely set apart for God’s glory and service. These city gates were made especially for God. Nehemiah and Eliashib knew that God wanted everything set apart exclusively for Him, including these city walls and gates.
i. Because the first of the work was specially set apart to God, it was a way for them to say, “All of this work belongs to You, LORD. This is a special work done for You.”
ii. This is a great secret to joy and success in life: to do everything as if doing it for the LORD. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17)
e. Next to Eliashib the men of Jericho built: Every man’s work was important, and though these did not work on a gate, they did the important job of building up the walls of protection and security for Jerusalem. Each person or family was given individual responsibility for their work.
2. (3-5) Builders near the Fish Gate.
Also the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. And next to them Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz, made repairs. Next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs. Next to them Zadok the son of Baana made repairs. Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord.
a. The Fish Gate: This gate got its name because of the nearby fish market. The sons of Hassenaah did the work of rebuilding the gate while others helped.
b. Made repairs: According to Kidner, the word for repairs is the Hebrew word chazaq, used 35 times in this chapter alone. It has the idea of strengthening, encouraging, of making something strong. These are principles that have application to far more than material gates and walls.
i. The Bible says that we must be built up and repaired. In Ephesians 4:12, God says the purpose of the church is for the equipping of the saints, and the idea behind equipping is to prepare, strengthen, and make something able to be used. We come together as Christians to strengthen one another, to make us strong and able to live for Jesus and serve Him outside the gatherings of the church.
ii. It’s wonderful to consider that Jesus Himself was a builder (Mark 6:3). Of all the professions the Son of God could have chosen, He chose to be a builder. In Nehemiah we are pointed to Jesus, who is building His people into a beautiful building to God (1 Corinthians 3:9, Ephesians 2:20-22, 1 Peter, 2:5).
c. Next to them the Tekoites made repairs: The Tekoites did their work. The people of the city of Tekoa were more than willing to work – but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord. For the most part, people joined in – but not everybody. These nobles from the city of Tekoa thought they were above the hard work, so they didn’t join in.
i. Literally, the idea in the Hebrew is that they wouldn’t submit – they would not “bend their necks” to what the LORD wanted them to do. The real issue was submission. Maybe they thought they had a better plan, maybe they didn’t like how Nehemiah was doing it. Whatever their reason, you can be sure they later regretted it because they stand in infamy as the only people mentioned in this chapter who did not join in the work.
ii. Perhaps Nehemiah wanted to record the names of each of these nobles, but the LORD gave him the mercy to refer to them in only a general way.
3. (6-12) Builders near the Old Gate.
Moreover Jehoiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors, with its bolts and bars. And next to them Melatiah the Gibeonite, Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and Mizpah, repaired the residence of the governor of the region beyond the River. Next to him Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs. Also next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs; and they fortified Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. And next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, leader of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs in front of his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabniah made repairs. Malchijah the son of Harim and Hashub the son of Pahath-Moab repaired another section, as well as the Tower of the Ovens. And next to him was Shallum the son of Hallohesh, leader of half the district of Jerusalem; he and his daughters made repairs.
a. Moreover Jehoiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate: Among the repairers of the Old Gate and its nearby walls was Uzziel, the son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths. Alongside him was Hananiah, one of the perfumers.
i. These were men of different professions, not professional builders. They were not trained for this kind of work. It would have seemed they had an easy excuse to not do anything, but they jumped in and did the work. They fortified Jerusalem, even though many would not think them qualified or able.
ii. The most important ability in the work of the LORD is availability. The one with few gifts and little talent, who has passion and drive to see God’s work done, will accomplish far more than a gifted and talented person who doesn’t have the passion and drive to do the LORD’s work.
iii. “Viggo Olsen, who helped rebuild ten thousand houses in war-ravaged Bangladesh in 1972, derived unexpected inspiration from reading a chapter ordinarily considered one of the least interesting in the Bible: ‘I was struck…that no expert builders were listed in the “Holy Land brigade.” There were priests, priests’ helpers, goldsmiths, perfume makers, and women, but no expert builders or carpenters were named.’” (Yamauchi)
b. The Broad Wall: Today you can see in Jerusalem the remains of this Broad Wall – and broad it is, more than 20 feet (6 meters) wide. Critics had denied the accuracy of Bible history like this, but the archaeologist’s shovel constantly confirms the truth of the Bible.
c. Rephaiah the son of Hur, leader of half the district of Jerusalem: He worked on this section of the wall. Here was another leader who knew real leadership is getting down and doing it – being a servant, instead of expecting others to do it for you.
d. Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs in front of his house: Several times in the Nehemiah 3, it speaks of those who worked on the section right in front of their house. Often, we need to give attention to the work of God in our own homes. If the work needs to be done anywhere, it needs to be done in our homes.
i. The names of the men who are said to have made repairs in front of his house are interesting:
· Nehemiah 3:10 mentions Jedaiah, and his name means he who calls unto God. Our homes must be places of prayer, where the family calls on God.
· Nehemiah 3:23 mentions Benjamin, and his name means son of my right hand, speaking of a protector. Our homes must be places of protection and peace.
· Nehemiah 3:29 mentions Zadok, and his name means justice. Our homes must be places of justice and integrity, especially with integrity regarding our marital vows and promises.
· Nehemiah 3:30 mentions Meshullam, and his name means devoted. Our homes must be places of devotion and separation to God.
e. Malchijah son of Harim: This man is mentioned in Ezra 10:31 as one of the men who was confronted by Ezra for the sin of taking a pagan wife. That was many years before this, so Malchijah got things right with God and now, years later, he served Him.
i. A believer should never let a past failure get in the way of serving God. Repent, set it right, make a stand for righteousness – and get on serving the LORD.
f. Shallum the son of Hallohesh…he and his daughters made repairs: Everyone who could help did help in the repairs.
i. With the great number of different people working on the walls, it was imperative that they all work with the same mind – or the wall would not be uniform and would not be a strong defense. Yet, each section was a little different because different people worked on each section.
ii. In the same way, in the family of God, the work must be done with a common vision and mindset – the mind of Christ, as Paul described it in 1 Corinthians 2:16. When believers work together in one accord, yet with each offering their distinctive gifts, the work of God gets done in a glorious way.
4. (13) Builders near the Valley Gate.
Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall as far as the Refuse Gate.
5. (14) Builders near the Refuse Gate.
Malchijah the son of Rechab, leader of the district of Beth Haccerem, repaired the Refuse Gate; he built it and hung its doors with its bolts and bars.
6. (15-25) Builders near the Fountain Gate.
Shallun the son of Col-Hozeh, leader of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate; he built it, covered it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired the wall of the Pool of Shelah by the King’s Garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the City of David. After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, leader of half the district of Beth Zur, made repairs as far as the place in front of the tombs of David, to the man-made pool, and as far as the House of the Mighty. After him the Levites, under Rehum the son of Bani, made repairs. Next to him Hashabiah, leader of half the district of Keilah, made repairs for his district. After him their brethren, under Bavai the son of Henadad, leader of the other half of the district of Keilah, made repairs. And next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, the leader of Mizpah, repaired another section in front of the Ascent to the Armory at the buttress. After him Baruch the son of Zabbai carefully repaired the other section, from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. After him Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz, repaired another section, from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib. And after him the priests, the men of the plain, made repairs. After him Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs by his house. After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress, even as far as the corner. Palal the son of Uzai made repairs opposite the buttress, and on the tower which projects from the king’s upper house that was by the court of the prison. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh made repairs.
a. By the King’s Garden: Charles Spurgeon preached a beautiful sermon on this text, where he spoke of six different gardens of the King:
· The garden tomb
· The human heart
· The church as a whole
· The garden of paradise in heaven
7. (26-27) Builders near the Water Gate.
Moreover the Nethinim who dwelt in Ophel made repairs as far as the place in front of the Water Gate toward the east, and on the projecting tower. After them the Tekoites repaired another section, next to the great projecting tower, and as far as the wall of Ophel.
a. The Tekoites repaired another section: The section of wall near the Water Gate saw some remarkable service. Apparently, the Tekoites weren’t satisfied with the significant work they had done before – they went on to do even more work. They weren’t going to let the bad example of their nobles who did no work (Nehemiah 3:5) keep them from working above and beyond the call of duty.
8. (28-30) Builders near the Horse Gate.
Beyond the Horse Gate the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. After them Zadok the son of Immer made repairs in front of his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, made repairs. After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah made repairs in front of his dwelling.
a. Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the East Gate: Apparently the gate in front of his house was in good condition, so he pitched in and helped at the Horse Gate. His unselfishness was a great example.
b. Meshullam the son of Berechiah made repairs in front of his dwelling: The Hebrew word for dwelling is actually chamber – it refers to a singular room. Meshullam had only one small room, yet he was devoted to God and to the work of rebuilding the walls. It is better to be devoted to God in one small room than to have a mansion and have a heart cold towards God.
9. (31-32) Builders near the Miphkad (muster or assembly) Gate.
After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the Nethinim and of the merchants, in front of the Miphkad Gate, and as far as the upper room at the corner. And between the upper room at the corner, as far as the Sheep Gate, the goldsmiths and the merchants made repairs.
B. Observations on Nehemiah 3.
1. This chapter shows the need for believers to work together to accomplish something.
a. It pleased God to see His people working together in one accord, with one heart, with one mind. God will put us into situations where we must work together, and learn how to lead, how to follow, and how to work together with one heart and mind.
b. The wall was continuous. Any gap compromised the entire structure. Therefore, each space in the wall was important – even if someone did not think so. As well, the wall could never be strong if someone was tearing it down at a different section.
2. The work done was a reflection on the family – almost everyone mentioned is mentioned as the son of someone.
a. It is in the family that our children learn how to work, and parents must be committed to teaching their children how to be hard workers. In a spiritual sense, our hard work – or lack of it – is a reflection on our spiritual family. Each Christian should be a good reflection of their spiritual family.
3. Evidence of Nehemiah’s leadership.
a. Nehemiah was an effective leader because he made each man accountable for his work. Each man had a section of wall he was responsible for, and it was known he was responsible for it. No one wanted it to be seen that they were a poor worker in God’s cause.
i. By giving each man a sense of responsibility for the work, they helped ensure the work would be done correctly. It made each man accountable.
b. Nehemiah was an effective leader because he noted who did the work and who didn’t – the list demonstrates this.
c. Nehemiah was an effective leader because he organized the work for maximum efficiency. Everyone had their section, and the work was organized around the gates – the places most needful of the work.
d. Nehemiah was an effective leader because he knew where to start. He began with the spiritual aspect of the work (the high priest’s work is mentioned first), and by consecrating everything to God.
e. Nehemiah was an effective leader because he got both “high” and “low” to join together in doing the work. The leaders and the high priest worked together with the man who lived in a single room.
f. Nehemiah was an effective leader because he was willing to let people try new things – goldsmiths, priests, and perfumers all became construction workers.
g. Nehemiah was an effective leader because he made people focus on their own house first.
h. Nehemiah was an effective leader because he didn’t disqualify people because of past sin and compromise.
4. Seeing Jesus in the building work.
a. Jesus is a builder, greater than Nehemiah (Mark 6:3; 1 Corinthians 3:9, Ephesians 2:20-22, 1 Peter, 2:5).
b. Jesus is the servant High Priest, greater than Eliashib.
c. Jesus is the Messiah, whose birth was made possible by the work of building the wall and establishing security for the vulnerable people of God.