King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah’s request to the king. (1-8) Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem. (9-18) The opposition of the adversaries. (19,20)

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Nehemiah’s request to the king

1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.

2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,

3 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?

4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.

5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.

7 Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;

8 And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.

Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem

9 Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.

10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.

11 So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.

12 And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.

13 And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.

14 Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.

15 Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.

16 And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.

17 Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.

18 Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

The opposition of the adversaries

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?

20 Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Year. It seems the Persians began the year with Tizri, since both Casleu (the third) and Nisan (the seventh month of the civil year) fall on the twentieth of the king. — Wine. These kings drunk only that of Syria. Strabo xv. — People of distinction were appointed cup-bearers; and even the children of kings did not esteem the office beneath them. Herod. iii. 34. Athen. x. 6. Homer, &c. C. — I was. Prot. “I had not been before-time sad in his presence.” H. — Heb. lit. “I was not evil.” Sept. “an enemy, or stranger.” Arab. “disagreeable.” Syr. “sorrowful.” Sept. also, “there was not another (ouk en eteros) present,” C. v. 6. S. Jerom seems not to have read the negation. H.

Ver. 2. Is not. Heb. “nothing but sorrow of heart;” (Syr. C. Prot.) or rather, thou art meditating only treason. Sept. “This is nothing but wickedness of heart,” (H.) which often shews itself on the countenance. The king might suspect that he was giving him poison. M. — Hence Nehemias feared, (C.) dreading such suspicions, (H.) and aware lest the company might frustrate his good design, as contrary to the interests of the crown. T.

Ver. 3. Live; an usual salutation. Dan. iii. 9. and v. 10. So Ælian (var. i. 32.) says, “O king Artaxerxes, mayst thou reign for ever.” — Father, v. 5. He knew that the Persians shewed great regard to the dead, (C. T.) whose bodies they sometimes cover with wax, and keep in their house, (Cic. Tusc. i. Alex. Genial iii. 2.) or inter. Herod. i. 140.

Ver. 4. Heaven, a fervent ejaculation, in secret, (T.) to touch the king’s heart, (C.) and to enable me to speak in a proper manner. M.

Ver. 6. And, &c. In private the queen might dine with her husband, but not in public. Est. i. C. — Queen; probably Esther, if she were married to this king. M. — But this is uncertain. H. — Usher thinks it was Damaspia, mentioned by Ctesias. C. — Time, when I should return. Some king eight or ten years, and returned into Judea towards the end of the reign of Artaxerxes. C. xiii. 6. C. — He perhaps asked permission to visit Jerusalem for only a short period, at first, but his presence being deemed necessary, he was permitted to continue there as governor full twelve years. M.

Ver. 7. Over; give me a guard, (H.) or accompany me to Jerusalem. M.

Ver. 8. Forest. Heb. pordes, “paradise,” or garden planted with trees. Pliny (v. 23.) mentions a “paradise,” in Cœlosyria. Grot. — But Nehemias might petition to be supplied with cedars from Libanus, (T.) as they had been given for the temple. 1 Esd. iii. 7. H. — Tower. Heb. bira, means also “a palace or temple.” It may designate the porch of the temple, which was 120 cubits high; (2 Par. iii. 4. C.) though that had been lately repaired by Esdras. M. — Others think the doors of the courts are meant, as they were as strong as those of towers. Vatab. — They were not yet finished. C. x. 9. Many believe that (C.) Nehemias speaks of the royal palace, which had been almost contiguous to the temple, (M.) where he intended to build one for himself, while he should reside in the city. T. — But this might give umbrage to the king. C. — He could not, however, intend his favourite to remain without a suitable palace; and the latter seems to have designed not only to repair that which Solomon had founded, but also to erect another house for the governor. H. — Good hand; favour, (M.) and powerful aid. H.

Ver. 10. Horonite, a native, not (C.) a petty king (Grot.) of Horonaim, in the country of Moab. Jer. xlviii. 3. He must have been very old, if he lived till the temple was built at Garizim: (Josephus and Scaliger) but Petau supposes that there were two of the name. — Servant; an officer appointed over the Samaritans, as well as Sanaballat. The Persian monarchs styled all their subjects servants or slaves. C. — Grieved. Thus unbelievers repine when any one endeavours to propagate the truth, (H.) or to establish the Church. W.

Ver. 12. Any man, at Jerusalem, (v. 16.) though he had informed the king, v. 8. H. — No beast; that none might be alarmed.

Ver. 13. Valley of Cedron, on the east, (C.) or west, near Calvary. M. T. — Dragon. Heb. Tannin, or “great fish,” which might be kept there, unless the fountain was famous for the appearance of some dragon, or the water proceeded from the mouth of a brazen one. Sept. have read thanim, “figs.” The fountain of Siloc might have many names. C. — Viewed. Sept. “I walked upon the wall of Jerusalem, which these men are demolishing or clearing away,” &c. H.

Ver. 14. Aqueduct, or reservoir, made by Ezechias. 2 Par. xxxii. 30.

Ver. 15. Torrent of Cedron, having gone round the city. C.

Ver. 16. Magistrates. Sept. “guards.” Seganim denotes various officers. C. — Work, or to any workmen. H. — None were now employed. T.

Ver. 18. Hand. God had manifested his goodness and power, at the court of Persia. W.

Ver. 19. Arabian governor. He afterwards accuses Nehemias. C. vi. 6. C.

Ver. 20. Answered. Sept. “returned them an account (logon) …we are his pure servants, and we will build.” H. — Part, or business. 1 Esd. iv. 4. — Justice, or right to the city. C. — You may mind your own affairs. T. — Remembrance. It was esteemed a high honour to be a citizen of Jerusalem. Ps. lxxxvi. 5.