NEHEMIAH CHAPTER 1.
Nehemiah’s Grief over Jerusalem.
V. 1. The words of Nehemiah, the son of Hachaliah, this designation distinguishing him from others of the same name, chap. 3, 16; 7, 7. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, the ninth month of the Jewish church-year, in the twentieth year, namely, that of King Artaxerxes of Persia, the year 445 B. C., as I was in Shushan, the palace, one of the cities of the royal residence between the Eulaeus and Shapur rivers, in what was known as Elam, v. 2. that Hanani, one of my brethren, a real full brother of Nehemiah, chap. 7, 2, came, he and certain men of Judah, for there was always some communication between the Jews living in the East and those in Palestine; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, literally, “the deliverance, who were left over out of the exile,” who were now, in a measure at least, enjoying the rights of a nation, and concerning Jerusalem. V. 3. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province, in Judea, some ninety years after the exile, are in great affliction and reproach, in adversity on account of the scornful treatment of the neighboring peoples; the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. Zerubbabel and Ezra had been empowered to rebuild the Temple and to repair the dwellings of the city, but beyond this their jurisdiction had not extended; the ruined condition was still apparent on all sides. V. 4. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, withdrawing from his duties at court and giving, vent, in his retirement, to the most overwhelming sorrow, and prayed before the God of heaven, v. 5. and said, I beseech Thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, awe-inspiring, before whom men tremble, that keepeth covenant and mercy, the merciful covenant to which the Jewish economy was looking forward in the Messiah, for them that love Him and observe His commandments: v.6. let Thine ear now be attentive and Thine eyes open, in an attitude of most careful attention, that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thy servant which I pray before Thee now, day and night, cp. 1 Kings 8, 29. 52, for the children of Israel, Thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against Thee, for the entire congregation bears the responsibility of the individual’s sins, unless these are reproved in the proper manner; both I and my father’s house have sinned. It is only by a full and free acknowledgment of sinfulness that men can gain the ear of the Lord. V. 7. We have dealt very corruptly against Thee and have not kept the commandments nor the statutes nor the judgments which Thou commandedst Thy servant Moses, both the precepts of the covenant and the obligations toward mankind in general had often been neglected. V. 8. Remember, I beseech Thee, the word that Thou commandedst Thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations, Lev. 26, 33; Deut. 28, 64; v. 9. but if ye turn unto Me, in true repentance and change of heart, and keep My commandments and do them, though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, in every part of the great and wide world, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set My name there, Deut. 4, 25-31. V. 10. Now, these are Thy servants and Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy great power and by Thy strong hand, from the bondage of Egypt as well as from the enmity of many other oppressors. V. 11. O Lord, I beseech Thee, let now Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant, Nehemiah alone, and to the prayer of Thy servants, the believing Jews, who desire to fear Thy name, for God’s being is expressed in His Word and work, according to which He is named; and prosper, I pray Thee, Thy servant this day and grant him mercy in the sight of this man, namely, King Artaxerxes; for Nehemiah had made up his mind to ask for leave of absence, and he wanted God to make the king favorably disposed to this petition. For I was the king’s cupbearer, an office of great importance at Oriental courts, giving to the incumbent considerable influence since he was also a counselor of the king. Even as Nehemiah prayed to the Lord in this instance, thus all true believers cry to Him at all times, praying that God would forgive the sins of His children, who are redeemed through the blood of His Son, accept them in His mercy, and strengthen and increase them for their work in His kingdom.