New American Bible Revised Edition

* [1:1] The first mission of Nehemiah, from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I, lasted from the spring (2:1) of 445 B.C. until 433 B.C. (5:14). It is recounted in 1:1–6:15; 12:27–43; 6:16–7:5; 11:1–21; in terms of chronology, these texts may usefully be read in that order. Kislev: the ninth month (November–December). Susa: the winter residence of the Persian kings, in southwest Iran.

* [1:5] Nehemiah’s prayer is a communal confession of sin, characteristic of Second Temple piety; cf. Ezr 9:6–15; Neh 9:6–37; Dn 9:4–19.

* [1:11] Cupbearer to the king: an important official in the royal household.

* [2:10] Sanballat the Horonite: the governor of the province of Samaria (3:33–34), apparently a native of one of the Beth-horons. A letter from the Jews living at Elephantine in southern Egypt, dated 408–407 B.C., mentions “Delayah and Shelemyah, the sons of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria,” and papyri discovered in the Wadi ed-Dâliyeh in the Jordan Valley refer to a Sanballat, governor of Samaria, during the last years of Persian rule. Although his own name was Babylonian—Sin-uballit, i.e., “Sin (the moon god) has given life”—his two sons had names based on the divine name Yhwh. Tobiah the Ammonite official: the governor of the province of Ammon in Transjordan. His title, “official,” lit., “servant” (in Hebrew, ‘ebed), could also be understood as “slave,” and Nehemiah perhaps meant it in this derogatory sense. The Tobiads remained a powerful family even in Maccabean times, and something of their history is known from 2 Maccabees (3:11; 12:17), Josephus (Ant. 12:160–236), the Zeno papyri of the third century B.C., and excavation at ‘Araq el-‘Emir in Jordan. Sanballat and Tobiah, together with Geshem the Arab (Neh 2:19; 6:1–2), who was probably in charge of Edom and the regions to the south and southeast of Judah, opposed the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls on political grounds; the city was the capital of a rival province.

* [2:13–15] Nehemiah left Jerusalem by the Valley Gate near the northwestern end of the old City of David and went south down the Tyropoean Valley toward the Dragon Spring (or the En-rogel [Jos 15:7; 18:16; 2 Sm 17:17; 1 Kgs 1:9], now known as Job’s Well) at the juncture of the Valley of Hinnom and the Kidron Valley. He then turned north at the Dung Gate (or the Potsherd Gate of Jer 19:2) at the southern end of the city and proceeded up the wadi, that is, the Kidron Valley, passing the Fountain Gate (at the Spring of Gihon) and the King’s Pool (unidentified); finally he turned west and then south to his starting point.

* [2:19] Geshem the Arab: see also 6:1–2; in 6:6 the name occurs as Gashmu. He is known from a contemporary inscription as ruler of the Kedarite Arabs, who were threatening Judah from the south and east.

* [2:20] Neither share nor claim nor memorial: although Sanballat and Tobiah worshiped Yhwh, Nehemiah would not let them participate in any of the activities of the religious community in Jerusalem.

* [3:1–32] The construction work on the gates and walls of the city is described in counterclockwise direction, beginning and ending at the Sheep Gate (to the north of the Temple). The exact locations of many of the topographical points mentioned are uncertain.

* [3:6] The Mishneh Gate: the gate leading into the second, expanded quarter of the city; cf. 2 Kgs 22:14; Zep 1:10.

* [3:8] The Broad Wall: perhaps identical with the wall, seven meters thick, discovered in the Jewish quarter of the Old City.

* [5:1] Certain of their Jewish kindred: probably Jews who had returned from Babylonia who formed the social and economic elite in the province.

* [5:7] You are exacting interest from your own kindred!: contrary to the Mosaic law (Dt 23:20).

* [5:15] The earlier governors: both Sheshbazzar (Ezr 5:14) and Zerubbabel (Hg 1:1, 14; 2:2, 21) are said to be governors, and Mal 1:8 mentions a governor but does not name him. Other names are known from seal impressions of uncertain date.

* [6:6] Gashmu: elsewhere (vv. 1–2; 2:19) the name is given as Geshem.

* [6:15] Elul: the sixth month (August–September). Fifty-two days: according to Josephus (Ant. 11:174–183), the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah took two years and four months.

* [7:6–72] See note on Ezr 2:1–67.

* [7:65, 69] The governor: see note on Ezr 2:63.

* [8:1–18] Chronologically this belongs after Ezr 8:36. The gloss mentioning Nehemiah in Neh 8:9 was inserted in this Ezra section after the dislocation of several parts of Ezra-Nehemiah had occurred. There is no clear evidence of a simultaneous presence of Nehemiah and Ezra in Jerusalem; Neh 12:26, 36 are also scribal glosses.

* [9:1–5] The feast of Booths is followed by a penitential liturgy. Since it includes separation from foreigners, some read it as a sequel to Ezr 9–10.

* [9:6–37] The Septuagint attributes the prayer to Ezra; cf. Ezr 9:6–15.

* [9:16] They were obdurate: lit., “they stiffened their necks.”

* [10:1–39] This section belongs to the Nehemiah narrative rather than to that of Ezra. It is best read after Neh 13:31, since the stipulations of the pact seem to presuppose Nehemiah’s measures recorded in Neh 13. In view of all this: considering the situation described in Neh 13:4–31.

* [11:1–19] This list of the family heads who lived in Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah is best read after Neh 7:72. It parallels at many points the list of early settlers in 1 Chr 9:2–17.

* [12:10–11] Jeshua was the high priest when Zerubbabel was governor, in the last decades of the sixth century B.C. (Hg 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4). He was the grandfather of Eliashib, the high priest early in Nehemiah’s governorship (445–433 B.C.; Neh 3:1, 20, 21) and perhaps later. Eliashib, the grandfather of Johanan, was a grown man, if not yet a high priest, at the time of Ezra, ca. 400 B.C. (Ezr 10:6; and note). According to Josephus (Ant. 11:120–183), whose testimony here is doubtful, Jaddua, son of Johanan, died as an old man about the time that Alexander the Great died, 323 B.C. If, as seems probable, this list of the postexilic high priests, at least as far as Johanan, comes from the author himself (cf. Neh 12:23) and not from a later scribe, it is of prime importance for dating the author’s work in the first decades of the fourth century B.C.

* [12:27–43] The dedication of the wall of Jerusalem took place, no doubt, soon after the restoration of the wall and its gates had been completed. This section, therefore, is best read after Neh 6:15.

* [12:44–47] This account of the provisions made for the Temple services is a composition either of the author or of a later scribe. The gloss mentioning Nehemiah is not in the Septuagint.

* [13:1–3] These verses serve as an introduction to the reforms Nehemiah instituted during his second mission in Jerusalem (vv. 4–31). The part of the Book of Moses read to the people is freely quoted here from Dt 23:3–6.

* [13:4–31] This is part of the “Memoirs of Nehemiah”; it is continued in 10:1–40.

* [13:6] In the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes: Artaxerxes I, therefore 433 B.C. After…time: it is not known when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem or how long his second period of activity there lasted.

* [13:24] Language of Ashdod: more likely an Aramaic rather than a Philistine dialect. The language of Judah: probably Hebrew.

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Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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