Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the sheep gate; they sanctified it…
Words have given place to deeds.
I. In looking over this list of workers we are struck with the fact that THEY ARE DRAWN FROM ALL CLASSES OF SOCIETY.
1. The priests took a prominent part in this work. "Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep-gate." We fear that, as respects the high priest, what he did in this way was not a work of love. Some years afterwards, much to Nehemiah's regret, this same Eliashib acted a very unworthy and unpatriotic part: and we suspect it was more for the sake of appearances than from any real wish to promote the success of the enterprise that he was found among the builders mentioned in this chapter. Again, it was quite right the priest should be active on this occasion, for it was owing in a great measure to their unfaithfulness — to the unfaithfulness, that is, of the priesthood prior to the time of the Babylonian captivity, that the city was laid in ruins. In Jeremiah we read, "The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew Me not; the pastors also transgressed against Me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit."
2. The rulers, too, or princes of the house of Israel, took a leading part in repairing the wall, and, as in the case of the priests, it was proper they should; for their misconduct, their evil practices, had contributed greatly to bring about the downfall of the city (Micah 3:9, 12). The advantages of co-operation were thus secured. By means of this combination the work was done quickly, simultaneously, and economically. Here, certainly, was a remarkable spectacle: all classes of the community concentrating their energies on a common object. Difference of opinion and rivalries might exist among them, but for the nonce these were sunk in the achievement of a purpose dear to every patriotic heart.
II. THAT THE WORK REFERRED TO WAS UNDER-TAKEN BY PARTIES FROM VARIOUS LOCALITIES, AND NOT BY THE CITIZENS OF THE CAPITAL ALONE. Thus we read, "And next unto him builded the men of Jericho." The Tekoites are also named, and the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, and the inhabitants of Zanoah, and the rulers of Bethhaccerem — these and others from places round about are represented as co-operating with the residents of the city in repairing the wall. It was a work of national importance, and as such it was regarded by those just named.
III. On further examining this register we find INCIDENTAL REFERENCES in it that should not be overlooked.
1. The first of these I will name relates to the aristocracy of Tekoah, and is evidently not intended to be complimentary to them. The Tekoites, as a people, were not backward, "but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord." They dishonoured themselves by standing aloof as they did at this crisis. Their conduct, it is true, might have been worse. If they were not active in it, we cannot say of them that they were active in their opposition to it. You have known persons not content with a passive attitude towards what is good. What restless — yea, raging opponents Christianity in its early days had to encounter!
2. In striking contrast to the supineness of the nobles of Tekoah was the conduct of Baruch the son of Zabbai. Nehemiah says of him that he "earnestly repaired" his section of the wall. He specially commends the zeal of Baruch. Luther, Wesley, Whitfield, these also are names with which, among other high qualities, will ever be associated an unflagging zeal, as attested by their more abundant labours. Did the keen glance of Nehemiah note the zeal of Baruch? and shall the eye of God pass over unnoticed one earnest worker for Him anywhere, or at any time?
3. The third and last incidental reference to which I shall call your attention informs us that there were those engaged in this wall-building whom we should hardly have expected to find thus employed. At ver. 12 we read, "And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters." All honour to them. We think of others of their sex who have toiled right worthily, and in some instances heroically, in the service of Christ. The case of Sister Dora of the Walsall Cottage Hospital occurs to us. We think too of some who are thus labouring to-day; ladies by birth and education who have consecrated their property and their lives to the Lord, for whose dear sake they shrink not from menial tasks, and repulsive ministries, and risks and dangers, to face which requires a loftier courage than nerves the soldier for the battlefield.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.
WEB: Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up its doors; even to the tower of Hammeah they sanctified it, to the tower of Hananel.