Nehemiah 2

1 In the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, when wine was before him, I picked up the wine, and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad before in his presence. 2 The king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why shouldn’t my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates have been consumed with fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What is your request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you would send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may build it.” 6 The king said to me (the queen was also sitting by him), “How long will your journey be? When will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I set a time for he. 7 Moreover I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah; 8 and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple, for the wall of the city, and for the house that I will occupy.” The king granted my requests, because of the good hand of my God on me. 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, because a man had come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel. 11 So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. 12 I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. I didn’t tell anyone what my God put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There wasn’t any animal with me, except the animal that I rode on. 13 I went out by night by the valley gate, even towards the jackal’s well, then to the dung gate, and inspected the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and its gates were consumed with fire. 14 Then I went on to the spring gate and to the king’s pool, but there was no place for the animal that was under me to pass. 15 Then went I up in the night by the brook, and inspected the wall; and I turned back, and entered by the valley gate, and so returned. 16 The rulers didn’t know where I went, or what I did. I had not as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest who did the work. 17 Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burnt with fire. Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we won’t be disgraced.” 18 I told them of the hand of my God which was good on me, as also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. They said, “Let’s rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammontite servant, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they ridiculed us, and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?” 20 Then I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven will prosper us. Therefore we, his servants, will arise and build; but you have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.”

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–8

Our prayers must be seconded with serious endeavours, else we mock God. We are not limited to certain moments in our addresses to the King of kings, but have liberty to go to him at all times; approaches to the throne of grace are never out of season. But the sense of God’s displeasure and the afflictions of his people, are causes of sorrow to the children of God, under which no earthly delights can comfort. The king encouraged Nehemiah to tell his mind. This gave him boldness to speak; much more may the invitation Christ has given us to pray, and the promise that we shall speed, encourage us to come boldly to the throne of grace. Nehemiah prayed to the God of heaven, as infinitely above even this mighty monarch. He lifted up his heart to that God who understands the language of the heart. Nor should we ever engage in any pursuit in which it would be wrong for us thus to seek and expect the Divine direction, assistance, and blessing. There was an immediate answer to his prayer; for the seed of Jacob never sought the God of Jacob in vain.

Verses 9–18

When Nehemiah had considered the matter, he told the Jews that God had put it into his heart to build the wall of Jerusalem. He does not undertake to do it without them. By stirring up ourselves and one another to that which is good, we strengthen ourselves and one another for it. We are weak in our duty, when we are cold and careless.

Verses 19–20

The enmity of the serpent’s seed against the cause of Christ is confined to no age or nation. The application to ourselves is plain. The church of God asks for our help. Is it not desolate, and exposed to assaults? Does the consideration of its low estate cause you any grief? Let not business, pleasure, or the support of a party so engage attention, as that Zion and her welfare shall be nothing to you.

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