Rebuilding the wall

John Riddle, Cheshunt, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

Part 2 of 4 of the series Studies in the book of Nehemiah

Neh. 3. 9-32.

In the first article we had looked at i) the priestly men, and ii) the ruling men, and now we continue with:

iii) The professional men

‘Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths’, see also verse 31. Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall’, v. 8. Like the priests, says C. J. Barber, ‘The goldsmiths might have excused themselves. After all, they were used to intricate and delicate work and not the clumsy, cumbersome task of laying bricks’. The same could be said of the apothecaries. We call them ‘pharmacists’ today! For an example of their fine work, see Exodus 30. 22-25, ‘And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, and ointment compounded after the art of the apothecary’. There is a further example of ‘the art of the apothecary’ in Exodus chapter 30 verses 34 to 38.

So, men laboured who were used to priestly work, precious work, and perfumed work, but they were not afraid to get their hands dirty!

iv) The merchant men

‘And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants’, v. 32. Like the goldsmiths and the apothecaries, the merchants were willing to leave their business interests in order to help on the wall. It would be quite wrong to infer from this that all should leave employment in the interests of the Lord’s work. He does call some believers to do this, some on a permanent basis, and others on a short-term basis. On the other hand, He does require us to put His interests first in our lives. Business and career can buy us body, mind, and soul, if we let them. This does not mean that we should be anything less than reliable, diligent, and dedicated as employees. But we must remember the words, ‘No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier’, 2 Tim. 2. 4. There’s all the difference in the world between being involved ‘with the affairs of this life’, and being ‘entangled’ in them! Sadly, the wellknown hymn sometimes applies to Christians:

Room for pleasure, room for business;
But for Christ the crucified -
Not a place where He can enter
In the heart for which He died?

v) The labouring women

And next unto him repaired Shallum, the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters’, v. 12. Compare Paul’s words in Philippians chapter 4 verse 3, ‘And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel’. A similar word is in Romans chapter 16 verse 12, ‘Salute Tryphena and Tryphos, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord’. Phebe is also described as ‘a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea’, Rom. 16. 1. Whilst the scriptures totally reject ‘unisex’, they do make it clear that the service of sisters is of immense value. We should never place restrictions on sisters or brothers other than those imposed by the word of God.

In the New Testament Paul employs the analogy of the human body to describe assembly diversity and harmony. Every member is necessary, however different in form and function, for ‘the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you’, 1 Cor. 12. 21. In Nehemiah 3 we have diversity, yet unity. We must do all we can to ensure that this example of co-operation between so many different types of people is a pattern followed in the local assembly.

3 Commendation

Nehemiah took a keen interest in his labourers. He knew their names, where they worked, and what they did. They were not just people with National Insurance numbers, or numbers on a computerized pay-roll! Notice his eye for detail, and his tacit commendation. ‘Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hashub the son of Pahath-Moab, repaired the other piece, and the tower of the furnaces’, v. 11. ‘And next to him repaired Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, another piece over against the going up to the armoury at the turning of the wall. After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece (JND ‘another piece’) from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest’, vv. 19-20, see also vv. 24, 27, 30. We might have expected Nehemiah to praise Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah. After all, they repaired fifteen hundred feet of broken-down wall, v. 13. But right next to them was Malchiah who apparently worked alone in repairing the dung gate, v. 14. As C. J. Barber observes, ‘Nehemiah commended Malchiah’s honest effort as well. He did not allow the size of one person’s accomplishments to prevent him from recognizing the efforts of another’.

But Nehemiah also noticed, and commended, how the work was done. ‘After him Baruch the son of Zabbai, earnestly repaired the other piece, (JND footnote, Hebrew, ‘a second piece’), from the turning of the wall unto the door of Eliashib the high priest’, v. 20. That would be a very nice testimony to have! We must not forget that ‘all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do’, Heb. 4. 13, and that when the Lord Jesus comes, He will ‘bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts and then shall every man have praise of God’, 1 Cor. 4. 54.

4. Completion

It has been pointed out that the words ‘built’ and ‘repaired’ are in the perfect tense, which means that each person completed the task assigned to him. As C. J. Barber again observes, ‘Each one knew what was expected of him. Each one worked in his place and each one finished the work he had undertaken’. As the following chapters make clear, the work was far from easy, ‘without were fightings’, chapter 4, ‘within were fears’, chapter 5. But ‘the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days’, Neh. 6. 15.

Centuries later, Paul was obliged to address Archippus with the words, ‘Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it’, Col. 4. 17. Nehemiah’s workmen completed the task and didn’t need the exhortation. We must have the same resolution and determination.

To be continued with a discussion on the significance of the gates.

AUTHOR PROFILE: John Riddle is an elder in the assembly meeting at Mill Lane Chapel, Cheshunt, and serves the Lord in written and oral ministry throughout the UK where his gifts are much appreciated. He took early retirement from business as a pensions executive.

There are 34 articles in
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