Nehemiah 3 – “Jerusalem’s Walls are Repaired”

CHILD LABORHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Chapter 3 begins by listing the people who repaired the specific sections of Jerusalem’s walls. Meanwhile, the local nations belittle the project, but Nehemiah prays for their downfall.

II. Photo
The building process was a communal effort: “Next to them, Shallum son of Hallohesh, chief of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired — he and his daughters.” (v. 12)

III. Important Verses
v. 1: Then Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests set to and rebuilt the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and set up its doors, consecrating it as far as the Hundred’s Tower, as far as the Tower of Hananel.
v. 12: Next to them, Shallum son of Hallohesh, chief of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired — he and his daughters.
vv. 33-35: When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, it angered him, and he was extremely vexed. He mocked the Jews, saying in the presence of his brothers and the Samarian force, “What are the miserable Jews doing? Will they restore, offer sacrifice, and finish one day? Can they revive those stones out of the dust heaps, burned as they are?” Tobiah the Ammonite, alongside him, said, “That stone wall they are building — if a fox climbed it he would breach it!”

IV. Outline
1-32. The builders of the wall are listed with their specific areas of construction
33-35. The opposition’s point of view
37-38. Imprecation
39. Summary

V. Comment
Chapter 3 begins by listing the people who worked on the specific sections of Jerusalem’s walls (vv. 1-32). While there is no mention of the significance of this list, its utter prolixity (32 verses) evinces the project’s importance. Williamson writes: “This undoubtedly testifies to a remarkable feat of organization and leadership, though nothing is said directly about that in the text. It is emphasized, nevertheless, by the evidence presented above, which suggests that there may have been considerable strains between those of different political and religious outlook among the people who worked on the wall. The very length and detail of the list demonstrates the evident willingness unselfishly to cooperate which each individual and group displayed. Without a determination to submit personal pride and ambition to the larger task, the work could never have been accomplished so swiftly and successfully. As will be seen in a moment, this is not by any means to overlook the many points which differentiate one group from another. It is simply to observe that without a common commitment to the specific task in hand, the result would have been a self-defeating chaos…” (211)

The historical nature of the list reveals much about the dedication of the builders. Williamson writes: “The list speaks eloquently of the diversity of interest of those engaged in the work. We may note, for instance, that some participated on the basis of family association, others as individuals, some in district associations, some on the basis of their standing or position within the community, and yet others because of professional association. Moreover, it seems that Nehemiah allowed each group to be responsible, so far as possible, for the section of wall in which they had the greatest vested interest—because it protected their home, place of business, or the like.” (212)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Williamson, H.G.M. Ezra, Nehemiah Word Biblical Commentary vol. 16 (Waco, Texas : Word Books, 1985).
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