This is the action
chapter. There is lots of action going on in
Nehemiah chapter three. Building is underway, things
are happening, and the walls are going up. The work
is moving forward after nearly one hundred years of
In this chapter Nehemiah
gives us an interesting detailed account of how the
Jerusalem walls and gates were rebuilt after the
return of the Babylonian exiles. One of the most
impressive things in the chapter are the names of
people who worked on the projects, probably section
leaders, some details how they accomplished the
tasks, the variety of backgrounds, including women.
One group of people is even singled out as being
This chapter is
encouraging because we are reminded that God has not
forgotten our names either. He records in His work
diary the names of obscure people, like you and me.
If we are faithful to Him one day He will say, "Well
done good and faithful servant." If we have missed
the opportunities we will one-day answer to Him as
REPAIRING THE GATES OF
Nehemiah helps us return
to the reality after experiencing ruin and tragedy
in our lives. As we begin this study let’s keep in
mind some principles that will help us in the repair
of damaged lives. We all have spiritual walls that
are in the need of repair. However, when disaster
hits we need to recover these before we can make the
physical repairs at hand. It is easier to build than
to rebuild from scratch after a massive disaster
such as the hurricane Katrina.
Go ahead and grieve
over your loss
The work of grief has to
be done, and the sooner the better. It is ok to
mourn. It is ok to cry. A great tragedy such as
hurricane Katrina causes great loss. I have friends
who lost everything, literally. The church he
pastors is destroyed and members are scattered over
five states. His personal business is also gone.
There is a time to cry. But this is not the first
time it has happened to him. I remember a missionary
from Colombia visiting our church in Quito, Ecuador,
who stood one morning and asked for prayer. Their
home had been robbed seven times. Nothing like
starting from scratch.
Resist falling into
the bitterness and blame game trap
Don’t fall into the blame
game trap. No one knows the answer to the haunting
question "Why?" "Why me?" "Why my family?" However,
we can remain faithful. We can trust a sovereign God
under the worst conditions in life and know He will
give us His sustaining grace. Job could say, "I will
trust Him even though He slay me." Put your faith in
the Lord. Let this be a learning time when you love
Him with all of your heart, mind and soul.
This becomes a great time
to take inventory of your life, and clarify your
true values. Tragedy cannot take away an intimate
personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Romans
8:26-29). What really matters in your life when
everything else is taken away?
Receive help from
This becomes a time of
ministry to one another. This is when we need each
other. It is a time when the body of Christ can
minister to one another without apology.
Rejoice in the Lord
When there is nothing
else to rejoice in turn your eyes upon the Lord and
rejoice in Him. Look at His steadfast character and
rejoice in who He is (Philippians 4:4-10).
Reach out to others
and minister to them
As you rejoice in Christ
you become a blessing to others. They will see the
difference in your life and the way you face
realities and want to know what makes you different.
As God rebuilds your inner walls He will give you
opportunities to minister to others who need Him.
As God repairs our
spiritual walls we need to take care of other walls
in our lives. Homes, businesses, churches, schools
are all in the need of repair after a hurricane or
other man-made and natural disasters. What can we
learn from Nehemiah?
Everyone worked and they
all worked together. They worked near their homes
and they all completed their assigned task.
A QUICK TOUR OF THE
"The construction of the
wall and gates in fifty-two days was an incredible
feat of organization." As Howard Voss notes, "The
entire community was mobilized and was led to work
harmoniously and simultaneously on all parts of the
city wall, which was divided into forty or forty-one
sections." Another thing that is impressive in this
chapter is how the "entire work force demonstrated
an unquenchable dedication and an ardent enthusiasm
as they strained feverishly to complete the task."
From the descriptive
names of the seven gates we get an idea of how the
city functioned. The most complete Scriptural
description of the walls and gates of Jerusalem are
given by Nehemiah. He restored what had been there
before the Babylonian exile. He had a vision of the
restored city and what she would become in the
future. In time the city would need the extra space
Some of the workers were
officials from different sections of the city of
Jerusalem. People from neighboring towns and
outlying areas came to work on the wall. They came
even as far as Jericho and Tekoa.
The high priest, his
brothers, regular priests, and their families,
goldsmiths, merchants, mayors of districts were
active in the reconstruction of the city walls.
The gates were very
descriptive of the city life. Nehemiah names them in
counter clock wise beginning with the Sheep Gate on
the north east side of the city next to the temple
enclosure (vv. 1, 32).
Nehemiah takes us on a
tour of the work and introduces us to the repair of
each section of the wall.
Not only is the chapter
organized around the seven gates, but also the work
of building the wall is the building of the gates
and each adjoining section of the walls.
Work on the North
Wall (vv. 1-5)
Gates were located at
strategic places along the protecting wall. Burton
Scott Easton wrote an interesting article on these
ancient gates in the International Standard Bible
Encyclopedia. "The usual gateway was provided
with double doors, swung on projections that fitted
into sockets in the sill and lintel. Ordinarily the
material was wood (Neh 2:3, 17), but greater
strength and protection against fire was given by
plating with metal (Ps 107:16; Isa 45:2). . . .
When closed, the doors were secured with a bar
(usually of wood, Nah 3:13, but sometimes of
metal, 1 Ki 4:13; Ps 107:16; Isa 45:2), which
fitted into clamps on the doors and sockets in the
post, uniting the whole firmly (Jdg 16:3). . . .
As the gate was especially subject to attack (Ezek
21:15, 22), and as to "possess the gate" was to
possess the city (Gen 22:17; 24:60), it was
protected by a tower (2 Sam 18:24, 33; 2 Ch
14:7; 26:9), often, doubtless, overhanging and
with flanking projections. Sometimes an inner gate
was added (2 Sam 18:24)."
Even the farmers slept in
the cities and went out to work in their farms
during the day. Open-air markets were held near
The Sheep Gate (3:1, 32)
is where the sheep and the animals were brought in
for the daily sacrifices in the temple. This is also
where we must begin our lives. Jesus is the Lamb of
God who lifts up and takes away the sin of our lives
(John 1:29, 36). This gate must be kept in repair if
we are to be mature servants of Christ (1 John
Various towers around the
wall are mentioned where guards would be stationed
to watch out for enemies.
There was the Fish Gate
(v. 3) where fresh fish were brought in daily from
the rivers, Sea of Galilee and the coast and sold in
the market (cf. 13:16).
Work on the West
Wall (vv. 6-12)
He takes us by the Old
Gate (v. 6), and then the Valley Gate (v. 13), which
led out of the city into the Kidron Valley, was
Work on the South
Wall (vv. 13-14)
Refuse Gate (v. 13) or
likely the "Ash heaps" led to the Hinnon Valley
south of the city where the garbage and refuse was
carried out daily and burned. Every city has to have
garbage collectors. Do you have some spiritual trash
in your life that needs to be taken to the dump?
Work on the
Southeast Wall (vv. 15-27)
"Fountain Gate" (v. 15)
seems to be in the historic district where the tombs
of David were located, the House of the Mighty men,
the king’s garden, etc. David and his descendents
were buried in this area. The gate was at the end of
the Pool of Siloam.
The "Court of the guard"
(v. 25) may have been part of Solomon’s great
courtyard near his palace. There was also a "Water
Gate" (v. 26) located at the Spring of Gihon where
Hezekiah’s tunnel begins. This is the place where
Ezra read the Law of God to the people (chapter 8).
Work on the
Northeast Wall (vv. 28-32)
Then we pass by the work
on the "Horse Gate" (v. 28), the "East Gate" (v. 29)
was directly east of the temple area, and the
"Inspection Gate" (v. 31). The Hebrew word of
"Inspection" mans the "appointed place."
The "Sheep Gate" brings
us back to where we began the tour in verse one.
EXAMPLE OF NEHEMIAH’S
Every student of Nehemiah
cannot miss the excellent administrative abilities
God has blessed Nehemiah with. He was God’s man in
God’s place at the right time and God used him
Break the big
project down into manageable sections
Nehemiah broke the big
project down into small pieces so he could
coordinate all the efforts. He broke the task of
wall building down into manageable sections. The
tour he gives us demonstrates his leadership
ability. He had managers at each section of the
wall. He knew how to delegate. The truly amazing
thing is the whole wall was being built at the same
time. He did not begin in one spot and go from there
around the city. Nehemiah had people working on the
wall in strategic locations all along the wall all
at the same time. Many sections were being built at
the same time. When the parts were completed the
whole wall was completed. It took a coordinated
effort on the part of everyone working at the same
time at his or her assigned workstation.
Nehemiah was good at
detailed planning. He could visualize the big
picture and the steps needed to get there. There
were about forty-one separate segments of the wall
that needed to be repaired all at the same time. He
did not take one section at a time, but had
organized work groups all working in their sections
at the same time. The big awesome task that had
failed in the past one hundred years now was a
possibility in record-breaking time. Each necessary
section of the wall and its gates were done
One of the interesting
ways he got the job done was capitalizing on the
self-preservation motive. Many of the people worked
"opposite his house" (v. 10), "in front of their
house" (v. 23), "beside his house" (v. 23), and "in
front of his house" (vv. 29, 30). It did not bother
Nehemiah that they worked nearby their homes or
businesses. That provided great motivation and
assurance that they would do their best work.
Nehemiah delegated the
responsibility and authority for each section of the
wall. What they did was important because it
affected the security and survival of their lives,
their family and city. The names of forty-one
section heads are listed in chapter three.
involved in the project
It is utterly amazing how
people of all classes will work together when
properly motivated. They came from all walks of life
and professions. These workers were not all builders
by trade. There were priests, Levites, rulers and
common people, gatekeepers and goldsmiths,
pharmacists, merchants, temple servants,
women—everyone except the "nobles" (v. 5). Hard
labor must have been beneath their dignity. Everyone
except the noblemen put their hands to the task.
That is a tragedy because they lost the opportunity
to serve. Hard work is not beneath the dignity of
God’s people, pastors included.
What a contrast to the
"noblemen" in verse five is "Baruch the son of
Zabbai zealously repaired another section." He not
only finished his section but also "zealously
repaired another section." Nehemiah added a word
about his work that he did not use elsewhere for
another worker. He "earnestly" or with zeal repaired
the other section of the wall. He took his work
seriously with all of his heart and soul. He gave
his very best effort and then some.
The Holy Spirit has so
equipped the Body of Christ with His gifts that
there should never be a need or ministry that goes
unmet if every believer exercised his spiritual
Let’s walk around
the construction of the wall with Nehemiah.
The high priest and his
family were working on the Sheep Gate, and the wall
of the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel
The Levites and priests
from the surrounding lower Jordan valley carried out
repairs (v. 22).
Next along our tour are
"the men of Jericho" (v. 2) which was a good journey
from Jerusalem. There were also volunteers from
Tekoa about twelve miles south of Jerusalem, and
Gibeon, Mizpah, Zanoah, Beth Hakkerem, Beth Zur, and
Keilah (vv. 5, 7).
Goldsmiths (vv. 8, 31,
32) made repairs along the side of "perfumers" (v.
8). These were skilled craftsmen, not crude
Mayors and public
officials were working at several points along the
wall. They were rulers or mayors of subdivisions in
the city. Nehemiah points them out as "the official
of half the district of Jerusalem" (vv. 9, 12,
Women (v. 12) worked
alongside other family members. The "daughters" of
Shallum worked with their father.
Recognize all of
"Nehemiah seems to have
recognized the accomplishments of each worker,"
notes James Boice. On his tour you get the
impression that Nehemiah took time to get to know
his workers and called them by name and praised
them. How sad at rewards day in many churches the
"nobles" are awarded the plaques and certificates,
when the unsung heroes are the ones who built the
walls. This recognition of leaders we have borrowed
from secular organizational development is not
edifying to the whole body of believers.
Have you noticed that in
this long list of names one name is missing? It is
Nehemiah! He did not have to toot his own horn. He
did not have to tell anyone how busy he had been. He
gave the credit to others. The bottom-line for
Nehemiah was the recognition "that this work had
been accomplished with the help of our God" (6:16).
The one person who should get all the glory on
awards day is our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
1. There are no forgotten
names on God’s wall of fame. Two thousand five
hundred years after the event we are reading the
names of families who worked on the project. All who
labor for the kingdom of God will receive their true
recognition when we stand before our Lord. The
highest rewards we will ever receive are His words,
"Well done good and faithful servant."
2. God’s kingdom needs
the involvement of the whole community as
demonstrated by the representatives of crafts,
trades, neighboring towns, and all social classes.
The best testimony and most efficient work are
always done as we work together to build God’s
3. It is sad but true
there is the clear statement: "their nobles did not
support the work of their masters" (v. 5). Be not
discouraged, every team has one or two of the
"nobles" on board.
4. God uses the whole
body of Christ to reach a lost world. In Nehemiah we
find a strong, assertive leader with the
organizational skills necessary to rebuild a
destroyed city. However, even Nehemiah needed
priests, goldsmiths, apothecaries, administrators,
the women, the Levites, the politicians and
merchants. The apostle Paul teaches us the same
thing in Ephesians 4:11-13, Romans 12 and 1
Corinthians 12. Everyone in the body of Christ needs
everyone else. We need each other when God invites
us to join Him in what He is doing.
5. One of the men who
worked on the wall was named Meshullam meaning,
"devoted." To get any great task completed takes
utter, absolute, dedication on the part of all of
Index to this Series on
3:1-32 Together Let’s Build