W I T H P R A C T I C A L O B S E R V A T I O N
OF THE BOOK OF
N E H E M I A H
continues the history of the children of the captivity, the poor Jews,
that had lately returned out of
to their own land. At this time not only the Persian
monarchy flourished in great pomp and power, but
began to be very great and to make a figure. Of the
affairs of those high and mighty states we have authentic accounts extant; but
the sacred and inspired history takes cognizance only of the state of the
Jews, and makes no mention of other nations but as the Israel of God had
dealings with them: for the Lord's portion is his people; they are his
peculiar treasure, and, in comparison with them, the rest of the world is but
as lumber. In my esteem, Ezra the scribe and Nehemiah the tirshatha, though
neither of them ever wore a crown, commanded an army, conquered any country,
or was famed for philosophy or oratory, yet both of them, being pious praying
men, and very serviceable in their day to the church of God and the interests
of religion, were really greater men and more honourable, not only than any of
the Roman consuls or dictators, but than Xenophon, or Demosthenes, or Plato
himself, who lived at the same time, the bright ornaments of Greece.
Nehemiah's agency for the advancing of the settlement of Israel we have a full
account of in this book of his own commentaries or memoirs, wherein he records
not only the works of his hands, but the workings of his heart, in the
management of public affairs, inserting in the story many devout reflections
and ejaculations, which discover in his mind a very deep tincture of serious
piety and are peculiar to his writing. Twelve years, from his twentieth year (ch.
i. 1) to his thirty-second year (ch. xiii. 6), he was governor of
Judea, under Artaxerxes king of Persia, whom Dr. Lightfoot supposes to be the
same Artaxerxes as Ezra has his commission from. This book relates, I.
Nehemiah's concern for Jerusalem and the commission he obtained from the king
to go thither, ch. i., ii. II. His building the wall of Jerusalem
notwithstanding the opposition he met with, ch. iii., iv. III. His
redressing the grievances of the people, ch. v. IV. His finishing the
wall, ch. vi. V. The account he took of the people, ch. vii. VI.
The religions solemnities of reading the law, fasting, and praying, and
renewing their covenants, to which he called the people (ch. viii.-x.).
VII. The care he took for the replenishing of the holy city and the settling
of the holy tribe, ch. xi., xii. VIII. His zeal in reforming various
abuses, ch. xiii. Some call this the second book of Ezra, not
because he was the penman of it, but because it is a continuation of the
history of the foregoing book, with which it is connected, ver. 1). This was
the last historical book that was written, as Malachi was the last prophetical
book, of the Old Testament.