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The Message of the Book of Nehemiah

Hope That Brings Bright Changes - The Gates

Nehemiah 3:1-32

The Bible Teaching Commentary

Paul J. Bucknell


Nehemiah Theme | Nehemiah Outline and Index| Nehemiah Historical Background
Prayers that Changes the World 1:4-11 | Nehemiah 02.9-20 Prepare
Nehemiah 03:1-32 (1/2) Hope | Nehemiah 3:1-32 (2/2) Gates
Nehemiah 3 Jerusalem Map (pdf) | Nehemiah 04.1-6 Anger & Despair


Hope That Brings Bright Changes (Part 2/2) is an expository message on Nehemiah 3:1-32 that briefly, but with careful detail, shows how hope initiated the restoration of the wall. Nehemiah highlights the special work done on and around each of the ten mentioned gates. (For general discussion on Nehemiah 3:1-32).

As we look through the reconstruction of the wall, we will necessarily focus on the gates. See them highlighted by the blue arrow.

Let’s proceed by making brief observations on the work being done about the ten mentioned gates. Because this work was inspired by hope, there are many interesting observations that help us see how what was once impossible tasks can be accomplished in a short time

Jerusalem map

1) The Sheep Gate (Nehemiah 3:1-3)

Difficult Starts

By Eliashib the high priest and his brother priests.

“Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel. And next to him the men of Jericho built, and next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built” (Nehemiah 3:1-2).

Nothing is too holy for the priests. As they worked hard, the people took courage. If the priests dirtied their hands in this project, including the high priest like Eliashib, then everyone can see greater reason for why they should join in the work.
No one can exclude themselves from participating in the work because they are too holy or privileged. If the high priests are involved, then everyone should be involved.

Towers and walls are difficult to build but when the priests finished it, the work remained as a permanent symbol that leaders do their best work when they act as servant leaders.

A pastor has specialized functions in the church such as overseeing the flock, but sometimes they are needed to do the evangelism, cleaning, administration, etc. Through their example the people see that every act is holy because it is done unto the Lord. However, if any pastor or high priest should let their schedule be perpetually run by the needs around them, they will not be able to properly fulfill their calling.
Leaders do their best work when they act as servant leaders.

Acts 6 is a clear reminder of the importance to specialize in certain roles. Acts 6:2 says,

“And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.”

For a while the apostles were doing ‘all’ the work, but it was not good in the long run. Changes had to come much like they did with Moses. The same is true in this section of the wall. Nehemiah stepped back as coach and encouraged everyone to complete the task.

After this we see two other building teams going westward around Jerusalem starting from the Sheep Gate in the very north. The men of Jericho built next to the priests and next to them were Zaccur the son of Imri. At this point we run into another entrance to the city of Jerusalem, the Fish Gate.

2) The Fish Gate (Nehemiah 3:3-5)

God dependent

Built by the sons of Hasenaah.

“3 Now the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. 4 And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz made repairs. And next to him Meshullam the son of Berechiah the son of Meshezabel made repairs. And next to him Zadok the son of Baana also made repairs. 5 Moreover, next to him the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters” (Nehemiah 3:3-5).

The Fish Gate was rebuilt by Hasenaah’s family. They laid its beams and hung its doors. After that they set the bolts and bars into place. Replacing doors in some ways is much more difficult than just making a wall. The work was a joint effort, however.

Right next to the Fish Gate were adjoining walls. Once the gate was fixed, it made sense to repair the wall. So others got involved and made the necessary repairs on the walls surrounding the Fish Gate. Meremoth, Meshullam, Zadok and the Tekoites. When it described Meremoth as the ‘son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz’ it simply means that he was the Meremoth that was the grandson of Hakkoz. Sometimes it will even more generally refer to as the descendant of Hakkoz (which is also true).

In any case, we see each family making contributions. For years nothing was done. Why is it that now they got involved? Certainly part of it is the increased vision that the job could be done. If a neighboring family works hard on one part, then one can more easily see what yet needs to be done. They also gain confidence that they can actually fix their own part.

An interesting statement is said in verse 5, “Moreover, next to him the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not support the work of their masters” (Nehemiah 3:5). Did this mean that certain rich and influential men did not financially support the work or were just unwilling to personally help out? Probably both.

It is possible that these nobles refers to certain city politicians. In any case, they had the money. They were not going to get involved. It does not say why, but they likely had connections with others who did not want the wall rebuilt. They did not allow this to deter them, but moved on with the work until it was done.

Without the support of the noble, the truly faithful will continue on until completion. This reminds us that we do not have to wait for everyone to help before we set our heart on some specific tasks. We might think it can be done with someone’s help, but if God wants it done, he can do it without the participation of those so-called ‘key’ people. Nehemiah stood as an example that this task could be done (Nehemiah 2:18). God used his example to motivate most everyone to participate.

We are also reminded that we might be one of those leaders, either in the church or elsewhere. We need to be careful not to focus on our own will but on God’s. These nobles lost their privilege to join in God’s work. We must think beyond our own position and for what reason God gave us these positions and wealth. Like the men of Issachar, they knew the times. They lived with an greater understanding of what God was doing.

“And of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

3) The Old (Valley) Gate (Nehemiah 3:6-12)

Joint spirit

Built by Joiada and Meshullam.

“6 And Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors, with its bolts and its bars. 7 Next to them Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, also made repairs for the official seat of the governor of the province beyond the River. 8 Next to him Uzziel the son of Harhaiah of the goldsmiths made repairs. And next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 And next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah made repairs. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of Furnaces. 12 And next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters” (Nehemiah 3:6-12).

The work was excitedly going forward. Here we find Joiad and Meshullam heading up the work around the Old Gate. Melatiah and Jadon, adjacent to the Old Gate, worked on the governor’s official seat. Uzziel the goldsmith repaired the wall along with Hananiah, the perfumers, who restored the wall all the way to the Broad Wall. As the priests went beyond their regular routine and gifts, so we now see the goldsmiths and perfumers did too. Even Rephaiah, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs.

The whole project was excitedly moving forward as everyone pitched in. No doubt there were those who did not participate but wasn’t it exciting to see those from every part of life working together in a common cause. In the end it only took 52 days!

Old Testament

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The Longstanding Problem of Rebuilding Jerusalem

    1. Zerubbabel led the first wave of Jews to return in 536 B.C. (Ezra 1-6)
      (Big gap of 57 years - Esther's time)
      In Feb 18, 516 B.C. the temple was completed and dedicated.
    2. Ezra led the second in 455 B.C. (Ezra 7-10)
    3. Nehemiah led the third in 445 B.C. (Neh 1-3

Our unity does not dispel our individual uniqueness or contribution but beautifies it. The goldsmith was trained as a goldsmith. They worked with small metal objects, not big heavy stones. This was their family industry. He was trained in the family guild without costs. But this didn’t stop him from carrying heavy rocks, getting burnt in the sun or working in ways that caused a lot of backaches and sores.

I can go through the list of our elders, deacons and coworkers. They are skilled in different areas of life: some in science research, some in software, some in business, but together they stand out as those who work for a common cause of building up the kingdom of God. I am on a flight right now returning from overseas where I got to visit one of our old members.

His family was one of five who helped start the Oakland church. He did this while busily starting a family and working on a PhD. He got involved and the church thrives today.
In order to do this, they needed to do things they never did before of if they did, on a different scale. But the important secret of unity of purpose is found in Philippians 1:27,

“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

We have a common cause; a joint spirit. We must not be moved from accomplishing the work of the gospel. It is to be considered an emergency situation until Christ returns.
After this Jedaiah built and then Hattush. Malchijah and Hasshub worked together on the next section and the Tower of Furnaces. Following him, Shallum, the official for the other half of Jerusalem was working, he and his daughters (3:12).

Our ministry involvement is demanding. It will affect our families. If it doesn’t, then it does not stand as a sufficient influence in our lives. I remember meeting many mk’s and pk’s (missionary and pastor kids). Some of them are critical of their parent’s lives; others can’t wait to go and join their parents in their work. What is the difference? Is it simply a matter of the child’s preferences? I don’t think so. Let me share a few thoughts of successful ministry in the home:

1) Children are not in the way of ministry. If any child feels left out or in the way of their parents’ plans, then they will easily resent their parents. We must spend time with our children because they are a key part of our ministry.

2) Children are the means of ministering. We must see our family for what it is meant to be: an extension of our own lives. They should be extending our ministry in prayer and evangelism; in training and in worship.

3) Children are the focus of our ministry. Why is it that we would train others but not our own children? Why is it that we would have our children take special classes to get along in the world but not put any pressure on their knowing and living out of God’s Word? Our children are our disciples. This is why the scriptures teach if we fail to disciple our children, then we cannot hold a leadership position in the church.

I remember one particular friend that I met in Chicago. He was so eager to go back with his dad on the mission field in Brazil. He wasn’t particularly homesick, but even when at school in Chicago, his heart was with his dad and the work his dad was doing. He told me that his dad and he used to do everything together. He was not just near his dad but was working alongside his dad. We need more examples of this.

4) The Valley Gate (Nehemiah 3:13)

Extreme Dedication

Built by the Hanun and those who lived in Zanoah.

“Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and a thousand cubits of the wall to the Refuse Gate” (Nehemiah 3:13).

Two groups, Hanun and Zanoah, took up the task of rebuilding the wall in another sector. They rebuilt 500 yards (1000 cubits) of the wall right to the Refuse Gate. 100 yards is equal to an American football field. This was quite a huge task of rebuilding a portion of the wall 1500 feet long.

Although people disagree how big Jerusalem was in Nehemiah’s time, this figure supports the city of Jerusalem to have expanded out in the western sector probably by Solomon (1 Kings 3:1). The whole area from Valley Gate to the Refuse Gate was 1500 feet which was impossible without this enlarging of Jerusalem.

Extreme dedication is encouraging to everyone. Not everyone can equal these strong and diligent workers, but because of what they do everyone else works a bit harder and a bit more faithful. I can immediately think of several people in the church who work much more than I could ever expect. They stay up later, stay behind more often, come earlier and leave later. Some of their works are easily seen but others do not know to what degree their faithfulness has made this church what it is today.

5) The Refuse Gate (Nehemiah 3:14)

Great commitment

Built by Malchijah, the official of the district of Beth-haccherem.

“And Malchijah the son of Rechab, the official of the district of Beth-haccherem repaired the Refuse Gate. He built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars” (Nehemiah 3:14).

The text is short, but I congratulate those who are willing to do what in man’s eyes are the more gruesome and less honoring tasks.

It might not have been as bad as it sounds. But he took part wherever the work called him. Would you be willing to work on the Dung Gate as much as the Glory Gate? This reminds me of those faithful servants of God who are going to Egypt or Philippines or elsewhere to plant churches on top of rubbish heaps. The people live in the refuse and make their living off the refuse. God calls some servants to minister to His people there.

God’s love sent Christ to this sinful world. Send me Lord, wherever you see fit. His calling is a holy calling. Do note that often our calling has to do with our situation. No situation is so dishonorable that your devotion and resources should be held back from making a kingdom significance.


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6) The Fountain Gate (Nehemiah 3:15-25)

Wonderful example

Built by the official of Mizpah.

“Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, the official of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He built it, covered it, and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and the wall of the Pool of Shelah at the king’s garden as far as the steps that descend from the city of David. After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, official of half the district of Beth-zur, made repairs as far as a point opposite the tombs of David, and as far as the artificial pool and the house of the mighty men. 17 After him the Levites carried out repairs under Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, the official of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18 After him their brothers carried out repairs under Bavvai the son of Henadad, official of the other half of the district of Keilah. 19 And next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, the official of Mizpah, repaired another section, in front of the ascent of the armory at the Angle. 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the Angle to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz repaired another section, from the doorway of Eliashib’s house even as far as the end of his house. 22 And after him the priests, the men of the valley, carried out repairs. 23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub carried out repairs in front of their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah carried out repairs beside his house. 24 After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah as far as the Angle and as far as the corner. 25 Palal the son of Uzai made repairs in front of the Angle and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king, which is by the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh made repairs.” (Nehemiah 3:15-25).

From Nehemiah’s search it was discovered that this section of the wall, near the Fountain Gate and King’s Pool, was in complete disarray. It was here that Nehemiah had to dismount from his horse and climb around it (Nehemiah 2:14). The wall did not need to be rebuilt but built!

Nehemiah, a local official different from the Book of Nehemiah, made repairs up to the tombs of David and the artificial pool. Next to him the Levites built and after them Hashabiah led the rebuilding. Other brothers carried on the work beside this and Ezere led the work after this point. Baruch zealously repaired the following section. Meremoth repaired near Eliashib’s house (3:20).

Eliashib the high priest, we should remember, worked on the sheep gate. He could have worked near his own house but chose to focus his work on the sheep gate. There were several possible reasons he didn’t work near his own home:

Eliashib as high priest initiated the wall work at the visible spot near the Sheep Gate. If he was busy there mobilizing everyone, then he could not do the work near his house.
Perhaps Eliashib didn’t work near his house because others started the work there first. They respected his needs and helped him out. He then had no other choice. If he was going to build, he would go elsewhere and work.

Either way, Eliashib the priest showed remarkable dedication. This reminds me of a rebuke God’s people once received. The people paneled their own homes when the temple was in disarray. Haggai 1:2-4 says,

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.” Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?”

Eliashib the high priest along with his brothers encouraged the morale of all by rebuilding the Sheep Gate. As he served the Lord, others helped him with his own responsibilities. I have seen how sometimes God’s servants are busy at some ministry. Other servants of God are at their home help watching, cooking or even cleaning their home.

Other priests worked hard rebuilding the wall, section by section. Benjamin, Hashub, Azariah, Binnui, Palal, Pediah and the temple servants rebuilt right up to the Water Gate.

7) The Water Gate (Nehemiah 3:26-27)

Double effort

Partially repaired by Ophel and the Tekoites.

“And the temple servants living in Ophel made repairs as far as the front of the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. After him the Tekoites repaired another section in front of the great projecting tower and as far as the wall of Ophel” (Nehemiah 3:26-27).

Why were temple servants repairing the wall? Although one kind of labor might not be our chief area of calling or gifting, we need to participate when it serves a major need.

The Tekoites repaired another section of the wall. Earlier in Nehemiah 3:3-5 we find the Tekoites building without the support of their leaders. Here again, we find them working on another section of the wall. Perhaps they were wall rebuilding experts, this we do not know. We do find them, however, working wherever they can to have the wall rebuilt. There was not much outward reward for rebuilding in several places. Spiritual motives, no doubt, moved them to labor as much as they can.

We all appreciate those who take up the slack. Where there is a need, they fill in the gap. These are the people that go far beyond the expectations of others accomplishing what otherwise might not be done. Each of us, no doubt, can recognize and greatly appreciate such workers.

8) The Horse Gate (Nehemiah 3:28)

Great appreciation

Built by priests in front of their own homes.

“Above the Horse Gate the priests carried out repairs, each in front of his house” (Nehemiah 3:28).

This might not sound significant. The priests worked in front of their homes rebuilding the wall. This seemed to be quite a big section of the wall. They were expected to work hard because it was security for their own homes, and even more, they were priests. Of course, they had this responsibility.

We should not take the the work of God’s people for granted. For many years the wall was not rebuilt. Why didn’t they rebuild earlier? If God’s people are faithfully caring out their tasks, remember it might not be true. Be appreciative! God is at work when people faithfully carry out their responsibilities.

We always expect that the pastors and workers of the church do their part but with little fanfare. We note, however, when those most expected to be faithful at their work does not, then everything falls apart. We should give extra encouragement to those ‘who are expected’ to do their work. Do not take it for granted. A clergy month is a good reminder to give thanks to those who labor on our behalf.

9) The East Gate (Nehemiah 3:29-30)

Faithful completion

Maybe repaired by Shemaiah.

“After them Zadok the son of Immer carried out repairs in front of his house. And after him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, carried out repairs. 30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah carried out repairs in front of his own quarters” (Nehemiah 3:29-30).

This passage again reminds each of us to carry out what God sets before us. Zadok, Shemaiah, Hananiah, Hanun, Meshullam all worked on repairs that where their house was close or connected to the wall.

It is interesting to remember that for many years, these and others, did not carry out this work even though their house might have been attached to the decrepit wall. People like these are encouraged to take the next step when others are boldly leading others forward.

10) The Inspection (Muster) Gate (Nehemiah 3:31-32)

Humble participation

Probably did not need much repair.

“After him Malchijah one of the goldsmiths, carried out repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, in front of the Inspection Gate and as far as the upper room of the corner. 32 And between the upper room of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants carried out repairs” (Nehemiah 3:31-32).

Malchijah carried on as far as the Inspection (or Muster) Gate as well as the Sheep Gate. This sounds like the area where the upper class people lived. Their position, however, did not hold them back from completing their part in the task. One can say it was good for their business and no doubt it was, but more important, it was good for all. The wall was completed all the way around. No part was missing. Most everyone took part in this important task.


Gate by gate we observed how God worked through Nehemiah and those that initiated the work encouraged others to complete the whole wall of Jerusalem. What was impossible for decades all of a sudden was done by a group of dedicated men and their families.

What are some general conclusions of this marvelous work that Nehemiah inspired under God’s leadership?

Hope that the project could be completed got the people involved. How do people get hope? What would you like to see done in your home or church? You need hope to see it done. Hope comes through the promises of God. Man can bring some help, but we will be easily derailed if we do not live daily by the Word of God. God is sovereign; man is fallible. Hope brings awesome changes to the most distressed.

“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:4).

No part of the wall was unimportant. Defense is only as strong as its weakest link. It would be not of much value if only part of the wall was restored. To be properly done, the whole wall had to be worked on. It was a big task to set their hearts to, but it was needed and appropriate. We need a vision to keep us focused on our individual parts.

Take your part seriously. Person after person got their names in the annals of Nehemiah because of their their faithful work. Sure they could have done it before. But they still got their name in because in the end, they did put their hard work and resources into fulfilling the task set before them. God’s books are being written today. Will your name be found in it?

Persevere as a church leader, a housewife, a mom, a coworker, a usher, etc. It will make a difference.

Mutual encouragement1 is a key to success. We might not find total agreement with each other (it would be rare if we did!) but how encouraging it is to see the brothers and sisters together at work. I think of a church plant in the university area. For several years these families not only attended and served in the morning but in the afternoon service. They did it voluntarily.

They had jobs, families and work at school. But they dedicated themselves to God’s work. Often I am deeply moved by the dedication of my brothers and sisters. Winston Churchill said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” What are you offering in the building of God’s kingdom?

On the other hand, we should make a few remarks with regards to those spectators who refused to participate. There were a few noblemen, wealthy people, who were not supportive. They could have pitched their financial resources in but did not. God got the work done without them. They will be judged by what they kept rather than rewarded with what they gave. Never look to those who have deep pockets but look to the Lord. Maybe He will move them, maybe not. Our hope is in the Lord. Man will often disappoint.


We had better get serious with God’s mission while there still is time. God is doing His work even now. “Now is the day but soon the night cometh when no man can work.” The question is “Have you really joined in?” Will your life make a difference?
Think of something that needs repair. Maybe it is something that has needed work on for ages, perhaps your personal disciplines, your service in church, the purity of your heart, some larger task before us. Don’t despair that it hasn’t been done. Focus on the One who does the impossible! Bring your brokenness to the Lord like Nehemiah. In the brokenness of our hearts, we will see God bring in hope and help.

Plead with God to work on your weakest point. Ask Him to build upon that. If the enemy is looking for a place to cause problems, he will target the weakest points. Do not think you are unimportant to God’s work. If you have been slack, look to the Lord for significant change. Step by step work on your weakest points and the enemy will be held back.

If you are a leader wanting to get something done. Start doing it and others will see the need and join in. People are motivated by talks but also by our neighbor doing what so needs to be done.

Final thought

The work was not done, however. In the chapters ahead we will discover what was required of them to finish the work. Whereas anyone could participate in building the wall, people with special gifts and passion for God’s work would need to lead the way for this most important upcoming work.