The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year…
In the solicitude of Nehemiah over the ruined condition of the walls of Jerusalem we have brought into prominence an element in ancient national life which it is useful to understand, and which is the foundation and keystone of Nehemiah's subsequent action. It was the walls that made the nation in those days. The law which then prevailed ripen the face of the earth was the law of might. A town of any size was at the mercy of every roving, plundering horde, if it were unfortified. When once it was surrounded with strong walls, it became possible for the citizens to accumulate property, enact laws for the order and well-being of the citizens, and to elect magistrates to carry these laws into effect. With their erection dated the commencement of civic life. Where the city was large, the citizens became a nation. The Babylonian nation, and, earlier, the Ninevite people, meant really the citizens living within the walls of the immense cities — Babylon and Nineveh. The history of Italy in the ninth century of our era illustrates this law of states. The country was overrun by the armies of rival princes, who disputed for the throne of the Lombard kingdom. The Saracens from the opposite shores of Africa were constantly landing upon the coast, and penetrating inland for the purpose of pillage and massacre. In this condition of the country the large cities were compelled again to erect their walls, which had been levelled to the ground by jealous and tyrannical kings. The great Republics of Italy, the cities which afterwards became nations in themselves, Milan, Florence, Pisa, and others, laid in this way the foundation of their subsequent greatness. "From the time," says Sismondi in his "History of the Italian Republics," "when towns were secured by walls, their power rapidly increased; the oppressed from all parts sought refuge in them from the oppressors; they carried with them their industry and arms to protect the walls that defended them. Everywhere they were sure of a good reception, for every city felt it had strength only in proportion to the number of its citizens; each vied with its neighbour in efforts to augment the means of defence and in the reception given to strangers." Of such supreme importance were the fortifications of a city to national life and progress in those ages of disorder.
(A. J. Griffith.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,