Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Nehemiah 2:11-18
Pastor Joe Bulman
Sunday: Nehemiah 2:11
Nehemiah had just completed a trip from Susa, the capital of Persia, to Jerusalem. This trip would have taken about three months and was approximately 900 miles in distance. The distance would be shorter if you drew a straight line between Susa and Jerusalem, however the landscape, the Syro-Arabian Desert, is harsh and dry. Often those traveling in the near east followed the “Fertile Crescent.” If you look even today at a map of this region you see that there is a rich green area that crescents the top of the desert. This was the smarter route to take. Nehemiah would start in Susa, head west crossing over the Tigris River then head north toward Babylon, which sits on the banks of the Euphrates River, in Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia is the Greek term used for the land mass between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers as it means “between two rivers.” Nehemiah would have then crossed over the Euphrates River and continued north following the Fertile Crescent, possibly going through Tadmor, Damascus, the Sea of Galilee and finally ascending up to Jerusalem (Holman Bible Atlas). “After his arrival at Jerusalem, Nehemiah waited three days before taking any steps. Ezra had done the same (Ezr 8:32). It was necessary to rest after the journey, and to interchange the formalities of Eastern courtesy with the principle people of the city” (CBFSC).

Monday: Nehemiah 2:12
Nehemiah set out at night to carefully examine the walls and devastation of Jerusalem. He did this late at night and only took one mount in order to keep quiet. Nehemiah was a great leader who planned, then acted. We see his ability to plan and think in the first part of Nehemiah; he learned of the state of Jerusalem in the month of Kislev (November - December), then he prayed and planned before ever saying anything to the king in the month of Nisan (March - April) four months later (Ne 1:1 Ne 2:1). Nehemiah was a planner; he made calculated decisions and seemed to use great wisdom in the way he went about things. His goal wasn’t to be seen as a good leader; he was just being what God had called him to be.

Tuesday: Nehemiah 2:13
Before we look at the elements of the city mentioned here, we must keep one thing in mind: the Scriptures show us that we are the New Jerusalem, a spiritual Israel. Paul in Galatians 6:16 includes the Gentiles as the “Israel of God.” In Hebrews 8 we see that God is establishing a new covenant with the New Israel: us. In Revelation 21 an angel shows John the “bride,” which is the Holy City, Jerusalem. It is so important for us to know who we are, the Bride of Christ, a Holy City. It is also important for us to realize that there are no coincidences with God. We can examine the writings of the old city for spiritual clues to our own relationship with God. Just as in Hebrews, we see that the old Sanctuary is a “shadow” of heaven, so we are in proportion to the old Jerusalem. The old city had 12 gates: the Sheep Gate, the Fish Gate, the Old Gate, the Valley Gate, the Dung Gate, the Fountain Gate, the Water Gate, the East Gate, the Inspection Gate, the Ephraim Gate and the Prison Gate. Each of these gates had a purpose and meaning then, just as they have a spiritual application that can be found today. We will only focus on the ones mentioned here in this passage for now. The first gate mentioned is the Valley Gate. This is the gate where Nehemiah exited the city; it faces into the west and gives you access to the Central Valley coming out of the city. Valleys throughout the Bible signify low points, times of trial and humbling. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...” (Ps 23:4). Every believer spends time in the valleys of life. It is in these times that we grow and are forged in our relationship with God. Little to no growth happens on the mountain tops; the greatest measure of growth is always in the valley. Our times in the valley are normally long and leave us feeling isolated. Interestingly enough, there is a great distance between the Valley Gate and the Dung Gate. Just like in life, our times in the valley can be extended times, but there is always a way out. Jesus has “overcome” this world (Lk 3:5).

Wednesday: Nehemiah 2:13
Nehemiah mentions the “Jackal Well” otherwise known as the “Serpents pool.” This pool is dried up now, but it was located about a half-mile west of the Valley Gate. There is little information about this well. Some feel that the well received its name from an earthquake that caused a spring to bubble up. The thought was that a dragon under the earth had created it (G.A. Smith). Isn’t it great to see that wives’ tales have been around forever?
A jackal is a slender dog that looks similar to a coyote, and to this day they are found around Jerusalem. They have haunted the Hinnom Valley, the valley on the west side of Mt. Zion, for years. Some believe that this is where the name “Jackal Well” comes from. The jackals would often dig up and eat the dead buried in the Hinnom Valley (E. W. G. Masterman). This is just like the enemy, isn’t it? In the “valley,” he loves to haunt us, to lie to us and tell us that we are alone, that death is coming for us, that there is no way out. But these are the lies of the enemy! Valley times can serve a purpose in our lives, but we must have a sound mind to know that there is always redemption for the lost, the lonely and afraid.

Thursday: Nehemiah 2:13
The next gate mentioned by Nehemiah is the Dung Gate. The Dung Gate was located at the southwest tip of the City of David. Its purpose was to remove the refuse from the city, hence the name, “Dung.” The application here has to do with the purging of sin, those things in our lives that spiritually pollute us. When we find ourselves in the valley, alone and scared, redemption is always just around the corner. We must take hold of the forgiveness God has for us through His Son. It always comes through the form of repentance. The Word says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Ac 3:19). God is never looking to shake a stick at us. He is asking for us to take hold of the purification that comes through His Son, so that He may be in communion with us. No matter how long you have been in the “valley,” no matter how far you have wandered, no matter what you have done, there is always a gate of purification open to allow each of us to come back into communion with Him.

Friday: Nehemiah 2:14
Then comes the Fountain Gate. The Fountain Gate was located just a little south of the Dung Gate, about 250 feet away. The only other gates located this close to each other were the Old Gate and the Ephraim Gate. They were about 120 feet apart on the northwest side of the city. The Fountain Gate was located right by the Siloam Pool. This is the pool where Jesus sent the blind man to go wash (Jn 9:7). The Fountain Gate’s spiritual application is easily applied to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit we are healed (like the blind man) we are empowered (like the disciples in Acts 2), and He restores us as we take hold of repentance. Each day we must take hold of this baptism, stir it up within us and walk in the power and freedom that comes from being baptized in the power of the Most High God. It is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit that we have the strength to overcome sin, to walk in righteousness and die to ourselves.

Saturday: Nehemiah 2:14-18
Nehemiah continued to take note of the condition of Jerusalem. Some parts were so damaged that he couldn’t even pass by, so he backtracked up the valley side of the wall before returning (Ne 2:14-15). Ezra had taken a large group of the exiled Jews back to Jerusalem 13 years before this time to rebuild the Temple. There were a number of Jews there who had rebuilt the Temple but then stopped and lived in the ruins (Ezr 7-10). Nehemiah came to restore the walls of Jerusalem and to restore Jerusalem to what it was supposed to be. The Jews that had returned came with the same plan to restore Jerusalem but fell short and then became familiar with the condition Jerusalem was in. It was desolate and without walls and gates. It took fresh eyes to see the condition things were in and to plan to fix them. In the same way, the Christian church in America is in the same place. We have made forward progress, but the mess can become so familiar so quickly. We have taken hold of repentance, we have taken hold of the power of the Holy Spirit and the power and healing that comes with it. However, we have also taken hold of our independence that is so ingrained in the American culture. God never made us to be independent; He made us completely dependent. We have changed Christianity to be ALL about a relationship with Christ. Yes, that is so needed and is the center focus, but we must not be like Ezra and the returning Jews, only taking hold of the Temple. We must see that God has called us to more than just relationship with Him but to relationship with others—to shed our familiarity with independence and take hold of the model that He has always shown us—relationship. We see it from the very beginning of the Christian Church in Acts 2:42-47. 

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