Then on he went until he came to the Gate of the Fountain, opposite the King’s Pool, or Pool of Siloam, which watered the king’s garden. But at this south-east corner the rubbish was so great that the mule he was riding on could not proceed. Pile upon pile of stone, heap upon heap of broken fragments of what had once been so magnificent, lay so thickly massed together that it was of no use attempting to ride further. So Nehemiah dismounted, and probably leaving his mule with some of his companions by the Gate of the Fountain, he went on foot a little further. Going up the Kedron valley he examined the eastern wall, which was in much better condition than the rest; and then, turning to the west, he came back to the rest of the party and returned with them to the Valley Gate.
Now Nehemiah has seen the work before him, and has realised that it is both vast and difficult. He is ready now to put his scheme before the people of Jerusalem. He finds the city governed by no single man, but by a kind of town council. He now summons a meeting of these rulers, and he also invites the nobles and the working men to be present. Then he makes his appeal:
’Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.’
Then, to cheer them on to make the effort, he tells them how God has helped him up to that point; he tells them what the good hand has done for him already in opening the king’s heart and the king’s purse.
What response does he meet with? As one man that large assembly rises and joins in the cry, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Happy Nehemiah to find such ready help, to find those he speaks to willing at once to fall in with his scheme, and to aid him in his work.
It is to be feared that had he lived in our more cautious and calculating days, Nehemiah would have had many a bucket of cold water thrown on him and his plan. One would have risen and would have said, ’The work is too hard, the heaps of rubbish are too great, it is impossible to undertake such a task. Look at the south-east corner, who will ever be able to clear away the heaps that have accumulated there?’
Another would have been sure to grumble at the expense, would have asked how they, poor down-trodden Jews as they were, could ever afford to give time or money to such a vast undertaking?
A third would have risen with a long face, and would have asked, ’What will Sanballat say if we rebuild the wall? What will Tobiah do? What will Geshem whisper? Now indeed we have no open rupture with the governors, but who can tell what the result of our taking action in this matter will be? Surely it is better to let well alone.’
A fourth would have given as his opinion, that what had served for 150 years would surely last their time. True, Jerusalem was forlorn and defenceless, but they had grown accustomed to it now. It struck Nehemiah, of course, coming as he did fresh from the glories of Shushan, but they had become used to it, and he would soon do the same. There was no need surely to make a disturbance about it or to run into any risk about it.