Let us take a walk round the walls of Jerusalem and watch the builders at work. We will begin where they began, ver. 1, at the Sheep Gate on the east side of the city. As we stand by the gate we see beneath us the Kedron valley, and beyond it the slopes of the Mount of Olives. Close by us, but inside the city, is the sheep-market, where the sheep and lambs are sold to those who wish to sacrifice in the temple, and near this market is the pool where the sheep are washed before being led up into the temple courts. This is the pool mentioned in John v. 2, where in later times lay the impotent man waiting to be healed.
Who are these who are busily engaged repairing the Sheep Gate and the wall beyond it; they are the priests, who have left their work in the temple courts close by, and who, with their loins girded and their long white tunics turned up, are leading, as it was right they should, the van of Nehemiah’s effort.
Heading these priests, and superintending their work, is Eliashib the high priest. The meaning of his name is God restores, a grand name for the man who began the restoration of the Holy City. This Eliashib was the grandson of the high priest Jeshua, who had returned with Zerubbabel. He is honourably mentioned by Nehemiah as leading the way in this work; but, sad to say, though he earnestly built the wall round the city, Eliashib was afterward the one who let sin come within those very walls.
The priests are building from the Sheep Gate as far as the two towers, Meah and Hananeel, which stood at the north-east corner of the city.
We pass on, and next we see a number of men building; we notice at once, by their dress, that they are not priests, so we ask them where they come from. We find they are men of Jericho, the city of palm trees, fourteen miles away in the Jordan valley. They are the descendants of the 345 men of Jericho who returned with the first detachment of Jews in the time of Cyrus. This piece of the wall has been allotted to them because it faces their own city Jericho; they are building at the very spot from which the road started that led from Jerusalem to Jericho.
Passing the Jericho men we come to a bit of the wall where one solitary man is working. His name is Zaccur. He can only have a small piece of the wall allotted to him, for we are close now upon the Fish Gate, where other builders are at work, the sons of Hassenaah. Possibly this Zaccur was a man of no importance, for we never hear of him again; probably his share of the work was only a small one, yet it was well and faithfully done, and his name stands fast in God’s honour list, and will stand there while the world shall last.
We have come now to the Fish Gate, on the north side of the city. Close by us is the fish-market, for through that gate comes all the fish sold in Jerusalem. Men of Tyre are there with baskets of fish from the Mediterranean, and Galilean fishermen with fish from the great inland sea, on which in later times the apostles toiled for their daily bread.