Three men, who were probably well-known citizens, are repairing the three next pieces of the wall, their names are Meremoth, Meshullam, and Zadok. We will notice one of these three men, Meshullam, for we shall hear more of him presently. If Meshullam’s name is honourably mentioned here as one of the builders of Jerusalem, we shall find it very differently mentioned as we go on with Nehemiah’s story.
Passing these three men, we come to a part of the wall which is being built by the inhabitants of Tekoa, a small village not far from Jerusalem, whence came the wise woman whom Joab sent to King David. What is the matter at this part of the wall? The work does not get on as it should. They seem to have no leaders, these people of Tekoa, and to have a long stretch of wall, and but few hands to build it. We ask how this is, and we find that some in Tekoa have shirked the work (ver. 5):
‘Their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.’
They have been like oxen, too idle to draw the plough, which have pulled their necks from under the yoke, and have stubbornly refused to go forward. So have these nobles of Tekoa stood aloof, too proud to work side by side with the common people of the village, or too idle to join in anything which requires continuous effort; they have left their poorer neighbours to bear the burden alone, and to do it or not as they please.
We are now passing the Old Gate, on the north of the city, the Damascus Gate of modern days, from which goes the great northern road to Samaria and Galilee.
The men of Gibeon and Mizpah, whose villages lay near together, we find next on the wall, working side by side as neighbours should, and building the part of the wall which faced their own homes, two villages standing on the hills about five miles from the northern gate.
Coming round the city we find ourselves passing the Gate of Ephraim and the Broad Wall. Here we see no workmen, for that part of the wall does not need repairing. Uzziah, King of Judah, had built a strong piece of wall here, about 200 yards long, and the Chaldeans had not been able to destroy it with the rest of the city. This wall was twice the thickness of the rest, and was always called the Broad Wall.
Near this wall we find men of two different trades working, goldsmiths and apothecaries. Trades in the East are almost always hereditary, passing down from father to son for many generations. Thus these goldsmiths and apothecaries were joined together in family guilds or unions, and came forward together to the work. The apothecaries were the spice makers, important persons in the East, where spices are so largely used in cooking, and where so many sweet-smelling and aromatic spices are employed in embalming the dead.