Nehemiah 3: Rebuilding the Wall

Nehemiah 3 says a lot more than we give it credit for!


Nehemiah 3 explains the process of rebuilding the wall. We are given the names of families and people who were in charge of each section of the wall. Reading the list was quite a struggle, for me. I kept wondering why we cared who built what and what the significance of this chapter truly was. reminds us that the lesson to be learned from this chapter is rooted in unity and cooperation. As the members of the body of Christ, we must each perform our duty for the body to function as a whole. I think there's more to it, however.

Importance of the Wall

Photocredit: Bertolino
Most ancient cities and nations have a wall around them—the Great Wall of China being the most famous. These walls protected citizens from outside invaders. Back then, there were no global councils (like NATO or the UN) to police behavior between countries. If a famine or drought struck, there was no Red Cross to bring supplies. Thus, leaders sought to make their empire as large as possible. If one portion of the kingdom was in drought, perhaps the other would not be. In addition, this provided the kingdom with riches and a larger army. Under this idealogy, small kingdoms were often absorbed in to these larger kingdoms, just as Northern Israel was taken by Assyria and Southern Israel was taken by Babylon. We don't think about wars like these often in the US because they aren't a threat to us, however, territorial wars still happen in world.

To protect their kingdoms, kings would build large walls around the cities to fortify them. These walls kept the enemy out, but were wide enough to allow the kings army to attack the enemy from atop the wall. This style of battle is highlighted in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, had such a wall before Babylon destroyed the city. The Israelites, specifically Nehemiah, knew that without rebuilding this wall, Judah could never stand as an independent kingdom. Not to mention, it left God's house vulnerable for attack.

Many people are described as simply working on the wall, but others are assigned specific parts of the wall. Those parts were the sheep gate, the fish gate, the old gate, the tower of the furnace, the valley gate, the dung gate, the gate of the fountain, the water gate, the horse gate, the east gate, and the gate Miphkad. What do these landmarks and gates mean? God wouldn't have preserved this information if it didn't matter. Jesus Plus Nothing lays out the meaning of each gate both in our personal journey and prophetically. I'm going to highlight some of these points below.

The Sheep Gate

Mentioned twice because it serves as the beginning and end of the wall, the sheep gate was built by Eliashib the high priest and the priests. Intuitively, the sheep gate is where they brought in sheep to be sacrificed at the Temple. We naturally assume this is linked to Jesus spiritually. The description of the work starts and ends here just like our world starts and ends with Jesus. Once we find Jesus, we take steps down a path to become closer to Jesus. The gates in between represent milestones on that journey. As we travel this path, various believers will help us move forward by steadying and fortifying that point of our faith. Most of us begin this journey with the encouragement of a pastor or priest, which makes it fitting that the priests were the ones in charge of building this gate.

The East Gate

The east gate is the gate through which Jesus entered the city (see Ezekiel 44:1-2). Many believe He will return through this gate, as well. During the rule of the Ottoman empire, the gate was sealed to prevent the Messiah from entering (little did they know He had already entered). This fulfilled Ezekiel's prophecy.

Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah is listed as the keeper of the gate. Shemaiah is a popular name in the Old Testament, so there are quite a few Shemaiah's mentioned. Nothing seems to explain why Shemaiah was given watch over this particular gate.

The Gate Miphkad

The final gate introduced is called Miphkad, which was thought to be the inspection gate.[3] This is likened to the judgement we will receive when Jesus comes back. No one is given charge of this gate, rather those working around this gate are mentioned. This is also fitting since only Jesus can exact judgment.

Work Together

Aside from giving us insight on our spiritual journey, this passage does focus on unity. These families came together to build the wall and succeeded. As a church family, we too, should be coming together to fortify a place for God in our hearts and the hearts of others. The Jews needed to protect a physical Temple, but we are to protect the Temple in our bodies. Each of us is better at something than our fellow believers, this is why it is important to fellowship with other believers. Together, we can fortify each other.

Did You Catch It?

The Bible is always lambasted as sexist, but there are some surprising passages about women that often go unnoticed. Once such passage is in Nehemiah 3:12. It wasn't just men who built the wall, Shallum's daughters also participated. This means they weren't sitting at home washing dishes and making sandwiches, nor were they restricted from working.


  1. Iain Gordon and Brett Wilton. "Bible Study on the Book of Nehemiah Chapter 3: The Gates of Jerusalem". Jesus Plus Nothing; visited April 2017
  2. Steven J. Cole. "Lesson 3: We Won! (Nehemiah 3:1-32)". August 16, 2013
  3. Isidore Singer, M. Seligsohn "Miphkad (R. V. Hammiphkad)". Jewish Encyclopedia; visited April 2017

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