New Defender's Study Bible Notes
2:1 month Nisan. This would mean the first day of the month Nisan, which was the first month of the religious year of Israel. The twentieth year of Artaxerxes is generally accepted as 445 B.C., in terms of more or less standard secular chronology. This date is important as the starting date of the uniquely significant prophecy of the seventy weeks (see notes on Daniel 9:25-27).
2:1 wine. Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11), evidence of the high degree of trust placed in him by Artaxerxes. The use of poison as a means of assassination was common in antiquity.
2:3 lieth waste. Even though Ezra had been in Jerusalem for thirteen years, he had been so occupied with organizing the legal and judicial systems of Judah, as well as teaching the people their responsibilities under the laws of God, that he had not had time to deal with the infrastructure. The walls and other structures built many years previously had largely deteriorated, and the city was highly vulnerable to attack by its perennial enemies.
2:5 build it. Nehemiah’s request and commission were not to build the temple, which was already completed, but the city, especially its walls (compare Daniel 9:25).
2:6 the queen. This apparently arbitrary reference to the queen may have been inserted because she was Queen Esther. Some scholars believe her husband Ahasuerus was the same as Artaxerxes (both being titles rather than personal names). Others believe Artaxerxes was either Esther’s son or stepson. In any case, the reputation of Artaxerxes was unusually benign for an ancient emperor, and this may have been in part a result of Esther’s influence.
2:8 the king granted me. See Nehemiah 2:l. This important decree in effect started the divine clock for the prophesied time of Messiah’s first coming to Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25- 27).
2:9 sent captains of the army. Like Ezra thirteen years before (Ezra 8:22), Nehemiah did not request a military escort for his caravan. The king, however, solicitous of the safety of his friend, provided one anyhow.
2:10 Sanballat. Sanballat was governor of the Persian province of Samaria. His name has been found on one of the famous Elephantine papyri, dated 407 B.C.
2:10 the welfare of the children of Israel. Nehemiah had actually been appointed governor of Judah (Nehemiah 5:14).
2:13 dragon well. Some modern versions, with no real justification, translate this as “jackal well.” The Hebrew word, however, means “dragon,” or at least some kind of monster. Most likely it refers to dinosaurs, which survived into historic times and gave rise to the worldwide legends of dragons (see notes on Job 40:15). The dragon well was known as such by the Jebusites who inhabited the region long before its conquest by Israel. Quite possibly the well was given its name by the first inhabitants who migrated there after the dispersion from Babel, when dinosaurs frequented the spring.
2:19 Sanballat the Horonite. Sanballat was probably from a town named Horonaim in Moab and thus most likely was a Moabite. Tobiah was an Ammonite and Geshem an Arab. All three peoples were leaders of anti-Jewish regions and peoples adjacent to Judah and Jerusalem, fearful of the growing influence of the Jews.
2:20 The God of heaven. Nehemiah not only had authorization from the king of Persia, but from “the God of Heaven.” This latter phrase, as a name of the true God of creation, is used nine times in Ezra and four times in Nehemiah.