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ASSUR-BANI-PAL AND HIS QUEEN.
(From the Tablet in the British Museum.)
MRs. O. F. WALTON
CHRISTIE'SS OLD ORGAN' 'A PEEP BEHIND THE SCENES'
SHADOWS' WINTER'S FOLLY ETC. ETO.
THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY
56 PATERNOSTER Row 65 ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD AND
THE CITY OF LILIES
THE KING'S TABLE
THE GOOD HAND
To EVERY MAN HIS WORK
THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL
THE WORLD'S BIBLE
TRUE TO HIS POST
THE PAIDAGOGOS .
THE SECRET OF STRENGTH
THE EIGHTY-FOUB SEALS.
THE BRAVE VOLUNTEERS
THE HOLY CITY
HAVING NO ROOT
THE OLDEST SIN
PLAN OF THE PALACE AT PERSEPOLIS.
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
(lTe ^City of lilies.
HE great Rab-shakeh, magnificently attired in all the
brilliancy of Oriental costume, is walking towards
the city gate. Above him stretches the deep blue
sky of the East, about and around him stream the warm
rays of the sun. It is the month of December, yet no
cold biting wind meets him, and he needs no warm
wraps to shield him from the frost or snow.
The city through which the Rab-shakeh walks is very
beautiful; it is the capital of the kingdom of Persia.
Its name is Shushan, the City of Lilies, and it is so
called from the fields of sweet-scented iris flowers which
surround it. It is built on a sunny plain, through
which flow two rivers,-the Choaspes and the Ulai; he
sees them both sparkling in the sunshine, as they wind
through the green plain, sometimes flowing quite close
to each other, at one time so near that only two and a
half miles lie between them, then wandering farther
away only to return again, as if drawn together by some
Then, in the distance, beyond the plain and beyond
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
the rivers, the great Rab-shakeh sees mountains, for a
high mountain range, about twenty-five miles from the
city, bounds the eastern horizon. He has good reason
to love those high mountains, which rise many thousands
of feet above the plain, for even in the hottest weather,
when the heat in Shushan would otherwise be unbear-
able, he can always enjoy the cooling breezes which
come from the everlasting snow-fields on the top of that
mountain range, and which blow refreshingly over the
sultry plain beneath.
The City of Lilies is a very ancient place. It was
probably built long before the time of Abraham. We
read in Gen. xiv. of a certain Chedorlaomer, King of
Elam, who gathered together a number of neighboring
kings, and by means of their assistance invaded Pales-
tine, and took Lot prisoner. This Chedorlaomer probably
lived by these very rivers, the Choaspes and the Ulai, and
Shushan was the capital city of the old kingdom of
Elam over which he ruled.
Later on the City of Lilies was taken by the Baby-
lonians. They had their own capital city, the mighty
Babylon, on the Euphrates. But although it was not
the capital, still Shushan was a very important place in
that first great world-empire. We find Daniel, the
prime minister, staying in the palace of Shushan, to
which he had been sent to transact business for the
King of Babylon, and it was during his visit to the City
of Lilies that God sent him one of his most famous
visions. In his dream he thought he was standing by
the river Ulai, the very river he could see from the
palace window, and before that river stood the ram with
the Lwo horns and the strong he-goat, by means of which
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THE CITY OF LILIES. 9
God drew out before his eyes a picture of the future
history of the world.
But the great Babylonian empire did not last long.
Cyrus the Persian took Babylon, Belshazzar was slain,
the great Assyrian power passed away, and the second
great world-empire, the Persian empire, was built upon
What city did the Persian kings make their capital ?
Not Babylon, with its mighty walls and massive gates, but
Shushan, the City of Lilies. They chose it as their chief
city for three reasons; it was nearer to their old home,
Persia, it was cooler than Babylon because of the neigh-
bouring mountains, and.lastly, and above all, it had the
best water in the world. The water of the river Choaspes
was so much esteemed for its freshness, its clearness,
and its salubrity, that the Persian kings would drink no
other; they had it carried with them wherever they
went; even when they undertook long warlike expeditions,
the water of the Choaspes was considered a necessary
provision for the journey.
The City of Lilies, in the days of the Rab-shakeh, was
a perfect fairy-land of beauty, surrounded as it was by
fruit-gardens and corn-fields; the white houses standing
out from amongst dark palm trees, and the high walls
encircled by groves of citron and lemon trees. As the
Rab-shakeh walks along the air is scented with their
blossoms, and with the sweet fragrance of the countless
Shushan lilies, growing beside the margin of the
Above him, in the midst of the city, stands his lordly
home. It may well be a magnificent place, for it is the
palace of the greatest king in the world, the mighty King
I0 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
of Persia. The palace in which the Rab-shakeh lives is
not the old palace in which Daniel stayed when he
visited Shushan; it is quite a new building, built only
forty years before by the great Ahasuerus, the husband
of Queen Esther. It was to celebrate the opening of
this gigantic palace that the enormous and magnificent
feast of which we read in Esther i., was given by the
Persian monarch, who was its founder.
This new palace was built on a high platform of stone
and brick, and the view from its windows of the green
plain, of the shining rivers, of the gardens filled with
fruit trees and flowers, and of the snow-clad mountains
in the distance, was magnificent in the extreme. In the
centre of the palace was a large hall filled with pillars,
one of the finest buildings in the world, and round this
hall were built the grand reception rooms of the king.
The ruins of Shushan, the City of Lilies, were discovered
by Sir Fenwick Williams in the year 1851, and the bases
of the very pillars which supported the roof of the great
Rab-shakeh's splendid home may be seen this very day
on the plain between the two rivers.
But who was this Rab-shakeh, and how came he to
live in the most glorious palace in the world ? He was
a Jew, a foreigner, a descendant of those Jews whom
Nebuchadnezzar took captive, and carried into Assyria.
Yet, although one of an alien race, we find him in one of
the highest offices of the Persian court, namely, the
office of Rab-shakeh.
This word Rab, so often found in the Bible, is a
Chaldean word which means Master. Thus, in the New
Testament, we find the Jewish teachers often addressed
by the title Rabbi, Master. But the title Rab was also
THE CI7Y OF LILIES. II
used in speaking of the highest officials in an Eastern
court. Three such titles we find in the Bible:
Jer. xxxix. 13. RAB-SAuIS, Master of the Eunuchs.
SERAB-MAG, Master of the Magi.
2 Kings xviii. 17. RAB-SHAKEH, Master of the Cup-
This last office, that of Rab-shakeh, was a very
important and responsible one. It was the duty of the
man who held it to take charge of the king's wine, to
ensure that no poison was put into it, and to present it
in a jewelled cup to the king at the royal banquets. It
was a position of great trust and power; great trust,
because the king's life rested in the cup-bearer's keeping;
great power, because whilst the Persian monarchs,
believing that familiarity breeds contempt, kept them-
selves secluded from the public gaze, and admitted very
few to their august presence, the cup-bearer had access
at all times to the king, and had the opportunity of
speaking to him which was denied to others.
Strange that a Jew, one of a captive race, should be
chosen to fill so important a post. But King Artaxerxes
knew his man. He felt he could trust him fully, and he
was not disappointed in his confidence, for the great
Rab-shakeh served a higher Master than the King of
Persia, he was a faithful servant of the God of Heaven.
The Rab-shakeh's name was Nehemiah, a name chosen
by his parents, not as a fancy name or as a family name,
but chosen for the same reason which usually influenced
Jewish parents in the selection of names for their
children, because of its beautiful meaning. Nehemiah
meant The Lord my Comforter.
What a sweet thought for Hachaliah and his wife as
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
they called their boy in from play, or as they put him
in his little bed and took leave of him for the night,
' The Lord is my Comforter.' Life in sunny Shushan
was surely no brighter than life in our more clouded
land; they had their times of sorrow as well as their
times of joy, they had their temptations, their cares,
their anxieties, and their trials, just as we have. How
blessed for them in one and all of these to be reminded
where true comfort was to be found, so that they might
turn to God in every time of grief with the name of their
little son on their lips, 'The Lord is my Comforter.'
What do we know of Nehemiah? Can we say from
our heart, The Lord is my Comforter?' I take Him
my every sorrow, I tell Him my every trouble. He
understands it, and He understands me, and He comforts
me as no other can. The Lord is indeed my Comforter.
So the little Nehemiah had grown up an ever-present
reminder in his parents' home of the comfort of God.
How many children Hachaliah had we are not told,
but Nehemiah had certainly one brother, Hanani.
There' had been some years before this a parting in
Hachaliah's family. Hanani, Nehemiah's brother, had
left Shushan for a distant land. Twelve years had
passed since all the Jews in Shushan had been roused by
the news that Ezra the scribe was going from Babylon
to Jerusalem, and that he was calling upon all who loved
the home of their forefathers to go with him, and to help
him in the work he had undertaken. Bad news had
been brought to Babylon of the state of matters in
Palestine; those who had returned with Zerubbabel were
not prospering, either in their souls or their bodies, and
Ezra, shocked by what he had heard, determined to go
THE CITY OF LILIES. 3
to Jerusalem that he might reform the abuses which had
arisen there, and do all in his power to rouse the people
to a sense of their duty. A brave company had set forth
with him. Eight thousand Jews had been ready to leave
comfort, luxury, and affluence behind, that they might
go to the desolate city, and endeavour to stir up its
people to energy and life.
One of the 8,000 who went with Ezra was Nehemiah's
brother, Hanani. It is possible that Nehemiah himself
was at that time too young to go; it is also probable
that Hachaliah, the father, having been born and brought.
up in Shushan, was hard to move. So Hanani set
forth alone, and the brothers were parted.
Twelve long years, and in all probability no news had
reached the family in Shushan of the absent Hanani. A
journey of five months lay between them and Jerusalem;
and in those days, when all the conveniences we enjoy
were unknown, they would not only never expect to meet
again, but they would also never anticipate the pleasure
of even hearing any news of each other, or of holding
the slightest communication.
But as the Rab-shakeh walks to the gate of Shushan,
on the day on which the story opens, he spies a caravan
of travellers coming along the northern road. They
have evidently come a long way, for they are tired,
exhausted, and travel-stained. The mules walk slowly
and heavily under their burdens, the skin of the
travellers is burnt and cracked by the hot sun of the
desert, their clothes are faded and covered with dust,
their sandals are full of holes.
Where can the caravan have come from ? Nehemiah
finds to his astonishment that it has come from
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
Jerusalem, the city of cities, as he had been taught to
believe it, and, to his still greater surprise, he finds
amongst the travellers his long-lost brother Hanani.
What had brought Hanani back from Jerusalem we are
not told; he may have wished once more to see his old
father Hachaliah; but we can well imagine the joy with
which he would be welcomed by all, and not the least
by his brother Nehemiah.
As they walk together through Shushan to the palace,
the Rab-shakeh asks anxiously after Jerusalem. Has
Ezra's work been successful? How are matters pro-
gressing? Are the people more in earnest? Is
Jerusalem thriving ?
But the travellers have a dismal tale to tell. Affairs
in the Holy City are about as bad as it was possible for
them to be.
Neh. i. 3: 'They said unto me, The remnant that
are left of the captivity there in the province are in
great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also
is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with
In other words, things are just where they were
twelve years ago; the people are miserable and de-
pressed, beset with countless troubles ; the city itself is
still an utter ruin, just as Nebuchadnezzar left it. The
temple, it is true, is built at last, but nothing more is
done; the walls lie just as they were when the city was
taken,-a mass of ruins; the gates are nowhere to be
seen, only a few blackened stones mark the place where
they used to stand.
The Rab-shakeh's heart is very heavy as he goes to
his rooms in the royal palace. What terrible news he
THE CITY OF LILIES.
has heard! Jerusalem is still, after all Ezra's efforts to
restore it, a desolate ruined city. Nehemiah is full of
sorrow, sick at heart, overwhelmed with disappointment
But he remembers his own name and its warning,
Nehemiah, The Lord is my Comforter. At once, without
a moment's delay, he goes to his Comforter. He weeps,
he mourns, he fasts, and he pours out all his sorrow to
God. As a child runs to his mother, and pours into her
ear his grief or his disappointment, so Nehemiah hastens
to his God.
We walk through a splendid conservatory, the pride
and glory of a nobleman's garden; we admire the flowers
of all shades of colour; rare blossoms from all parts of
the world, ferns of every variety, palms, and grasses,
and mosses, and all manner of natural beauties meet
our eye at every turn. What is that plant standing in a
conspicuous place in the conservatory ? It is a beautiful
azalea, covered with hundreds of pure white blossoms.
But there is so much else to see in that conservatory
that we scarcely notice it as we pass by. Nor are we at
all surprised to see it there; it is just the very place in
which we should look for such a plant. Nor are we
astonished to find it so flourishing and so full of bloom,
for we know that everything in that conservatory is
calculated to improve its growth, the atmosphere is just
what it should be, not too dry or too damp, it has
exactly the right soil, the proper amount of light, the
most carefully regulated heat; it has in fact everything
which it ought to have to make it a flourishing' -hd
beautiful plant. Accordingly we are not surprised to
find it full of bloom and beauty.
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
But suppose, on the other hand, that walking through
the slums of London we see a similar sight. In one of
the closest, most filthy courts we see, in a garret window,
a white azalea full of flowers, pure as the untrodden
Now indeed we are surprised to see it, for it is in the
most unlikely place; there is nothing to favour its growth,
the air is foul, the light is dim, everything is against it,
yet there it stands, a marvel of beauty! And we look at
it and say, 'Wonderful!'
Surely we have even now seen the white azalea in the
garret. For where should we expect to find a man of
God ? Dwelling in the holy temple in Jerusalem,
surrounded by everything to remind him of God,
breathing in the very atmosphere of religion, with godly
people all around him, with everything to help him to
be holy and pure, no one would be astonished to find a
man of God in such a place as that.
But here is Nehemiah the Rab-shakeh, living in a
heathen palace, in the midst of a wicked court, sur-
rounded by drunkenness, sensuality, and all that is
vile and impure, breathing ,in the very atmosphere of
sin, yet we find him a plant of the Lord, pure as the
azalea, a mnan of faith, a man of prayer, a holy man of
God. With everything against him, with nothing to
favour his growth in holiness, he is a flourishing plant
in the garden of the Lord. So it ever is. The plants
of God's grace often thrive in very unlikely places.
There was a holy Joseph in the court of Pharaoh, a
faithful Obadiah in the house of wicked Jezebel, a
righteous Daniel in Babylon, and saints even in Csesar's
YHE CITY OF LILIES.
Are we ever tempted to say, I cannot serve the M aster
faithfully? If I were in another position, if my home
life were favourable to my becoming decided for Christ,
if I had different companions, different occupation,
different surroundings, then indeed I would grow in
grace, and bring forth the fruit of a holy life. But as I
am, and where I am, it is a simple impossibility; I can
never, under existing circumstances, live near to God,
or be what I often long to be, a true Christian.
What does the Master say as He hears words like
these? 'My grace is sufficient for thee.' As thy day
so shall thy strength be.'
Even in most unlikely and unfruitful soil God can
make His plants to grow and flourish. Where I am,
and as I am, and with exactly the same surroundings
as I now possess, God can bless me, and give me grace
to serve and to glorify Him. If I do not become a
flourishing plant, it is not my position that is to blame,
it is because I will not seek that grace which the Lord
is ready to give me. 'Ye have not, because ye ask not.
Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.'
i(1e JAinig's able.
T was midnight in London, in the year 1665. The
houses were closed and barred, but strange lurid
fires were lighted in every street, a stifling odour of
burning pitch and sulphur filled the air, and from time
to time came the heavy rumble of wheels, as a terrible
cart, with its awful load, passed by in the darkness of
the night. With the cart came a cry; so loud, so clear,
so piercing, that it could be heard in all the closed
houses of the street. 'Bring out your dead, bring out
your dead!' Then, one door after another was hurriedly
opened, and from the plague-stricken houses one body
after another was brought out, and was thrown hastily
into that awful dead cart.
Bring out your dead! what a solemn, terribly solemn
cry! How it must have filled with awe and dread all
who heard it! And if that call were repeated, if the holy
angels of God were to go through the length and
breadth of our land, and, stopping before each house,
were to cry to those within, Bring out your dead, bring
out your dead,' not your dead bodies, but your dead
souls; bring out all in your house who are not alive
unto God, who are dead in trespasses and sins, how
THE KING'S TABLE.
many would have to be carried out of our houses?
Should we ourselves be left behind? Are we alive or
The angels have not yet come to sever the dead from
the living, but the time for that great separation is
drawing daily nearer, when the Son of man shall send
forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His
kingdom all things that offend; all the loathsomeness of
death, and decay, and' impurity shall be collected by
angel hands, and, we read, they shall cast them, not into
a vast pit such as was dug in London in the time of
the plague, but into a furnace of fire, there shall be
wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Surely, then, it is worth while to find out whether our
soul is alive or dead. What test then shall we use?
How shall we settle the matter clearly and definitely ?
There is one thing, and one thing only, which proves
that a, man has life. A man apparently drowned is
brought out of the water. He does not speak, or see,
or move, or feel. He is rubbed and warmed, but no sign
of life can be perceived. Can we therefore conclude
that the man is dead? Nay, we will put him to the
test. Bring a feather, hold it before his mouth, watch
it carefully, does it move? A crowd of anxious
bystanders gather round to see. Soon a cry of joy is
heard, the feather moves. The man lives, for he
breathes, and the breath in him is the unmistakable
sign of life.
How then shall I know if my soul lives? Does it
breathe ? That is the all-important question. But
what is the breath of the soul? The breath of the
soul is prayer. As the old hymn says-
20 ITHE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
'Prayer is the Christian's vital breath,
The Christian's native air.'
Saul of Tarsus, with all his outward religion, was a
dead soul, till the Lord met him and gave him life.
What then is the first thing we find Saul doing?
'Behold he prayeth.' As soon as he is alive, he
breathes, he prays.
Here then is the test for us to apply to our own souls.
Do I know anything of real prayer ? Do I love to hold
communion with my God ? Am I ever lifting up my
heart to Him ? If I live in the atmosphere of prayer,
then I am alive unto God; if, on the other hand, I feel
prayer a weariness, and know not what it is for my
heart to hold unseen intercourse with my Lord, then
indeed I am dead in sin, having no breath, and I have
consequently no life.
Nehemiah, the great Rab-shakeh, was a living soul,
for he loved to pray. No sooner had he heard the sad
news about Jerusalem, than he went to his private
apartments in the palace, and began to plead with
God. He feels that all the trouble that has come upon
his nation has been richly deserved, so he begins with a
humble confession of sin.
Let Thine ear now be attentive, and Thine eyes open,
that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thy servant, which
TIpray before Thee now, day and night, for the children
of Israel Thy servants, and confess the sins of the
children of Israel, which we have sinned against Thee.'
And then, coming nearer home, he adds, 'both I and
my father's house have sinned.'
Was it some special sin which he confessed before God
then ? Can his sin, and the sin of his father's house,
TIE KIIG'S TABLE.
have been the refusing twelve years ago to leave home
and comforts behind them, and to return with Ezra to
Then Nehemiah pleads God's promises to His people
in time past, and ends by definitely stating his own
special need and request (Neh. i. 8-11).
By day and by night Nehemiah prays, and nearly four
months go by before he does anything further.
The next step was not an easy one. He had deter-
mined to speak to the great Persian monarch-to bring
before him the desolate condition of Jerusalem, and to
ask for leave of absence from the court at Shushan, in
order that he might go to Jerusalem, and do all in his
power to restore it to something of its former grandeur.
It is not surprising that Nehemiah dreaded this next
step. The Persian kings had a great objection to being
asked a favour. Xerxes, the husband of Queen Esther,
when on his way to Greece with his enormous army,
passed through Lydia in Asia Minor. Here he was
feasted and entertained by a rich man named Pythius,
who also gave him a large sum of money for the expense
of the war, and furnished five sons for the army. After
this Pythius thought he might venture to ask a favour
of the Persian monarch, so he requested that his eldest
son might be allowed to leave his regiment, in order that
he might stay at home to be the comfort and support of
his aged father. But, instead of granting this very
natural request, Xerxes was so much enraged at having
been asked a favour, that he commanded the eldest son
to be killed and cut in two, and then caused his entire
army to file between the pieces of the body.
Artaxerxes, the king whom Nehemiah served, was
22 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
considered one of the gentlest of Persian monarchs, and
yet even he was guilty of acts of savage cruelty, of which
we cannot read without a shudder. For example, when
he came to the throne, he found in the palace a certain
eunuch named Mithridates, who had been concerned in
his father's murder. He condemned this man to be put
to death in the most horrible and cruel way. He was
laid on his back in a kind of horse-trough, and strongly
fastened to the four corners of it. Then another trough
was put over him, leaving only his head and hands and
feet uncovered, for which purpose holes were made in
the upper trough. Then his face was smeared with
honey, and he was placed in the scorching rays of the
sun. Hundreds of flies settled on his face, and he lay
there in agony for many long days. Food was given
him from time to time, but he was never moved or
uncovered, and it was more than a fortnight before death
released him from his sufferings.
It was the very king who had put one of his subjects
to this death of awful torment before whom Nehemiah
had to appear, and of whom he had to make a request.
No wonder, then, that he dreaded the interview, and that
he felt that he needed many months of prayer to make
him ready for it. It was in the month Chisleu (Decem-
ber) that Hanani had arrived, it was not until Nisan
(April) that he made up his mind to speak to the king.
Before leaving his room that morning, he knelt down,
and put himself and his cause in the Lord's hands,
Neh. i. 11.
Then, attired in his official dress, the Rab-shakeh
sets forth for the state apartments of the palace. The
central building of that magnificent pile in which the
THIE KING'S TABLE. 23
king held court was very fine and imposing, as may be
seen to-day from the extensive ruins of Shushan. In
the centre of it was the Great Hall of Pillars, 200 feet
square. In this hall were no less than thirty-six pillars,
arranged in six rows, and all sixty feet high. Round this
grand hall were the beautiful reception rooms of the
king, and these were carefully arranged, in order to
ensure perpetual coolness even in the hottest weather.
There was no room on the hot south side of the palace,
but on the west was the morning room, in which all the
morning entertainments were held, whilst the evening
banqueting hall was on the eastern side. By this
arrangement the direct rays of the sun were never felt
by those within the palace. Then, on the cool northern
side was the grand throne room, in which the king sat
in state, and through which a whole army of soldiers,
or an immense body of courtiers, could file without
the slightest confusion, entering and leaving the room
by stone staircases placed opposite each other. The
steps were only four inches in depth and sixteen feet
wide, and were so built that horsemen could easily
mount or descend them.
Into one of the grand halls of the palace Nehemiah
the cup-bearer enters. The pavement is of coloured
marble, red, white, and blue; curtains of blue and
white, the Persian royal colours, drape the windows and
are hanging in graceful festoons from the pillars; the
fresh morning breeze is blowing from the snow-clad
mountains, and is laden with the scent of lemons and
oranges, and of the Shushan lilies and Persian roses in
the palace gardens.
There is the royal table, covered with golden dishes
711E ZINKG'S CUPb'EARER.
and cups, and spread with every dainty that the world
There is the king, a tall, graceful man, but with one
strange deformity-with hands so long that when he
stood upright they touched his knees, from which: he
had received the nickname of Longimanus, the long-
He is dressed in a long loose robe of purple silk, with
wide sleeves, and round his waist is a broad golden
girdle. His tunic or under-garment is purple and white,
his trousers are bright crimson, his shoes are yellow,
and have long pointed toes. On his head is a curious
high cap with a band of blue spotted with white. He is
moreover covered with ornaments: he has gold earrings,
a gold chain, gold bracelets, and a long golden sceptre
with a golden ball as its crown.
The king is sitting on a throne, in shape like a high-
backed chair with a footstool before it. The chair stands
on lion's feet, and the stool on bull's feet, and both are
made of gold.
By the king's side sits the queen; her name was
Damaspia, but we know little more of her in history,
except that she died on the same day as her husband.
Behind the king and queen are the fan-bearers, and fly-
flappers, and parasol-bearers, who are in constant
attendance on their royal majesties, and around are
the great officers of the household.
Fifteen thousand people ate the king's food in that
palace every day, but the king always dined alone. It
was very rarely that even the queen or the royal children
were allowed to sit at the king's table, which is probably
the reason why Nehemiah mentions the fact that the
TIE KING'S TABLE.
queen was sitting by him. Perhaps he hailed the
circumstance as a proof that the king was in good
humour that day, and would therefore be more likely to
listen to his petition. But no one who was not closely
related to the king was allowed to sit at the royal table,
even the most privileged courtiers sat on the floor and
ate at his feet.
The feast has begun, and it is time for the Rab-shakeh
to present the wine to the king. He takes the jewelled
cup from the table in the king's presence, he carefully
washes it, then he fills it with a specially rare wine,
named the wine of Ielbon, which was kept only for the
king's use. This wine was made from a very fine growth
of grapes, at a place in the Lebanon not far from
Damascus, named Helbon. Then Nehemiah pours a
little wine into his left hand and drinks it, and then,
lightly holding the cup between the tips of his fingers
and thumbs, he gracefully presents it to the great
Artaxerxes glances at his cup-bearer as he rises from
his knees, and at once notices something remarkable in
his face. N.F-. 1, ,Ili is pale and anxious and troubled;
his whole face tells of the struggle going on within, and
the king cannot fail to perceive it. Turning to the Rab-
shakeh he asks: Why is thy countenance sad, seeing
thou art not sick ? this is nothing else but sorrow of
heart.' 'Then,' says Nehemiah,' I was very sore afraid.'
It is no wonder that he was alarmed, for it was actually
a crime, proscribed by law, for any one to look sad or
depressed in the presence of a Persian king. However
heavy might be his heart, however sorrowful his spirit,
he must cross the threshold of the palace with a smiling
TIHE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
face, and show no signs in the king's presence of the
trouble within. But Nehemiah's face has betrayed him.
What will the king do? Will he dismiss him from
office? Will he degrade him from his high position?
Will he punish him for his breach of court etiquette?
Or can it be that this is a heaven-sent opportunity in
which he may make his request ? He answers at once:
'Let the king live for ever : why should not my coun-
tenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers'
sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are con-
sumed with fire?'
And the king, quite understanding from Nehemiah's
speech that he wants something from him, asks imme-
'For what dost thou make request?'
Oh, what a critical moment! How much depends on
Nehemiah's answer to this unexpected question! What
shall he say? What dare he propose? The whole
future of Jerusalem may hang on his answer to the
There is a moment's pause, but only a moment's, and
then Nehemiah's answer is given. Only a moment, and
yet great things have been done in that short time. 'I
prayed,' says the Rab-shakeh, 'to the God of Heaven.'
Did he then rush away to his own apartment to pray ?
Did he kneel down in the midst of the banqueting hall
and call upon his God.? No, he spoke no word aloud,
he did not even close his eyes. The king saw nothing,
knew nothing of what was going on; yet a mighty
transaction took place in that short time between the
silent man, who still stood holding the cup in his hands,
and the King of Heaven.
THE KING'S TABLE. 27
We are not told what the prayer was, perhaps it was
only,' Lord, help me.' But quick as lightning the answer
came. His fear fled, wisdom was given him to answer,
and his heart's desire was granted.
How often we hear the complaint, I cannot pray long
prayers, like the good people I read of in books. I lead
a busy active life, and when work is done my body is
weary and exhausted, and I find it impossible to pray
for any length of time, and sometimes I fear that because
I cannot offer long prayers I cannot therefore be the
Lord's.' But surely it is not long prayers that the Lord
requires. Most of the Bible prayers are short prayers,
the Lord's pattern-prayer is one of the shortest. It is
the heathen who think they will be heard for their
much speaking. Nehemiah's was a true prayer, and an
answered prayer, yet it was but a moment in length.
Nor are uttered words necessary to prayer. The
followers of Baal cried aloud, thinking their much
shouting would reach the ear of their god, but Nehemiah
speaks not, does not even whisper, and his prayer is
heard in heaven. Surely now-a-days, when there are
some who seem to think that much noise, that loud
shouting, that the uplifted voice must needs pierce the
sky, it is well for us to be reminded that God heeds no
language, hears no voice, but the l.,ii.u0_..- of the soul,
the voice of the innermost heart.
Nor is posture a necessary part of prayer. Some
choose to pray standing, others prefer to kneel. It is not
the posture of body God looks at, but the posture of the
heart. Reverence there must be, but such reverence as
comes from the inner sanctuary of the soul, and which
only finds outward expression in the body. Nehemiah
28 7/IE KIN''S CUP-BEARER.
stood with the jewelled cup in his hands, yet Nehemiah's
prayer was heard.
So we see that heartfelt prayer-prayer which is
prayer indeed-may be short, silent, and offered in a
strange place and at a strange time, and yet be heard
and answered by God.
Let us try to grasp the full comfort of this thought,
for we live in a world of surprises. We rise in the
iii..:iiir, not knowing what the day may bring forth.
We are walking on a road with many turnings, and we
never know what may meet us at the next step !
All of a sudden we find ourselves face to face with an
unexpected perplexity. What shall we do? What
course shall we take? Here is the little prayer made
ready for our use-
Lord, guide me.
Then, at the next turn, comes a sudden temptation.
Unjust, cruel words are spoken, and we feel we must
give an angry reply. Let us stop one moment before
we answer, and in that moment put up the short
Lord, help me.
Or a sudden danger, bodily or spiritual, stares us in
the face. At once we may lift up the heart and cry-
Lord, save me.
There is no need to kneel down, no need to speak
aloud, no need to move from our place. In the office,
the workshop, the schoolroom, the place of business, the
railway carriage, the street, wherever we may be and in
whatever company, the short silent prayer may be sent
up to the God of heaven.
Thank God, no such prayer is ever unanswered I
(Epe (oob fianb.
r"HE mighty universe, the great empire of the King
S1, of kings, who shall give us even a faint idea of its
It has been calculated that about 100,000,000 stars
can be seen from our world by means of a telescope.
Yet who can grasp such a number as that ? Which of
us can picture in his mind 100,000,000 objects ? Let
us suppose that instead of 100,000,000 stars we have
the same number of oranges; let us arrange our oranges
in imagination on a long string, which shall pass through
the centre of each of them. How long will our string
have to be if it is to hold the 100,000,000 oranges ? It
will have to be no less than 6,000 miles long, and our
100,000,000 oranges will stretch in a straight line from
England to China.
One hundred million stars, and of all these God is
King. But these are but as a speck compared with His
vast universe. Each telescope that is invented, which
enables us to see a little further into space, discovers
more and more worlds unseen before. Who can even
guess how many still lie beyond, unseen, unnoticed,
unheard of? The regions of space are endless, as God
their Maker is endless.
And all these countless worlds are under the eye of
30 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
the King of kings. He rules all, watches all, guides all.
Can I, then, believe that He will have time to take
notice of my tiny affairs? Can He care if I am sick,
worried, or poor, or depressed ? Surely I must be ready
to say with the Psalmist-
'When. I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy
fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast
ordained, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him?
and the son of man, that Thou visitest him ?'
Yet that quaint old saying of John Flavel the
Puritan is right, 'The man who watches for Providence
will never want a Providence to watch.' In other words,
he who trusts his concerns to a higher power, he who
puts his cause in the Lord's hands, will never be
disappointed. The God who rules the universe will not
forget to attend to him, but will watch him, and guide
him, and help him, as tenderly as if he was the only
being in that universe.
St. Augustine used to say, 'Lord, when I look upon
mine own life, it seems Thou hast led me so carefully
and tenderly, Thou canst have attended to none else; but
when I see how wonderfully Thou hast led the world
and art leading it, I am amazed that Thou hast had
time to attend to such as I.'
How much more must we wonder at God's loving
care, when we look beyond this tiny world to the
countless millions of worlds in the universe !
Nehemiah was watching for Providence. He had
taken his case to God, he had trusted all to Him, and
Nehemiah did not want a Providence to watch; the
God in whom he had put his confidence did not
THE GOOD HAND.
'Let me go that I may rebuild Jerusalem,' says the
cup-bearer; and the great Persian king does not refuse
his request, but i'_!':,[''iT.1, it may be, by the queen
who was sitting by him) he asks: 'For how long shall
thy journey be ? and when wilt thou return?'
'And I set him a time.' How long a time we are not
told. Nehemiah did not return to Persia for twelve
years; but it is probable that he asked for a shorter
leave of absence, and that this was extended later on,
in order to enable him to finish his work.
Cheered and encouraged by the king's manner, feeling
sure that God is with him and is prospering him,
Nehemiah asks another favour of the king. The Persian
empire at that time was of such vast extent, that it
reached from the river Indus to the Mediterranean, and
the Euphrates was looked upon as naturally dividing it
into two parts, east and west. Nehemiah asks, ch. ii. 7,
for letters to the governors of the western division of
the empire, that they may be instructed to help him
and forward him on his way.
He asks, ver. 8, for something more. There is a
certain man named Asaph, who has charge of the king's
forest or park (see margin of R.Y.). The real word
which Nehemiah used was paradise-the king's paradise.
The derivation of the word is from the Persian words
Pairi, round about, and Deza, a wall. Up and down
their empire, in various places, the Persian kings had
these paradises-parks or pleasure grounds-surrounded
and shut off from the neighboring country by a high
fence or wall. These paradises were places of beauty
and loveliness, where the king and his friends might
meet and walk together, and enjoy each other's society.
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
Is not this the Lord's own picture of the place He
went to prepare for His people ? Did He not say to the
thief on the cross, 'To-day thou shalt be with Me in
Paradise?' It was a new name taken by our Lord from
these paradises of the Persian kings, and given by Him
to that new place which He went to prepare for His
people, even the Garden of the Lord, the pleasure ground
of the King of kings, the place to which His people go
when they die. There they enjoy His company, and
see His face, and walk with Him and talk to Him,
waiting for that glorious day when they shall pass from
the garden of the King into the palace itself.
We are not told where this particular paradise was,
of which Asaph was the keeper, but probably it was the
place which the kings of Judah had always made their
pleasure ground. This was at Etam, about seven miles
from Jerusalem, where Solomon had fine gardens, and
had made large lakes of water, fed by a hidden and sealed
Solomon himself twice used the word paradise of his
gardens, and these are the only places in which the word
occurs in the Old Testament, except in Neh. ii. 8.
Solomon says, Eccles. ii. 5, 'I made me gardens and
paradises.' In Cant. iv. 13 he speaks of a paradise of
pomegranates, with precious fruits.'
For three purposes Nehemiah wanted wood from
Asaph's paradise, and asked the king to give him an
order for it, that he might deliver to the keeper.
He wanted it (1) for the gates of the palace of the
house. The house means the temple, and the palace
should be translated the castle. It was a tower which
stood at the north-west corner of the temple platform,
THE GOOD HAND.
and commanded and protected the temple courts. (2) He
required wood for the gates of the wall, and (3) for 'the
house that I shall enter into,' i.e. for my own dwelling-
All is granted-the royal secretaries are called, and
are bidden to write the required instructions to the
governors beyond the river, and to Asaph, the bailiff of
the forest. Nehemiah takes no credit to himself that
all has gone so prosperously, he does not praise his own
courage, or wisdom, or tact in making the request, he
knows it is a direct answer to a direct prayer, he recog-
nises the fact that it is God's doing, and not his.
'The king granted me, according to the good hand of
my God upon me.'
That was Ezra's motto, quoted by him again and
again (Ezra vii. 6, 9, 28; viii. 18, 22, 31). In all his
deliverances, in every one of his mercies, he had seen
the good hand of his God, and he had taken those words,
'The good hand of my God upon me,' as the keynote of
his praise, and as the motto of his life. But Nehemiah
had in all probability never even seen Ezra, yet here we
find him quoting Ezra's favourite saying. Can it be
that Hanani, his brother, who had been one of Ezra's
companions, had repeated it to him? Can it be that in
order to cheer and encourage his brother when he under-
took the difficult task of speaking to the king, he told
him how Ezra was always repeating these words, and
how he found them a sure refuge in time of need ? If so,
how gladly would Nehemiah hasten to his brother when
his duties in the palace were completed, to tell him that
Ezra's motto has held good again, for 'the king granted
me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.'
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
'The good hand of my God.' What blessed words !
Let trouble come, or temptation come, or death itself
come, I will not fear. The good hand of my God is over
me. None can pluck me from that hand. 'All my
times are in Thy hand, 0 Lord,' and are safe there from
even the fear of danger. Oh, how blessed to be one so
sheltered, so shielded, underneath the good hand of my
God But the same hand is against them that do evil.
I must either be in the hand, or have the hand raised
against me! Which shall it be ?
All is ready now, the preparations are ended, and
Nehemiah, accompanied by his brother Hanani, and by
a royal escort of soldiers, sets forth on his long journey.
Jerusalem, the City of David-how often he had dreamt
of it, how earnestly he had longed to see it Now, at
last, his desire is to be granted. The travellers could
not sing, as they rode slowly over the scorching desert,
'Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem,' for
the gates of the city were burned with fire, and only a
blackened space showed where each had stood, but they
may have joined together in that other psalm, which
was probably written about this time, Psalm cii.
Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the
time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.
'For Thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and it
pitieth them to see her in the dust.'
There is no misadventure on the journey, they travel
safely under the care of the king's guard; but surely
Nehemiah saw a dark cloud on the horizon as he handed
in his letters to the governors beyond the river. One
of these was Sanballat, the satrap or governor of
Samaria. His name was an Assyro-Babylonian one,
THE GOOD HAND. 35
so that he was probably descended from one of the
Babylonian families settled in Samaria, and it signifies
'The Moon God gives life.' His native place was
Horonaim in Moab. and Sanballat was by nation a
descendant of Lot.
With the Samaritan governor was his secretary
Tobiah, the servant or the feud slave, a man also
descended from Lot, for he was an Ammonite, and
standing evidently very high in Sanballat's favour.
It was probably Tobiah who read Artaxerxes' letter
to his master, and very black and gloomy were both
their faces as they heard the news it contained.
At the court of Sanballat was a friend of his, Geshem
the Arabian, the head or chief of a tribe of Arabs, which
we find, from the ancient Assyrian monuments recently
discovered, had been planted in Samaria by Sargon,
King of Assyria. This man Geshem was therefore a
Bedouin, a descendant of Esau.
These three, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, cannot
conceal their disgust that anyone has been sent from
Persia to look after the welfare of Jerusalem. So far
they have trampled the Jews under foot as much as
possible, and the Jews have been powerless to resist
them. But now here is a man come direct from the
court at Shushan, with letters from their royal master
in his hand, and with orders to rebuild and fortify
From that moment Sanballat and his friends became
Nehemiah's bitter enemies, determined to thwart and to
oppose him to the utmost of their power.
At length the wearisome journey is over, and Nehemiah
arrives in Jerusalem. He tells no one why he has come;
36 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
but, worn out with the fatigue he has undergone, he
goes quietly to the house of a friend, probably to that
of his brother Hanani, and for three days he rests
there. Then, on the third night after his arrival, when
all Jerusalem is asleep, he rises, mounts a mule or
donkey, and, with a few faithful followers, steals out to
explore for himself the extent of the ruin, to see how
things really were, what was the state of the walls, and
how much had to be done to put them into good repair.
Stealing out of the city on the south side, at the spot
on which in better days the Valley Gate had stood, a gate
which was so called because it opened into the Valley of
Hinnom, he turned into the ravine, and went eastward.
No doubt there was a moon, and by its quiet light he
could see the heaps of rubbish, and the work of the fire
which had destroyed the gates 150 years ago. How sad
and forsaken it all looked in the moonlight, as he turned
'towards the Dragon's well' (see Revised Version). The
site of this Dragon's Well is very uncertain, but it is
generally identified with Upper Gihon. It is sometimes
confounded with the Virgin's Fount, called by the Arabs
the Mother of Steps, because there are twenty-seven
steps leading down to it, and the descent is very steep.
This is the only spring near Jerusalem, and its water is
carried by an underground passage to the Pool of Siloam.
It is an intermittent spring, suddenly rising and as sud-
denly falling, at irregular intervals. Two explorers, Dr.
Robinson and Mr. Smith, were just about to measure the
water, when they found it suddenly rising; in less than
five minutes it had risen a foot, in ten minutes more it
had ceased to flow, and had sunk to its former level.
The common people believed in olden time, and believe
I -. -- I
__ p1, II .
"I ; Ft~~; ..I ."IF:jII
jM ,''FilIII :11111
XtCo.- ER Gb
TIIH KING'S CUP-BEARER.
Now Nehemiah has seen the work before him, and has
realized 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
openir g 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
Shard, 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 ?
THE GOOD L4AND.
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.
A fifth would have suggested, with some warmth, that
surely old inhabitants of the city were better judges of
its requirements than a stranger, and that it was for the
town council to propose such a scheme if they saw the
necessity for it, and not for a new-comer who had been
less than a week in Jerusalem.
These, and countless other objections, might have
been raised, had the meeting been called in our luke-
But the Jerusalem committee did not act thus, they
did not fill Nehemiah's way with difficulties and his soul
with discouragement. A plain bit of work lay before
him and before them; he was ready to lead, and they
were ready to follow. 'Let us rise and build,' they cry.
And 'they strengthened their hands for this good work.'
Let us take heed that we, as servants of Christ, follow
their example. Let us never be seen with the bucket of
40 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
cold water, ready to throw on the efforts of others for
good. As 'iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth
the countenance of his friend.' Let us ever be ready
with the word of encouragement, with the helpful hand,
with the cheering spirit of hope. There is work for us
amongst the ruins of God's fair world, and the labourers
Let us then rise and build, each of us in earnest, each
of us encouraging his brother, each of us looking beyond
the discouragements of earth to the Master's 'Well done,
good and faithful servant.'
Eo fverp MIlan izs Worl0.
; ,'NE a year, in the University of Cambridge, there
Q i- a grand day called Commemoration Day. On
that day, in the middle of the service, in each
college chapel a list of honours is read out, a list
containing the names of all those who, in times gone by,
gave money or help to that college. The bodies of those
whose names are read have many of them crumbled to
dust long centuries ago, but their names are remembered
still, remembered for what they have done; and that
they may never be forgotten, they are publicly read
aloud, year by year, on the great Commemoration
Let us now take up God's honour list, and see who
are entered upon it. We shall find it filled with the
names of those who have been dead more than 2000
years, but whose names are not forgotten; they stand
out fair and clear in the Book of God, all are entered on
the great list of honours, and are remembered for what
they have done.
Where shall we find God's great honour list? It is
the list of all those who responded to Nehemiah's appeal,
and who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. In Neh. iii. we
THE XIAG'S CUP-BEARER.
have a list of their names, not one is omitted. There
those names have stood for 2000 years; there they will
stand to the end of time. Brave men, noble men were
those Jews, who, as soon as the scheme was laid before
them, cried, 'Let us arise and build;' and who not only
responded by word of mouth, but who at once set to
work to do what they had promised.
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
TO EVERY MAN HIS WORK.
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 faith-
fully 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
44 TIHE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
the great inland sea, on which in later times the
apostles toiled for their daily bread.
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 MIeshullam'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
They have been like oxen, too idle to draw the 1.1,:-,1.o!.
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
TO EVERY MAN HIS WORK.
which goes the great northern road to Samaria and
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 E -1. where spices are so
largely used in cooking, and where so many sweet-
smelling and aromatic spices are employed in embalming
Then, passing on, we see the tower which protected
the furnaces or brick kilns, in which the bricks were
made which had been used in rebuilding the houses of
the city. So unsettled was the country, that it is
supposed it was found necessary to erect a tower for the
defence of these brick-makers, who were often at work
THEE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
by night as well as by day. Close to the furnace tower
we see a strange sight, and one which is well worthy of
our notice. This part of the wall deserves our earnest
attention, for here are actually young ladies engaged in
the work, standing, trowel in hand, toiling away side
by side with the other workmen. Who are these girls ?
They are the daughters of Shallum, the ruler of the half
part of Jerusalem (ver. 12) (or rather of the country
round Jerusalem). Shallum was evidently a wealthy
and influential man, but he did not. withdraw from
the work, like the nobles of Tekoa, and so anxious
are his daughters that the Lord's work should be done,
that here we find them toiling away by their father's
side. God noticed the effort made by these young
ladies of Jerusalem, and did not forget to notice them
in His great honour list.
Passing on, we come to the part of the wall which
Nehemiah had examined in his moonlight ride. We see
the Valley Gate, the Dung Gate, and the Gate of the
Fountain, opposite the Pool of Siloam. This part of
the city has suffered much from Nebuchadnezzar's work
of destruction, and the work of rebuilding it is therefore
very heavy. But close to the south-east corner, at the
place where Nehemiah's mule stumbled and was unable
to proceed, the builders have a stiff piece of work indeed.
The piles of rubbish are so many and so deep, there is
so much to be cleared away before they can commence
building, that we find accordingly the piece given to
each man to repair is not great, and that many hands
are making the labour light.
We notice, too, that most of those who are working
in this part of the city are repairing that bit of the wall
TO EVERY MAN IIIS WORK
which is immediately opposite their own houses. No
less than six times we are told that the builder's own
house was close to the part of the wall he built.
One man we cannot help watching as we turn round
towards the eastern wall. His name is Baruch, and
there is something about him which attracts our
attention at once. He works as if he were working for
his life, he does not lose a moment; whoever is absent,
Baruch is always at his post; whoever is idle, Baruch
is ever hard at work, early in the morning and late at
night, when the hot sun is scorching the city and when
the night dews are falling, Baruch is always busy,
toiling away on the wall with all his might and main.
Ver. 20 tells us he earnestly repaired.' The word means
to be hot, to be on fire with zeal and energy. He
Earnestly repaired the other piece,' or as it would be
better translated another piece.' Having finished his
own portion, in another part of the wall, Baruch has
come to the rescue at the south-east corner, where the
rubbish is deepest and the work is hardest. Baruch
therefore receives the mark of distinction on God's list
of honour. Round the corner, on the eastern wall, one
builder we cannot pass without notice, for he is an old
white-headed man. His name is Shemaiah the son of
Shechaniah. We find this man mentioned in 1 Chron.
iii. 22 as a descendant of King David. His son Hattush
had returned with Ezra, twelve years before; now here
is the old man himself, determined not to let his white
hairs prevent him from helping on the good work (ver.
29). He builds by the gate which was his charge, the
Golden Gate, at the east of the temple court and facing
the Mount of Olives.
48 YIIE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
The last piece of the wall is being done by the goldsmiths
and the merchants; and now, as we pass them, we find
ourselves again at the Sheep Gate, at the very spot from
which we started in our walk round the city.
Listen to the ring of the trowels, hearken to the
shouts of the workmen, as they call to one another and
cheer each other on in the work. From morning till
night, day after day, the trowels are kept busy, and the
work goes on, and already, as we watch, we begin to see
the gaps filled up and the ruin of many years repaired.
It was the work of the Lord, a grand work, a glorious
work, which those builders of Nehemiah were doing, and
God noticed and marked, and put on His list of honour
every one who joined in it.
Times have changed, manners have altered, kingdoms
have.passed away, since the eastern sun streamed upon
Nehemiah's workmen, but there is still work to be done
for the Lord. The Master's workshop is still open, and
the Master's eye is still fixed on the workers, and He
still enters the name of each in a register, His great list
of honour, kept not in earth, but in heaven.
Is my name then on God's honour list? Am I
working for Him? Am I to be found at my post;,
faithfully carrying out the work He has given me to
Looking at the walls of Jerusalem, surely the Lord
would have us learn three great lessons.
(1) Who should work.
(2) Where they should work.
(3) How they should work.
Whio should work ? What say the walls of Jerusalem?
Everyone without exception. Do ~e not see people of
TO EVERY MAAN HIS WORK. 49
all classes at work-rich men and poor men, people of
all occupations, priests, goldsmiths and apothecaries,
and merchants? men of all ages, the young and strong,
and the old and white-headed? those from all parts of
the country-men of Jericho, and Gibeon, and Mizpah,
side by side with inhabitants of Jerusalem ? people of
both sexes, men and women ? The goldsmith did not
say, 'I don't understand building, therefore I cannot
help.' The apothecary did not object that it was not
his trade, so he must leave it to the bricklayers and
masons. Old Shemaiah did not say, 'Surely an old
white-headed man like myself cannot be expected to do
anything.' The men of Jericho did not complain that
they were fourteen miles from their home, and that
therefore it would be inconvenient for them to help.
The daughters of Shallum did not say, 'We are women,
and therefore there is nothing for us to do.'
But all came forward, heartily, willingly, cheerfully,
to do the work of their Lord.
There is only one exception, only one blot on the
page, only one dark spot on the register. The nobles of
Tekoa, for 2000 years their names have stood, enrolled
as the shirkers in God's grand work.
Who then are to work for God? Every one of us,
whoever we are, whatever is our occupation, whatever
our place of residence, whatever our age, whatever our
sex, the motto in God's great workshop remains the
same-'To every one his work,' his own particular work,
to be done by him, and by no one else.
Where then shall we work? Imitate Nehemiah's
builders; those living in the city built each the piece of
wall before his own door, those living outside built the
IHE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
part of the wall facing their own village, whilst the
priests built the piece nearest to the temple. Let us
then, as God's workers, begin at home, working from a
centre outwards; our own heart first, surely there is
plenty of work to do there; then our own family, our
own household, our own street, our own congregation,
our own city, our own country, letting the circle ever
widen and widen, till it reacheth to the furthest corner
of God's great workshop, to the uttermost parts of the
How then shall we work ? Like Baruch, the son of
Zabbai, hot with zeal, on fire with earnestness and
energy. Baruch did not saunter round the walls to
watch how the other builders were getting on; he stuck
to his post. Baruch did not work well one day and lie
in bed the next, he persevered steadily and patiently.
Baruch did not work as if he were trying to make the
job last as long as possible, idly pretending to work,
but dreaming all the time, but he worked on bravely,
earnestly, unceasingly, till the work was done. So let
us work while it is called to-day, for the night cometh
when no man can work.
It was no easy work those Jerusalem builders had.
Outdoor work in the East is always hard and heavy; it
is no light matter to stand for hours in the scorching
sun without a particle of shade, toiling on at heavy and
unaccustomed work. But the builders bravely endured,
and were stedfast in the work, and they have their
reward. Their names stand on God's honour list, not
even the most insignificant amongst them is omitted.
Workers for God, does the work seem hard ? Are the
difficulties great ? Are you weary and faint as you keep
TO EVERY MAN HIS WORK. 51
at your post? Does the hot sun of temptation often
tempt you to throw up the work ? Think of Nehemiah's
builders. Hold on, cheer up, work well and bravely,
remembering that the reward is sure. We read of
certain people who lived at Philippi whose names were
written in heaven. Who were these? (Phil. iv. 3.)
St. Paul tells us; they were his fellow-labourers, the
workers of God in that city.
No human hand, no hand of angel or archangel,
enters the names on that register, for it is the Lamb's
book of life. None but the Lamb can open it, none but
He can write in it, none but He will read its contents in
the ears of the assembled universe.
What an honour, what a wonderful joy, what a
glorious reward it will be to each faithful worker, as
he hears his own name read from the list! Surely it
will well repay him for all he has undergone in the
working days of earth.
SIe Srorb anb tfe lCrowdl.
HE sea is calm and quiet, blue as the sky above it,
not a wave, not a ripple is to be seen; it is smooth
as polished silver, shining like a mirror, and
peaceful as the still lake amongst the mountains. On
the sea is a boat, floating along as quietly and as gently
as on a river. The man in the boat is having an easy
time, as he rows out to sea, almost without an effort.
But what is that in the far distance ? It is a black
cloud, rising from the sea. In a little time the wind
begins to moan and sigh, white lines are seen on the
distant water, a storm is coming, and coming both
swiftly and surely. The man in the boat at once
rouses himself and prepares for action; it was an
easy thing to go forward when all was still, he will
find.it a very different matter to meet the rising storm.
So found Nehemiah the governor. Up to this time
all had gone smoothly and easily, the king had granted
his request fully and freely, Asaph had given him the
wood from the royal paradise, the committee, composed
of the leading men in Jerusalem, had at once fallen in
with his scheme, the people, great and small, men and
THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL. 53
women, old and young, had responded to his appeal, the
walls were being rebuilt, the trowels were busy, the
rubbish was being cleared away, and all was bright,
cheerful, and encouraging. As Nehemiah walks round
the city directing the builders, dressed, as a Persian
governor, in a flowing robe, a soft cap, and with a gold
chain round his neck, he feels his work both easy and
pleasant. It is always a light task to direct and
superintend those who have a mind to work, and
Nehemiah for some time went peacefully on his way,
as the man in his boat rowed easily along in the still,
But what is that dark cloud rising north of Jerusalem ?
What is that moaning, muttering sound in the far dis-
tance? Can it be a storm coming, a terrible storm of
opposition and difficulty ? Surely it is, for we see
Nehemiah rousing himself, and preparing to row his
frail boat through troubled waters.
Signs of the approaching storm had indeed been seen
by him, before the first stone had been placed on the
city wall. No sooner had he revealed his plans to the
people of Jerusalem, no sooner had they responded,
'We will arise and build,' than something had occurred
which might well make Nehemiah feel uncomfortable.
A messenger had appeared at the northern gate, bearing
in his hand a letter, written on parchment, and ad-
dressed to the Tirshatha, or governor. Nehemiah
opened the roll, and found it contained an insulting
message from Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, a
message which was evidently expressed in very scornful
and unpleasant words. The upshot of the letter was
this (ii. 19):
TIE AIVG'S CUP-BEARER.
What is this thing that ye do ? will ye rebel against
Do you, Nehemiah, intend to fortify Jerusalem, and
then set up the standard of rebellion against Persia?
Our master, the king, may be deceived by you, but I,
Sanballat, see through your hypocrisy and your wicked
Nehemiah's answer was clear and to the point. Three
things he would have Sanballat know:
(1) We have higher authority than that of man for
what we do.
'The God of heaven, He will prosper us.'
(2) We intend to go on with our work in spite of any-
thing you may say or do.
'We His servants will arise and build.'
(3) It is no business or concern of yours. You,
Sanballat, have nothing whatever to do with it.
Ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jeru-
Be content then, Sanballat, to manage your own
province of Samaria, and to leave Jerusalem and the
Jews to me and to their God.
No answer came back to Nehemiah's letter, and
perhaps he and his companions fondly dreamed that
this was an end to the matter, that the storm had blown
over, and that Sanballat, when he saw that they were
determined, and that they did not heed his threats or his
ridicule, would in the future let them alone.
But one day, quite suddenly, the clouds returned, and
the storm rose. The work is progressing splendidly.
The priests and the merchants, and the goldsmiths and
the apothecaries, the daughters of Shallum, earnest
THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL. 55
Baruch, and white-headed Shemaiah, are all at their
post, when suddenly, as they look up, they see an
unexpected sight. A great crowd of Samaritans is
gathered together outside the northern wall, and is
standing still, staring at them, and watching their every
movement as they build the wall.
Sanballat the governor is there, Tobiah the secretary
stands by his side, his chief counsellors have come with
him, as have also the officers of his army. Dark and
thick the storm is gathering, and surely the builders
feel it, for the trowels cease their cheery ringing sound,
and all are listening, waiting and wondering what will
The silence is broken by a loud scornful voice, loud
enough to be heard down the line of workers, and by
Nehemiah as he stands among them. He knows that
voice well; it is the voice of Sanballat the governor. In
scoffing disagreeable words he is speaking to his com-
panions, but he is talking about the builders, and is
talking for their benefit too, that they may feel the full
sting of his sarcastic words.
'What do these feeble Jews ?' A poor weak, miserable
down-trodden set of men; what can l1. .'. do ?
Will they fortify themselves ?' Do they fondly dream
they will ever finish their work, and fortify their city ?
And how long will it take to build walls like these ?
Do they think it will be done directly? 'Will they
sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day ?' Do they
expect to offer the sacrifice at the commencement of their
work, and then the very same day to finish it ?
Why, they have not even the necessary materials.
Where will they get their stone from ? Are they going
56 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
to do what is impossible, to make good, solid building-
stone out of the heaps of rubbish, the crumbling burnt
masses which are all that remain of the old walls ?
'Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of
the rubbish which are burned?'
Then when Sanballat had done speaking, there follows
the loud coarse sneer of Secretary Tobiah. Why if a
fox (or jackal) tries to get over their miserable wall,
even his light foot will break it down.
'Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall
even break down their stone wall.'
We can picture to ourselves the burst of laughter with
which this speech would be hailed by the bystanders,
the officers and courtiers of Sanballat.
What does Nehemiah answer ? How does he reply to
this cruel ridicule, these sharp, cutting, insolent words,
that provoking laughter?
If we study Nehemiah's character, we shall find that
he was a man of quick feelings and of a sensitive nature.
He was not one of those men who are so thick-skinned
that hard speeches are not felt by them. He was
moreover a man of great power and spirit. He must
have felt much inclined to give Tobiah the bitter retort
he so richly deserved, or to call upon his men to drive
Sanballat and his party from the walls.
But Nehemiah speaks not. He does not utter a single
word to Sanballat or to his friends. He remembers that
this is God's work, not his; and he therefore complains
to God, not man:
Hear, 0 our God; for we are despised: and turn their
reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey
in the land of captivity.'
THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL.
Then, quietly and steadily, as if nothing had happened,
he takes up his work again, and the people follow his
example; they take no notice of the jeering company
below, but they build on in silence, all the quicker and
the more carefully for the scoffs of their enemies.
Sanballat and Tobiah soon tire of laughter and
mockery, when they see it is of no avail; they move
off discomfited, and the work goes on as before.
Satan, the great enemy of souls, is the same to-day
as he was in Nehemiah's time. He never lets a good
work alone; he never permits Christ's servants to row
in smooth water, but immediately he sees work done for
the MIaster, at once he stirs up the storm of opposition.
The young man who is careless about eternity, who
is living simply to please self, has an easy time; he will
not come across even a ripple of opposition, his sea will
be smooth as glass. But let that young man be aroused,
be awakened, be converted to God, let the good work of
grace be begun in his soul, and at once Satan will stir
up the storm of difficulty and opposition. Very often it
begins, just as Nehemiah's storm began, in laughter. It
has been said that laughter hurts no one. That state-
ment might be true if we were all body, but inasmuch
as we have a spirit within us, it is not true that laughter
cannot hurt. Surely it stings, and cuts, and wounds
the sensitive soul, just as heavy blows sting, and cut,
and wound the body. Satan knows this, and he makes
full use of the knowledge.
The man who sets out for heaven will scarcely fail,
before he has gone many steps, to come across a
Sanballat. He will have his taunt and jest all ready.
What is this I hear of you ? Have you turned a saint ?
THE KING S CUP-BEARER.
I suppose you are too good for your old companions
now; you are going to set the whole world to rights.'
Or, if the words are unspoken, Sanballat has the shrug
of the shoulders, and the scornful gesture, which are
just as hard to bear. Nor must the man who has his
face heavenwards be surprised if he hears Tobiah's
sneer. 'Ah, wait a bit,' says Tobiah; 'let us see if it
will last. Even a fox will throw down that wall; the
very first thing that comes to vex him, the very first
temptation, however small, will be sufficient to overturn
the wall of good resolutions, and his religious professions
will lie low in the dust, and will be shown to be nothing
It is well to be prepared for Sanballat and Tobiah,
for any day we may come across them. How shall we
answer them ? Let us follow in Nehemiah's footsteps,
let us turn from man to God. He hears the taunt, even
as it is spoken, and He says to each of His tried,
'For My Name's sake, canst thou not bear that taunt,
That cruel word?
Is not the sorrow small, the burden light,
Borne for thy Lord?
For My Name's sake, I see it, know it all,
'Tis hard for thee,
But I have loved thee so, my child, canst thou
Bear this for Me ?'
Sanballat and Tobiah have moved away from the
walls of Jerusalem, and the work goes on prospering;
the gaps are being filled up, and already the wall is half
its intended height (iv. 6), for the people had a mind
to work, and much can be done in a short. time when
THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL. 59
that is the case. Not a word more has, for some time,
been heard of Sanballat, and perhaps the builders
fancied and hoped they had seen the last of their
enemies, when one day, suddenly, dreadful news is
brought into the city.
Sanballat and his friends, having failed to stop the
work by laughter and mockery, are going to take
stronger measures, and have agreed to resort to force.
Dark secret plots are being formed to gather an army
together, and to come suddenly upon the defenceless
builders and kill them at their work.
All the surrounding nations are invited to join
Sanballat in his enterprise. Not only the Samaritans
in the north, but the men of Ashdod from the west, the
Arabians from the south, and the Ammonites from the
east, are gathering together against Jerusalem. Psalm
lxxxiii. is supposed by many to have been written at this
time, and describes the great storm as it arose, and
threatened to destroy the defenceless city (Psalm lxxxiii.
Poor Nehemiah! he sees the raging of the waters, and
he feels that the little boat needs a careful hand at
the helm. He has a double receipt against this new
opposition-a receipt which may be summed up in the
two words which the Mi-,tr: has given us as our watch-
word-Watch and pray.
'Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and
set a watch against them day and night.'
But the billows rose higher. Three mighty waves
came sweeping on, and threatened to swamp Nehemiah's
(1) The builders grew discouraged and tired. The cry
60 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
was raised inside the city, 'We had better give up
attempting to work, the rubbish is too deep, it will never
be cleared away, the men who are carrying it away are
worn out, we cannot build the wall, it is of no use to try
Ver. 10: 'And Judah said, The strength of the bearers
of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so
that we are not able to build the wall.'
(2) News was brought in from all sides, that any day,
any night, at any moment, a sudden attack might be
expected, for their enemies were boasting loudly to all
they met that they were confident of taking the builders
Ver. 11: 'And our adversaries said, They shall not
know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them,
and slay them, and cause the work to cease.'
And not only was there discouragement inside the city
and threatened danger without, but the number of hands
was lessened upon the city wall, for (3) men arrived from
different parts of the country, saying that it was abso-
lutely necessary that their brethren who had come up
to work on the wall should at once return home. They
were needed to guard their families and their homes
from the approaching foe. Ten times over Nehemiah
received deputations of this kind (ver. 12); and the
spirits of the builders sank lower and lower.
But Nehemiah, like a true leader, rises to the occasion,
and does not allow himself to be cast down. He did not
make light of the difficulties he saw around him, but he
manfully faced them, and in the hour of trial his people
did not desert him.
One day, ver. 14, looking towards the north, Nehemiah
THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL. 61
suddenly saw the enemy coming. But all was ready;
the weapons were laid where they could be taken up in a
moment. No sooner is the alarm given than the work
ceases, and the whole company of builders is changed
into an army of soldiers, and swords, and spears, and
bows are to be seen on the walls instead of trowels and
hammers. Nehemiah had carefully arranged the position
which each man was to occupy; he drew up his soldiers
after their families, probably giving to each family the
part of the wall nearest to their own house, that they
might feel that they were fighting for their homes, their
wives, and their children. Then when all were put in
readiness Nehemiah called upon them to be brave in the
defence of their city, and not to fear the foe.
Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which
is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your
sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.'
The enemy approaches; but instead of taking Jerusa-
lem by surprise, as they had boasted they would, they
find they are expected, and will meet with a warm
reception if they advance farther. They are afraid to
make the attempt; God guards the faithful city, and
Sanballat and his allied forces withdraw discomfited.
No sooner has the enemy beaten a retreat than the work
'We returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his
But, from that time, the sword and the trowel must
never be parted. Each builder worked with a sword
hanging by his side; each porter held a hod in one hand,
and a weapon in the other. They were always on the
alert, ever ready for action.
62 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
Nehemiah had brought with him from Shushan a
large following of faithful servants or slaves ; on these he
could thoroughly rely. He divided them into two parties,
half worked at the building, filling up the gaps left by
those who had returned home; the rest stood behind
them, guarding the weapons, the shields, and the spears,
and the bows, and the swords which were laid ready for
immediate use. By Nehemiah's side stood a trumpeter,
ready to blow an alarm at the first sight or sound of the
For, says Nehemiah, I said unto the nobles, and to
the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is
great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one
far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the
sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us : our
God shall fight for us.'
So the work and the watching went on all day long,
and when the sun set over the Mediterranean, and the
stars came out in the quiet sky, and darkness made the
work impossible, still the watching went on as before.
Those who had laboured at the building all day lay
down and slept, whilst others kept guard on the wall.
The workmen who lived outside the walls were requested
by Nehemiah to stay in the city all night, in order to
increase the strength of their force. As for the governor
himself and the little body of faithful servants, they
gave themselves hardly any rest, either by night or by
day. They were almost always on duty, not one of them
even undressed all that long time of watching; if they
laid down to sleep, they laid in their clothes, ready at
any moment for the attack of the enemy (chap. iv. 23).
Thus, day by day, the work grew and the walls rose
THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL. 63
.higher, strong lines of defence once more encircled the
city, and the prayer of the captives in Babylon, offered
so earnestly and amongst many tears, was already
receiving an abundant answer.
'Do good. in Thy good pleasure to Zion, build Thou
the walls of Jerusalem.'
The scene changes. Nehemiah and his workmen fade
away; the walls of Jerusalem become dim and obscure,
and, in their place, we see coming out, as in a dissolving
view, other figures and another landscape. We see the
Master, Christ Jesus, standing in the midst of His
countless labourers and workmen, the great company of
His faithful servants. We notice that each one is
working busily at the special work the Master has
given him to do, we see that this work is very varied,
no two labourers have exactly the same task. But in
one respect we notice that all the Master's servants are
alike, they all carry a sword, for it is not possible for
any one to be a worker for Christ without also being at
the same time a soldier.
Nor is it difficult to see the reason of this, for, if
we serve Christ, we are certain to meet with opposition.
The mighty hosts of hell will come against us, to hinder
and to oppose us.
Let us, then, be prepared for their attack. Let us
set a watch against them. Satan and his forces always
watch for our weakest point. Let us find out what that
point is. What is the weak part of our defences? Is
it selfishness ? Is it pride ? Is it prayerlessness ? Is
it temper ? Is it an unkind spirit ? Whatever it is by
which we are most easily led astray, that is our weak
spot, and there we ought to set a double watch. David
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
had his weak spot, and he knew it: unguarded, hasty
words were ever coming out of his mouth, but he found
out the weak point in his defences, and there he set
a strong and powerful guard. He called upon God
Himself to keep out the enemy at that weak place:
'Set a watch, 0 Lord, before my mouth. Keep the
door of my lips.'
Let us not only watch, but let us ever be ready to
fight. Never let us lay down the sword of the Spirit,
or the shield of faith. Never for a moment let us put
off our armour, for we never know when the next attack
may come. The unguarded moment is the moment for
which Satan always watches, and which he knows only
too well how to use.
Above all, let us pray, for the watching and the
fighting will be of no avail unless we ask and obtain
strength from on high. 'Our God shall fight for us,'
cried Nehemiah to his discouraged men. But they had
prayed day and night for the help which bore them
safely through. 'Ye have not, because ye ask not.
Ask, and ye shall receive.'
SChristian, seek not here repose,
Cast thy dreams of ease away,
Thou art in the midst of foes,
Therefore, Watch and pray.
Gird thy heavenly armour on,
Wear it ever night and day,
Near thee lurks the evil one,
Therefore, Watch and pray.
Qe IDorflbs Tible.
GREAT cry, a piercing cry, raised by hundreds of
Voices, a cry which resounds through the streets of
the city, and which is echoed by the surrounding
hills. What can be the matter? What can be the
cause of this mournful wail?
There was a great cry in Egypt on that awful night,
when there was not a house in which there was not one
dead. That was the great cry of terror.
Esau raised a great cry when he found that he
had lost his father's blessing, the great cry of
There arose a great cry in the council chamber of
Jerusalem, when the Apostle Paul stood before his
judges,-the cry of conflicting opinion.
But the great cry which is sounding in our ears now
is no cry of terror or of disappointment, and the men
who join in it are all of one mind; yet the cry is none
the less bitter or heartrending. As we listen to it, we
can distinguish the shrill voices of women mingled with
the deeper ones of men, and we notice also, that,
although the cry is one of sorrow and distress, there is
a deep undertone of anger and complaining.
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
Who are crying, and what is the cause of their
distress? Who are crying? An excited mob of men
and women, standing in the streets of Jerusalem.
Look at them well, surely we know some of their faces.
Is it possible, can it be, that we recognize some of those
whom we saw working so happily and cheerfully on the
walls? What a change, what a terrible change in their
What is the cause of their distress? What can
have happened to move them so deeply? Have the
Samaritans returned to attack the city ? Are the walls
on which they have spent so much labour overturned
and laid low in the dust ? No, all without is peaceful,
there is no sound of war in the streets, and the hills
around stand out brightly in the sunshine, and are
untrodden by the foot of any foe. The trouble is at
home this time, and as poor Nehemiah listens to the
dismal noise, and as he tries to still the shrill cries, that
his voice may be heard, and as he watches the people
rocking to and fro, as Easterns do when moved by
sorrow, he may well feel downcast and disappointed,
for a city divided against itself cannot stand, and as
Nehemiah listens to the cry, he clearly sees that, at
that moment, Jerusalem, the city he loves best on earth,
is indeed a divided city.
Who then were these citizens of Jerusalem, these men
and these women, who raised the great cry ? They were
the poorer classes of the city; it was a cry of the poor
against the rich, a cry like that which was raised all over
France at the time of the French Revolution, a cry for
Nehemiah listens carefully to the cry and complaints
THE WORLD'S BIBLE.
of the people, and as he does so he feels sure they are
not raised without cause. There is undoubtedly great
and distressing poverty in the city, and he finds that this
may be traced to three principal causes.
(1) The King of Persia had only allowed the returned
captives a very small tract of country to live in. The
rest of the land was filled up by the Samaritans, the
Arabians, the Edomites and other nations who had
settled in Palestine whilst the rightful owners were in
Babylon. Consequently, as their families increased, the
Jews found this narrow strip of country was not sufficient
to maintain them, and, as is always the case, over-
population and over-crowding was followed by great
(2) Then there had evidently been a severe famine,
which had made matters worse, for there had been
numbers of mouths to feed and barely anything to feed
them on. No country is more subject to famine than
Palestine, for the harvest there is entirely dependent on
the rainfall. There are but few springs, there is no river
but the Jordan, and that runs in a deep ravine; the
whole fertility of the country hangs on the amount of
rain that falls in autumn and winter. No rain means no
corn, no corn means starvation, and the people know it
well. Nowhere on earth are there such fervent prayers
for rain, prayers which are offered by Turk, Jew, and
Christian alike, as there are in Palestine to this very
day, if the rainy season is passing away and a sufficient
quantity of rain has not fallen.
(3) Then Nehemiah found there was a third cause of
distress. Every year, in addition to earning money to
keep his wife and children alive, the poor man had to be
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
ready for a visitor, and this visitor never received a very
hearty welcome. Once a year there arrived at his door
an official sent by the King of Persia. He was the tax-
collector, sent to collect the tribute which had to be paid
yearly to their master, the great sovereign at Shushan.
Whatever else went unpaid, that tribute must be paid;
whatever other debts they incurred, that sum must be
paid in full, and paid at once.
Over-population, famine, tribute, it was no wonder
that the people were so poor.
But the great cry in the streets of Jerusalem was not
merely a cry of suffering and distress; it was an angry
complaining cry; it was the cry of those who felt that
others were to blame for their sorrows.
As Nehemiah walks amongst the weeping crowds, and
as he talks to the people one by one, he finds that there
are no less than three sets of complainants.
(1) There are the utterly poor people, those who have
no private means whatever, but who are entirely
dependent on the work of their hands and on the wages
they get for that work. These come to Nehemiah and
pour out their sorrowful tale. 'We,' they say, 'have
large families, for
'We, our sons, and our daughters, are many.'
But 'Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of
them,' so runs the Psalm, and are not children a heritage
and gift that cometh of the Lord ? Yet when the quiver
is more than full (for a quiver only held four arrows), and
when bread is scarce and work bad, it needs faith to trust
the children which the Lord has given to His care, and
to feel sure that He who sent them will send the bread
to feed them.
THE WORLD'S BIBLE.
'Now,' say these overburdened parents to Nehemiah,
'we cannot let our children starve. We have been
building this wall and earning nothing, but we have had
to eat all these weeks; we have been obliged to take up
corn for our families lest they should die, and the
consequence is we have run very heavily into debt'
(ver. 2). That was the first class of complainants.
(2) But amongst the weepers Nehemiah found a
second class, those who had once been somewhat better
off, and had, in happier days, owned a little property,
and had some means of their own, but who, at the time
of the late famine, had got into difficulties. I,' said
one,' had a little farm in a village near Jerusalem.' 'I,'
said another, 'was the owner of a nice little vineyard or
oliveyard on the hill side,' 'I,' said a third, 'built a
house in the city on my return from captivity, and hoped
to leave it to my children.' But so terrible was our
distress in the famine,' say these men, that we were
obliged to borrow money of our neighbours the rich
Jews in Jerusalem. They were willing to lend the
money, but they required security for it, and we were
compelled to pledge or mortgage our little property to
these men, and now times are still bad, and we see no
hope whatever that we shall be able to buy our little
possessions back again' (ver. 8).
(3) But the shrillest cries of all came from the third
class of complainants. These were men who, up to a
certain point, resembled the second class. They had
once possessed a little property, but in the time of
famine they had parted with their lands, their houses,
and their vineyards like the rest. But the story of the
third class did not end here, these had since then got
THIE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
into still worse difficulties. The tax-collector had come
round to collect the tribute for Artaxerxes, and he had
demanded immediate payment. They had, however,
nothing to give him. What could they do ? They were
obliged once more to borrow money of their rich
neighbours, who lent it to them at the rate of 12 per
cent. (one eighth part of the money to be paid
monthly). And what pledge, what security did these
nobles require for their money ? The poor people had
already lost their houses and their vineyards, there was
nothing left to them but their children, and actually the
son or the daughter was pledged or mortgaged to the
rich money-lender. If the heavy interest is not paid, at
any moment the child may be seized, and carried off to
the noble's house to be brought up as a slave. Nay,'
cry some of the mothers in the crowd, 'our case is worst
of all; some of our daughters have been taken as slaves
already, and we have no power to redeem them. Yet
we love our children just as much as these rich people
love theirs, they are just as dear to us as theirs are to
them' (ver. 5).
'And then,' says Nehemiah, 'when I had heard their
cry and listened to their tale, I was very angry.' But
surely it was wrong of Nehemiah to be angry. Is not
anger a bad thing ? Is it not one of the works of the
devil, which we are bidden to lay aside ?"
Yet what says St. Paul ? 'Be ye angry, and sin not.'
So it is possible to be angry, and yet to be sinless. And
we read, 1Vark iii. 5, that, in the synagogue at Capernaum,
the Lord Jesus looked round on the hard-hearted
Pharisees with anger; and in Him was no sin.
Nehemiah was very angry, yet Nehemiah sinned not
THE WORLD'S BIBLE.
in being so, for it was anger at sin, anger at the wrong-
doing which was bringing disgrace on his nation, anger
at the conduct which was offending God and doing harm
to God's cause. It was righteous anger against the
cruelty and selfishness of those who, in those hard
times, had profited from the poverty and distress of
their poor fellow countrymen.
For some time N-i.: i i1, did nothing, but he carefully
turned the matter over in his mind. He says, I consulted
with myself,' or as it is in the margin, 'My heart
consulted in me.' We can picture him pacing up and
down, saying again and again, What shall I do ? What
is the wisest course to take ? How can this great evil
be stopped ? Doubtless, too, he took this trouble, as he
had taken all his other anxieties and cares, and laid it
before the God of heaven.
Then he sends for the nobles and all those who had
oppressed the people, and he gives them very plainly
his mind on the matter:
'I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto
them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother.'
And thereby they had broken the law, for no Jew was
allowed to take interest, or increase, of another Jew,
much less to exact usury : see Exod. xxii. 25; Ezek.
xviii. 8, 17.
The Hebrew was to look upon every other Hebrew as
his brother, and to treat him as such. There was to be
brotherly love in time of misfortune, such love as would
prevent the receiving of increase from the one who was
in trouble. With regard to the mortgaging of land, it
does not seem that these rich men had actually broken
the law, such pledges were allowed, provided that the
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
property mortgaged was returned in the year of jubilee.
But, whilst they had not broken the letter of the law,
these Jews had certainly acted in a hard, self-seeking
way, showing no sympathy whatever for the sorrows of
those around them.
How different was this from the generous conduct of
Nehemiah himself! All the time of his government he
drew no taxes or contributions from the people over whom
he ruled, as other governors did, and as his predecessors
in Jerusalem had done. Eastern governors in those
days, like Turkish governors now, were accustomed to
farm their provinces. That is to say, the king allowed
them no salary, but he put the taxation of the people in
their hands. A certain fixed sum was to be sent to him
every year from the province; and whatever the governor
could grind or squeeze out of the people, over and above
this stated amount, went into his own pocket and formed
his salary. Jerusalem now-a-days rings with many a
cry of distress caused by the unjust means used by the
pacha to increase his stipend by putting fresh burdens
on the people. The former Jewish governors had made
as much as forty shekels a day, or 1,800 a year out of
the people in their province. But when Nehemiah came
to Jerusalem, he found the people so poverty-stricken
and oppressed that he would not take a single penny for
himself. It is probable that his salary as cup-bearer had
been continued, and on this he lived and kept his
household going all the time of his government. Not
only so; not only did Nehemiah pay all his private
expenses, but he kept open house for the people of
Jerusalem; every day 150 of the rulers and chief men
dined with him, besides all the visitors to Jerusalem,
THE WORLD'S BIBLE.
Jews from other countries, strangers from foreign nations
who were staying but a short time in the city, all of
whom were invited to the governor's house, and sat down
at the governor's table.
Nehemiah himself gives us his daily bill of fare,
6 fat sheep.
Fowls without number.
A fresh supply of wine of all kinds stored in every
It was no small expense to have above 150 men to
dinner daily, yet for all this Nehemiah took not a penny
from his province, so touched was he to the heart by the
poverty of the people. Not only so, but all the time the
walls were being built he toiled away, and allowed all his
household servants to work both night and day, and yet
looked for no payment or compensation, ver. 16. Then
besides all this, Nehemiah had been most generous in
the time of the famine; he had supplied the poor people
with money and with corn, and yet he had firmly
refused to allow them to pledge or mortgage their lands,
much less their children, ver. 10.
And Nehemiah tells us the secret of his consistent
conduct; he tells us why he differed so much from the
governors who went before him. A strong power held
him back from sin.
So did not I, because of the fear of God.'
Thus Nehemiah had a right to speak, for he practised
what he preached. But in spite of this, his private
appeal to the nobles appears to have been in vain. They
seem to have given no answer, to have taken no notice
74 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
of his appeal, and to have given him no reason to think
that they intended to change their conduct.
So he set a great assembly against them. He called
a monster meeting of all the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
rich and poor, for he felt that if their conduct was
publicly exposed and condemned, they might possibly be
ashamed to continue it.
Nehemiah's speech at the meeting was very much to
the point. He first tried to shame the nobles by
reminding them that whilst he, ever since his return, had
been spending his money in buying back those Jews who
had been sold into slavery to the heathen round, they
on the other hand had actually been doing the very
opposite, bringing their fellow citizens into slavery to
themselves. Was this right, or fair, or just? The
argument told, no one could answer it, there was dead
silence, ver. 8.
Now, says Nehemiah, consider: 'Ought ye not to
walk in the fear of our God ?' Ought ye not to be careful
in your conduct, kind, and just, and generous in your
dealing? And why?
'Because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies.'
Because you Jews are God's people, and all these
heathen round will judge your God by what you are.
You make a profession of religion, you claim to have
high motives; but if they see you grasping, greedy, hard,
like themselves, what will they think of your religion ?
Surely they will say, 'These Jews are no better than
ourselves, their religion cannot be worth much.'
Now, says Nehemiah, remembering all this, bearing in
mind the disgrace you are bringing upon the name of
Jew, I call upon you at once to give up this practice of
TIlE WORLD'S BIBLE.
mortgaging and pledge-taking. Not only so, but I bid
you restore at once the vineyards and the oliveyards,
the fields and the houses, you have taken from these poor
people. I bid you also return the interest they have
paid you (the eighth part of the money), and I call
upon you, in every way you can, to undo the evil you
have done already, and for the future to do unto others
as you would they should do to you, vers. 10, 11.
Nehemiah's earnest words prevailed,
'Then said they, We will restore them.'
This promise was followed by a very curious act on
the part of Nehemiah.
'I shook my lap.'
The lap is what the Latins called the sinus, a fold in
the bosom of the tunic, which was used as a pocket.
Eastern-like, Nehemiah used a sign to show what will
happen to any man who shall break the promise he had
just made. God will cast him forth as a homeless
wanderer, emptied of all his possessions, all his ill-gotten
wealth. He shall be void or empty, just as Nehemiah's
pocket was void or empty, ver. 13.
'And all the congregation said, Amen.'
Then, instead of the great cry of distress, was heard
the great shout of joy, for
They 'praised the Lord.'
And the promise was hot one of those promises made
to be broken, for
The people did according to this promise.'
It has been well said that Christians are the only
Bible that men of the world read. In other words, those
who will not read the Bible themselves, judge the reli-
gion of Christ simply by the Christians they happen to
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
come across. This is not a fair way of judging; it
surely cannot be right to condemn Christianity itself,
because some of those who profess it are not what they
ought to be.
Let us picture to ourselves an island in the Pacific
Ocean, where no European has ever been seen. A large
ship is wrecked not far from this island, and three men
are able to make their escape in a boat, and to land
upon its shore. The men belong to three' different
nations-one is a Frenchman, another is a German, and
the third is an Englishman. The people of the island
receive them most kindly, warm them, and feed them,
and shelter them, and do all they can for them till a ship
shall come to take them away.
What return do the three men make for their kind-
ness ? The Frenchman is grateful, and willing to make
himself useful in any way- he can: he amuses the
children and helps in the work of the house, and does
all he can to make return for the hospitality he is
receiving. The German is very clever with his fingers,
and spends his time in teaching the natives to make
many things which they had not been able to do before;
he becomes indeed so helpful to them that they dread
the day coming when he will have to leave them. But
the Englishman is a man of low tastes and bad morals.
He spends his time in drinking the spirit he finds on the
island, in quarrelling with the inhabitants, and in ill-
treating their children; there is not a soul on the island
who does not rejoice when the ship bears him away,
never to return.
Soon after this, news is brought that a small colony
from Europe is anxious to settle on that island, and to
THE WORLD'S BIBLE.
trade with the inhabitants. The commercial advantages
of this step are laid.before the natives, and leave is asked
for the party of traders to land. One question, and one
question only, is asked by the inhabitants. Of what
nation are these colonists ? The answer is brought back,
They are English. At once the whole island is up in
arms. They shall not land, they cry, we will not hear
of it; we know what English people are, we have had
plenty of the English. Had they been French or
Germans we would have given them a hearty welcome,
but we never wish tb see an Englishman again.
But surely that was not fair, it was not right to judge
a whole nation by one bad specimen. Nor is it right to
judge the followers of Christ in that way. I know a
man, says one, who is hard and grasping and self-seek-
ing, and that man makes a religious profession, therefore
I will have nothing to do with religion. I know a
Christian who is bad-tempered; I know a Christian
who is not particular about truth; I know a Christian
out of whose mouth come bitter, unkind words; I know
a Christian who is unpleasant in his manner; I know a
Christian with whom I should be sorry to do business;
I know a Christian who is always mournful and miser-
able. These are your Christians, are they ? Then do
not ask me to be one; I have no opinion of any of
Yet, after all, the man who speaks thus draws an
unfair conclusion. Because I find in my bag of gold
one bad half-sovereign, or even two or three bad ones,
am I therefore to throw all the rest away ? And because
one Christian, or several Christians, disgrace their
Master, and act inconsistently, am I therefore to con-
78 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
demn Christianity itself ? Am I therefore to cut off my
own soul from all hope of safety ?
But, remembering this, bearing in mind that many
eyes are on us, that our conduct is being read, our
ways watched, our actions weighed, our motives sifted,
Christian friends, let us walk carefully. Do not let us
bring disgrace on our Master, do not let us hinder others
and be a stumbling-black in their way; do not let us
give the world a wrong idea of Christ.
We are not half awake, we are not half careful enough;
let us walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Let
us, whenever we have been tempted to any inconsis-
tency, be able to take up Nehemiah's brave noble words,
'So did not I, because of the fear of God.'
I could not get into a temper, I could not be hard or
grasping, I could not do that piece of sharp practice, I
could not stoop to that deceit, I could not disgrace my
Master, because in my heart was a principle holding me
back from sin, the fear of the Lord. I feared to grieve
the One who loved me, and that fear kept me safe. 'So
did not I, because of the fear of God.'
(rue to izs post.
[JoT's wife was changed into a pillar of salt; and if that
pillar still remained, we should see her to-day
standing in exactly the same attitude in which she
was standing when death suddenly came upon her.
About a hundred years ago, a baker in the south of
Italy sunk a well in his garden; and whilst doing so he
suddenly came upon a buried city, a city which had been
lost to the world for 1800 years. The underground city
was no empty place; it was peopled with the dead, and
these were found in the very attitude and position in
which death had overtaken them, standing, sitting,
lying, just as they had been on that awful day when
MVount Vesuvius sent out terrible showers of ashes,
destroying them all.
Very various were the positions of the dead in that
buried city. Many were in the streets, in the attitude
of running, trying to make their escape from the city
gate; others were in deep vaults whither they had gone
for safety, crouching, in their fear of what might fall
upon them; others were on staircases and flights of
stone steps leading to the roof, in the attitude of climbing
to a place where they hoped the lava might not bury
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
them. Two men were found by the garden gate of a
large and beautiful mansion. One was standing with
the key in his hand, a handsome ring on his finger, and
a hundred gold and silver coins scattered round him.
The other, who was probably his slave, was stretched on
the ground, with his hands clutching some silver cups and
vases. These men had evidently been suffocated whilst
trying to carry off the money and treasure.
But one man in that buried city deserves to be
remembered to the end of time. Who was he? One
Roman soldier, the brave sentinel at the gate. There he
had been posted in the morning, and there he had been
bidden to remain.
And how was he found ? Standing at his post, with his
hand still grasping his sword, faithful unto death. There,
by the city gate; whilst the earth shook and rocked,
whilst the sky was black with ashes, whilst showers of
stones were falling around him, and whilst hundreds of
men, women and children brushed past him as they fled
in terror from the city, there he stood, firm and unmoved.
Should such a man as I flee ? thought the sentinel.
And in that same spot, in that post of duty, he was
found 1800 years after, faithful to his trust, faithful
Oh, that the Lord's soldiers were more like that brave
man in Pompeii! It is so easy to begin a thing, so hard
to stick to it; so easy to start on the Christian course,
so difficult to persevere; so easy to enlist in the army,
so very hard to stand unmoved in the time of danger or
trial. Yet what says the Master ? He that endureth to
the end (and he alone) shall be saved. What says the
Captain? that it is the soldier who is faithful unto
TRUE TO HIS POST. 81
death (and no one else) who shall receive the crown
Who then amongst us are faithful, true and unmoved ?
Who amongst us can stand firm in spite of Satan's
efforts to lead us aside ? Who can hold on, not for a
week only, but still faithful as the weeks change into
months, and the months into years, faithful unto death ?
About 100 years before the time of Nehemiah, there
lived a wise old Chinaman, the philosopher Confucius.
Looking round upon his fellow-men, Confucius said that
he noticed that a large proportion of them were Copper-
kettle-boiling-water men.' The water in a copper kettle,
said Confucius, boils very quickly, much more quickly
than in an iron kettle; but the worst of it is that it just
as quickly cools down, and ceases to boil.
So, said Confucius, is it with numbers of my fellow-
men: they are one day hot and eager, boiling over with
zeal in some particular cause; but the next day they
have cooled down, and they take no interest in it what-
ever. Soon up, soon down, like the water in a copper
Just so is it in the service of God. There are, sad'to
say, many copper-kettle-boiling-water Christians, hot
and earnest in the work of God one moment, but in
the next they have cooled down, and are ready to leave
the work to take care of itself.
But Nehemiah was no copper-kettle-boiling-water
man, he comes before us as a man faithful to his post,
standing firm to his duty, a man whom no one could
draw from his work, or cause to swerve from what he
knew to be right.
The Samaritans have made a mighty effort to stop
TIHE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
Nehemiah's great work, the building of the walls of
Jerusalem. They began with ridicule; but the builders
took no notice of the shouts of laughter, but built on as
before. Then they tried to stop the work by force; but
they found the whole company of builders changed, as
by a magic wand, into an army of soldiers, ready and
waiting for their attack. Now the news reaches them,
chap. vi. 1., that the walls are i''. '-ir l., that the gaps
are filled up, the different pieces are joined together, and
that nothing now remains but to put up the gates in the
They feel accordingly that no time is to be lost; they
must, in some way or other, put a stop to Nehemiah
and his work at once. They determine, therefore, to,
try a new plan, they will entrap Nehemiah by stratagem
and deceit. So they send an invitation to Jerusalem,
begging him to meet them in a certain place, that there
they may settle their differences by a friendly conference.
Sanballat is to be there as the head of the Samaritans,
Geshem as the head of the Arabians, and Nehemiah as
the head of the Jews; and surely, meeting in a friendly
way, and embued- with a friendly spirit, nothing will be
easier than quietly and peacefully to confer together,
and then to arrange matters in a comfortable and
The place appointed for the meeting is the Plain of
Ono-the green, beautiful plain between the Judean hills
and the Mediterranean-called elsewhere the Plain of
Sharon. There in later days stood Lydda, the place
where St. Peter healed 2Eneas; there stood Joppa, from
which Jonah embarked; there, at the present day, may
be seen fields of melons and cucumbers, groves of orange
TRUE TO HIS POST. 83
and lemon trees, and fields of waving corn. Nehemiah
would have a journey of about thirty miles before he
reached the appointed meeting-place.
Sanballat's proposal sounded very fine and even very
friendly, but it was a trap. His real desire was to
tempt Nehemiah from behind the walls of Jerusalem, to
entice him to a safe distance from his brave friends and
companions, and then to have him secretly assassinated.
Who then would ever hear again of the power of Jeru-
salem ? Who then would ever see the gates put in their
Is Nehemiah moved from his post of duty by San-
ballat's message ? Does he leave his work at once, and
set off for the Plain of Ono? Look at his decided
'I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come
down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and
come down to you ?'
God's work would be done better, and with more
success, if all His workmen were like Nehemiah. But,
alas! many who call themselves workers for God are
ready to run off from the work at every call, every
invitation, every appeal from the world, the flesh, or the
devil. I am doing a great work, but there is that
amusement I want to take part in, the work must be
I am doing a great work; but I do not feel inclined for
it just now, I feel idle, or the weather is too cold to go
out, or the sun shines so brightly I should like a walk
instead, I must leave my work to others to-day.
I am doing a great work; but I love my own ease,
or pleasure, or convenience, better than I love the
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER
work, these must come first and the work must come
So speak the actions of many so-called workers, and
thus it is that so much Christian work is a dead failure.
But, says Nehemiah, 'I am doing a great work, so that
I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst
I leave it, and come down to you ?'
Let us remember his words, let us inwardly digest
them, and the very next time that we are tempted to
give up work for God and to run off to something else,
let us take care to echo them.
But Sanballat is determined not to be beaten, he will
try again and yet again. Four times over he sends
Nehemiah a friendly invitation to a friendly conference,
four times over Nehemiah steadily refuses to come.
Then, when that plot completely fails, Sanballat loses
One day a messenger arrives at the gate of Jerusalem
with an insult in his hand. The insult is in the form of
a piece of parchment; it is a letter from Sanballat, an
'open letter,' ver. 5.
Letters in the East are not put into envelopes, but
are rolled up like a map, then the ends are flattened and
pasted together. The Persians make up their letters in
a roll about six inches long, and then gum a piece of
paper round them, and put a seal on the outside. But
in writing to persons of distinction, not only is the letter
gummed together, but it is tied up in several places with
coloured ribbon, and then enclosed in a bag or purse.
To send a letter to such a man as Nehemiah, not only
untied and unenclosed, but actually not even having the
ends pasted together, was a tremendous insult, and
TRUE TO HIS POST.
Nehemiah, who had been accustomed to the strict
etiquette of the Persian court, knew this well.
SBut Sanballat probably sent this open letter not only
with the intention of insulting Nehemiah, but also in
order that every one whom the messenger came across
might read it, and that the Jews in Jerusalem and its
neighbourhood might be frightened by its contents, and
might therefore be inclined to forward his plans.
The letter contained a piece of gossip.
'It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith
So the letter began, and then there followed the
scandal, the gossip about Nehemiah.
People's tongues were busy 2,000 years ago, just as
people's tongues are busy now, and the gossips of those
days, like the gossips of to-day, were not particular
What was the gossip which Gashmu had started
against Nehemiah? It was this: Jerusalem is being
built, we all see that, says Gashmu. But now, what is
at the bottom of this business? Hush! says Gashmu,
do not tell any one, and I will tell you a secret. You
would never believe it, you would never guess it;
but what do you think ? As soon as those walls are
built and those gates are finished, you will hear news.
There is going to be a king in Jerusalem, and his name
is Nehemiah. As soon as ever he has a strong city in
which to defend himself, he is going to rebel against
Persia. Nay, he has already paid people inside Jeru-
salem to pretend to be prophets, and to say to the
'There is a king in Judah.'
86 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
That is the gossip, says Sanballat, that is going the
round of all the gossips' tongues in the land. And now
what will be the result ? If the King of Persia hears of
it, and it is sure to reach his ears sooner or later, it will
go badly with you, Nehemiah. The best thing you can
do is to consent to meet me, and we will talk the matter
over and see what can be done to prevent this report
'Come now therefore, and let us take counsel
Nehemiah has stood firm under ridicule; he has been
unmoved by force or deceitful friendships; will he be
frightened from his duty by gossip ? No, he cares not
what they say, nor who says it. He simply sends
Sanballat word that there is not a vestige of truth in
the report, nor does he intend to take any notice of it.
'There are no such things done as thou sayest, but
thou feignest them out of thine own heart.'
Over the entrance to one of our old English castles
these words are carved in the stonework:-
WHAT DO THEY SAY?
LET THEM SAY.
These words are well worth our remembering. It is
not pleasant to be talked about, especially if the words
spoken about us are untrue, but it will be a wonderful
thing if any of us escape the gossip's tongue.
They say, and they always will say, to the end of
time; people will talk, and their talk will chiefly be of
What do they say ? Do you answer like the Psalmist,
'They lay to my charge things I knew not?' They
TRUE TO IIIS POST. 87
speak unkindly, untruly, unfairly. Never mind, Let
then say. You cannot stop their mouths, but you can
hinder yourself from taking notice of their words. Let
them say, for they will have their say out, but they will
end it all the sooner if you take no notice of it.
Let us try for the future to be thick-skinned, and
when Gashmu's tongue is whispering, and whenever
some busybody like Sanballat repeats Gashmu's words
to us, let us act as Nehemiah did. Let us take no
notice of the repeated tittle-tattle.
Yet, although we may practically ignore the gossip-
ing tongue, if we are naturally sensitive and highly
strung we cannot help feeling some sting from the
unkind or untrue speech. Poor Nehemiah, unmoved
though he was by the gossip, yet feels it necessary to
remember the meaning of his name, and to turn from
Sanballat's letter to the Lord my Comforter.'
0 God, strengthen my hands.'
So he cries from the depths of his soul, and so he
Sanballat now feels that he is attempting an impos-
sibility. It is of no use trying himself to move
Nehemiah, for Nehemiah is thoroughly on his guard
against him. If he reaches him at all, he must do so
through others, whom Nehemiah does not suspect. So,
by means of his gold, Sanballat tempts some of the
Jerusalem Jews over to his side.
There is a woman living in Jerusalem named Noadiah,
and she (to her shame be it spoken) is bribed by
Sanballat to give herself out as a prophetess, and to be
the bearer of messages to Nehemiah, pretending that
those messages were sent to him by God. Nor is
88 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
Noadiah the only one who is bribed by the Samaritan
governor to pretend the gift of prophecy.
One day, Nehemiah is sent for to the house of one of
these people who profess to be able to prophesy. He is
a young man of the name of Shemaiah, whose family
had returned from Babylon with Zerubabbel, but who
had never been able to prove their Jewish descent (vii.
61, 62, 64).
This young man professes to be very fond of
Nehemiah, and begs him to come to see him. Nehemiah
does so, and finds him shut up, his doors barred and
bolted, his house barricaded like a fortress. He admits
Nehemiah, and seems, as he does so, to be in a great
state of fear and terror.
Then he whispers a dreadful secret in his ear. He
tells Nehemiah that his life is in immediate danger,
that there is a plot set on foot by Sanballat to murder
him that very night, and that this plot has been
revealed to him by God. He tells him that he feels
his own life, as one of Nehemiah's best friends, is also
in danger, and therefore he proposes that they shall go
together after dark to the temple courts, and, passing
through these, enter into the sanctuary itself, the Holy
Place, in which stood the altar of incense, the golden
candlestick, and the table of showbread. There, having
carefully closed the folding doors of fir-wood, they
may hide till daybreak, and those who were coming
to assassinate Nehemiah will seek him in vain.
Shemaiah gives this advice as a direct message from
God, but Nehemiah saw through it. He felt sure God
could not have sent that message, for God cannot
contradict His own Word. And what said the Word ?
TRUE TO HIS POST. .89
It was clearly laid down in the law of Moses that no
man, unless he was a priest, might enter the Holy
Place; if he attempted to do so, death would be the
'The stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.'
So Nehemiah bravely answers:
'Should such a man as I flee ? and who is there, that,
being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life ?
I will not go in.'
Who is there, that, being as I am-that is, being a
layman, not a priest-as I am, could go into the temple
and live ? for that is the better translation. In other
words, if I, Nehemiah, who am not a priest, should
break the clear command of God; by crossing the
threshold of the temple, instead of saving my life I
should lose it. I will not go in.
So failed this dastardly plot to get Nehemiah to sin,
in order that his God might desert him. The sentinel
stood unmoved at his post, Nehemiah goes on steadily
with his work. Should such a man as I flee ? And in
fifty-two days after its commencement, in less than
two months, the wall was finished, vi. 15.
With a huge army, with hundreds of horses, and
with twenty elephants, Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, crossed
over from Greece to Italy to conquer the Romans. No
elephants had ever before been seen in Italy; and when
the two armies met, and the huge animals advanced
with their dark trunks curling and snorting, and their
ponderous feet shaking the earth, the horses in the
Roman army were so terrified that they refused to
move, and Pyrrhus won an easy victory. After the
battle was over Pyrrhus walked amongst the dead, and
90 THE KIING'S CUP-BEARER,
looked at the bodies of his slain foes. As he did so,
one fact struck him very forcibly, and it was this, the
Romans did not know how to run away. Not one had
turned and fled from the field of battle. The wounds
were all in front, not one was wounded in the back.
Ah,' said Pyrrhus, 'with such soldiers as that the
whole world would belong to me.'
Soldiers of Christ, let us be brave for the Master.
Let the language of the heart of each in the Lord's
army be that of Nehemiah, 'Should such a man as I
flee Nay, I will not flee, I will not desert my
post, I will stand my ground, bravely, consistently,
perseveringly, unto death.
HE Tarpeian Rock was the place where Roman
criminals who had been guilty of the crime of
treason were executed. They were thrown head-
long from this rock into the valley below, and perished
at its base. The rock took its name from a woman
named Tarpeia, who has ever been a disgrace to her
sex, and whose name was hated in Rome, for she was
a traitress to her country. For a long time the war
had raged between the Romans and the Sabines. The
Romans were at last compelled to shut themselves up
in their strong fortress, which the Sabines attempted
to take, but in vain. So steep were the rocks on which
it stood, so strong were the walls, that the Sabines
must have given up their attempt in. despair, had it
not been for the treachery of Tarpeia, the governor's
daughter. She looked down from the fortress into the
Sabine host, and she noticed that, whilst with their
right arms the Sabines held their swords, on their left
arms were hung massive golden bracelets, such as
Tarpeia had never beheld before. One day, leaning
over the precipice, she managed to whisper into the ear
of a Sabine soldier her treacherous plan. She was
THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
,willing in the dead of night to unlock the gate of the
fortress, and to admit the Sabines, provided that they
promised on their part to give her what they carried on
their left arms. Tarpeia's proposition was agreed to,
and that night the governor's daughter stole the keys of
the fortress from her father's room, and admitted the
But the Sabines had too much right feeling to let
her treachery go unpunished. She stood by the gate,
hoping to receive the bracelets, but each Sabine soldier,
as he entered, threw at her head his massive iron
shield, which he also carried on his left arm, until she
was crushed to the ground, and buried beneath a mass
of metal. They had fulfilled their promise, but in a
way the treacherous Tarpeia did not expect. When she
was quite dead, they took up her body, and threw it
over the rock which ever after bore her name, as a
warning to traitors.
Treachery within the camp, those in league with the
enemy in the very midst of the citadel, those who whilst
pretending to be friends are secretly conspiring to hinder
and annoy. Surely such a state of things is enough to
move any man's heart. Who could help feeling it
David could not. Listen to his heartrending cry-
'For it is not an open enemy, that hath done me
this dishonour; for then I could have borne it. Neither
was it mine adversary that did magnify himself against
me; for then I would have hid myself from him. But
it was even thou, my companion, my guide, and mine
own familiar friend.'
Nehemiah could not help feeling it. He had borne
THE PAIDAGOGOS. 93
patiently ridicule, force, deceit from without; whatever
of harm or mischief Sanballat did, he could not help,
nor was he surprised at it. But when the trouble came
nearer home, when he found that in Jerusalem itself,
amongst those whom he had loved and for whom he had
sacrificed so much, there were actually to be found
traitors, then indeed Nehemiah's soul was stirred to its
He discovered to his horror that letters, secret,
treacherous letters, were constantly passing from Tobiah
the secretary to some of his so-called friends in Jerusalem.
Nay more, he discovered that these letters were dili-
gently answered, and that a quick correspondence was
being kept up by Tobiah on the one side and these
treacherous Jews on the other.
Worse still, Nehemiah found that many of those
round him were acting as spies, watching all he did,
taking note of every single thing that went on in
Jerusalem, and then writing it down for Tobiah's benefit.
And in spite of this, these Jews had the audacity and
the bad taste when they met Nehemiah in the street,
or sat at his table, or came across him in business, to
harp constantly upon one string-the goodness, and
perfections, and excellences of dear Tobiah.
They reported his good deeds to me, and uttered my
words to him.'
Nor was this communication with the secretary at all
easy to break off, for he was connected by marriage with
some of the first families in Jerusalem. Tobiah himself
had obtained a Jewish girl for his wife, the daughter of
one of Nehemiah's helpers-Shechaniah, the son of
TIlE KANG'S CUP-BEARER.
Not only so, but Meshullam, one of the wealthiest
men in the city, one of the most earnest builders on the
wall, one who had worked so diligently that he had
actually repaired two portions (chap. iii. 4, 30), one who
must have been either a priest or a Levite, for we read
of his having a chamber in the temple, this man,
Meshullam, so well spoken of, and so much esteemed in
Jerusalem, had actually forgotten himself so far as to
let his daughter marry the son of the secretary, Tobiah.
We cannot excuse Meshullam by suggesting that his
daughter may have been spoilt or wilful, and may have
married in spite of her father's displeasure, for, in the
East, marriages are entirely arranged by the parents,
and Meshullam's daughter probably had no choice in
Seeing then that there are enemies without, and half-
hearted friends within, Nehemiah feels it necessary, so
soon as the walls are finished and the gates set up, to
do all he can to make Jerusalem secure and strong.
Solomon had appointed 212 Levites to be porters or
gate-keepers, to guard the entrances to the temple.
Ever since his time there had been an armed body of
Levites, kept always at hand, to guard the treasures of
the temple, and to keep watch at the gates. From these
Nehemiah selects the keepers for his new gates. Surely
these Levites will be faithful, and they have had some
experience in watching, inasmuch as they have for so
long acted as temple police.
Nehemiah's next step was to appoint two men to
superintend these guards, and to be responsible to him
for the safety of the city. At any moment he might
be recalled to Persia, at any moment he might have to
leave his important work in Jerusalem, that he might
stand again as cup-bearer behind the king's chair. He
felt that he must therefore appoint deputies to guard
the city for him, so that all might not hang upon the
fact of his presence in the city.
Whom did Nehemiah choose for this post of enormous
trust ? One was his brother Hanani, the very one
who had come to see him in Persia. Why, he would
never have even thought of doing this great work, if it
had not been for Hanani; and he felt he could
thoroughly trust him, andrely upon him entirely.
His other choice was Hananiah, the ruler of the palace
or the fort, which was a tower, standing in the temple
courts on the spot on which, in Roman days, stood the
Tower of Antonia. Nehemiah tells us exactly why he
made choice of the man Hananiah.
'He was a faithful man, and feared God above many.
He was a faithful man, thoroughly trustworthy and
reliable. He feared God above many, and therefore
Nehemiah knew that he would be kept safe and free
from sin. So did not I,' he had said of himself,
'because of the fear of God; that fear held me back
from sin,' and he felt sure it would be the same with
Hananiah. He feared God, and therefore he could be
These two rulers, Hanani and Hananiah, planned out
the defence of the city. They divided the wall amongst
all the men in Jerusalem, holding each man responsible
for the safety of that part of the wall which lay nearest
to his own house. Then, by Nehemiah's orders, they
saw that the guards took care that the gates were not
only carefully closed every night, but that they were
96 THE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
kept closed till the sun was hot, that is, till some hours
after sunrise. These orders were most necessary, seeing
that there were traitors inside the gates as well as
It was the sixth month of the Jewish year when the
walls were finished. Then came Tisri, the seventh month,
the greatest and grandest of the months. The Jews say
that God made the world in the month Tisri, and in it
they have no less than two feasts and one great fast.
On the first day of the month Tisri was held the Feast
of Trumpets, or the day of blowing. On that day
trumpets or horns were blown all day long in Jerusalem;
on the house-tops, and from the courts and gardens, as
well as from the temple.
Obedient to the voice of the trumpets, at early dawn
the people all gathered together, and stood by the water-
gate, in a large open space suitable for such a gathering.
This gate is supposed to have been somewhere at the
south-east of the temple courts, and to have taken its
name from the fact that through it the temple servants,
the Nethinims and the Gibeonites, carried water from
the dragon well into the city.
Here a huge pulpit had been erected, not such a pulpit
as we find in our churches, but such an one as is to be
seen in the synagogues of Jerusalem, a pulpit as large
as a small room, and capable of holding a large number
The pulpit by the water-gate was a raised platform,
made for the purpose. In it stood Ezra the scribe, and
beside him stood thirteen of the chief men of Jerusalem.
Meshullam was there; but one man was conspicuous by
his absence. Eliashib, the high priest, who should
THE PAIDAGOGOS. 97
surely have been found taking a principal part in the
solemn service of the day, was nowhere to be seen.
Before the great pulpit was gathered together an enor-
mous crowd, men, women, and children, all those who
were old enough to understand anything having been
brought there, that they might listen to all that went on.
It was early in the morning, soon after sunrise, when
the great company met together. The blowing of the
trumpets ceased, and there was brought out by a Levite
an old roll of parchment. What was it ? It was the
Book of the Law, the Bible of Nehemiah's day, consisting
of the five books of Moses.
Slowly and reverently Ezra unrolled the law in the
sight of all the people; and they, sitting below, watched
him, and as soon as the book was opened they stood up,
to show their respect and their reverence for the Word
Then the reading began, and the ears of all the people
were attentive to the book of the law. For no less than
six hours Ezra read on, from early morning until mid-
day, yet still the people stood, still the people listened
attentively. There was no stir in the crowd, no one
asked what time it was, there was no shuffling of feet,
no yawning, no fidgeting; in earnest, fixed attention the
As Ezra read, a body of Levites w3nt about amongst
the crowd, translating what he said. So long had the
people lived in captivity that some of them had forgotten
the old Hebrew, or had been brought up from children
to talk the Chaldean tongue. Thus many of Ezra's
words and phrases were quite unintelligible to them.
So the Levites acted as interpreters; and besides ex-
98 77IE KING'S CUP-BEARER.
plaining the words, they also opened out the meaning of
what was read.
'The Levites caused the people to understand the
law: and the people stood in their place. So they read
in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the
sense, and caused them to understand the reading.'
And at the end of six hours there came tears-there
was not a dry eye in the crowd-men and women alike
wept like children. There was Ezra in his pulpit, his
voice faltering as he read, and there were the people
below, sobbing as they heard the words.
What was the matter ? What had filled them with
grief? St. Paul tells us the secret of their tears (Rom.
By the law is the knowledge of sin.'
You draw a line. How shall you know if it be
straight or not? Lay the ruler beside it, and you will
soon find out its crookedness.
You build a wall. How shall you tell if it be per-
pendicular? Bring the plumb-line, put it against it,
and you will soon find out where the wall bulges.
You take up a drawing of wood, and hill, and tree;
how shall you know if it be correctly sketched ? Put
beside it the master's copy, look from one to another,
and you will soon discover the mistakes and imperfections
of the pupil.
Take the perfect law of God, lay it beside your own
life, as these people did, you will find out exactly what
they found. You will find that you are a sinner, that
you have left undone what ought to have been done,
that you have done what ought not to have been done,
and that you yourself are full of sin.