Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A day on the job

[1] And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. [2] Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, [3] And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Nehemiah 2:1-3

Our narrative continues in the month Nisan (end of March, beginning of April) four months after Chisleu. We observe a day in the life of Nehemiah as the king’s cupbearer. He brings the wine to the king.

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary states, Xenophon has particularly remarked about the polished and graceful manner in which the cupbearers of the Median, and consequently the Persian, monarchs performed their duty of presenting the wine to their royal master. Having washed the cup in the king’s presence and poured into their left hand a little of the wine, which they drank in his presence, they then handed the cup to him, not grasped, but lightly held with the tips of their thumb and fingers…

The king notices that his disposition is not what it usually is, he appears sad and disheartened. King Artaxerxes is concerned for his loyal employee and asks “Why are you sad, you’re not sick, this can be nothing but sorrow of heart.”

In that very moment Nehemiah is afraid. He did not want the king to think that he was plotting against him or was unhappy with his job. Remember, palace life during 445 BC was very different than the time we live in today.

Nehemiah immediately reassured the king that he wished him no ill by saying “O king live forever.” He then continued with, “Why shouldn’t I be sad? Everything my fore-fathers worked for is destroyed and vandalized. Even the gates of the city are burnt down.”

Nehemiah is heartbroken for his native land. He probably remembers stories told to him as a boy of his ancestors and what they endured to make Jerusalem their home. He has something in mind, but first he needs to clear it with the king.

To be continued..

Have a blessed day,

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