Antiquities of the Jews, by Flavius Josephus
Translation and Dissertations by William Whiston
BOOK XI. Containing The Interval Of Two Hundred And Fifty-Three Years And Five Months.—From The First Of Cyrus To The Death Of Alexander The Great.
CHAPTER 5. How Xerxes The Son Of Darius Was Well Disposed To The Jews; As Also Concerning Esdras And Nehemiah.
8. But now when the Ammonites, and Moabites, and Samaritans, and all that inhabited Celesyria, heard that the building went on apace, they took it heinously, and proceeded to lay snares for them, and to hinder their intentions. They also slew many of the Jews, and sought how they might destroy Nehemiah himself, by hiring some of the foreigners to kill him. They also put the Jews in fear, and disturbed them, and spread abroad rumors, as if many nations were ready to make an expedition against them, by which means they were harassed, and had almost left off the building. But none of these things could deter Nehemiah from being diligent about the work; he only set a number of men about him as a guard to his body, and so unweariedly persevered therein, and was insensible of any trouble, out of his desire to perfect this work. And thus did he attentively, and with great forecast, take care of his own safety; not that he feared death, but of this persuasion, that if he were dead, the walls for his citizens would never be raised. He also gave orders that the builders should keep their ranks, and have their armor on while they were building. Accordingly, the mason had his sword on, as well as he that brought the materials for building. He also appointed that their shields should lie very near them; and he placed trumpeters at every five hundred feet, and charged them, that if their enemies appeared, they should give notice of it to the people, that they might fight in their armor, and their enemies might not fall upon them naked. He also went about the compass of the city by night, being never discouraged, neither about the work itself, nor about his own diet and sleep, for he made no use of those things for his pleasure, but out of necessity. And this trouble he underwent for two years and four months; 7 for in so long a time was the wall built, in the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Xerxes, in the ninth month. Now when the walls were finished, Nehemiah and the multitude offered sacrifices to God for the building of them, and they continued in feasting eight days. However, when the nations which dwelt in Syria heard that the building of the wall was finished, they had indignation at it. But when Nehemiah saw that the city was thin of people, he exhorted the priests and the Levites that they would leave the country, and remove themselves to the city, and there continue; and he built them houses at his own expenses; and he commanded that part of the people which were employed in cultivating the land to bring the tithes of their fruits to Jerusalem, that the priests and Levites having whereof they might live perpetually, might not leave the Divine worship; who willingly hearkened to the constitutions of Nehemiah, by which means the city Jerusalem came to be fuller of people than it was before. So when Nehemiah had done many other excellent things, and things worthy of commendation, in a glorious manner, he came to a great age, and then died. He was a man of a good and righteous disposition, and very ambitious to make his own nation happy; and he hath left the walls of Jerusalem as an eternal monument for himself. Now this was done in the days of Xerxes.
Footnotes by William Whiston
It may not be very improper to remark here, with what an unusual accuracy Josephus determines these years of Xerxes, in which the walls of Jerusalem were built, viz. that Nehemiah came with his commission in the twenty-fifth of Xerxes, that the walls were two years and four months in building, and that they were finished on the twenty-eighth of Xerxes, sect. 7, 8. It may also be remarked further, that Josephus hardly ever mentions more than one infallible astronomical character, I mean an eclipse of the moon, and this a little before the death of Herod the Great, Antiq. B. XVII. ch. 6. sect. 4. Now on these two chronological characters in great measure depend some of the most important points belonging to Christianity, viz. the explication of Daniel’s seventy weeks, and the duration of our Savior’s ministry, and the time of his death, in correspondence to those seventy weeks. See the Supplement to the Lit. Accorap. of Proph. p. 72.