Two statements that Nehemiah made in his requests to King Artaxerxes when he requested permission of him to rebuild Jerusalem stress for us the importance of burial in a way that many may have overlooked:
Neh. 2:3 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?
Neh. 2:5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.
Jerusalem was the place where God’s house was. Surely, Nehemiah regarded the place of God’s house to be of surpassing importance.
Nonetheless, Nehemiah did not say that he was sad because the city, the place of God’s house, lay waste and had its gates consumed with fire. Nor did Nehemiah request permission from the king to build the city because it was the city of his God’s house.
Remarkably, instead, he said that he was sad that Jerusalem lay waste with its gates consumed with fire—and he sought the king’s permission to build the city—because it was the place of his fathers’ sepulchers! For Nehemiah, what made Jerusalem of special importance was not just that God’s house was there—it was that Jerusalem was the place where his forefathers were buried in their tombs!
He later implicitly stresses the same point for the readers of Nehemiah by writing about what another Nehemiah repaired:
Neh. 3:16 After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of the half part of Bethzur, unto the place over against the sepulchres of David, and to the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty.
By mentioning explicitly “the place over against the sepulchres of David” in this statement, Nehemiah made known whose sepulchres were of special importance to him.
Nehemiah’s heart for the place where his fathers were buried instructs us that such places of biblical burial is what godly people should choose for themselves and for their own.
Picture Credit: M. Shires
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