“And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.”
Today’s verse passage is straightforward historical narrative. It is part of the broader biblical account of the return of God’s people from exile. First under Joshua and Zerubbabel and then under Ezra and Nehemiah, God’s covenant people came back from the land of their captivity in successive waves. The return era is filled not only with fascinating history, but with important and encouraging lessons also. Today’s passage documents how Nehemiah, the governor under Artaxerxes, surveyed the ruins of Jerusalem preparatory to overseeing the necessary repairs. Though today’s passage is historic narrative, its wording lends itself to some pretty interesting allegory. Nehemiah’s survey of the ruins, especially as documented in the King James Bible, seems to mirror any believer’s redemptive history. His journey begins at the Dragon Well, part of a water course that may have taken a winding, serpentine route. The dragon is an epithet for Satan (Revelation 12-13; 20:2). Before our conversion, we were all, to one extent or the other, following the dictates of the dragon who holds sway over the whole world (1 John 5:19). Nehemiah moved on from there “to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool.” These places on Nehemiah’s journey remind us of the many biblical references to God as both King (Psalm 44:4; 47:8; 89:18; Isaiah 33:22) and the “fountain of living waters” (Psalm 36:9; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; John 4:14; 7:37; Revelation 21:6; 22:1, 17). In our own redemptive journeys, God led us away from the dragon’s influences and guided us to Christ the Lord. Thus was Isaiah’s beautiful prophecy concerning the future redeemed of the Lord fulfilled: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:2-3). Nehemiah was riding some kind of animal as he surveyed Jerusalem, probably a donkey or a mule, in order to clamber over the ruins. The King James Bible’s wording is interesting. When Nehemiah reached the king’s pool, he tells us that “there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.” This reminds us that we are forever free of our former enslavement to Satan (cf 2 Timothy 2:23-26). We are seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6), far above the Serpent, whose head we will crush shortly (Romans 16:20). We praise God for showing such grace and favor to His fallen image-bearers!