‘The House of My Fathers’ Sepulchres’
When Nehemiah appealed to King Artaxerxes to be relieved of his duties so he could return to Jerusalem to rebuild its wall, he said, “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 2:3). The Hebrew word for “place” is often translated “house,” as in Isaiah 22:22, where it refers to the key of the “house” of David. Nehemiah was upset because the house of his father’s tombs lay in waste. Anciently, the kings of Judah (and Israel) were buried in their house (Isaiah 14:18).
Nehemiah is well known for repairing the protective wall around Jerusalem. But since he twice referred to the decayed state of the area around the sepulchres (Nehemiah 2:3, 5), it is likely that, after repairing the wall, he concentrated on rebuilding David’s palace and the place of his fathers’ sepulchres. In verse 8, Nehemiah secured a letter from the king authorizing him to retrieve timber in order “to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into.” Some commentaries speculate that the “house that I shall enter” refers to David’s palace—that Nehemiah reconstructed that house for himself. This great man was certainly concerned about “the place [or house] of my fathers’ sepulchres”—well aware of the tombs where, for centuries, noble Jewish kings were lain.