There was at that time at Babylon one Nehemiah, a servant of the king, a Jew by birth, and very much beloved by Artaxerxes on account of the services he had rendered. He, having inquired of his fellow-countrymen the Jews, what was the condition of their ancestral city; and having learned that his native land remained in the same fallen condition as before, is said to have been disturbed with all his heart, and to have prayed to God with groans and many tears. He also called to mind the sins of his nation, and urgently entreated the divine compassion. Accordingly, the king noticing that he, while waiting at table, seemed more sorrowful than usual, asked him to explain the reasons of his grief. Then he began to bewail the misfortunes of his nation, and the ruin of his ancestral city, which now, for almost two hundred and fifty years, being leveled with the ground, furnished a proof of the evils which had been endured, and a gazing-stock to their enemies. He therefore begged the king to grant him the liberty of going and restoring it. The king yielded to these dutiful entreaties, and immediately sent him away with a guard of cavalry, that he might the more safely accomplish his journey, giving him, at the same time, letters to the rulers requesting them to furnish him with all that was necessary. When he arrived at Jerusalem, he distributed the work connected with the city to the people, man by man; and all vied with each other in carrying out the orders which they received. And already the work of rebuilding 340 had been half accomplished, when the jealousy of the surrounding heathen burst out, and the neighboring cities conspired to interrupt the works, and to deter the Jews from building. But Nehemiah, having stationed guards against those making assaults upon the people, was in no degree alarmed, and carried out what he had begun. And thus, after the wall was completed, and the entrances of the gates finished, he measured out the city for the construction by families of houses within it. He reckoned, also, that the people were not adequate in numbers to the size of the city; for there were not more of them than fifty thousand of both sexes and of all ranks—to such an extent had their formerly enormous numbers been reduced by frequent wars, and by the multitude kept in captivity. For, of old, those two tribes, of whom the remaining people were all that survived, had, when the ten tribes were separated from them, been able to furnish three hundred and twenty thousand armed men. But being given up by God, on account of their sin, to death and captivity, they had sunk down to the miserably small number which they now presented. This company, however, as I have said, consisted only of the two tribes: the ten 341 which had previously been carried away being scattered among the Parthians, Medes, Indians, and Ethiopians never returned to their native country, and are to this day held under the sway of barbarous nations. But the completion of the restored city is related to have been effected in the thirty-second year of the reign of Artaxerxes. From that time to the crucifixion of Christ; that is, to the time when Fufius Geminus and Rubellius were consuls, there elapsed three hundred and ninety and eight years. But from the restoration of the temple to its destruction, which was completed by Titus under Vespasian, when Augustus was consul, there was a period of four hundred and eighty-three years. That was formerly predicted by Daniel, who announced that from the restoration of the temple to its overthrow there would elapse seventy and nine weeks. Now, from the date of the captivity of the Jews until the time of the restoration of the city, there were two hundred and sixty years.
“jamque ad medium machinae processerant.”102:341
Our author here touches upon a most interesting question—the ultimate destiny of the ten tribes. He seems to imply that none of them returned to Palestine, but were wholly absorbed among the Gentile nations. That, however, cannot be correct, for it was still possible, in the time of Christ, to speak of some as connected with the tribe of Asher, one of the ten tribes. See Luke ii. 36.