Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Nisan was the name given by the Persian Jews to the month previously called "Abib," the first month of the Jewish year, or that which followed the vernal equinox. It fell four months after Chisleu Neh 1:1.
The twentieth year - As Artaxerxes ascended the throne in 465 B.C., his 20th year would correspond to 445-444 B.C.
I was very sore afraid - A Persian subject was expected to be perfectly content so long as he had the happiness of being with his king. A request to quit the court was thus a serious matter.
The city ... of my fathers' sepulchres - We may conclude from this that Nehemiah was of the tribe of Judah, as Eusebius and Jerome say that he was.
I prayed to the God of heaven - Mentally and momentarily, before answering the king.
The queen - Though the Persian kings practiced polygamy, they always had one chief wife, who alone was recognized as "queen." The chief wife of Longimanus was Damaspia.
I set him a time - Nehemiah appears to have stayed at Jerusalem twelve years from his first arrival Neh 5:14; but he can scarcely have mentioned so long a term to the king. Probably his leave of absence was prolonged from time to time.
The king's forest - Rather, park. The word used פרדס pardês; compare παράδεισος paradeisos, found only here, in Ecc 2:5, and in Sol 4:13), is of Persian, or at any rate of Aryan origin. The Persians signified by pariyadeza a walled enclosure, ornamented with trees, either planted or of natural growth, and containing numerous wild animals. The "paradise" here mentioned must have been in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, and may have corresponded to the earlier "gardens of Solomon."
The palace - Rather, "the fortress." The word in the original has the double meaning of "palace" and "fortress," the fact being that in ancient times palaces were always fortified. "The fortress which pertained to the house (temple)" is first spoken of here. Under the Romans it was called "Antonia."
The name Sanballat is probably Babylonian the first element being the same which commences "Sennacherib," namely, "Sin," the moon-God, and the second balatu, "eminent" (?),which is found in the Assyrian name, Bel-balatu. As a Horonite, he was probably a native of one of the Bethhorons, the upper or the lower (see Jos 16:3, Jos 16:5; Ch2 8:5), and therefore born within the limits of the old kingdom of Samaria. Tobiah seems to have been an Ammonite slave, high in the favor of Sanballat, whom he probably served as secretary Neh 6:17-19 and chief adviser.
It grieved them - Compare Ezra 4:4-24; Ezr 5:6-17. The revival of Jerusalem as a great and strong city, which was Nehemiah's aim, was likely to interfere with the prosperity, or at any rate the eminence, of Samaria.
The gate of the valley - A gate opening on the valley of Hinnom, which skirted Jerusalem to the west and south. The exact position is uncertain; as is also that of "the dragon well."
The dung port - The gate by which offal and excrements were conveyed out of the city, and placed eastward of the valley-gate.
The gate of the fountain - A gate on the eastern side of the Tyropoeon valley, not far from the pool of Siloam (probably "the king's pool." (Compare Neh 3:15).
The brook - The Kidron watercourse, which skirted the city on the east.
Turned back - i. e. he turned westward, and having made the circuit of the city, re-entered by the valley-gate.
The rulers - The principal authorities of the city, in the absence of the special governor.
The rest that did the work - i. e. "the laboring class that (afterward) actually built the wall."
The king's words - These have not been given; but the royal permission to restore the walls is implied in Neh 2:5-6.
Geshem the Arabian - The discovery that Sargon populated Samaria in part with an Arab colony explains why Arabs should have opposed the fortification of Jerusalem.