“Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.” Nehemiah 3:14
Through the Bible: Nehemiah 1-5
I know this doesn’t seem to be a super inspiring verse to blog about. But I was struck by this example of humility in my quiet time this morning. Malchijah (Hebrew for “Yahweh is my King”) is a ruler over a district. But he works shoulder to shoulder with his countrymen. And of all sections for a ruler to repair, he is assigned to the Dung Gate.
The Dung Gate is on the southern side of the Old City of Jerusalem. It leads to the Valley of Hinnom, the ancient garbage dump for the city. So all the filth, trash, refuse and rot of the city passed through the Dung Gate and was dumped in the Valley of Hinnom.
The Valley of Hinnom was also where Judah’s worst kings practiced child sacrifice (Jeremiah 7:31). In Jeremiah 19:2-6, the prophet pronounced a curse over the place, and gave it a new name:
“therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.”
Jeremiah 19:6 ESV
Fast forward 150 years or so. Nehemiah’s work crews are divvying up the assignments. Scripture doesn’t record how they did this, so we don’t know if they drew straws or people volunteered. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone raising their hand and saying “Give me the Dung Gate! Such history! Such prestige! And I love the smell of garbage in the morning!”
So Malchijah probably didn’t volunteer. But if Malchijah ever objected, Scripture doesn’t record it. He put his shoulder to the work and got the dirtiest job done. Maybe he lived up to his name and acknowledged the authority of God in his life.
Because while the Dung Gate wasn’t a very high profile gate, it was necessary. The Jews were committed to keeping the Holy City clean. From their earliest days in the wilderness, God had commanded them to allow no uncleanliness within the camp (see Dt. 23:12-14):
“Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.”
Deuteronomy 23:14 ESV
I praise God for the example of humble leaders who roll up their sleeves and do jobs that would seem to be beneath them. I pray I would be that kind of leader.
Oh, and one more thing:
If you go to Jerusalem today, you can visit the Western Wall, the holiest site in all Judaism. It is the only part of the Temple that remains after the Romans destroyed it in AD 70. Wanna guess how you get to the plaza in front of the Western Wall? There’s only one way.
Through the Dung Gate.
For more about the Dung Gate, check out this video from a Messianic Jewish ministry called “Our Jewish Roots.”
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