This is where history goes on. The wall is already finished in Nehemiah 6 (Neh 6:1515So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of [the month] Elul, in fifty-two days.). The intermediate chapters tell the story of the consecration of the people as a whole because the Word of God brings them to self-judgment. Now that the people have consecrated themselves, the wall can be dedicated. The completion is cause for joy and thankfulness to God and a feast to dedicate the wall.
The feast of dedication is celebrated because the LORD has not only brought His people back from the land of the foreigner, but has also granted that His house and His holy city are surrounded with a wall by His people. The wall is a testimony for friend and foe that those who once were scattered because of their sins are now under God’s care. This is a cause of joy. This joy manifests itself in thanksgiving and songs accompanied by musical instruments. This is how David arranged it (verse 3636and his kinsmen, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah [and] Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them.; 1Chr 15:1616Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.; Ezra 3:1010Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD according to the directions of King David of Israel.). Each Levite has his own voice and his own instrument, but they are all full of what the LORD has arranged. He is the object of their hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and therefore it is harmonious.
There have been more dedication feasts in the history of Israel: at the bringing up of the ark by David to the city of David (2Sam 6:1212Now it was told King David, saying, “The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God.” David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness.), at the dedication of the temple (1Kgs 8:62-6662Now the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifice before the LORD.63Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered to the LORD, 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the sons of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD.64On the same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that [was] before the house of the LORD, because there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings; for the bronze altar that [was] before the LORD [was] too small to hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings.65So Solomon observed the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of Egypt, before the LORD our God, for seven days and seven [more] days, [even] fourteen days.66On the eighth day he sent the people away and they blessed the king. Then they went to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had shown to David His servant and to Israel His people.), at the laying of the foundation of the temple (Ezra 3:10-1310Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD according to the directions of King David of Israel.11They sang, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, [saying], “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.12Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ [households], the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy,13so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.), and at the dedication of the house (Ezra 6:16-1816And the sons of Israel, the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.17They offered for the dedication of this temple of God 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goats, corresponding to the number of the tribes of Israel.18Then they appointed the priests to their divisions and the Levites in their orders for the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.). The joy at the dedication ceremonies is always in connection with God’s house and is there in spite of the decay. These feasts are not imposed by law, but take place spontaneously.
This is also the case here. The dedication of the wall becomes a general feast. And not only for the builders of the wall and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The Levites, the singers, come from all sides. The wall of Jerusalem is a symbol of salvation and its gates of praise.
Before the feast is celebrated, the priests and the Levites first cleanse themselves and then the people, the gates and the wall. There can be no real dedication without cleansing. It is a cleansing with water, for which they may have used the water for impurity (Num 19:11-1311‘The one who touches the corpse of any person shall be unclean for seven days.12That one shall purify himself from uncleanness with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, [and then] he will be clean; but if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean.13Anyone who touches a corpse, the body of a man who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from Israel. Because the water for impurity was not sprinkled on him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is still on him.). The washing with water through the Word is always necessary (Eph 5:2626so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,). In this way we come to confession and become clean.