NEHEMIAH CHAPTER 6.
Further Obstacles and Completion of the Wall.
THE ENMITY OF SANBALLAT. — V. 1. Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, the same men who had tried to make trouble before, chap. 2, 10. 19; 4, 1. 7, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein, (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates, the openings being finished, but the massive doors themselves having not yet been hung,) v. 2. that Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the Plain of Ono, naming a town in the tribe of Benjamin, near what is now Lydda in the Plain of Sharon. Open threats having failed of their purpose, the enemies were determined to try deceit and stratagem. But they thought to do me mischief, as Nehemiah immediately concluded, their object being to get him into their power and thus hinder the completion of the fortifications. V. 3. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down; why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Without in any way stating his suspicions, Nehemiah pleaded the importance of the work which he had undertaken. V. 4. Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort, hoping to wear down his resistance by their persistent efforts; and I answered them after the same manner, for he was too shrewd to fall into the trap prepared for him. V. 5. Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand, the intention being to stir up the Jews against Nehemiah, (at the same time, a letter which was not sea1ed and not enclosed in a special covering, as the custom of the time prescribed, was not so much informal as designedly disrespectful, a fact which Nehemiah was bound to notice at once,) v. 6. wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu (Geshem the Arabian, v. 1) saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel, planning to throw off the Persian rule; for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words, the alleged rumor to which Sanballat referred. V. 7. And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, to proclaim his selection by divine authority, saying, There is a king in Judah; and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. This was, of course, an empty threat, a bluff. Come now, therefore, and let us take counsel together. V. 8. Then I sent unto him, for Nehemiah readily saw through the scheme of the enemies, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, he denied that there was even so much as a rumor afloat concerning a proposed rebellion, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart, they were an invention of Sanballat’s jealous mind. V. 9. For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work that it be not done. That this was the purpose was so evident that Nehemiah was bound to notice it. Now, therefore, O God, strengthen my hands! That was Nehemiah’s prayer at that time, showing where he placed his trust in the difficult situation confronting him. Similar tricks are tried by the world even in our days, particularly in their efforts to intimidate true Christian pastors. If open enmity fails, the adversaries resort to veiled threats in order to hinder the preaching of the Gospel.
SHEMAIAH, THE FALSE PROPHET. — V. 10. Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah, the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabeel, a man who claimed the gift of prophecy for himself, who was shut up, probably in performance of a vow; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the Temple, in the Sanctuary proper, and let us shut the doors of the Temple, the inference being that Shemaiah had been granted a revelation according to which men had planned an attempt on the life of Nehemiah in the near future; for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee. The purpose of this scheme was either to bring discredit upon Nehemiah in making him appear guilty, or to make him seem a coward, who preferred his personal safety to that of the city which it was his duty to protect. V. 11. And I said, Should such a man as I flee? the governor entrusted with the defense of the city? And who is there that, being as I am, would go into the Temple to save his life? This may mean either that he refused to hide in a cowardly fashion, or that he did not want to risk death by violating the sanctity of the Temple, Num. 18, 7. I will not go in. V. 12. And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me, without any divine authority; for Toblah and Sanballat had hired him, he was acting under the influence of a secret bribe. V. 13. Therefore was he hired that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, both by neglecting his duty as governor and by entering into the Sanctuary of the Temple, which was open only to the priests, and that they might have matter for an evil report, to discredit him in the one or the other way, as shown above, that they might reproach me. Nehemiah therefore adds a prayer concerning this spiteful attempt at intimidating and discrediting him. V. 14. My God, think Thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, to execute His vengeance upon them, and on the prophetess Noadiah, another of the false prophets who had been bribed to hinder the work of building the walls, and the rest of the prophets that would have put me in fear, all of them hired with Sanballat’s money. Thus there are teachers in the very midst of Christianity who with open lies and deceitful words try to hinder the work of the Lord, endeavoring to lead the true servants of God into disobedience.
THE WALL COMPLETED. — V. 15. So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, corresponding roughly to the latter part of August and the greater part of September, in fifty and two days, showing that the builders were inspired with great love and zeal for the work. V. 16. And it came to pass that, when all our enemies heard thereof and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God, since it had been brought to a successful conclusion in spite of all the enmity from without and the dissension within, as it had been brought about by the bribes. The divine cooperation was evident throughout. V. 17. Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, literally, “multiplied their letters going to Tobiah,” thus becoming traitors to their own cause, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them. V. 18. For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son-in-law of Shechaniah, the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam, the son of Berechiah, the evil of mixed marriages with the enemies of the Lord appearing here once more. V. 19. Also they reported his good deeds before me, in trying to influence Nehemiah in his favor, and uttered my words to him, informing the enemy of all the matters undertaken by. Nehemiah, so that Tobiah was able to plan new schemes to hinder the work. And Tobiah, with all this information at his command, sent letters to put me in fear. As Nehemiah and the faithful Jews continued in the task set before them in spite of all attempts of the enemies to discourage them, so all true Christians will work for the Lord consistently, letting neither threats nor enticements keep them from performing the labor entrusted to them.