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Nehemiah 4-6

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

Nehemiah Chapter 4

Nehemiah faced and overcame much opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, consisting of near-constant mocking and intimidation from the enemies of the people of Judah - including from Sanballat, an influential Samaritan (i.e. he was a non-Israelite from Samaria, which was settled by foreign people after The Galilee Captivity of the northern ten tribes; see also The Southern Kingdom and The Northern Kingdom to understand how, while all Jews are Israelites, not all Israelites are Jews) who had a personal financial and political invested interest in keeping the Jews from rebuilding.

Bethesda

"Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he ridiculed the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brethren and of the army of Samaria, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore things? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?"

Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, "Yes, what they are building - if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!" (Nehemiah 4:1-3 RSV)

Nehemiah's response was, first, prayer to The Lord to help the people of Judah accomplish what He had sent them back to Jerusalem to do; then they did it.

"Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn back their taunt upon their own heads, and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from Thy sight; for they have provoked Thee to anger before the builders.

So we built the wall; and all the wall was joined together to half its height. For the people had a mind to work." (Nehemiah 4:4-6 RSV)

The people of Judah were spread too thinly to repell any substantial attack, so Nehemiah arranged a signal system that would consolidate them at a specific area if needed. Some worked, literally, with a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other.

"From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail; and the leaders stood behind all the house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were laden in such a way that each with one hand labored on the work and with the other held his weapon. And each of the builders had his sword girded at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me."

And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, "The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us." (Nehemiah 4:16-20 RSV)

"So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn till the stars came out. I also said to the people at that time, "Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day." So neither I nor my brethren nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon in his hand." (Numbers 4:21-23 RSV)

Nehemiah Chapter 5

Nehemiah also dealt with opposition from his own people; some men of Judah were profiteering ("to make an unreasonable profit, as on the sale of difficult to obtain goods") from the financial hardships of their own people at a time when everyone's economic and political survival was at stake.

Judah

"Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brethren. For there were those who said, "With our sons and our daughters, we are many; let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive."

There were also those who said, "We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine."

And there were those who said, "We have borrowed money for the king's tax upon our fields and our vineyards. Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children are as their children; yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved; but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards." (Nehemiah 5:1-5 RSV)

Nehemiah rebuked the financial parasites who were taking unfair advantage of people's dire circumstances. It was not yet time for "business as usual."

"I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, "You are exacting interest, each from his brother." And I held a great assembly against them, and said to them, "We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brethren who have been sold to the nations; but you even sell your brethren that they may be sold to us!" They were silent, and could not find a word to say."

"So I said, "The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? Moreover I and my brethren and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us leave off this interest. Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the hundredth of money, grain, wine, and oil which you have been exacting of them." Then they said, "We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say." And I called the priests, and took an oath of them to do as they had promised." (Nehemiah 5:6-12 RSV)

It soon became even more apparent why The Lord had sent Nehemiah to answer Nehemiah's own prayer for the restoration of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was a faithful, honest servant of The Lord who was then appointed governor of Judah.

"Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king [see Ancient Empires - Persia], twelve years, neither I nor my brethren ate the food allowance of the governor. The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens upon the people, and took from them food and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. I also held to the work on this wall, and acquired no land; and all my servants were gathered there for the work." (Nehemiah 5:14-16 RSV)

Nehemiah Chapter 6

Faced with an honest governor who couldn't be bought or corrupted, Nehemiah's enemies resorted to attempts of luring him out where he could be assassinated (see Assassins).

Beware Of Wolves

"Now when it was reported to Sanballat and Tobiah and to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it, although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono." But they intended to do me harm.

And I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?" And they sent to me four times in this way and I answered them in the same manner." (Nehemiah 6:1-4 RSV)

When they couldn't get Nehemiah to walk into their ambush, they sent a false prophet to try to convince Nehemiah to render himself ineffective by making himself a prisoner of the "safety" of the Temple. Nehemiah recognized the "wolf in sheep's clothing."

"Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was shut up, he said, "Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple; for they are coming to kill you, at night they are coming to kill you."

But I said, "Should such a man as I flee? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in."

And I understood, and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me an evil name, in order to taunt me." (Nehemiah 6:10-13 RSV)

Nehemiah fearlessly accomplished what The Lord sent him to do. With that success, the psychological tables were turned, "when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations round about us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem."

"So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations round about us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God." (Nehemiah 6:15-16 RSV)

Fact Finder: What does the Word of God say about "wolves"?
See The Warning About "Grievous Wolves" and Beware Of Wolves


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