Nehemiah 4

Opposition Begins

1 Now it happened when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, [he] became angry and greatly provoked, and he mocked the Jews.
2 Then he said before his brothers and the army of Samaria, "What are the feeble Jews doing? Will they restore [these things] for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the piles of rubble--even those burned up?"
3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him and said, "Their wall of stone that they are building would break down if a fox went on it!"
4 Hear, our God, for we are despised. Turn their scorn on their head and give them over to plunder in the land of captivity.
5 Do not cover their guilt, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before you. They have {provoked the builders to anger}.
6 So we rebuilt the wall, and all of the wall was joined up to half [its height]. For the people had a heart to do [it].

Opposition Stopped

7 Now when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem were going forward and the gaps were being closed, they were very angry.
8 So all of them plotted together to come fight against Jerusalem and to make trouble for it.
9 So we prayed to our God and set up a guard against them day and night.
10 But Judah said, "The strength of the carriers is failing, and there is too much dirt, and we are not able to build at the wall."
11 Then our enemies said, "They will not know nor see until we come upon them and will kill them and stop the work."
12 When the Jews who lived beside them came, they said to us ten times, "From all of the places where they live, [they will come up] against us."
13 I stationed the people behind the deepest part of the wall in the open places according to their families, with their swords, spears, and bows.
14 And I looked, got up, and said to the nobles, prefects, and the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses."
15 It happened when our enemies heard that their plan was known to us, that God had frustrated [it], and we all returned to the wall--each to his work.
16 From that day, half of my servants were working on craftsmanship, half were holding spears, small shields, bows, and breastplates. The commanders were behind the whole house of Judah.
17 The ones who were building the wall and the ones {who carried the materials} were carrying in one hand while doing the task, and with the other hand were grasping a weapon.
18 Each of the builders had his sword tied to his side while building. And the man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
19 I said to the nobles, to the prefects, and to the rest of the people, "The work is great and widespread, and we are spread out over the wall far from each other.
20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, come together to us there. Our God will fight for us."
21 So we labored at the work, and half of them were holding the spears from dawn until the stars came out.
22 At the time I also said to the people, "Let each man and his servant spend the night inside Jerusalem, so that they will be a guard for us in the night and work in the day."
23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my young men nor the men of the guard who were behind me took off our clothes. Each one [kept] his weapon [even] in the water.

Nehemiah 4 Commentary

Chapter 4

Opposition of Sanballat and others. (1-6) The designs of the adversaries. (7-15) Nehemiah's precautions. (16-23)

Verses 1-6 Many a good work has been looked upon with contempt by proud and haughty scorners. Those who disagree in almost every thing, will unite in persecution. Nehemiah did not answer these fools according to their folly, but looked up to God by prayer. God's people have often been a despised people, but he hears all the slights that are put upon them, and it is their comfort that he does so. Nehemiah had reason to think that the hearts of those sinners were desperately hardened, else he would not have prayed that their sins might never be blotted out. Good work goes on well, when people have a mind to it. The reproaches of enemies should quicken us to our duty, not drive us from it.

Verses 7-15 The hindering good work is what bad men aim at, and promise themselves success in; but good work is God's work, and it shall prosper. God has many ways of bringing to light, and so of bringing to nought, the devices and designs of his church's enemies. If our enemies cannot frighten us from duty, or deceive us into sin, they cannot hurt us. Nehemiah put himself and his cause under the Divine protection. It was the way of this good man, and should be our way. All his cares, all his griefs, all his fears, he spread before God. Before he used any means, he made his prayer to God. Having prayed, he set a watch against the enemy. If we think to secure ourselves by prayer, without watchfulness, we are slothful, and tempt God; if by watchfulness, without prayer, we are proud, and slight God: either way, we forfeit his protection. God's care of our safety, should engage and encourage us to go on with vigour in our duty. As soon as a danger is over, let us return to our work, and trust God another time.

Verses 16-23 We must watch always against spiritual enemies, and not expect that our warfare will be over till our work is ended. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, which we ought to have always at hand, and never to have to seek for it, either in our labours, or in our conflicts, as Christians. Every true Christian is both a labourer and a soldier, working with one hand, and fighting with the other. Good work is likely to go on with success, when those who labour in it, make a business of it. And Satan fears to assault the watchful Christian; or, if attacked, the Lord fights for him. Thus must we wait to the close of life, never putting off our armour till our work and warfare are ended; then we shall be welcomed to the rest and joy of our Lord.

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Nehemiah 4:1-23 in the English Bible is 3:33-4:17 in the Hebrew Bible
  • [b]. Literally "provoked anger before the builders"
  • [c]. Literally "who carried the burden"

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NEHEMIAH 4

This chapter relates, how the Jews, while building, were mocked by their enemies, to which no answer was returned but by prayer to God, and they went on notwithstanding in their work, Ne 4:1-6 and how that their enemies conspired against them, to hinder them by force of arms, Ne 4:7-12 to oppose which, both spiritual and temporal weapons were made use of, so that the work was still carried on, Ne 4:13-23.

Nehemiah 4 Commentaries