Nehemiah 4

1 Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he mocked the Jews.
2 He said in the presence of his associates and of the army of Samaria, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore things? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish it in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish—and burned ones at that?"
3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, "That stone wall they are building—any fox going up on it would break it down!"
4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their taunt back on their own heads, and give them over as plunder in a land of captivity.
5 Do not cover their guilt, and do not let their sin be blotted out from your sight; for they have hurled insults in the face of the builders.
6 So we rebuilt the wall, and all the wall was joined together to half its height; for the people had a mind to work.
7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and the gaps were beginning to be closed, they were very angry,
8 and all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.
9 So we prayed to our God, and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
10 But Judah said, "The strength of the burden bearers is failing, and there is too much rubbish so that we are unable to work on the wall."
11 And our enemies said, "They will not know or see anything before we come upon them and kill them and stop the work."
12 When the Jews who lived near them came, they said to us ten times, "From all the places where they live they will come up against us."
13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.
14 After I looked these things over, I stood up and said to the nobles and the officials and the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your kin, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes."
15 When our enemies heard that their plot was known to us, and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.
16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and body-armor; and the leaders posted themselves behind the whole house of Judah,
17 who were building the wall. The burden bearers carried their loads in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and with the other held a weapon.
18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
19 And I said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, "The work is great and widely spread out, and we are separated far from one another on the wall.
20 Rally to us wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet. Our God will fight for us."
21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from break of dawn until the stars came out.
22 I also said to the people at that time, "Let every man and his servant pass the night inside Jerusalem, so that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day."
23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me ever took off our clothes; each kept his weapon in his right hand.

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 6

  • [a]. Ch 3.33 in Heb
  • [b]. Ch 4.1 in Heb
  • [c]. Cn: Heb [you return]
  • [d]. Compare Gk Syr: Meaning of Heb uncertain
  • [e]. Meaning of Heb uncertain
  • [f]. Cn: Heb [each his weapon the water]

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