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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Nehemiah 6

 

 

Verse 1

Nehemiah 6:1 Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, 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;)

Ver. 1. Now it came to pass] Lo, here another let to the good work in hand. That in the fourth chapter was external only; that in the fifth internal only; this here is mixed, that is, partly cast in by the enemies without (those cruel crafties), and partly helped on by the perfidious prophets and ignobles within, conspiring with the enemy against the good of their own country. Thus fluctus fluctum trudit. Disorder creates disorder.

And the rest of our enemies] The Church’s enemies are not a few, 1 Corinthians 16:9. She is like unto a silly poor maid, saith Luther, sitting in a wood or wilderness, compassed about with hungry wolves, lions, boars, bears, assaulting her every moment and minute. The ground of all is that old enmity, Genesis 3:15.

That I had builded the wall] This wall made Nehemiah, as Winchester tower at Windsor made William Wickham, that is, raised and renowned him; and in a like sense as God is said to have made Moses and Aaron, 1 Samuel 12:6, that is, to have advanced them in the hearts of his people.

And that there was no breach left therein] It had been but half-built, Nehemiah 4:6, and the breaches but began to be stopped, Nehemiah 6:6; Nehemiah 6:15, yet now all is finished, amidst much opposition; so shall the work of grace be in our hearts. But whilst here a Christian hath his Ulterius More, still (which was Charles V’s motto), his Superius, Greatest, as the guest in the Gospel that was bid to sit higher, &c., something is yet wanting to his full and final salvation, which he is still to work out, Philippians 2:12, like as here, the doors were not yet upon their hinges.


Verse 2

Nehemiah 6:2 That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in [some one of] the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief.

Ver. 2. That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me] As if solicitous of my safety, and careful of the common good. He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him. When he speaketh fair believe him not; for there are seven abominations in his heart, Proverbs 26:24-25. Nehemiah well knew that all this pretended courtesy was but dross upon dirt, Nehemiah 6:13, a fair glove drawn upon a foul hand, a cunning collusion to undo him. He therefore keeps aloof: quia me vestigia terrent, &c.

Come, let us meet together] Thus they called him to conference and consultation whiles the doors were not yet upon the gates; purposely to take him off the work; as the fox diverts the huntsman from following the hare; and as our deceitful hearts do too often draw us away from the prosecution of good purposes, by casting many other odd impertinent matters an our way.

In the plain of Ono] Which was in the tribe of Benjamin, Nehemiah 11:30-31, near to Jerusalem; that he might the sooner come, and be the more secure; so the Papists appointed Trent for their conventicle, as near to the Reformed Churches; inviting their divines thereunto sub fide publica; under public trust, but that council was carried by the pope and his complices, with such infinite guile and craft, without any sincerity, upright dealing, and truth, as that the Protestants, Calvin, Buret, &c., kept off; as seeing that it was to no purpose to come among them.

But they thought to do me mischief] To kill me, or, at least, to captivate me.


Verse 3

Nehemiah 6:3 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?

Ver. 3. And I sent messengers unto them] He went not, but sent. This was to be wise as a serpent, Matthew 10:16. God calleth us not to a weak simplicity, but alloweth us as much of the serpent as of the dove, and telleth us that a serpent’s eye in a dove’s head is a singular accomplishment. Beware of men, Nehemiah 6:18, brutish persons, skilful to destroy, Ezekiel 21:31. Bless yourselves from Machiavellians (those matchless villanies), and pray, with David, to be delivered from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue, Psalms 120:2. The Cardinal of Lorraine (the chief engineer of the French Massacre) sent to Christopher, Duke of Wirtsberg, a prudent and a valiant prince, that he and his brethren, the Guises, would embrace the Protestant religion, and desired to be enrolled in the number of the Protestant princes; but they knew him too well to trust him.

I am doiny a great work, so that I cannot come down] I cannot intend it, as having my hands more full of employment than that I can give heed to your compliments. There is a curse to him that doth the work of the Lord negligently or deceitfully. And lata negligentia dolus est, saith the Civilian, Remissness is a kind of perfidiousness.

Why should the work cease?] As it would, or at least go but slowly on, in his absence; he was εργοδιωκτης, the driver on of tbe business; as was likewise Boaz, who, therefore, followed it so closely himself, Ruth 2:4; his eyes were upon the servants, reapers, gleaners; he lodged in the midst of his husbandry. Let the tempter ever find us busy, and he will depart discouraged, as Cupid is said to do from the muses, whom he could never take idle. Standing water soon stinks, empty stomachs draw the humour that is next it; so doth the idle heart evil motions. An industrious Nehemiah is not at leisure to parley with Sanballat; lest if he let any water go beside the mill, he should be a great loser by it. His employment is as a guard or good angel, to keep him both right and safe.


Verse 4

Nehemiah 6:4 Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

Ver. 4. Yet they sent unto me four times] As thinking to prevail by their importunity. This wicked men have learned from their master Beelzebub, the lord of flies, as the name ( απομυιος) signifieth, or master fly, that will not off the bait till beaten, and hardly then. Sin hath painted an impudency in some men’s faces; and it appears they are past all grace, because shameless, Et pudet non esse impudentes, it is not shameful to be impudent. saith Austin.

And I answered them after the same manner] Nehemiah stood immoveable as a rock; he was homo quadratus, man, four-square, not to be altered, but firm to his principles, resolute in his holy purposes. We may style him (as Theodoret doth Athanasius) the bulwark of truth ( προβολον της αληθειας), the Church’s champion. Nec tremere, nec timide, may seem to have been his motto, neither temerarious nor timorous.


Verse 5

Nehemiah 6:5 Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;

Ver. 5. Then sent Sanballat … the fifth time] So restless are wicked persons; their souls are violently tossed about, as in a sling, 1 Samuel 25:29, Etsi non aliqua docuissent, &c. although they would not be taught by anything, Satan, their taskmaster, urgeth them; and when thou seest them most importunate and outrageous, Scito quia ab accensore suo daemone perurgentur, saith Bernard, know thou that the devil pricks them, and kicks them on to it.

With an open letter in his hand] Not sealed, as the manner is, for secrecy’ sake. The Jews use to write upon the back of their letters Nun, Cheth, Shin; that is, Niddui, Cherem, and Shammatha, all sorts of excommunication to him that shall open them. But this letter was purposely sent open, that whoso would might read it ere it came to Nehemiah’s hand, and be warned of having a hand in the pretended treason.


Verse 6

Nehemiah 6:6 Wherein [was] written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith [it, that] thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words.

Ver. 6. It is reported among the heathen] And must, therefore, needs be true, like as the common sort of Turks think that whatsoever is written in their tongue must of necessity be believed for truth. But who knows not that rumour is a loud liar; and that every public person needeth carry a spare handkerchief to wipe off dirt cast upon him by disaffected persons, that seek to soil their reputation, and to deprave their best actions.

And Gashmu saith so] Geshmu, alias Geshem, the Arabian, Nehemiah 6:1-2, a worthy wight, a credible witness. Nehemiah might well have replied, as Seneca did in like case, Male de me loquuntur, sed mali. Gashmu’s tongue was no slander; for he was known to be mendaeiorum artifex, one that had taught his tongue the art of lying, Jeremiah 9:3; Jeremiah 9:5, and had taken fast hold of deceit, Jeremiah 8:5. Such of late time were those loud and lewd liars, Genebrard, Scioppus, Baldwin, and Bolsecus, who, being requested by the Popish side to write the lives of Calvin and Beza, is in all their writings alleged as canonical, though they know him to be (according to the old proverb) a friar, a liar.

That thou and the Jews think to rebel] A likely matter; but that matters not. Any author serves Sanballat’s turn, who for a need could have sucked such an accusation as this out of his own fingers. See Ezra 4:13.

For which cause thou buildest the wall] This was calumniari audacter, slander boldly, to as Machiavel taught, aliquid saltem adhaerebit. But if dirt will stick to a mud wall, yet to marble it will not. Nehemiah hath the Euge good of a clear conscience, and no wise man will believe this black-mouthed Blabberer. N. D., author of the three conversions, hath made Sir John Oldcastle, the martyr, a ruffian, a robber, and a rebel. His authority is taken from the stage-players, of like conscience for lies, as all men know.

That thou mayest be their king] King of the Jews, as they called our Saviour, John 19:12. And as some think the ground of this report, if any there were, concerning Nehemiah’s practising to be king, were the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah concerning the near approach of Christ’s kingdom.

Nihil est, quin male narrando possit depravarier (Terent.).

According to these words] According to this report, or somewhat to the same sense.


Verse 7

Nehemiah 6:7 And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, [There is] a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.

Ver. 7. And thou hast also appointed prophets, &c.] That the thing might seem to be of God; as the beast hath his false prophet, that wrought miracles before him, Revelation 19:20; as Mahomet had his prophets; and John of Leyden had his, to cry him up king of Munster, the New Jerusalem, as they called it, yea, of all nations, to rule them with a rod of iron.

And now shall it be reported to the king] Who must needs be highly displeased, and wilt as little endure it as the heaven two suns. Sol quasi solus; sic monarcha. Marriage and monarchy will not do away with co-rivals. Romanos geminos unum non caperet Regnum, quos unum uteri ceperat hospitium (Cyprian).

Come now, therefore, and let us take counsel] In commune consulere, lest we all suffer for your fault. But neither was good Nehemiah in any fault; neither was their drift any other but this, to draw him out of the city, that they might mischieve him; like as Dr Bristow advises his Catholics to get the Protestants out of their stronghold of the Scriptures into the open field of fathers and councils; and then they might do what they would with us.


Verse 8

Nehemiah 6:8 Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.

Ver. 8. There are no such things done as thou sayest] Nehemiah is not too careful to clear himself. This was so transparent a lie, that a man might see through it, and was, therefore, best answered with a neglective denial. It falls out often that plain dealing puts craft out of countenance. Animus recti conscius obiecta probra ut visus nocturnos et vanas somniorum imagines digno supplicio punit, festivo scilicet contemptu, et oblivione: vel, si tanti est, misericordia elevat (John Wower).


Verse 9

Nehemiah 6:9 For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, [O God], strengthen my hands.

Ver. 9. For they all made us afraid] This they aimed at; but could not attain unto; for faith quelleth and killeth distrustful fear, Psalms 46:1-2. Audacia est pro muro, saith Sallust. Let the wicked flee when none pursueth, but the righteous will be bold as as lion, Proverbs 28:1.

Saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work] So measuring them by themselves, as if they would have been soon scared and discouraged. But they knew not the Aes triplex, the power of the Spirit, that spirit of power (opposed to the spirit of fear), of love, and of a sound mind, 2 Timothy 1:7. They knew not the privy armour of proof that these good Jews had about their hearts.

Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands] He acknowledgeth himself to be in the condition of a poor garrison soldier, that hath no help or supplies but from the Captain of his salvation which, therefore, he thus humbly calleth in and craveth. Of ejaculations, see Nehemiah 2:4. This here is despatched in four words.


Verse 10

Nehemiah 6:10 Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who [was] shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.

Ver. 10. Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah] Perhaps the same that is mentioned Ezra 8:16, but now fallen, as a star from heaven. Blazing stars were never but meteors. Demas not only forsook Paul, but became a priest in an idol’s temple at Thessalonica, if Dorotheus may be believed. A priest Shemaiah was, and would seem to be a prophet; but he proved not right, 1 Chronicles 24:6. All is not gold that glitters. It was Tobiah’s gold that made him a prophet, as Philip’s gold made the oracle of Apollo give what answer he pleased. A house he had in the temple; and there he had reclused and shut up himself, that he might seem some singular devotee, expecting a revelation from heaven; or as one who sequestered himself from the company of others, with a stand further off; come not near, for I am holier than thou; or, lastly, to persuade people that there was a necessity of securing themselves from the night inroads of the enemy. Whatever it was that he was thus, anchoret-like, pent-up, or locked-up, or detained (as Junius rendereth it; see the like said of Doeg, that bloody Edomite, 1 Samuel 21:7), Nehemiah went to his house to know what was the matter; supposing him to be a friend but finding him bribed by the enemy.

Let us meet together in the house of God] Famous for sanctity and safety: being within God’s precincts, we shall surely be under his protection.

And let us shut the doors of the temple] Immure ourselves, and keep out the enemy. But this had been the ready way to invite them, seeing his cowardice; for maximum his periculum qui maxime timent the danger which they fear the most, (saith Sallust), nothing betrays a man sooner than his causeless fear. God helpeth the valiant. Besides, Shemaiah and his false complices, having got Nehemiah to them from his friends and followers, might have done what they pleased with him, as the Romans did by Caesar, in the Senate house.

For they will come to slay thee] And Nehemiah must be made believe that Shemaiah, as a special friend, wished no long life, and was zealous for it; whence he so doubleth his prediction of the danger. O deep dissimulation!


Verse 11

Nehemiah 6:11 And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who [is there], that, [being] as I [am], would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.

Ver. 11. And I said, Should such a man as I flee?] To the dishonour of God, and the discouraging of the people? to the scandal of the weak, and the scorn of the wicked? Et Turnum fugientem haec terra videbit? There is a Tο πρεπον, a comeliness, a seemliness, a suitableness, appertains to every calling and condition of life; and nature hath taught heathens themselves to argue from dignity to duty, and to scorn to do anything unworthy of themselves. Scipio, when a harlot was offered him, answered, Vellem, si non essem Imperator, I would, were I not a general. Antigonus being invited to a feast where a notable harlot was to be present, asked counsel of Menedemus, what he should do? No more but this, said he, remember that thou art a king’s son. Themistocles once, after a victory, viewing the spoils and pillage of the field, said to his friend that bare him company, Take thou these rich spoils to thyself; for thou art not Themistocles; it is below me to stoop to them, Aνελου σεαυτω συ γαρ ουκ ει Yεμιστοκλης. When Pompey had Caesar and Antony in a ship together, it was suggested to him by Metrodorus, to revenge himself for the death of his father and brother. To whom he replied, that so to do might happily befit Metrodorus, but in no wise Pompey. It is not for you to be fishing for small fish, but for towns, forts, and castles, said Cleopatra to Mark Antony. It is not for God’s saints to walk as men; since they are children of the kingdom, and must therefore regnum in pectore gerere, carry themselves accordingly. We usually say, such a man understands himself well; that is, he knows his place, his dignity, and walks accordingly. It is a pusillanimity to do otherwise; Nehemiah will never do it, to die for it.

And who is there, that, being as I am] So greatly beloved of God, Daniel 9:23, so highly favoured of the king, Nehemiah 2:2; Nehemiah 2:4, so protected hitherto, so prospered, so intrusted with the government and safety of this people, more dear to me than my very life.

Would go into the temple] As a malefactor, to take sanctuary there; or as a coward, to save mine own life with the loss of the lives of many of the precious sons of life.

I will not go in] The heavens shall sooner fall than I will forsake the truth, said that martyr, William Flower (Acts & Mon. 1430). Omnia de me praesumas praeter fugam et palinodiam, said Luther to Staupicius, I will rather die than fly; burn than turn. Latimer was wondrous bold and stout in his dealing with Henry VIII, both before and after he was a bishop. So were Athanasius, Ambrose, Basil, the primitive confessors. This courage in Christians the heathen persecutors called obstinacy, and not faith. Sed pro hac obstinatione fidei morimur, saith Tertullian in his Apology, for this obstinacy of faith we gladly die; neither can we die otherwise; for the love of Christ constraineth us. Life in God’s displeasure is worse than death; as death in his true favour is true life; as Bradford told Gardiner.


Verse 12

Nehemiah 6:12 And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.

Ver. 12. And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him] By my spiritual sagacity I smelt him out; as having my inward senses habitually exercised to discern good and evil, Hebrews 5:14. Doth not the ear try words, as the mouth tasteth meat? Job 12:11. What though we have not received the spirit of the world (we cannot cog and comply as they can, yet), we have received a better thing, the Spirit of God, the mind of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 2:16.

But that he pronounced this prophecy against me] To make my righteous soul sad with his lies, Ezekiel 13:22, and to bring me to disgrace and danger. Luther was wont to advise preachers to see that these three dogs did not follow them into the pulpit: pride, covetousness, and envy.

For Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him] A mere mercenary he was then, and had Linguam Venalem; he could call good evil, and evil good, justify the wicked for a reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him, Isaiah 5:20. Such false prophets were Dr Shaw and friar Pinket in Richard III’s time, who made use of them as his studges to obtrude bastardy on his brother, King Edward IV, and so to disable his children for the crown, that he might settle it upon his own head (Dan. Hist.). What became of Pinker I know not, but Shaw (as ashamed of his sermon at Paul’s Cross) disconsolately departed, and never after that was publicly seen. Like unto these were Bishop Bourn and Cardinal Pole in Queen Mary’s days. The cardinal, hired with the archbishopric of Canterbury, took for his text, Isaiah 66:8, and applied it to England, as then happily reduced to the pope’s obedience. Bourn, for the bishopric of Bath, preached such stuff at Paul’s Cross, that the people were ready to tear him in pieces. They flung a dagger at him in the pulpit. Phlugius and Sidonius, authors of the Popish book published in Germany by the name of Interim, Chrisma et oleum pontificium defendebant, ut ipsi discederent unctiores, defended chrism and extreme unction, as being liquored in the fists, and promoted to fat bishoprics (Melch. Adam). But a minister, as he should have nothing to lose, so he should have as little to get; he should be above all price or sale. Nec prece, nec pretio, neither request nor reward, should be his motto.


Verse 13

Nehemiah 6:13 Therefore [was] he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and [that] they might have [matter] for an evil report, that they might reproach me.

Ver. 13. Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid] But they were much mistaken in their aims: this matter was not malleable. Nehemiah was a man of another spirit, of a Caleb-like spirit; he was fide armatus, Deo armatus, soldier by faith and for God, and therefore undaunted; he was full of spiritual mettle, for he knew whom he had trusted.

And do so, and sin] Nehemiah feared nothing but sin, and the fruit thereof, shame and reproach, so great was his spirit, so right set were both his judgment and affections. But if anything would have drawn him aside from the straight ways of the Lord, base fear was the likeliest; as we see in David at Gath, and Peter in the high priest’s hall. See Zephaniah 3:13, {See Trapp on "Zephaniah 3:13"} Pessimus in dubiis augur Timor.

And that they might have matter for an evil report] This wicked men watch for, as a dog doth for a bone; and if they get but the least hint, oh how happy do they hold themselves! what wide mouths do they open! &c. It is our part, therefore (by a Nehemiah-like conversation), to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, who, like blackamoors, despise beauty; like dogs, bark at the shining of the moon. Of Luther it was said by Erasmus, Nec hostes reperiant quod calumnientur. Of Bishop Hooper it is said, that his life was so good that no kind of slander (although divers went about to reprove it) could fasten any fault upon him (Act. and Mon. 1366). The like is reported of Bradford and Bucer. We should so carry ourselves, ut nemo de nobis maleloqui absque mendacio possit, as Jerome hath it, that none might speak evil of us without a manifest lie.


Verse 14

Nehemiah 6:14 My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.

Ver. 14. My God, think upon Tobiah and Sanballat] Heb. Remember, to be revenged on them, q.d. I cannot deal with them, but do thou do it. He doth himself no disservice (saith one) who when no law will relieve him, maketh God his chancellor. It is a fearful thing to be put over into his punishing hands by the saints, as Joab and Shimei were unto Solomon’s hands by dying David. If men, in their best estate, are so weak that they are crushed before the moth, how shall they stand before this great God?

According to these their works] Qualia quisque tacit, talia quisque luat, Let them drink as they have brewed.

And on the prophetess Noadiah] Who joined with Shemaiah in this dissimulation, and was of his counsel. Omne malum ex gynaecio. False prophets and seducers are seldom without their women. Simon Magus had his Helena, Carpocrates his Marcellina, Apelles his Philumena, Montanus his Priscilla and Maximilla, &c.

And the rest of the prophets] Improperly so called, but so they pretended to be; and here they had conspired, a great sort of them, to do evil.

That would have put me in fear] By their concurrent prophecies, purposely to disgrace and endanger me. Suffragia non sunt numeranda, sed expendenda. Multitude and antiquity are but ciphers in divinity.


Verse 15

Nehemiah 6:15 So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth [day] of [the month] Elul, in fifty and two days.

Ver. 15. So the wall was finished] Though with much ado, and maugre the malice of all foreign and internal enemies. So shall the work of grace in men’s hearts: it is perfected there by opposition, and grows gradually, but constantly and infallibly.

In the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul] Which was their sixth month, answering, mostly, to our August. This (saith Beda) answered both unto the six days of God’s working to make the world, after which a rest followed, and to the everlasting rest in heaven after six ages of the world, spent in toil and labour!

In fifty and two days] A very short time for the despatch of so great a work. But nescit tarda molimina Spiritus Sancti gratia. God was much seen herein; and the enemies’ courage much quailed. But what meant Josephus to say, that the wall was in building two years and three months? It appeareth hereby, and by many other passages in his Jewish Antiquities, that he had not much read, or at least minded, the Holy Scriptures. Of this short time spent in building the wall, Daniel seemeth to prophesy, saith an interpreter, when he saith, that it should be built again in angustiis temporum, in the straits of time, Daniel 9:25; neither hold we so much strange at it, since the hands at it were many and those were motitantes, nimble and cheerful, and the princes were present to prick them on, and they repaired only and built upon the old foundation; and lastly the very enemies were convinced that the work was wrought of God, Nehemiah 6:16; what marvel, therefore, that it went so on end?


Verse 16

Nehemiah 6:16 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.

Ver. 16. When all our enemies heard thereof] So famous a matter could not be concealed from them who listened with the left ear, and readily received these βλαβαι ποδωκεις, as the Greeks call, galling reports.

Saw these things] For they ran to the sight of it, as to a miracle; they looked also upon it with an evil and envious eye; like as the Papists do upon the Reformation.

They were much cast down in their own eyes] They were crest fallen, and dejected from the high tops of their proud hopes and designs. See what biles and ulcers the antichristian rout are vexed with, and how they are scorched with the sunshine of the gospel, Revelation 16:2; Revelation 16:11. What moan Babel’s merchants make to see her ruin and the rise of the new Jerusalem, Revelation 18:11. Envy is vitium Diabolicum, the devil’s disease, saith Austin, in Psalms 139:1-24; and those that are troubled with it can never want woe.

For they perceived that this work was wrought of our God] With such incredible swiftness was it carried on and accomplished, that they could not but say among the heathen, "The Lord hath done great things for them; God is with them of a truth."


Verse 17

Nehemiah 6:17 Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and [the letters] of Tobiah came unto them.

Ver. 17. Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah] Heb. The white ones; either, because they went in white garments, as Joseph, Mordecai, &c., or because they were illustrious and famous for wisdom and virtue. But in these nobles of Judah was nomen inane, crimen immune. Here was sedes prima, vita ima, dignitas in indigno; hoc est, ornamentum in lute, white garments they might have, but with sooty souls, and black manners.

Sent many letters unto Tobiah] Heb. Multiplied their letters (or packets), walking to Tobiah, with whom thereby they held correspondency; as at this day they do with the Turkish viziers and bashaws of state, giving them continual intelligence of the affairs of Christendom, and advising most of that mischief which the Turk puts in execution against us.


Verse 18

Nehemiah 6:18 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.

Ver. 18. For there were many in Judah sworn unto him] Besides that intercourse of letters aforementioned, Tobiah had his pensioners among the Jews, who were his sworn servants, and had taken oath, or (as the Hebrew hath it) they were lords of an oath to him. In the year 1583, Girald, earl of Desmond’s, men had barbarously vowed to forswear God, before they would forsake him. I know not what these Jews had sworn to Tobiah (to be true to him likely, and to prosecute his designs), but those of them at this day living are great swearers (they were so in St James’s time, James 5:12), but they keep no oath unless they swear upon their own Torah or book of the law, brought out of their synagogues (Weemse).

Because he was the son-in-law of Shechaniah] One of those corrupt nobles, Nehemiah 6:17, and Meshullam was another, who also helped to build the wall, Nehemiah 3:4, and seemed forward, but now shows himself in his colours. Thou mayest be the lead horse in the team (saith one), a ring leader of good exercises, as Joash, 2 Chronicles 24:4-6. Thou mayest flock after zealous preachers, as those did after John Baptist, Matthew 3:5. Yea, stand out in persecution, and not shrink in the wetting, as the thorny ground did not; and yet be no better than a very painted hypocrite.


Verse 19

Nehemiah 6:19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. [And] Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.

Ver. 19. Also they reported his good deeds before me] Heb. His goodness, as if he had been another Phocion, who was surnamed the Good. But this was but in their opinion only, who had little enough goodness, and skill to judge it. Or if there were any good in him, yet Sunt bona mista malis and of him might be said, as once of Sfortz, duke of Milan, that he was a very monster, made up and compact of virtue and vice (Folieta Galeazo).

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Nehemiah 6:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/nehemiah-6.html. 1865-1868.

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