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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Nehemiah 4

 

 

Verses 1-6

The Plans of the Adversaries

v. 1. But it came to pass that, when Sanballat, the Samaritan leader, heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, being filled with jealous rage, and mocked the Jews, not daring to use violence on account of the favor shown the Jews by the Persian monarch.

v. 2. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, for he may actually have brought an armed force in sight of Jerusalem to intimidate the Jews, and said, What do these feeble Jews? They were weak both as to wealth and as to numbers. Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? that is, Will they accomplish it by day, openly? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? He tried to show the absurdity of Nehemiah's undertaking in raising the walls on the old foundations, in using the charred, moldered, and broken stones of the first wall.

v. 3. Now, Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, Neh_2:10, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. Tobiah seconded his master in the attempted ridicule by declaring that the strength of a fox, many of which had made their dens on Mount Zion during the exile, Lam_5:18, was sufficient to overthrow the wall. At this point Nehemiah inserts a personal remark.

v. 4. Hear, O our God; for we are despised; and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity,

v. 5. and cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before Thee; for they have provoked Thee to anger before the builders, in the sight of the Jews engaged in the work of building the walls, or, vexed with alarm the builders. It was not a vindictive utterance, but a prophetic prayer flowing from pious and patriotic zeal for the glory of God and the success of His cause.

v. 6. So built we the wall, continuing in spite of all the efforts of the enemies to discourage them; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof, the half of the intended height; for the people had a mind to work, with the exception of a few, who were related to the Samaritans, they worked with a will. Those who undertake the work of the Lord in true faith will not permit the ridicule of the enemies to discourage them, but will piously trust in the power of God to support them.


Verses 7-23

Nehemiah's Precautions

v. 7. But it came to pass that, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, such tribes as took the side of the Samaritans, and the Ammonites, those incited by Tobiah, and the Ashdodites, the inhabitants of this Philistine city with their ancient hatred of the Jews, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, literally, "going up," and that the breaches began to be stopped, where the walls had been entirely demolished, then they were very wroth,

v. 8. and conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, to make it seem that they all together were acting in behalf of the king, and to hinder it, to cause confusion and wickedness.

v. 9. Nevertheless, we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night because of them, to ward off any sudden attack.

v. 10. And Judah, the Jews, said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, they were becoming weak from the strain of restless building, and there is much rubbish, very disagreeable to remove, so that we are not able to build the wall.

v. 11. And our adversaries said, They shall not know neither see till we come in the midst among them, in a sudden, destructive attack, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.

v. 12. And it came to pass that, when the Jews which dwelt by them came, from the towns near the enemy, they said unto us ten times, very frequently, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you, or, "From all places ye shall return unto us. " The enemies had succeeded in intimidating them to such an extent that they were ready to give up the project in discouragement.

v. 13. Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, where the wall was lowest in height, and on the higher places, literally, "the exposed parts," where an attack had most chances of being successful, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows, these detachments for defense being made up of the families working near such breaches in the wall.

v. 14. And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, since it seemed that the whole community was being infected with fear, and to the rulers and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them; remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, who may well be expected to inspire awe and fear in the hearts of the enemies, and fight for your brethren, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses, for all of them were in jeopardy with these lawless hordes ready to swoop down upon Jerusalem.

v. 15. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to naught, by causing it to be revealed, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work, which had been abandoned at the first alarm.

v. 16. And it came to pass from that time forth that the half of my servants, the special detachment under his command, wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons, in full armor, with their weapons ready for defense; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah, ready to take command at any point that was attacked.

v. 17. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, that is, the burden-bearers while carrying, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work and with the other hand held a weapon, a javelin, or small spear.

v. 18. For the builders, those employed in masonwork on the wall, every one had his sword girded by his side and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me, ready to sound the alarm at any time.

v. 19. And I said unto the nobles and to the rulers and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another.

v. 20. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us, rushing to the assistance of the attacked point at once; our God shall fight for us.

v. 21. So we labored in the work; and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared, with tireless vigilance.

v. 22. Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, those living in distant villages and towns and even in the suburbs making their home in the capital for the time being, that in the night they may be a guard to us and labor on the day, even at night they could be aroused for the defense of the city.

v. 23. So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, all those of Nehemiah's immediate family, together with his attendants, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing, literally, "man his weapon the water," which may mean that they even slept in their clothes, or that they took their weapons along with them even when they went for water, taking them off only for necessary ablutions. In spiritual matters also steadfast, eternal vigilance is needed, for the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Nehemiah 4:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/nehemiah-4.html. 1921-23.

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