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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Nehemiah 6

 

 

Verse 1

MORE TROUBLES FROM THE ENEMY, Nehemiah 6:1-19.

1. Upon the gates — Rather, in the gates. The frame-work and walls of the gates were, of course, completed before the doors of the gates were set up. The setting up of the doors mentioned in chapter Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:3; Nehemiah 3:6, etc., does not contradict this verse, for that chapter is devoted to an account of the various builders, and the work assigned to each; while chapters iv, v, and vi, narrate events which transpired while the building was going on, and before it was all complete.


Verse 2

2. Let us meet — For conference.

Plain of Ono — Probably the same as “the Valley of Craftsmen,” in Nehemiah 11:35; some depression or torrent-bed close by Ono, in which that and other villages seem to have been located. Ono and Lod were Benjamite towns, built by Elpaal or by one of his sons. 1 Chronicles 8:12. The Talmudists locate these towns three miles apart, and the modern village Kefr Ana, about five miles north of Lydda, is, perhaps, the representative of the ancient Ono.

Thought to do me mischief — Designed either to assassinate him or take him prisoner.


Verse 3

3. Why should the work cease — Though Nehemiah saw through their foul designs he was too wise to utter his suspicions, and maintained a noble dignity of reserve. His answer to them also contains a most consummate hint of their low plotting. “I know not any language,” says Dr. A. Clarke, “which a man who is employed on important labours can use more suitably as an answer to the thousand invitations and provocations he may have to remit his work, enter into useless or trivial conferences, or notice weak, wicked, and malicious attacks on his work and his motives: ‘I am doing a great work, so I cannot stoop to your nonsense or notice your malevolence. Why should the work cease while I leave it, and come down to such as you?’”


Verse 5

5. With an open letter — Having failed in all his secret and crafty measures to entrap Nehemiah, Sanballat now proceeds to treat him with contempt and insult, and sends him an open letter, that any one may read. This he probably thought would terrify him, or excite the people against him.


Verse 6

6. Gashmu saith it — He was one of the most malignant of the enemies. See on Nehemiah 2:19.

The Jews think to rebel — A wicked slander, but based ostensibly on the fact that they were fortifying their ancient capital.

Thou… their king — It was probably hoped that this charge, made in an open letter so as to be known to all the Jews, would excite suspicions and hostility against Nehemiah.

According to these words — This is the common formula for introducing a direct quotation, but as no such quotation is given, it is most natural to suppose, with Bertheau, that “these words,” both here and in Nehemiah 6:7, refer to another similar accusation which Nehemiah did not think it necessary to transcribe.


Verse 7

7. Prophets to preach of thee — Persons designated to proclaim his excellency and worth to the people, so as to gain him favour and prepare the way for his usurpation of royal authority and power.

A king in Judah — That is, a descendant of David so noble and great that he ought to be made king of Judah.

Let us take counsel — Whether these things are so, and what shall be done respecting these reports. Thus he hoped to frighten Nehemiah into a conference.


Verse 8

8. Thou feignest them… heart — The governor no longer hesitates to charge his enemy with devising a wicked slander.


Verse 9

9. Made us afraid — Kept us in continual anxiety and alarm, and apprehensive of some hostile movement against us.


Verse 10

10. Shemaiah — This man seems to have been professedly a prophet of God. Compare Nehemiah 6:12.

Who was shut up — He feigned to be in fear of Sanballat and the other enemies, and seems to have imprisoned himself in his own house to show how much he was afraid. It afterward came out, however, that Tobiah and Sanballat had bribed him to do all this. Nehemiah 6:12.

Let us meet together in the house of God — Let us at an appointed time enter and shut ourselves up in the temple. His object evidently was to frighten Nehemiah, and lead him into an act which would ruin his influence with the people. Such a flight into the temple would have laid him open to the charge of cowardice, and perhaps, also, of sacrilege, in rushing into the holy places of the house of God. See Nehemiah 6:13.


Verse 11

11. Should such a man as I flee — I, who have nothing to be ashamed of, and am in the path of obedience and duty? Nehemiah had anxiety and alarm, (Nehemiah 6:9,) but no cowardice.


Verse 12

12. God had not sent him — Nehemiah soon perceived that Shemaiah was a false and lying prophet.

This prophecy — Any utterance of advice, counsel, or warning, given by a professed man of God, is in Old Testament usage a prophecy.

Had hired him — This fact afterwards came to light, greatly to the honour of Nehemiah and to the shame of Shemaiah and those who bribed him. Here Sanballat was found doing the very thing which he had charged on Nehemiah. See Nehemiah 6:7.


Verse 14

14. My God — Nehemiah’s journal abounds with such pious ejaculations, they show his devotion to God and the truth. Comp. Nehemiah 6:9, Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 13:14; Nehemiah 13:22; Nehemiah 13:31.

The prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets — Shemaiah was not the only tool that the enemies of the Jews found ready to do their will. Other prophets were bribed, and even a prophetess, whose name is immortalized in infamy by its association with these enemies of Israel. Nothing more is known of her.


Verse 15

15. Elul — The sixth month of the Jewish ecclesiastical year, corresponding nearly to our September. Fifty and two days back from the twenty-fifth of Elul would bring us to the third of the preceding month, Ab. The building of the wall was accordingly finished in the remarkably short time of less than two months. That this was possible, notwithstanding all the opposition of enemies, may be seen from the following considerations:

“There is little doubt that several parts of the old wall were entire; in many places the foundations still remained; there were all the materials of the old wall still at hand; and though they had to clear off and carry away much rubbish, yet they do not appear to have had any stones to quarry. The work mentioned here was little when compared to what Cesar did in Gaul and other places; and to what Titus did at Jerusalem, when he built a wall round that city of five thousand paces in three days, besides thirteen towers of ten stadia in circuit. And Quintus Curtius and Arrian inform us that Alexander the Great built the walls of Alexandria, which were nearly eight miles in compass, in the space of between twenty and thirty days.” — Clarke.


Verse 16

16. They were much cast down — Disappointed and chagrined to find that all their opposition had been futile.

Work was wrought of our God — That is, it was evident to all — to enemies as well as Jews — that Divine providence had signally favoured the work of rebuilding Jerusalem.


Verse 17

17. The nobles of Judah… letters unto Tobiah — This secret correspondence between some of the nobles and Tobiah shows still more clearly the fearful embarrassments of Nehemiah. The enemy not only bribed some of the prophets, but also some of the nobles, to act the part of traitors. Nehemiah 6:12; Nehemiah 6:14.


Verse 18

18. Many in Judah sworn unto him — Pledged for relationship’s sake to advance Tobiah’s interests.

He was the son-in-law of Shechaniah — This was, perhaps, one of those cases of marriage with the heathen which it had been the last recorded work of Ezra to annul. Ezra 10. A son of Elam who bore the name of Shechaniah (Ezra 10:2) had been the first to confess the people’s great trespass, and to propose reform, but it is altogether probable that some of the more noble Jews on the one hand, and families like that of Tobiah among the heathen, refused to co-operate in Ezra’s measures of reform. This would explain their treachery and hostility to Nehemiah and the mass of the Jews.

Arah — Whose sons were among the first that came up from Babylon with Zerubbabel. Nehemiah 7:10; Ezra 2:5.

His son Johanan — That is, Tobiah’s son.

Meshullam — Who was one of the builders on the wall. Nehemiah 3:4. The treachery among the nobles was owing altogether to these intermarriages. Tobiah (Nehemiah 13:4) was also allied unto Eliashib the priest.


Verse 19

19. They reported his good deeds before me — Seeking to allay suspicions, and to show that Tobiah was not so bad a man as Nehemiah thought. They kept repeating his praises, and mentioning what they esteemed his noble deeds. But at the same time they uttered, or conveyed and reported, Nehemiah’s words to him, and thus acted the despicable part of traitors.

Sent letters to put me in fear — Just as Sanballat had done. Nehemiah 6:5. But all their machinations came to naught, for the work was of God. Nehemiah 6:16.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Nehemiah 6:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/nehemiah-6.html. 1874-1909.

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