|<< Nehemiah 6 >>|
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, insidiously desire a conference with Nehemiah, which he refuses, Nehemiah 6:1-4. They then charge him with the design of rebelling, and causing himself to be made king, Nehemiah 6:5-7; which he denies, and prays to God for support, Nehemiah 6:8, Nehemiah 6:9. A false prophet is hired by Tobiah and Sanballat, to put him in fear; he discovers the imposture, and defeats their design, Nehemiah 6:10-13. He prays to God against them, Nehemiah 6:14. The wall is finished in fifty-two days, Nehemiah 6:15. He discovers a secret and treasonable correspondence between Tobiah and some of the Jewish nobles, Nehemiah 6:16-19.
1Now 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;)
2That 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.
Come, let us meet together in - the plain of Ono - They wished to get him out of Jerusalem from among his friends, that they might either carry him off, or murder him. Ono is supposed to have been in the tribe of Benjamin, near Jordan.
3And 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?
I am doing a great work - Though he knew their design, he does not think it prudent to mention it. Had he done so, they would probably have gone to extremities, finding that they were discovered; and perhaps in a formidable body attacked Jerusalem, when ill provided to sustain such a shock. They wished to effect their purpose rather by treachery than by open violence. I know not any language which a man who is employed on important labors 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?"
4Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.
5Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;
With an open letter in his hand - This was an insult to a person of Nehemiah's quality: as letters sent to chiefs and governors in the East are always carefully folded up, and put in costly silken bags, and these carefully sealed. The circumstance is thus marked to show the contempt he (Sanballat) had for him.
6Wherein 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.
And Gashmu saith it - You are accused of crimes against the state, and Geshem, the Arabian, is your accuser.
7And 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.
Thou hast also appointed prophets - Persons who pretend to be commissioned to preach to the people, and say, Nehemiah reigneth!
Come now therefore, and let us take counsel - Come and justify yourself before me. This was a trick to get Nehemiah into his power.
8Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.
There are no such things done - You well know that what you say is false: I shall not, therefore, trouble myself about a false charge.
9For 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.
10Afterward 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.
Who was shut up - Lived in a sequestered, solitary state; pretending to sanctity, and to close intercourse with God.
Let us meet together in the house of God - The meaning is, "Shut yourself up in the temple; appear to have taken sanctuary there, for in it alone can you find safety." This he said to discourage and disgrace him, and to ruin the people; for, had Nehemiah taken his advice, the people would have been without a leader, their enemies would have come upon them at once, and they would have been an easy prey. Besides, had Nehemiah done this, he would have been shut up in the temple, his government would have been declared at an end, and Sanballat would have assumed the reins.
11And 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.
Should such a man as I flee? - Shall I, who am governor of the people, appointed both by God and the king, shall I betray my trust, and leave the flock without a shepherd? Shall I be a traitor, and abandon the office to which I am appointed? - No! Who, in my situation, with such responsibility, and such prospects, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not: I will stand at my post, and be ready to receive my enemies whensoever they come; so let Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem look to themselves.
12And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.
13Therefore 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.
14My 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.
And on the prophetess Noadiah - Whether this was a prophet or prophetess, we cannot tell; the Hebrew text only makes her a prophetess; all the versions have Noadiah the prophet, except the Arabic which has Younadaa the prophet. I think the ה he at the end of נביאה nebiah is a mistake, and that we should read Noadiah the prophet.
15So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.
The twenty and fifth - of - Elul - This Jewish month answers to a part of our August and September.
Fifty and two days - I see no difficulty in supposing that several thousand workmen, each of whom was working as for God, should be able to complete this wall in fifty-two days. 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 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 Caesar did in Gaul and other places; and to what Titus did at Jerusalem, who built a wall round Jerusalem 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, on the Tanais, which were nearly eight miles in compass, in the space of between twenty and thirty days. Nehemiah therefore had time sufficient in fifty-two days to repair and restore the walls of Jerusalem. See Calmet on this place.
16And 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.
This work was wrought of our God - This is an additional reason why we should not wonder at the shortness of the time in which so great a work was done, for God helped them by an especial providence; and this was so very observable, that their carnal enemies could discover it.
17Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.
The nobles of Judah sent many letters - The circumstances marked in this and the following verses show still more clearly the difficulties which Nehemiah had to encounter; he had enemies without and false friends within. A treacherous correspondence was carried on between the nobles of Judah and the Ammonites; and had almost any other man been at the head of the Jewish affairs, Jerusalem had never been re-established.
18For 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.
He was the son-in-law of Shechaniah - Previously to the coming of Nehemiah, the Jews seemed to be fast intermixing with the heathen, by intermarriages with Ashdodites, Ammonites, and Moabites; see Nehemiah 13:23. Ezra had many evils of this kind to redress, (Ezra 9:3, etc.), chiefly among the common people, though there were both chiefs and priests in that trespass. But here we find the heathen and Jewish nobles interlinked; and the latter were so far imbued with the spirit of idolatry, that they forgot God, his service, their brethren, and their own souls.
19Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.