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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 6

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-4

The plot to distract Nehemiah 6:1-4

The plain of Ono, to which Nehemiah’s adversaries invited him for a meeting (Nehemiah 6:2), lay about 25 miles west and a little north of Jerusalem near Ashdod and Judah’s border with Samaria. Israel’s present international airport at Lod, just east of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast, is very close to this site. It was in a kind of no-man’s land between Judah and Samaria. If Nehemiah had accepted this invitation he would have been many miles from Jerusalem for at least two days. This would have given the people of the land opportunity to attack the Jewish workmen.

"Chephirim" (Nehemiah 6:2) may be the proper name of a town. However since it is the plural of the Hebrew word for village it may be a general reference to the towns on the Ono plain. Another possibility is that this Hebrew word should be translated "with the lions" and that this is a figurative reference to the princes of the surrounding provinces. [Note: Richard Schiemann, "Covenanting with the Princes: Neh. VI:2," Vetus Testamentum 17 (July 1967):367-69.] Nehemiah turned down four invitations to this meeting (Nehemiah 6:4).

Verses 1-14

4. The attacks against Nehemiah 6:1-14

Nehemiah recorded three separate plots the Jews’ enemies instigated to frustrate his effective leadership.

Verses 5-9

The plot to discredit Nehemiah 6:5-9

Sanballat sent his "open letter" (Nehemiah 6:6) to all the Jews, not just to Nehemiah. Its purpose was doubtless to create division among the Jews who might begin to wonder if their leader’s motive really was as Sanballat suggested.

"Another proof of Sanballat’s dishonest intentions is that he sent an open letter, i.e., not sealed, as was the custom in those days. With the open letter, which could be read by anyone on the way, he was responsible for the further spreading of the rumor." [Note: Fensham, p. 202.]

"Gashmu" (Nehemiah 6:6) is a variant spelling of Geshem (Nehemiah 6:1). Nehemiah did not let this threat intimidate him and flatly denied the charge (Nehemiah 6:8). Since Nehemiah had a reputation as a man of integrity among the Jews, this seed of doubt did not take root in their minds.

Verses 10-14

The plot to deceive Nehemiah 6:10-14

Shemaiah claimed to have received a prophecy from God (Nehemiah 6:12). He tried to scare Nehemiah into thinking that assassins were after him so he would seek sanctuary inside the temple. The Mosaic Law prohibited anyone but the Lord’s anointed servants from entering the holy and the most holy places in the temple (Numbers 1:51; Numbers 3:10; Numbers 18:7). Nehemiah was not the kind of man his enemies could terrify with a death threat. Perhaps Shemaiah was suggesting that he and Nehemiah commandeer and take possession of the temple, [Note: A. L. Ivry, "Nehemiah 6, 10 : Politics and the Temple," Journal for the Study of Judaism 3 (1972):38.] though this possibility seems unlikely to me. Nehemiah saw through this "prophecy." It could not have been from God since it counseled disobedience to the Mosaic Law. The motive of Nehemiah’s enemies was to show the Jews that their leader had no real concern about the Law, but was rebuilding the walls for personal reasons (Nehemiah 6:13). This incident was only one of several in which false prophets tried to deceive Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:14).

Satan still employs these three strategies as he seeks to destroy the effectiveness of spiritual leaders. One writer called them intrigue, innuendo, and intimidation. [Note: Cyril Barber, Nehemiah and the Dynamics of Effective Leadership, p. 97.]

5. The completion of the work 6:15-7:4

The builders finished the walls only 52 days after construction had begun (Nehemiah 6:15). "Elul" is late August and early September. Israel’s enemies viewed their rapid progress as evidence that God had helped the workers (Nehemiah 6:16).

"The best answer to opposition is to keep working and fulfill God’s will; thus others will see God’s power." [Note: Breneman, p. 213.]

The writer mentioned another detracting ploy the enemy instigated. By doing so, he suggested that this additional problem may have plagued Nehemiah throughout the whole process of rebuilding the wall. As mentioned before, Tobiah’s name implies that he was a Jew. He had intermarried with Jews who had returned to the land and evidently participated in the restoration projects, though he himself did not approve of the restoration. His marital and social ties with the princes of the restoration community resulted in their commending him to Nehemiah. In short, Nehemiah suffered from pressure that Tobiah and Nehemiah’s colleagues brought on him. This powerful Jew, who did not share God’s desires for His people, had considerable influence with many of the restoration leaders.

Sometimes powerful brethren who have influential supporters create the Christian leader’s most difficult problems. They may really want to see something other than God’s will accomplished.

Note the following lessons in leadership from Nehemiah 1-6. A leader must be a person of prayer (ch. 1), have a vision (Nehemiah 2:1-3), and be a wise planner (Nehemiah 2:4-8). He must inspire his followers (Nehemiah 2:11-20), organize his task (ch. 3), and combine faith and common sense (ch. 4). He needs to be compassionate (Nehemiah 5:1-13), possess personal integrity (Nehemiah 5:14-19), be absolutely impartial (ch. 5), and display a sense of mission (ch. 6).

Having finished the walls, Nehemiah took steps to ensure that the city would remain secure by appointing guards. Now temple worship could flourish (Nehemiah 7:1). The gatekeepers usually guarded the temple entrance, but Nehemiah posted them at the city gates because of the imminent danger there. The "faithful man" (Nehemiah 7:2) was Hanaiah, not Hanani, though he too was, of course, reliable. To minimize the threat of potential invaders, Nehemiah ordered that the gates of Jerusalem be open only during the busiest hours of the day (Nehemiah 7:3). People had not been living in Jerusalem because it was vulnerable to attack (Nehemiah 7:4). The small population rendered it more vulnerable than it would have been with the city full of people. Nehemiah later proposed a plan that would increase the population and consequently the security of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:1-2).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Nehemiah 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/nehemiah-6.html. 2012.
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