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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Nehemiah 6

Nehemiah 5 is a kind of interlude. In it we see Nehemiah busy with the turmoil among the people. At that time we hear nothing from the enemy. If there is unrest among God’s people, the enemy does not have to make an effort. But Nehemiah has taken away the unrest and is now continuing with the building. Then the enemy will be heard from again. Nehemiah himself is now the target of their enmity. They know: if he is eliminated, the work will stop.

Verses 1-2

A New Trick


The open resistance has been overcome (Nehemiah 4). Also the internal riots have been overcome (Nehemiah 5). Now the devil tries trickery. The resistance increases as the wall nears its completion. The enemy combines all his strength and trickery to prevent the completion. The same goes for us. We live in the end time. The battle is almost over. Satan knows that too. That’s why he’s doing everything he can to overturn us and thwart God’s plan.

Several attempts are being made to stop the rebuilding of the wall. The enemy is using various tricks to do so. But the builders are wise to all the tricks because they simply attach themselves to the Word of God. The building of the wall is completed (Neh 6:15). There is no breach left, there is no hidden way to sneak into the city.

The first trick is to arrange a conference, call it a peace conference. The discussion with each other must result in a compromise. But Nehemiah doesn’t walk into that trap. Wouldn’t it at least have been polite of Nehemiah to listen to what they have to say? No, it wouldn’t. He has nothing to do with the enemies. What they have to say can never be a contribution to the work. The enemy understands nothing of the motives by which a man of faith is led, and is himself led by completely opposite motives.

After ridiculing the work at first, the enemy changes his tactics and tries to make Nehemiah descend into the valley. It’s what we can hear today when people say: “Don’t be so fanatical; join us.” The enemy pretends there is a common interest. If Nehemiah were to accept the proposal, he would show that he agrees with the enemy.

If Satan fails to tempt us into a moral trap, he sometimes succeeds in having us open up to his advice. Then we look at things with his eyes. When he gets us to that point, we will see God’s work as a useless work, at least not as an exclusive work. There are so many other interesting things. Above all, he urges us, don’t say goodbye to your worldly friends. Go with them to the cinema and the pub. Do not exaggerate the work of God, otherwise you will go mad and end up in religious madness. The trap is to measure our lives against the world. By friendship with the world, we walk into that trap.

Verse 3

The Answer of Nehemiah


Nehemiah’s answer is clear. He let it be known that he “cannot come down”. Therein lies the meaning that by going to them, he would go down a path. This is not a picture of self-abasement here, but of leaving the way the Lord wants us to go (cf. Jona 1:3; Lk 10:30).

The plain of Ono is also called “the valley of craftsmen” (Neh 11:35). The place where God dwells and where He wants to be worshipped cannot be exchanged without harm for any kind of crafty works of man. God wants us to serve Him at His level and not at the level of a man-made religion.

Nehemiah does not say that he is rebuilding the wall, but that he is “doing a great work”. In doing so, he indicates that it is an important work. Those who have been given a great work by God should not allow themselves to be pulled down to the level of worldly thinking and acting. Focusing on what unbelievers have to say about what we are doing for the Lord would mean delay and damage to God’s work.

The enemy sees in the service of God, an enormous threat to his self-formed religion that gives him prosperity. Introducing true service to God poses a threat to that prosperity. Spiritually, the Pharisees see that threat in the Lord Jesus. They see how their authority over the people is crumbling (Jn 11:48; Jn 12:19). Materially, the creators of idols in Ephesus see that threat in the preaching of the apostle Paul (Acts 19:23-41).

Those who are aware of the importance of God’s commission should not allow themselves to be delayed (cf. Lk 10:3-4). Even the Lord Jesus did not allow Himself to be delayed by false claims of His family (Mk 3:31-35).

Any work that has to do with defending the truth of God’s Word and testifying for Him is a great work. Under no circumstances should we allow ourselves to be distracted from the defense of that truth. The enemy has countless means and makes countless attempts to keep us away from the work the Lord has entrusted to us. We must be careful to do that work (cf. Col 4:17).

Verse 4

The Enemy Perseveres, Nehemiah Also


The enemy shows intrusiveness. He does not give up this tactic either. The pressure to consult is increased. Convinced as he is of his approach, he keeps inviting Nehemiah to an interview. This should make it clear to Nehemiah, due to the pressure, that this is the only opportunity to complete the work. They know that repetition of the message can erode Nehemiah’s resistance, that he will give in to the pressure, and that he will accept their proposal for consultation.

Many have succumbed as a result of incessant pressure. Children who are constantly nagging, can put so much pressure on their parents that they eventually give in. In faith communities, changes are made after constantly putting the same topics on the agenda. It is the tactics that govern diplomacy in the world, lobbying to achieve a certain result or to get a certain order or job.

Pressuring is a tried and tested method of Satan. He has been successful before. Thus Samson has succumbed to the pressure exerted on him to reveal the secret of his power (Jdg 16:15-21). But what has proved successful in the world and with the unfaithful believer has been tried in vain with the man of faith. Nehemiah is consistent in his answer. He sticks to his point of view. Without losing his patience, he always reacts in the same way.

Verses 5-7

A New Trick of the Enemy


In close connection with the previous method, the enemy uses a new means: an open letter. This means is an attempt to intimidate. According to the enemy’s view, it is now necessary to consult, because accusations have been made against Nehemiah. They present themselves as his protectors, as people who want to help him refute the accusations. Surely they need to talk to each other about that. If this is no reason to talk, what else could then be a reason!?

If the world cannot persuade the devoted Christian to compromise, it will spread an evil rumor about him and attribute false motives to him. The letter expresses the suspicion that Nehemiah is only building the wall in order to rebel against the ruling authority and then become king himself. If this becomes known, so the inference asserts, all confidence in him will be lost. And let Nehemiah remember that this rumor is widespread: “It is reported among the nations”, and that there are also witnesses: “Gashmu”. He must now feel compelled to contact his enemies to discuss how to stop this evil.

This trick of the enemy contains the fabricated accusation that Nehemiah would act proudly and for his own benefit. He would like to present himself as king. People like Abimelech and Absalom have done this (Jdg 9:1-6; 2Sam 15:10). These sons of God-fearing fathers have claimed kingship and brought destruction upon the people.

The letter speaks of a certain tactic Nehemiah would follow to present himself as king to the people. He would have appointed prophets for this purpose. This would give the coveted kingship the appearance that it was a matter of God’s will. The imagination of the enemy goes far. He knows how to respond to people’s feelings in order to get them to do what he wants. These enemies themselves appear to be familiar with the use of (false) prophets to serve their cause (Neh 6:14).

Verses 8-9

Answer of Nehemiah


But the open letter has no effect either. Without discussing it, Nehemiah rejects the accusations alluded to in the letter and resorts to God. A domineering attitude is strange to the true leader among God’s people. That the true servant of the Lord is accused of being domineering only says something of the accusers.

From Nehemiah’s reaction we see a confirmation of what we already know about him: that such behavior is far from him. He does not fight the accusation, does not defend himself, but resolutely denies it. His conscience is free. His answer is as simple as it is radical. There is no hesitation. Such clarity is what the people of God need today. With proposals from an enemy, you must not continue to search for something in which you are in agreement with each other. Clear and powerful, the distance between the opposing interests is maintained.

Nehemiah reacts here according to the example of the Lord Jesus. What false rumors have been spread about Him. But He kept entrusting everything “to Him who judges righteously” (1Pet 2:23b).

Nehemiah knows that the enemy is out to frighten them. The enemy knows well that fear of people paralyzes action. If there is fear, the work will stop and not be finished. But Nehemiah understands the intention of the enemy and does not walk into that trap. Instead of defending himself, he resorts to prayer to God. The enemy is out to make the hands powerless, so that they would forsake the work, but Nehemiah prays that the LORD will strengthen his hands. He speaks boldly, with confidence, to Him whom he knows as the One to Whom he can turn. He prays straight from his heart, without deviation nor wasting words, short and therefore telling: “But now, [O God], strengthen my hands.”

It is the prayer of the dependent servant who knows that he himself has no strength. He knows that his hands are powerful only when they are strengthened “from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob” (Gen 49:24). No matter how much his hands have accomplished, no matter how much they must accomplish, nothing will ever be attributed to his own strength. All honor for any work of faith belongs to God.

Verse 10

Another Trick


Tricks from outsiders are suspicious in advance, so the enemy must have thought after all the unsuccessful attempts. So then we must try next to trick Nehemiah by a member of his own people, pretending to be a friend. He must get Nehemiah to do something that goes against the law of God: to enter the temple.

But how could they get Nehemiah to do that? They will lure him there on the pretext of wanting to protect him from the evil plans of the enemy. Who would lend themselves to sell this story to Nehemiah with a reasonable chance of success? They’ll find someone in Shemaiah who fits their profile.

Shemaiah seems to live in Jerusalem. His father and grandfather are also mentioned. He seems to have locked himself in his house, which prevents him from going to Nehemiah himself. Would he have wanted to reinforce the impression that he himself is afraid of the enemy in order to make his story more believable? In any case Nehemiah will come to him, possibly because Shemaiah called him.

In his story Shemaiah connects his own destiny to Nehemiah’s. Everything has the appearance that there is real concern for Nehemiah. Shemaiah is a compatriot from a known family. He seems to suffer from the enemy as well. He also seems to care about the fate of Nehemiah and is someone who is apparently trusted by Nehemiah. Such a person makes a proposal that seems fair and acceptable. This is a trick that is very difficult to see through.

Under a pious cover, the enemy tries to bring Nehemiah to an act that is contrary to God’s Word. The wolf comes in sheep’s clothing, Satan comes as an angel of light. The man who comes to Nehemiah pretends to be a prophet. He foretells what Nehemiah is about to face. He also offers him a way out, so that he can avoid the danger. He anticipates the fear Nehemiah might have for his life.

Verses 11-13

Nehemiah Sees Through the Trick


Everything Shemaiah says and does is like friendship, but it is treason. Nehemiah recognizes that Shemaiah is not used by the LORD, but by the adversary, that he even let himself be bribed to do this. Nehemiah’s answer is clear again. When he speaks about “a man like me”, he expresses the awareness of his responsible position. He simply cannot abandon the work he is doing. He knows that God has called him to this work.

He gives two reasons for his refusal to come. First, he does not allow himself to be frightened. He will never leave his post for fear and flee (Psa 11:1). If he did, he would set a very bad example. With the courage of faith and trust in God, he resists the enemy. Secondly, he knows that the place he is offered as a refuge is forbidden territory for him. Entering the temple is only allowed to the priests (Num 3:10; Num 18:7). Going there would be the end of his life and therefore of his work.

It is always important to understand the motives behind any proposal to keep us away from the Lord’s work, even if only for a moment. If we are asked to flee, we must consider from whom this request comes. If it comes from the enemy, we will find that he is appealing to our fear for our own skin. The decision must then be that we stay. It may also be that the Lord Jesus says this to us. We will notice this in the thought that comes to mind that a flight will promote the work of God (Mt 10:23).

The enemy will always reveal himself through the safety he offers. That safety will always be associated with a place that harms God’s interests and plays into the hands of the enemy.

Nehemiah does not believe Shemaiah on his word. He “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1Jn 4:1). God has ordered him to rebuild the wall. Would God now command him to flee? The only test is what God says. The test of God’s Word makes it clear that he is not dealing with a prophet speaking for God.

He is asked to perform an act contrary to God’s Word. By this Shemaiah is unmasked as a false prophet (Deu 13:5). Shemaiah is hired like a Balaam to hurt one of God’s people by tempting him to commit a sinful act. Shemaiah is a corrupt and therefore false prophet. Money determines the message he brings. Money makes him blind to the holiness of God. The history of King Uzziah shows how God thinks about the unauthorized entering of the temple (2Chr 26:16-20).

Fear is never a good counselor. “The fear of man [m]brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD shall be put in a safe fortress” (Pro 29:25). The Lord Jesus does not allow Himself to be frightened and to be led into a wrong action (Lk 13:31-32; cf. Jn 11:9-11). No man can do God’s work if he allows himself to be led by what others say.

Avoiding persecution, a refusal to endure the cross, often stems from the fear of what ‘others will say’ if we want to do a certain work. Fear or anxiety is mentioned as the first characteristic of people who will be eternally in hell (Rev 21:8). Fear keeps people from making the right decision.

Verse 14

Prayer of Nehemiah


Opposition of those who confess to act in the name of God is far worse than that of declared opponents of God. It is an additional temptation to notice that those who claim to speak in the Name of God are in league with the opponents of the truth.

Again, Nehemiah does not take action, but again resorts to God in this matter (cf. 2Tim 4:14; Jude 1:9). There are many forms of evil that cannot be fought openly without harming oneself or others. Many evil workers in the church of God must be left alone. Fighting them would serve more the case of the enemy than the case of God. But our resource is always to call on God about them.

Again we get a glimpse into the prayer life of this man of God. Just like after the defeat of the enemy’s attack from outside (Neh 6:9), Nehemiah also prays here after the defeat of the attack by false prophets. He calls the enemies before God by name. He also brings to God’s attention the evil they want to do to him.

The prophetess Noadiah is only mentioned here. In the Old Testament four more women are called ‘prophetess’: Miriam (Exo 15:20), Deborah (Jdg 4:4), Huldah (2Kgs 22:14) and the wife of Isaiah (Isa 8:3). These four are real prophetesses. They have spoken God’s words.

Verses 15-16

The Wall Completed


In spite of all opposition and that in many forms, the wall is completed. This is a victory over the enemy, achieved by the help of God. The enemy has written off Jerusalem and Judah. But God has not. And when He begins something, He completes it. But we also see in the preceding verses the vigilance of Nehemiah and his devotion to the work.

The fact that the wall has been completed by such a weak people in the face of such a powerful enemy is a testimony to the nations. They fear it and acknowledge in the work the help of God, through Whom the work has come to a successful conclusion. If a work does not have its origin in God’s heart, it will not come to a good end. Then all efforts are of no avail.

We are not here to carry out our church building programs. It is about God’s program. We see the burden of God’s heart in the Lord Jesus, Who sees the crowds “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). If that burden also comes on our hearts, we can start a work, because then it flows out from the heart of God.

God has no interest in our efforts to create a socially livable environment. Nor does He have any interest in our efforts to establish a new order with world peace. His program follows on from what He started on the day of Pentecost. There, a new order in the power of the Holy Spirit has begun, with which He has set to work and to which anyone who wants to be guided by His Spirit can be put to work. The only hope against all evil is a fighting church that has completely dedicated itself to the will of God.

Verses 17-19

Exchange of Letters


Among the associates of Nehemiah are those who correspond with the enemy in the person of Tobiah. In this way they exchange thoughts with the enemy. Tobiah is connected with God’s people in two ways, in both cases by marriage. He himself is married to a daughter of Shecaniah; so his father-in-law is a Jew. And his son is married to the daughter of Meshullam; so his daughter-in-law is a Jew. We met Meshullam during the rebuilding of the wall (Neh 3:4; 30). Through these connections he has many relatives in God’s people and through them he can exert his influence on the people.

Mixed marriages, i.e. a marriage of a member of God’s people to someone who does not belong to God’s people, are against God’s will (2Cor 6:14-18). Where these are found, the believer is almost always dragged into the world.

Another trick is to speak well of the enemy by Nehemiah’s own people. Tobiah may be an opponent of the building of the wall, but otherwise he is very nice. They also convey the words of Nehemiah to him, putting Nehemiah in a bad light with the enemy. While they praise the enemy to Nehemiah, they speak to the enemy about Nehemiah as a man of words only. However, the letters Tobiah sends to Nehemiah are something. They are really threatening letters.

Through connection with the enemy discernment disappears. The enemy is then presented as friendly and compassionate. Such views have the purpose of altering the conception of people who always see the enemy as the enemy. After all, the enemy has so many good things. Surely we must also have an eye for that.

Yet the enemy does not get anywhere with all his attempts to prevent the work. Herein lies an encouragement for everyone who is working for the Lord. If the Lord is trusted in the work, any attack by the enemy will come to nothing. Nehemiah triumphs because he knows God and involves Him in everything.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Nehemiah 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/nehemiah-6.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.