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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Nehemiah 6

Verses 1-9

The Completion of the Wall (6:1-7:4)

Continued Opposition (6:1-9)

Following a time during which the wall itself was finished save for the setting of the gates, the account is resumed with reference again to the difficulties Nehemiah faced from his opponents. The first stratagem they tried was to lure Nehemiah out of the city into possible ambush. This Nehemiah avoided by instant insistence that his work took precedence over all else. Finally the enemies resorted to a psychological attack, interpreting the work on the wall as sign of rebellion against Persia and threatening Nehemiah with exposure to the king as a claimant to the throne of Judah, both serious charges. The "open letter" in which the threats were made may have been intentionally designed to give the greatest possible publicity to the charge, or it may be a term for correspondence written on a piece of pottery. It has been suggested also that the expression "according to this report" (vs. 6) may be a sign of a condensation or summary (like "and so forth"). Sanballat’s mention of "prophets" to support the imaginary claim of Nehemiah to be king shows his knowledge of Hebrew history, for in the past prophets had often played just such roles.

Nehemiah indignantly denied the charges and kept about the work. The sentence with which verse 9 ends may be more properly interpreted "And I strengthened my hands," for the appeal to God is lacking in the original.

Verses 10-14

False Prophets (6:10-14)

What the enemies had wrongly charged against Nehemiah, that he had arranged for prophet support, they themselves were guilty of in reverse. As the story in these verses indicates, one of the stratagems they tried was to hire a friend of Nehemiah to urge him to take sanctuary in the Temple (apparently doing so in a kind of prophetic oracle). The strange expression, "who was shut up" (vs. 10), may refer to a symbolic action by which the false prophet dramatized his appeal to Nehemiah.

Nehemiah’s piety and courage are evident, for he refuses the, proposal on the grounds that (1) it would be improper for him to enter the Temple and (2) that flight was inappropriate. Verse 12 indicates that after his refusal Nehemiah saw through the proposal and understood the evil of Shemaiah. Verse 14 reminds the reader that this incident was typical of many occasioned by false prophets (and at least one false prophetess).

Verses 15-19

The Completion of the Wall (6:15-19)

In the light of the number of people engaged in the work and the method employed, it is not surprising that only 52 days were required for the whole task. Nehemiah’s somewhat laconic report of the completion of his great work does emphasize the effect on the surrounding nations, and the essentially religious character of the undertaking is underlined by the fact that as a result of the completion the nations recognized the hand of God in the work. Thus faithful performance by the Covenant people led to a kind of witness among the peoples to the greatness and grace of God.

There is appended a note concerning Tobiah (vss. 17-19), who by virtue of his marriage was connected with many of "the nobles of Judah." The latter apparently acted as would-be mediators between Nehemiah and Tobiah, on the one hand praising Tobiah to Nehemiah, but on the other giving Tobiah information which he could conceivably use against Nehemiah.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Nehemiah 6". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/nehemiah-6.html.