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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 6

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Introduction

Nehemiah Chapter 6

Nehemiah 6:1 "Now 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;)"

This chapter happened at the same time as the building of the wall. It is not chronologically located. It is parallel with the earlier chapters. This was speaking of the hanging of the doors in the opening of the gates as being the last thing that was done.

Nehemiah 6:2 "That 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."

Ono was very near Philistia. They felt they could not get to Nehemiah, while he was in Jerusalem with so many people around him, but they wanted to kill him. The only way to accomplish this was to get him off to himself.

Nehemiah 6:3 "And 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?"

Nehemiah knew what they were trying to do, and he sent word to them that there was absolutely no way he could break away from the work on the wall to come out to meet them. They were not honorable men, and it would not have bothered them at all to lie to Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 6:4 "Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner."

This shows how determined they were to get rid of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 6:5 "Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;"

Nehemiah 6:6 "Wherein [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."

The open letter was so that all of the Jews could see the letter. This was a lie that Sanballat told to get the people stirred up, so they would not continue the work on the wall. He was undoubtedly not aware that the king of Persia had given Nehemiah leave to build the wall. Nehemiah, nor the Jews, had no intention of rebelling. The building of the wall would keep others from attacking them successfully.

Nehemiah 6:7 "And 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."

This shows how little he knew about the Hebrews and their God. Prophets are men of God that speak as an oracle of God. They are not under the 76 control of a man upon the earth, unless they are false prophets. No such thing was planned. Nehemiah had one mission, and that was to build the wall.

Nehemiah 6:8 "Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart."

Nehemiah denied these accusations strongly. He knew that all of this had been made up by Sanballat. He made all of this up to pretend that Nehemiah was power hungry. These things were not true they were coming from the evil heart of Sanballat.

Nehemiah 6:9 "For 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."

This was a request from Nehemiah to God for help to keep the desire strong to build the wall in all the people. Sanballat was doing all of this to turn Nehemiah’s people against him. God can cause them not to listen to these lies.

Nehemiah 6:10 "Afterward 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."

This Shemaiah was not concerned about the life of Nehemiah at all. He was paid by Sanballat to prophecy something that was not even truth to Nehemiah. This reminds me so much of the way the devil operates. When he is trying to destroy a person or a church, he first tries to destroy them from without. If that does not work, then he sends the enemy inside the church pretending to be of God. It is much more difficult to stop an attack from within. This Sanballat was trying everything he could think of to stop Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 6:11 "And 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."

If God sent Nehemiah to build the wall, God would protect him while he was doing it. He did not need to hide. God would build a hedge of protection around him. Nehemiah had received no such information from God.

Nehemiah 6:12 "And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him."

This man was a false prophet. God opened Nehemiah’s eyes, so that he understood. He did not believe this man, because he perceived he was not from God.

Nehemiah 6:13 "Therefore [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."

Those who believe in the LORD have nothing to fear but God. Psalms 118:6 "The LORD [is] on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?" In the case of Nehemiah, it would have been sin to fear Sanballat. God had sent him to do this work, he could not allow Sanballat to stop him. It would be lack in faith of God on Nehemiah’s part, if he did. Nehemiah had set the example for all of the workers on the wall, and he must continue to do that.

Nehemiah 6:14 "My 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."

All we know of Noadiah was that she was working against Nehemiah to cause him to fear.

Nehemiah 6:15 "So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth [day] of [the month] Elul, in fifty and two days."

The wall was approximately 4 miles in length. There were many groups who worked on the wall, so it would not have been impossible for it to have been finished in 52 days. Elul, on their calendar, is approximately the same as September on our calendar.

Nehemiah 6:16 "And 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."

The more trouble that came caused them to work harder, not slow down. These very same enemies who had done everything in their power to stop Nehemiah and the work on the wall, now realize that this was the work of God. They would have to have been totally unaware of reality, if they had not credited the supernatural hand of God in this.

Nehemiah 6:17 "Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and [the letters] of Tobiah came unto them."

This was to stir up the people within the wall of Jerusalem. There seemed to be traitors inside of Jerusalem, who listened more to Tobiah, than they did to Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 6:18 "For [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."

It appears, that Tobiah’s family were unable to prove their kinship with Israel. They came back with Zerubbabel from captivity, however. Shechaniah was the son of Arah, or Beni-arah. Tobiah’s connection to these Hebrews was through marriage.

Nehemiah 6:19 "Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. [And] Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear." This was sad, because it spoke of traitors to Judah. They were living in Jerusalem, enjoying all of the benefits, but reporting everything that Nehemiah did to Tobiah. All the time they were telling Nehemiah of the greatness of Tobiah, they were not faithful to Judah, Nehemiah, or the building of the wall. Their loyalty was bought by Tobiah.

Nehemiah 6 Questions

1. Nehemiah 6:1 speaks of one thing yet to do, what was it?

2. Who sent word to Nehemiah to get him to come away from Jerusalem and meet with them?

3. Why did they want him to come out of Jerusalem?

4. What was Nehemiah’s answer to them?

5. What did Nehemiah tell them he was doing?

6. Why did it not bother them to lie to Nehemiah?

7. What showed their determination?

8. Why did they send an open letter?

9. They were not aware of what?

10. What lie were they telling about Nehemiah wanting power?

11. Prophets should be men that speak as an ____________ of God.

12. If they are under the control of men on the earth, they are ___________ prophets.

13. Where did Nehemiah say these evil sayings came from?

14. Why had Sanballat made up these lies?

15. What did Nehemiah ask God to strengthen?

16. What terrible message did Shemaiah give Nehemiah?

17. How does the author relate the actions of Shemaiah, here, to the devil?

18. What questions did Nehemiah send to him as an answer?

19. What did Nehemiah perceive about him?

20. Who had hired Shemaiah to say these things?

21. Quote Psalms 118:6.

22. Had Nehemiah feared Sanballat, it would have been a ______.

23. Who did Nehemiah ask God to think on for trying to make him fear?

24. When was the wall finished?

25. How long did it take to build it?

26. How long was the wall approximately?

27. What did the enemies of Nehemiah finally realize after the wall was finished?

28. Who sent letters to Tobiah?

29. Why were some of the people in Judah sworn to him?

30. What was sad about the people reporting Nehemiah’s actions to Tobiah?

Verses 1-9

Neh 6:1-9

Nehemiah 6:1-9

ONE FINAL EFFORT MADE BY NEHEMIAH’S ENEMIES;

FIVE SUCCESSIVE ATTEMPTS TO GET NEHEMIAH IN THEIR POWER

"Now it came to pass when it was reported to Sanballat and Tobiah, and to Geshem the Arabian, and unto the rest of our enemies, that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein (Though even unto that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And 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? And they sent unto me four times after this sort, and; I answered them after the same manner. Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand, wherein was written, It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel; for which cause thou art building the wall: and thou wouldest be their king according to these words. And thou hast appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, there is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported unto the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together. Then I sent unto him saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart. For they all would make us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. But thou, O God, strengthen thou my hands."

"The narrative which was broken by the parenthetical Nehemiah 5 is here taken up again." "The enemies of Judah had found ridicule (Nehemiah 4:1-6) ineffective, and their threatened military attack had not taken place (Nehemiah 4:7-23); and their plan here was to kill Nehemiah, or at least kidnap him." The spiritual significance of Sanballat’s proposal is that Satan is always attempting to induce God’s servants to come down unto the plains of Ono, and to take counsel with evil men. Satan’s purposes are never otherwise than totally evil. "The plain of Ono was near Lydda, twelve miles north of Jerusalem." Cundall located it 19 miles north of Jerusalem.

"With an open letter in his hand" (Nehemiah 6:5). This open letter was not sealed, in order that the escort who carried it might read it and scatter the evil report as widely as possible. The very fact of sending such an open letter to the head of a government was an insult.

"Gashmu" (Nehemiah 6:6). This is the name as it appears in the Masoretic text; but it is believed to be the same as Geshem, as the word is translated in the RSV. He was an important official whose word might carry weight in Persia; and there was also the element of plausibility that such a report might carry with it in Persia." The whole report, however, was totally false.

"Thou hast appointed prophets to preach of thee" (Nehemiah 6:7). Sanballat here exhibits some knowledge of Hebrew history in which prophets did play a large part in the anointing of Israel’s kings, as in the cases of Saul and David. This supports an earlier comment that Sanballat might have been an Ephraimite. However, Sanballat’s omission of any reference to Nehemiah as being a descendant of the royal family of David, supports Williamson’s argument that, "Nehemiah was not of Davidic descent."

"Thou feignest them out of thine own heart" (Nehemiah 6:8). Nehemiah’s response to this well-planned scheme to allure him into a meeting with Sanballat was merely to send him word that all of his charges were merely a pack of lies which he himself had invented.

"But now, O God, strengthen thou my hands" (Nehemiah 6:9). Here is another of Nehemiah’s impromptu prayers, indicating his complete reliance upon the blessing of God in order to accomplish his objectives.

Sanballat and Tobiah had corrupted a priest named Shemaiah, who attempted to get Nehemiah killed, having been hired by Tobiah. That is our next episode.

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 6:1. In Nehemiah 4:6 we learned that the wall was built up all around at the same time. That is what is meant in this verse by the words no breach.. While the gates were not yet hung, the body of the wall was complete as far as it went.

Nehemiah 6:2. The enemies had tried various means to hinder the work. They tried laughing at them (Nehemiah 4:3), threatened to fight them (Nehemiah 4:8), and next they tried to divert their attention by inviting them to a friendly meeting in one of the plains. Regard.. less of their purpose for such a meeting, had Nehemiah heeded their invitation it would have meant the loss of sometime in the work of the Lord. Whatever time or effort is given to the cause of an enemy of the Lord, it is bound to be at the expense of the works of righteousness and to the advantage of evildoers.

Nehemiah 6:3. The brief reply of Nehemiah is centered in the words I am doing a great work. There is no work possible as great as that of the Lord, and to switch from it to anything else whatsoever would be a downward move. That is why Nehemiah refused to come down to the enemies. Moreover, he said that he would not leave it and come down to them. That means that if a person devotes any of his time and effort to a work that is not the Lord’s, he must necessarily desert that of the Lord; he cannot work at both at once. Christ taught the same thing in what he said about it being impossible for a man to serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

Nehemiah 6:4. Persistence is a strong force and often will accomplish success when a single effort will fail. Sanballat knew this and tried it in his attempt to hinder the work on the wall. He made his proposition 4 times and was refused each time, so that his own persistence was matched by that of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 6:5-6. The next move was to make a charge against Nehemiah and his brethren, that they were plotting a rebellion. They thought to strengthen the accusation by quoting a man named Gashmu. He was an Arabian and was supposed to add weight to the report. But it did not, for he was only a famous gossiper. The foolish statement was made that Nehemiah was building the wall with a view of becoming a king.

Nehemiah 6:7. Everyone would know it to be a serious thing to make a prediction such as charged against Nehemiah. There was no truth in the accusation, but perhaps he might suspect that some of his over-zealous friends were doing such preaching unknown to him. If such should be going on it would reach the ears of Artaxerxes, and that would mean serious trouble. Now if Sanballat could influence Nehemiah to think such reports were going the rounds, he would become concerned and want to talk it over. So it was proposed that they take counsel together.

Nehemiah 6:8. But Nehemiah understood the scheme and hurled back the accusation that Sanballat was making the report himself. He did not merely accuse him of helping to scatter a rumor that someone had started, but that he was the one who started it out of his own heart. That would mean that he was a wicked falsifier.

Nehemiah 6:9. They all made us afraid is to be understood as meaning they thought to frighten them. They did not succeed as they hoped, for Nehemiah had faith in God. However, he was not blind to the wickedness of his foes, and felt the need of divine help. He therefore prayed to God for strength.

Verses 10-14

Neh 6:10-14

Nehemiah 6:10-14

A TRAITOR WITHIN JERUSALEM ATTEMPTS TO BRING ABOUT NEHEMIAH’S DEATH

"And I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabel, who was shut up, and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the door of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee. And I said, should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being such as I, would go into the temple to save his life? And I discerned, and, lo, God had not sent him; but he announced this prophecy against me: and Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this cause 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. Remember, O My God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and also the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets who would have put me to fear."

There are many details of this plot which are not fully explained in the Bible, but enough is revealed to expose the traitors among the priests and prophets of Jerusalem. "Shemaiah, a hired traitor, pretended to be Nehemiah’s friend, invited him into his home, told him of a plot to kill him that very night (a lie), and suggested that he hide within the temple. That suggestion about entering the temple exposed Shemaiah to Nehemiah, revealing that Shemaiah was a liar, for Nehemiah knew that God would not have led him to break the Mosaic injunction against entering the temple (Numbers 1:51)."

The text does not say so; but given the treachery of Shemaiah and the hatred of the priesthood against Nehemiah, they would in all probability have murdered him for such a violation if they could have induced him to fall for their strategy. We do not know what part Noadiah and others of the prophets (and priests) had in this conspiracy; but evidently, the whole temple enclave were enemies of Nehemiah. That development, and the motivation for it, are revealed in the next paragraph.

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 6:10. The agitation seemed to have some effect on one of the prophets. Shemaiah had shut up himself in his house, which means he was keeping himself close because of fear, real or pretended. Nehemiah had learned about it, and entered his house to have a talk with him. When he got on the inside, Shemaiah suggested that they seek a safer place for protection and named the temple. He pretended that it would be a better place at night because it was not a private residence.

Nehemiah 6:11. Nehemiah had two reasons for not doing as Shemaiah requested. He was not frightened; and besides that, if he were he would not enter the holy building for personal protection from bodily harm.

Nehemiah 6:12. By this time Nehemiah realized that this professed prophet had accepted money from Sanballat to pay him for making the false report.

Nehemiah 6:13. The object was to get Nehemiah to take refuge in the sacred house, which would have given room for reproach against him. The temple was not built to be used as a fortress. Its purpose was religious only, and for Nehemiah to have fled therein for fear of these heathen would have been to desecrate it. Such an event would have been a sweet morsel for the enemies of the Lord to boast about.

Nehemiah 6:14. This verse shows that it was some of the professed people of God who were being used by Sanballat as tools for his opposition against the work of Nehemiah. But he made his appeal to God, asking him to take notice of the conduct of these false servants. Even the prophetess Noadiah sold herself to the service of God’s enemies, and tried to intimidate Nehemiah.

Verses 15-19

Neh 6:15-19

Nehemiah 6:15-19

ALL ENEMIES FRUSTRATED; THE WALL FINISHED

"So the wall was finished in the twentieth and fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it came to pass, when all our enemies heard thereof, that all the nations that were about us feared, and were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God. Moreover in the days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them. For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son-in-law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullum the son of Berechiah to wife. Also, they spake of his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear."

Here we have the explanation of the priesthood’s hatred of Nehemiah. Tobiah had married one of their daughters and was the son-in-law of Shechaniah. Many of them were sworn allies of Tobiah and cooperated with Israel’s enemies throughout the period of rebuilding the wall. Indeed, its completion was certainly wrought of God (Nehemiah 6:16).

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 6:15. As this verse is so practical and literal, there is little that needs to be said by way of comment. However, the fact that such a vast project could be brought to completion in less than two months is a wonderful tribute to the unity of operations. What adds to the merit of the work is the fact that it was performed in spite of the constant opposition and attempts at discouragement. Perhaps the key to the success was in the expressions: "The people had a mind to work," and "We made our prayer unto our God." (Nehemiah 4:6; Nehemiah 4:9.) It reminds us of Paul’s language in Romans 8:31, "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

Nehemiah 6:16. It would have been a wonderful feat to build such a wall in that length of time, had there been no opposition, and had everyone helped what he could. But it was a still more marvelous thing to accomplish it in spite of their activities in trying to make the whole project a failure. That was why the heathen hung their heads in shame and disappointment. They were forced to admit (to themselves) that these Jews had accomplished the work by the help of their God.

Nehemiah 6:17-19. This paragraph is a reflective picture of what had been going on while the wall was in building. The writer had just recorded the successful completion of the work, notwithstanding the interference of the enemies, and he then wished to have a renewed picture of the opposition in direct connection with the final report. In that manner the immensity of the accomplishment could be the better realized. These nobles of Judah were influenced through some intermarriages with the heathen. In the heat of turmoil over Nehemiah’s work there was much gossiping back and forth, and some attempts at tattling to him. The object of it all was to put him in fear, but their expectation failed as we have seen.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Nehemiah 6". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/nehemiah-6.html.
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