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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 4

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-23

Nehemiah 4:1-23 . Samaritan Attempt to Frustrate the Building of the Walls.— In Nehemiah 4:2 f. the text is very corrupt, though the general sense of the passage is fairly clear, viz. the Samaritans mock the efforts made by the Jews in building the walls; Sanballat’ s wrath in conjunction with his contempt is a little incongruous. The mention of the Samaritan army is difficult to account for; if an army had really been there some attempt would assuredly have been made there and then to stop the building; probably we must picture a crowd of Samaritans and not warriors. But the corrupt state of the text makes it impossible to feel sure what the meaning really is.

Nehemiah 4:2 . will they fortify themselves? The Heb. “ will they leave to them?” is meaningless; Ryle emends the text so as to read, “ will they commit themselves to their God?” This gives excellent sense and is supported by the words which follow, “ will they sacrifice?” i.e. to their God; at the same time one must remember the words in Ezra 4:2, spoken by the Samaritans, “ we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him . . .” ; if, as is clear, the questions in the verse before us are intended to be words of mockery, we should hardly expect the Samaritans to have made reference to the God, whom they, too, worshipped, in such an unfitting manner. Perhaps it is best to follow the reading of one of the Greek MSS, “ Shall we leave them alone?” (so Batten), implying, of course, a negative answer.— revive: read “ restore.”

Nehemiah 4:4 f. An interjected prayer ( cf. Nehemiah 5:19, Nehemiah 6:9; Nehemiah 6:14, Nehemiah 13:14; Nehemiah 13:22).

Nehemiah 4:7-20 . A critical time is here described; on the one hand, the Jews were getting wearied with the work, while, on the other, the enemy, as Nehemiah had found out, were planning an attack. To make things worse, the Jews living round about Jerusalem. who were better able to see what was going on among their enemies, and who realised what was being planned by them, called upon their brethren at the walls to flee. Nehemiah’ s firmness and presence of mind alone saved the situation. But he saw that the only way whereby the work could be continued and the danger of a sudden attack avoided was to arm the builders, while he himself kept a general look-out with a trumpeter by his side, who would be ready to give the alarm at any moment.

Nehemiah 4:21 . This would read more intelligibly if the words “ and half of them held the spears” were omitted; for ( a) there is nothing in the context to show who are referred to in the words “ half of them” ; and ( b) there was no point in this holding of the spears ready during the day-time, seeing that Nehemiah had just said that his trumpeter would give the signal immediately any danger of attack showed itself. The time for holding the spears was in the night when the labour had to cease (see Nehemiah 4:22). Read, “ So we wrought in the work from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.”

Nehemiah 4:23 . everyone . . . water: the text, as it stands, is corrupt (see mg.) and quite meaningless; a slight emendation makes the passage read, “ each had his weapon in his hand.”

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Nehemiah 4". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/nehemiah-4.html. 1919.
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