The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Nehemiah 4

Neh 4:1

Neh 4: Arab opposition. Cp Arab nations, who opposed the rebuilding of Israel today: ie, Psa 83. The Jews' enemies used ridicule (vv 1-6) as well as armed resistance (v 8) to oppose the work.

Neh 4:2

FEEBLE: The Hebrew root "amelal" -- used here to ridicule the Jews -- is occasionally used in the OT to denote the fading or withering of a plant (Isa 16:8; 24:7; etc). It is also used of people without any hope (Isa 19:8; Hos 4:3).

THOSE HEAPS OF RUBBLE -- BURNED AS THEY ARE: These were the remains of the very fires set by Nebuchadnezzar's army, during the sack of Jerusalem over 100 years before (2Ch 36:19). The Jews built with the rubble of the previous walls.

Neh 4:4

THEIR INSULTS: Not so much their insults of the Jews, but their (implied) insults of God Himself, and their demeaning of His purpose with Israel.

Neh 4:5

A cry to Yahweh, to take vengeance. This is His work, not the work of Nehemiah or other believers (cf Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19). Cp Psa 139:19-24.

Neh 4:6

FOR THE PEOPLE WORKED WITH ALL THEIR HEART: " 'The people had a mind to work.' [Neh 4:6, KJV] When that is condensed into one word, it spells cooperation. The same idea was expressed by the apostles in such terms as 'one mind', 'like-minded', and 'with one accord'. This thought should impress us deeply, because it is the only way possible for an ecclesia to succeed.

"If we do not work together, our love will grow cold; bitterness and evil speaking will be generated, and if this is augmented by the continual agitation of some crotchet which has been developed by our desire to have our own way, the foundations of our ecclesia will disintegrate and the whole structure will collapse. We must be on our guard at all times, and examine our purpose and motives...." (GAG, Ber 59:354).

Neh 4:7

THE MEN OF ASHDOD: Whose language the children of the alien marriages spoke (Neh 13:23-25).

Neh 4:8

THEY ALL PLOTTED TOGETHER: "Why do the nations conspire [LXX 'rage'] and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One" (Psa 2:1,2). Josephus wrote of this time that "they slew many Jews" (Ant 11.5.8).

Neh 4:9

WE PRAYED TO OUR GOD AND POSTED A GUARD: "Watch AND pray" (Mat 26:41; Mar 14:38; Luk 21:36). We must be "God's fellow workers" (2Co 6:1): neither doing everything ourselves nor expecting God to do everything for us.

"Nehemiah was sent to Jerusalem by the king to with the authority to rebuild the wall. He is vehemently opposed by two individuals, Sanballat and Tobiah, and their cronies. The returning Israelites are forced to complete their work in odd fashion -- half of them work while half of them stand guard.

"Perhaps you have struggled with the balance between faith and practical action. When faced with a situation, do we take immediate action or wait for an answer to our prayers?

"The amazing thing about this little verse is how practical it is for all of us. We all face Sanballats and Tobiahs in life. We are trying to do the best we can and for every block we built on the wall, they tear two down. We are faced with the question of what we are to do about it. We can determine ourselves to work twice as hard. We can sit back and pray that God will provide and answer. Nehemiah provides us with a little key that it might not be one or the other, but both.

"So many times when faced with life's adversity, we will try to overcome with our own strength. We don't necessarily seek the Lord's guidance in our endeavor, but depend on ourselves or others. On the other hand, we may be tempted to wash our hands completely of the whole thing and simply ask God to fix everything.

"Nehemiah didn't do just one, but both. He prayed and asked God's guidance and then acted. His actions were not impetuous or prideful, but an act of faith. We recall that the 'faith' chapter of Heb 11 is not just men and women who sat around, but people of action. Abel offered. Noah prepared an ark. Abraham obeyed and went out. Sarah conceived. Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter and forsook Egypt. Rahab received the spies. Their faith in God could not be confined to the mind alone.

"It would benefit us all to pray to God and post a guard. Ask God for the strength, guidance and blessing of success in whatsoever we put our hands to do and then get to work" (KT).

Neh 4:10

THERE IS SO MUCH RUBBLE THAT WE CANNOT REBUILD THE WALL: We must clear away the "rubble" of our lives before we can truly begin to build God's "city"!

Neh 4:11

ALSO OUR ENEMIES SAID...: We should never quote the enemy! They seek only to undermine and destroy our faith.

Neh 4:13

THEREFORE I STATIONED...: Nehemiah gets personally involved in organizing the defense of the city.

Neh 4:14

"Many a lesser disciple would have thrown up his hands in despair and headed for the comforts of the Persian palace" (HAW).

I STOOD UP AND SAID TO THE NOBLES, THE OFFICIALS AND THE REST OF THE PEOPLE...: Nehemiah -- though a layman -- assumes the responsibility of the priests, in exhorting the armies of the LORD before they go into battle (Deu 20:1-4).

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THEM. REMEMBER THE LORD: 'Just ask yourselves, "Are THEY stronger than the God of Israel?" '


Neh 4:16

MY MEN: Prob Nehemiah's personal servants -- now organized into a special military unit.

Neh 4:19

WE ARE WIDELY SEPARATED FROM EACH OTHER ALONG THE WALL: As the brothers and sisters today may be widely separated from one another, and forced to exist spiritually in near or total isolation.

Neh 4:20

OUR GOD WILL FIGHT FOR US!: In citing Exo 14:14, they were seeing their work as analogous to the escape from slavery in Egypt.

Neh 4:22

HAVE EVERY MAN AND HIS HELPER STAY INSIDE JERUSALEM AT NIGHT: This would also stop the intrigue of the disaffected, who might go back and forth and consort with the enemy.

Neh 4:23

"I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked" (2Co 11:27). "Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2Ti 2:3).

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