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Nehemiah 6:1 It was reported to Sanballat and Tobiah, and to Geshem the Arabian, and to the rest of our enemies- See on Neh. 2:10.

That I had built the wall- The building of the wall was a partial fulfilment of the restoration prophecies about the rebuilding of Zion. Amos 9:11-15 is most comfortably interpreted when read as referring to the restoration of Judah and the “remnant” of the ten tribes to the land under Ezra: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God”. “I will raise up” uses a Hebrew word very commonly featured in the records of the restoration, when the people were exhorted to “rise up and build” (Ezra 1:5; 3:2; 10:4,15; Neh. 2:18,20). The statement that they would “close up the breaches thereof” is exactly the language of Neh. 6:1, which records that the walls were rebuilt so that there was no breach [s.w.] therein. It was after the Babylonian invasion that Zion was “fallen” and ‘ruined’ (s.w. Jer. 31:18; 45:4; Lam. 2:2,17). “I will build it” is exactly the theme of the records of the return from Babylon (Ezra 1:2,3,5; 3:2,10; 4:1-4; Neh. 2:5,17,18,20; 3:1-3, 13-15; 4:1,3,5,6,10,17,18; 6:1,6; 7:1). Surely Amos 9 is saying that at the rebuilding at the time of the restoration, God’s people could have ushered in the Kingdom age of agricultural plenty and victory over their Arab neighbours. But they intermarried with Edom, and suffered drought because they didn’t fulfill the requirements to rebuild Zion correctly. But the words of Amos were still to come true in some form- they are given an application in Acts 15:17 which may appear to be way out of context, i.e. to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Thus words which could have had a plain fulfilment at the restoration were given a delayed fulfilment; but they were not fulfilled in a literal sense, but in a spiritual one. And so it is with prophecies like Ezekiel 38, and the temple prophecies of Ezekiel. They will be fulfilled in spiritual essence, but probably not in strict literality, although they could have been had God’s people been more ‘fulfilling’ of them.  

And that there was no breach left therein (though even to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates)- "No breach" is the language of Ez. 13:5; 22:30, perhaps hinting that Nehemiah and his work could potentially have been the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies of the restoration. The wall of God's vineyard had been broken down (s.w. Is. 5:5) and the rebuilding of it was intended to be in the Messianic Kingdom.

Nehemiah 6:2 Then Sanballat and Geshem sent to me saying, Come, let us meet together in the villages in the plain of Ono. But they intended to harm me-
So often "dialogue" is offered with ulterior motives. We have probably all experienced this; and in those moments, passages like this come alive, God's word is a living word to us. For all our human situations have historical precedents, in essence, in the Biblical record. Nehemiah was doubtless inspired by Esther in his requesting the king for help. "Intended to harm" is the very phrase used about Haman's devices against the Jews (Esther 8:3; 9:25). If we are motivated by Biblical characters, then God in essence will respond likewise as He did in their lives, and the connections between our experiences and theirs will be continued by Him.

Nehemiah 6:3 I sent messengers to them saying, I am doing a great work, so that I can’t come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it, and come down to you?-
The greatness of the work was ever in Nehemiah's mind (also Neh. 4:19). The work of restoring Yahweh's Kingdom on earth couldn't be greater; and nothing would distract him from that. Not internal politics, false accusations and claims, nor the size of the work and the apparently great size of the opposition. "The work cease" is the phrase of Neh. 4:11; Nehemiah knew their intention was to make "the work cease" through this supposed dialogue, and he makes it clear he sees through their plan.

Nehemiah 6:4 They sent to me four times in this manner; and I kept giving them the same answer-
"In this manner... the same answer... again [AV "in like manner", :5] are all the same phrase. The idea is of a conscious effort to wear him down by saying the same thing. As noted on :2, we have all likely experienced this kind of situation in essence.

Nehemiah 6:5 Then, again
- Heb. "in like manner", see on :4.

Sanballat sent his servant to me the fifth time with an open letter in his hand- As noted on :2, we have all probably had this kind of experience. Accusations or statements are 'accidentally on purpose' made public knowledge, designed to spread gossip amongst the opposing side, forcing the leadership to give in to false offers of dialogue.

Nehemiah 6:6 in which was written, It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says it-
LXX "It has been reported among the Gentiles". This is the classic way of manipulation by such things: 'Do you know what people are saying about you?'. Nehemiah sets a fine example of focusing upon God's work and ignoring such manipulation by focusing solely upon God's perspective. "Gashmu" is Geshem of Neh. 2:19; 6:1.

That you and the Jews intend to rebel. Because of that, you are building the wall. You would be their king, according to this report- The intention was to spread fear amongst the workers; 'If you follow Nehemiah, you are going to get into big trouble with the Persian empire, because it's now known that Nehemiah wants to be a king'. If Nehemiah was indeed to fulfil the restoration prophecies, then he would indeed have been declared a king and Judah would have become totally independent of Persia. It's likely that this was all a twist of the restoration prophecies.

Nehemiah 6:7 You have also appointed prophets to speak up for you at Jerusalem saying, ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now it will be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together-
The prophet Malachi may well have been contemporary with Nehemiah, and he does speak of Yahweh as independent king of Judah. So it seems Tobiah the apostate Jew (see on Neh. 2:10) was willfully twisting the prophetic word. But Nehemiah sets a great example, in refusing to spend his energy putting out the fires of gossip and potential gossip- but gets on with the work in hand. For those fires are humanly speaking unquenchable.

Isaiah’s lengthy prophecies of the restoration must be compared against the sad reality of what actually happened. The prophecies exude a wonderfully positive and joyful spirit, which contrasts with the defeatism of the returnees. And one cannot help but wonder whether we as individuals and therefore as a community have really lived the life of joy which the NT promises for those who truly believe. Take Is. 45:20-21 as an example: “Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations [i.e. Babylon and all the 127 provinces of Persia]... Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together”. These are the very words used to describe how the Arab opposition ‘took counsel together’ to frustrate the work of the Jews and wanted Nehemiah to join them in such counsel (Neh. 6:7). Yahweh is exultantly saying: ‘Let them do it... let them get on with it, nothing can prosper against you and your work!’. But instead, the Jews took the opposition so seriously.

Nehemiah 6:8 Then I sent to him, saying, ‘There are no such things done as you say, but you imagine them out of your own heart’-
Here we have another Biblical example of the huge theme- that words and bad behaviour proceed out of the heart (Mk. 7:21-23). Instead of endlessly worrying about putting out the fires of gossip, a simple, clear denial of untruth is all that is required- and God will do the rest.

Nehemiah 6:9 For they all would have made us afraid, saying, Their hands will be weakened from the work, that it not be done. But now, may my hands be strengthened-
The restoration prophecies had stated clearly that the returned exiles would not be afraid, and that God would strengthen their hands (Is. 35:3). Jer. 30:10: “Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid”. Isaiah’s restoration prophecies contained not only many clear commands to not fear at the time of the restoration (Is. 41:10,13,14; 43:1,5; 44:2,8; 51:7; 54:4), but also a clear statement that if they were truly the re-established Kingdom, they would not fear: “Thou afflicted, tossed with tempest [s.w. Zech. 7:14 re. how Judah was ‘tossed around’ by the 70 years captivity] I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires... and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee... and all thy children shall be taught of the LORD” (Is. 54:11-14). But the adversaries to the rebuilding did make the returned exiles afraid (and also Ezra 3:3). Nehemiah exhorted the people not to be afraid perhaps on the basis of Jeremiah’s words (Neh. 4:14). Their fear and problem-oriented view of life stopped the Kingdom bursting forth into their experience. That fear was rooted in an obsessive self-interest that eclipsed a true faith in that which is greater and larger than us as individuals. And so it can be with us.


Nehemiah 6:10 I went to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabel-
Perhaps a priest, as Delaiah is mentioned in 1 Chron. 24:18.

Who was shut in at his home- Perhaps he shut himself in as an acted parable of how he and Nehemiah ought to go into God's house and shut themselves in there (as in 1 Kings 22:11; Jer. 28:10; Acts 21:11).

And he said, Let us meet together in God’s house, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple; for they will come to kill you. Yes, in the night will they come to kill you- Shemaiah was a false prophet, clearly working for the Samaritan opposition, who had many supporters amongst the Jews. He appealed to the idea that the temple was a place of sanctuary, about which there are some Biblical statements. Clearly the idea was to murder Nehemiah at night in the temple when nobody was around. 

Nehemiah 6:11 I said, Should such a man as I flee?-
He knew that God's Spirit was with him, and therefore there was no place to flee from that (Ps. 139:7 s.w.). He was not going to flee from his prophetic task as Jonah had attempted to (Jonah 1:10). He had obeyed the call to flee the land of captivity (Is. 48:20) and was not therefore going to flee away from the promised land and flee back to Babylon / Persia as they wished.

Who is there that, being such as I, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in- As the chief butler, Nehemiah was likely a eunuch. It would therefore not have been appropriate for him to go into the temple, and in any case he was not a priest.

Nehemiah 6:12 I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me. Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him-
Hireling prophets were one of the reasons Judah had gone into captivity in the first place. And they were acting just the same. They were hiring as it were Balaam against him (s.w. Neh. 13:2). And all this was a repeat of Ezra's experience of counsellors being hired against him (s.w. Ezra 4:5). He had been inspired by Ezra. If we are motivated by Biblical characters, then God in essence will respond likewise as He did in their lives, and the connections between our experiences and theirs will be continued by Him.

Nehemiah 6:13 He was hired so that I would be afraid, follow his advice, and sin. Thus they would have material for an evil report, that they might reproach me-
We as believers are not called upon to be naive, but to be "wise as serpents".

Nehemiah 6:14 Remember, my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and also the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear-
The false prophet Shemaiah was not acting alone. There were a group of such prophets as well as  prophetess who were making false prophecies, in league with the Samaritan opposition. The spiritual state of Judah was indeed very weak. It was only a firm personal belief in the truth of God's actual word which preserved Nehemiah from believing these false prophets. And therefore he didn't fear. Time and again, Isaiah’s restoration prophecies told Judah that they should not fear, as Yahweh would mightily be with them in their work (Is. 41:10,13,14; 43:1,5; 44:2,8,11; 54:7,14; 59:19). But Judah feared the surrounding nations- Ezra and Nehemiah are full of this theme (Ezra 3:3). Nehemiah refused to be put in fear by the Samaritan opposition because of his faith in Isaiah’s promises.

Nehemiah 6:15 So the wall was finished in the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days-
This is absolutely credible; Themistocles built a wall around Athens in a similar time span. The roughly 40 lots into which the work of the wall was divided up in Ezra 3 would have averaged about 80 yards (73 meters) for each group. And parts of the wall would have needed less work than others; remember we are not talking about the rebuilding of the walls after the Babylonian destruction, but from the damage done to them by the Samaritans.

Nehemiah 6:16 It happened that when all our enemies heard of it, then all the nations that were about us were afraid, and were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done of our God-
The restoration prophets envisaged the Gentiles joyfully accepting God's hand in that restoration; e.g. Ps. 126:2, "Then said they among the nations, The Lord has done great things for them". But this wasn't quite the case. The Gentiles did accept the action of Israel's God against all odds, but the Jews intermarried with them and made false prophecies for them. And there was not the repentance intended amongst the Jews and Gentiles. The surrounding nations were intended to note the real presence of Israel's  God and then join Him in covenant relationship. But the apostacy of the Jews, as well as Gentile impenitence, precluded this scenario from happening at the time.

Nehemiah 6:17 Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them-
This connection with Tobiah in particular would be understandable if indeed he was an apostate Jew as suggested on :18. The greatness of Nehemiah's achievement was that he did it in the teeth of betrayal amongst his own people, and despite all manner of politics- gossip, threats of gossip, letters going back and forth, family politics (:19), innuendo, intrigue and politics. Despite all those things he focused upon the work.

Nehemiah 6:18 For there were many in Judah sworn to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah; and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as wife-
This is tacit recognition of the fact that the apparent repentance of marrying Gentiles and the supposed separations from them in Ezra's time were fictive or not far reaching. Tobiah's name includes the termination ‘Yah’, suggesting he may have been a renegade Jew (cp. Ezra 2:60; Zech. 6:10). His son’s name, Jehohanan also features the 'Yah' prefix. But he self identified as an Ammonite (Neh. 2:10). It seems from Neh. 13:4 that even the high priest was "allied" with Tobiah by marriage. Meshullam was also a priest who had helped in the rebuilding (Neh. 3:4,30). The priesthood and leadership was totally against Nehemiah and his plans, even though Meshullam had helped rebuild the wall. That Nehemiah succeeded in rebuilding the wall despite all the internal and external opposition, and all the murky internal politics, was clearly only the work of the Spirit of God; but we have to commend Nehemiah for his personal tenacity. He is an example of 'the power of one'. And it is so often the case that genuine intention to serve God is derailed by exhaustion with internal church politics. Nehemiah is really the parade example of a man who focused upon God's work and refused to be distracted by all this.

Nehemiah 6:19 Also they spoke of his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear
- The essence of this kind of thing is seen today in the bombardment of people by various forms of communication, which is so easy in our age. "Good deeds" is a play on the word "Tobiah" (Heb. tob = 'good'). He had paid the false prophets to prophesy for him (:12), so he likely used money as an instrument in his machinations; and this was likely interpreted as charitable donations. Nehemiah must have felt so isolated, with so little support amongst the Jews, and yet doing what he did solely for them rather than himself.