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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 4

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.

When Sanballat heard ... he was wroth. The Samaritan faction showed their bitter animosity to the Jews on discovering the systematic design of re-fortifying Jerusalem. Their opposition was confined at first to scoffs and insults-in heaping which the governors made themselves conspicuous, and circulated all sorts of disparaging reflections that might increase the feelings hatred and contempt for them in their own party. The weakness of the Jews in respect of wealth and numbers-the absurdity of their purpose apparently to reconstruct the walls, and celebrate the feast of dedication in one day-the idea of raising the walls on their old foundations, as well as using the charred and mouldering debris of the ruins as the materials of the restored buildings-and the hope of such a parapet as they could raise being capable of serving as a fortress of defense-these all afforded fertile subjects of hostile ridicule.

Verse 2

And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.

If a fox go up - the foxes were mentioned from their having been known, in great numbers, to infest the ruined and desolate places in the mount and city of Zion (Lamentations 5:18), as they frequently did vineyards, which in consequence were fenced not by stone-hedges only, but frequently by stone parapets (Numbers 22:24; Psalms 80:13; Proverbs 24:31; Song of Solomon 2:15; Isaiah 5:5; cf. Virgil, 'Georgics,' 2:371).

Verse 4

Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity:

Hear, O our God; for we are despised. The imprecations invoked here may seem harsh, cruel, and vindictive. But it must be remembered that Nehemiah and his friends regarded those Samaritan leaders as enemies to the cause of God and His people, and therefore as deserving to be visited with heavy judgments. The prayer, therefore, is to be considered as emanating from hearts in which neither hatred, revenge, nor any inferior passion, but a pious and patriotic zeal for the glory of God and the success of His cause, held the ascendant sway.

Verse 5

And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.

All the wall was joined together unto the half thereof. The whole circuit of the wall had been distributed in sections to various companies of the people, and was completed to the half of the intended height.

Verse 7

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth,

But ... when Sanballat ... heard that the walls ... were made up, and ... the breaches ... stopped. The rapid progress of the fortifications, despite of all their predictions to the contrary, goaded the Samaritans to frenzy, and they, dreading danger from the growing greatness of the Jews, formed a conspiracy to surprise them, demolish their works, and disperse intimidate the builders.

Verses 8-11

And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 12

And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.

When the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times (i:e., repeatedly). From all places whence ye shall return unto us, they will be upon you. The plot being discovered, Nehemiah adopted the most energetic measures for ensuring the common safety as well as the uninterrupted building of the walls. Hitherto the governor, for the sake of despatch, had set all his attendants and guards on the work-now half of them were withdrawn to be constantly in arms. The workmen laboured with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other; and as, in so large a circuit, they were far removed from each other, Nehemiah, who was night and day on the spot, and, by his pious exhortations and example, animated the minds of his people, kept a trumpeter by his side, so that on any intelligence of a surprise being brought to him, an alarm might be immediately sounded, and assistance rendered to the most distant detachment of their brethren. By these vigilant precautions the counsels of the enemy were defeated, and the work was carried on apace.

Verses 13-22

Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 23

So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing.

None of us put off our clothes, saving that everyone put them off for washing. Many writers, with Grotius, think that they did not put off their clothes but for the ablutions required by the law. This is not the meaning. The margin rends the Hebrew text better, and gives a signification to the words in full accordance with the difficulties and dangers of the crisis: 'every one went with his weapon for water' (cf. Judges 5:11). God, when he has important public work to do, never fails to raise up instruments for accomplishing it, and in the person of Nehemiah, who, to great natural acuteness and energy, added fervent piety and heroic devotion, He provided a leader, whose high qualities fitted him for the demands of the crisis. Nehemiah's vigilance anticipated every difficulty; his prudent measures defeated every obstruction; and, with astonishing rapidity, this Jerusalem was made again "a city fortified."

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Nehemiah 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/nehemiah-4.html. 1871-8.
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