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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 4

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-23

Nehemiah 4:2 . He spake before his brethren; that is, before Tobias, &c. his brother governors, and other great officers whom he had convened for counsel against the Jews.

Nehemiah 4:5 . Let not their sin be blotted out. This is a frequent character of prayers in the old testament; but they are the prayers of judges and prophets, and prayers against robbers and murderers, which do not preclude repentance; and I know not that it is wrong to ask the rod for the incorrigible, and to disable the wicked from doing mischief. But to the christian the command is, “Bless and curse not. Love your enemies.”

Nehemiah 4:6 . The wall was joined together unto the half thereof. That is, the entire wall round the city was joined, and built up half the intended height, so as to form some defence against the threatened attack: Nehemiah 4:8. The people had a mind. Hebrews a heart to work. They did the Lord’s work cheerfully and heartily.

Nehemiah 4:12 . From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you. The latter words are not in the Hebrew, but are supplied by our translators. The reading of the LXX is preferable. “They said unto us ten times, from all places they come up against us;” that is, from all parts of Samaria.

Nehemiah 4:16 . Habergeons; the breastplates or coats of mail.

Nehemiah 4:23 . Put them off for washing. The word translated “put them off,” signifies a weapon; and the word rendered “washing,” signifies water. But from their great exertions in labour they seemed to require a change of linen; our version therefore retains the best reading.


While Jerusalem, aided by the surrounding cities, and by strangers, made astonishing efforts for its safety and defence, tidings of the work daily reached the ears of Sanballat in Samaria, and excited his indignation and malice to the last degree. But while he was employed in convening his associate governors, and forming plans of ruin to Jerusalem, behold the wall was finished, and the people awaited him in arms. Thus the Lord, in whose counsel the people stood, laughed the enemy to scorn.

At first, When those governors heard of the rapid progress of the works, they affected to despise the effort as a mere heap of rubbish raised from the ditches, and so flimsy in its construction, that the tail of a fox would dash it down. Yet withal they feared, and could not but tremble that a Nehemiah was in the city: for this single man was to Israel a revenue, a host, and a council. He was a general in arms, and a minister of religion in the sanctuary, addressing himself to heaven for divine protection. So shall the enemies of the church be confounded and embarrassed, while they see the hand of God so evidently with his people; and at the same time, his indignant looks frowning confusion on all the plots of their malicious foes.

But we most admire that this great work, at another time the labour of years, was done by the union of much prayer and hard labour, and the vigorous exercise of arms; and while the scouting armies of Samaria every moment menaced the city, every man therefore had his weapon by his side. The enemy from the surrounding hills, was grieved to see the walls joined, the towers raised, and the altar of JEHOVAH smoke with victims of atonement for the people. Alas, for poor Samaria, all its conventions, and all its assembling of armies were in vain. They assaulted not the city, but retired as timid foxes when the husbandman is on the watch. So when religion is in a low and ruined condition, and everywhere surrounded with enemies, it must rise by exertions of faith and prayer. When the lot also of a good minister falls in a district where the barriers of morality are in ruins, as Nehemiah found the walls of Jerusalem, he must gather the dispirited and almost degenerate believers together; he must animate them by sermons, refresh them by his prayers, and elevate their hopes of future prosperity. He must prompt them to devotion and exertions of every kind, and arm them with the maxims of truth against the assaults of all wicked and ungodly men. And the God of this good governor will direct that minister, and succeed his work.

As Nehemiah acquainted not Samaria with his designs, nor yet his own people till the fourth day, let a minister, anxious to effect, under God, a blessed work, learn to avoid all ostentation, all pomp and parade: for the kingdom of God cometh not with observation. His ministry should resemble the milder beams of morn, shedding the welcome rays of truth and grace on the hearts of the people without noise, and before the wicked are aware. Then if Satan roar as a lion, and the greatest of his children take counsel to destroy the work, it is too late. The people have tasted the good word of God, and felt the powers of the world to come: they are apprised of the enemy’s designs, and smile at all his rage.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Nehemiah 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/nehemiah-4.html. 1835.
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