Nehemiah 6:1-2. I had not set up the doors — Not all of them. Come, let us meet together — To consult about the common service of our master the king of Persia, or to make a friendly accommodation. In one of the villages in the plain of Ono — A city in the tribe of Benjamin, of which see Nehemiah 11:35; 1 Chronicles 8:12. But they thought to do me mischief — It is likely they intended to kill him, of which, perhaps, he had received some private intelligence.
Nehemiah 6:3. I am doing a great work — He acquainted them that he thought the business which they might have with him could not be of such importance as that which he had in hand; and therefore he would not put a stop to it to come and confer with them. Thus he tells them one, but not the only, nor the principal reason of his refusal; for he properly judged that it would answer no good end to intimate to them his suspicions of their design to compass his death.
Nehemiah 6:4. Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort — We must never be overcome by the greatest importunity to do any thing ill or imprudent: but when we are attacked with the same temptation, still resist it with the same reason and resolution.
Nehemiah 6:5-6. With an open letter in his hand — Before, the message was delivered by word of mouth, but now by letter; yet open, as speaking of a thing commonly known, or in order that every one might see of what he was accused. It is reported among the heathen — The neighbouring people, whom you proudly and disdainfully call heathen. And Gashmu saith it — Probably the same as Geshem, mentioned Nehemiah 6:1. That thou and the Jews think to rebel — Thus he endeavours to possess Nehemiah with an apprehension that his undertaking to build the walls of Jerusalem was generally considered as a factious and seditious proceeding, and would be resented accordingly at court. Some of the best men, even in their most innocent and excellent performances, have lain under a similar imputation. That thou mayest be king, according to these words — That is, according to these reports; or, according to these things, namely, when these things, which thou art now doing, shall be finished.
Nehemiah 6:7. Saying, There is a king in Judah — We have now a king of our own nation, and are free from the bondage of a foreign yoke. Come now, therefore, and let us take counsel together — That we may impartially examine the matter, that thy innocence may be cleared.
Nehemiah 6:9. For they all made us afraid — That is, they endeavoured to do so, and actually did terrify some persons. Now, therefore, O God, strengthen my hands — It is a great relief to good people, that in all their straits and difficulties they can have recourse to God, and by faith and prayer derive from him grace to silence their fears and strengthen their hands, while their enemies are endeavouring to fill them with fears and to weaken their hands. And this prayer of Nehemiah is particularly suitable when we are entering on any particular services or conflicts in our Christian warfare, and especially need to have our hands strengthened.
Nehemiah 6:10. I came into the house of Shemaiah — Who was a pretended prophet, as appears from Nehemiah 6:12, and taken by Nehemiah for his friend, who therefore went to advise and consult with him at his house. Who was shut up — In his chamber adjoining to the temple, either upon pretence of singular devotion and communion with God, or rather of having received certain knowledge, by the Spirit of God, of their approaching danger, from which they could be safe nowhere but in the temple. He probably intended also by this action to give Nehemiah to understand what he himself ought to do for his own security; for it was the manner of the prophets to instruct the people by actions and signs, as well as by words. Let us meet together within the temple — For the danger is so near that we cannot safely tarry here so long as to consult what to do in this juncture. For they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night, &c. — Even this very night will they fall upon thee; therefore consult thy safety by fleeing hither. Thus he hoped to intimidate Nehemiah, and thereby to strike a dread into all the people, and put a speedy and full stop to the work; which effect would indeed have been produced if Nehemiah had taken his advice, and through fear shut himself up: for then the people would have left their work, and every one have shifted for his own safety. He probably hoped also by this means to render Nehemiah contemptible among the people, by manifesting such cowardice as to desert his post and take refuge in the temple in time of danger; and by all these things to prepare the way for the enemies to assault and take the city.
Nehemiah 6:11. Should such a man as I flee? — I, who am governor, and ought to show a good example of undaunted courage? I, upon whose presence, counsel, and conduct, the very life and being of the whole city and nation, in a great measure, depend? I, who have professed such resolution and confidence in God, and have had such eminent experience of his gracious and powerful assistance, of his calling me to this employment, and carrying me through it when our danger was greater than now it is? Shall I now dishonour God and religion, and betray the people and city of God, by my cowardice? God forbid! Who is there that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? — Even though his life depended upon it. Shall I go in as if I had a bad cause or an evil conscience? as if I were a malefactor, and fled thither for refuge? as if I durst not trust God with my preservation except I went into the temple, which it is not lawful for me to do, not being a priest?
Nehemiah 6:12. I perceived that God had not sent him — Partly by considering the sinful nature and pernicious consequences of this counsel; partly by the suggestion of God’s Spirit, whose direction I sought in this matter; and partly by the event, which manifested that there was no such danger from the approach of the enemy as was pretended.
Nehemiah 6:13. That I should be afraid, and do so, and sin — By going into a place forbidden to me, and that in such a manner, which would have been both sinful and shameful. That they might reproach me — As a coward, and conscious of my own guilt, that they might make me contemptible and odious, both to my own people and to the king of Persia.
Nehemiah 6:14. My God, think thou upon Tobiah, &c. — Thou knowest their hearts, and art the avenger of falsehood and wrong; take cognizance of this cause, judge between me and them, and take what way and time thou pleasest to call them to an account for their actions. This prayer we are not to imitate; and whatever injuries are done to us we must not avenge ourselves, but commit our cause to Him that judgeth righteously. The Prophetess Noadiah — One that falsely pretended to the spirit of prophecy, to deceive and destroy Nehemiah. And the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear — The law of Moses enjoined the governors of the Jews to punish such as were proved to be false prophets; but because Nehemiah was not in a capacity to do it, having such powerful enemies round about him, and so many rich and powerful Jews highly discontented for their great loss by his means, he prays to God to remember and punish them. It appears from this, and many other passages, that there were among the Jews many that pretended to be prophets who had no divine commission, and often drew aside and deceived the people, who ought to have done as Nehemiah did here, to have considered the spirit of these prophets, whether they spoke that which was agreeable to the divine laws, and was likely to promote the glory of God. By this test they should have tried these prophets; and because they did not do so, they were led to hearken to them, for which they are often severely rebuked.
Nehemiah 6:15. The wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul — Answering part to our August and part to September. In fifty and two days — To be computed either from the time of Sanballat’s sending this letter to him, or, as most judge, from the beginning of the work, which, though a great thing, yet it is not at all incredible, considering, 1st, That the walls and gates were not wholly pulled down by the Chaldeans: for to what purpose should they make that waste of time and labour? 2d, That where the walls were thrown down, yet the materials remained, which they now used. 3d, That, in building the walls, they regarded not ornament, but only strength and safety. 4th, The great numbers of the builders, and the prudent distribution of the work among them, and their admirable zeal and diligence therein. 5th, That there want not parallel instances, even in heathen authors; for both Quintus Curtius and Arrian relate that Alexander the Great built the walls of new Alexandria, which were seven miles in compass, within twenty days’ space. 6th, That the hand of God was manifest in carrying on this work, which their very enemies here acknowledge.
Nehemiah 6:16. They were much cast down in their own eyes — That is, in their opinion, or themselves being judges. For though usually men are very prone to judge partially, and still to flatter themselves with vain hopes, yet this case was so clear and remarkable that they began to despair. Now they saw that all was lost, that their designs were broken, and that their mischief was likely to fall upon their own heads. For they perceived that this work was of our God — From that admirable courage, constancy, and quickness, wherewith this work was managed, notwithstanding all the difficulties and discouragements in the way, they concluded that it was the work of the mighty God of Israel, whom they had great reason to fear. And withal they took it for an ill omen to them, and a sure presage that God would still watch over that city and people, and crush those who should oppose or disturb them.
Nehemiah 6:17-18. The nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah — Corresponding with him against Nehemiah, and against their own city and nation. So that, added to all the other wickedness of this people, there were false brethren among their great men, who favoured, aided, and abetted the designs of their enemies, Nehemiah 6:18. There were many in Judah sworn unto him — To be true to him in the prosecution of his wicked designs. Because his son had taken the daughter of Meshullam — This is mentioned to show the mischief of such unequal and forbidden marriages, and how reasonable and necessary Ezra’s action was in the dissolution of them.
Nehemiah 6:19. Also, they reported his good deeds before me — To such a degree of impudence were they arrived, that they highly commended Tobiah as a very worthy man in the presence of Nehemiah, who knew so much of his wickedness. And uttered my words to him — Informed him of all I spake or did. We learn from the contents of this chapter, that pious people, especially those who labour for the glory of God, are exposed to many troubles and oppositions, not only from their declared enemies, who attack them with open force, or by craft and calumny, but also from those whom they look upon as their brethren. It appears also from the wise, steady, and pious conduct of Nehemiah, that those who labour for the public good ought never to be staggered by the threats and slanders of the wicked, because, with the blessing of God, who watches over them, they will happily overcome all opposition.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Nehemiah 6". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany