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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Nehemiah 4

 

 

Verse 1

Nehemiah 4:1 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.

Ver. 1. But it came to pass] The devil and his imps have ever been utter enemies to reformation. So do savage beasts bristle up themselves, and make the most fierce assaults, when they are in danger of losing the prey which they had once seized on. Jabeshgilead would send in none to help the Lord against the mighty, 21:9. No more would Meroz, 5:23. Josiah met with much opposition; so did St Paul wherever he came, to set up evangelical and spiritual worship; which is called a reformation, Hebrews 9:10. All the world was against Athanasius in his generation, and Luther in his; rejecting what they attempted, with scorn and slander. Here it is quarrel enough to Nehemiah and his Jews, that they would be no longer miserable. They were not more busy in building than the enemies active in deriding, conspiring, practising to hinder and overthrow them. A double derision is here recorded; and both as full of mischief as profane wit or rancoured malice could make them.

He was wroth] Heb. He was enkindled, and all on a light fire; he was as hot as Nebuchadnezzar’s oven, very hot, he took great indignation, and was so unreasonably enraged, as if he would have fallen forthwith into a frenzy or apoplexy; as that Roman emperor did, by raging at his servant. He was grieved before, Nehemiah 2:1, but now he was maddened.

And mocked the Jews] By word and gesture, fleering and jeering, flouting and scoffing at them, as the Pharisees also did at our Saviour, Luke 16:14; David’s enemies at him, upon their ale bench; Sir Thomas More and other learned Papists, at the new gospellers. See Nehemiah 2:19. This might have dismayed these poor Jews, and put them out of countenance: for our nature is most impatient with reproaches; there being none so mean but thinks himself worthy of some regard: and a reproachful scorn (such as these here) shows an utter disrespect, which issueth from the very superfluity of malice. If God had not strengthened them, saith one, it would have made them leave their work, and run away.


Verse 2

Nehemiah 4:2 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?

Ver. 2. And he spake before his brethren] i.e., before his companions and acomplices, who would second him and say the same, his Aiones and Negones, as one calleth such.

And the army of Samaria] The garrison soldiers; or those that lay there billeted, to observe the people.

What do these feeble Jews?] These beggarly shiftless fellows, these Asinarii (as Molon and Appion of Alexandria disgracefully called the Jews); like as Tertullian tells us that the Pagans painted the God of the Christians with an ass’s head and a book in his hand; to note that they were silly and despicable people. Bishop Jewell, in a sermon of his, citeth this out of Tertullian, and addeth, Do not our adversaries the like at this day against all that profess the gospel?

Will they fortify themselves?] Heb. Will they leave to themselves, sc. anything to trust unto? Junius renders An sinerent eos? should they (sc. the officers and soldiers) suffer them thus to do?

Will they sacrifice?] sc. at the dedication of their new walls? Will they do this all at once? and think they, without more ado, to have the liberty of their sanctuary?

Will they make an end in a day?] It should seem so by their Cito, Cito, quick despatch of their parts and task, &c.

Praecipita tempus; mors atra impendet agenti (Sil. Ital.).

Will they revive the stones, &c.] Stones they lack for their new wall: where will they have them? will they glue together the old stones, and revive them out of the rubbish? will they do this? or, what will they do?


Verse 3

Nehemiah 4:3 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.

Ver. 3. Now Tobiah the Ammonite] This was one of Sanballat’s good brethren, Nehemiah 4:2. A bird of the same feather, a loaf of the same leaven, his fellow scoffer, and so homine peior, saith Chrysostom, worse than a man; as the scoffed that beareth it well, is Angelis par, saith he, an angel’s peer.

Even that which they build, if a fox go up, &c.] It was some such bitter jeer that Remus uttered in contempt of Romulus’s new wall, and was knocked on the head for it. Hae sannae leniter volant, non leniter violant.


Verse 4

Nehemiah 4:4 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:

Ver. 4. Hear, O our God] These mocks and menaces lay so heavy upon Nehemiah’s spirit, that he could not ease himself but by breathing heavenward; and turning them over to God to take an order with them. His prayer is not long, but full. A child may not chat in his father’s presence: his words must be humble, earnest, direct to the point, avoiding vain babblings and tedious drawn out affairs.

For we are despised] Heb. We are contempt in the abstract. Not vilified we are only, but nullified, as a company of ουτιδανοι, no bodies. So Paul (the most precious man upon earth) and his companions (the glory of Christ, and a royal diadem in the hand of Jehovah, Isaiah 62:3) were looked upon as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things, 1 Corinthians 4:13. What matter is it, then, what becometh of us? We have a God to turn us to, and Demetrius hath testimony of the truth; that is enough, let Diotrephes prate what he pleaseth, 3 John 1:9.

And turn their reproach upon their own heads] Surely God scorneth these scorners, saith Solomon, Proverbs 3:34; that is, saith Rabbi Levi upon that text, he casts them into some calamity, and so makes them a laughing stock to those whom they have laughed at. God loves to retaliate, to pay men home in their own coin. Thus he dealt by Appion of Alexandria; who, scoffing at religion (and especially at circumcision), had an ulcer the same time and in the same place (Josephus). The like ill end befell Julian the apostate, whose daily practice was to scoff at Christ and his people. Dioclesian the emperor (as Volaterran writes) had a jester called Genesius, who used to make him merry at meals, and, among their devices, would scoff and squib at Christians; but God plagued him, for example to others. And the like he did to Morgan, that mocking bishop of St David’s; to John Apowel, who derided William Mauldon for his devotion; and lastly, to one Lever, of Brightwell, in Berkshire, who said that he saw that ill-favoured knave Latimer when he was burned at Oxford, and that he had teeth like a horse. But the Lord suffered not this scorn and contempt of his servant to pass unpunished; for that very day, and about the same hour, that Lever spake these words, his son wickedly hanged himself, saith mine author. Lege, cave. Read and take note!

And give them for a prey, &c.] A heavy curse, and, as not causeless (against implacable enemies to God and goodness), so nor fruitless. Woe be to such as against whom the saints, moved with a zeal of God, shall imprecate vengeance. God usually inflicts what they denounce against his and their irreconcilable adversaries. Fire proceeds out of their mouths, &c., Revelation 11:5.


Verse 5

Nehemiah 4:5 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.

Ver 5. And cover not their iniquity.] O fearful imprecation! Surely if they only are blessed whose sin is covered, Psalms 32:1, what shall become of those that are in a contrary condition? If pardon of sin be such a voluminous mercy, as having many other mercies bound up with it, think what a misery it is to have sin imputed; and get a cover speedily, for that abominable filth, and to God himself an eye sore.

For they have provoked thee to anger, &c.] This was it that Nehemiah so stomached; and that drew from him these dreadful imprecations, viz. God’s glory, and not any self-concern: he hated and cursed non virum, sed virium, &c.


Verse 6

Nehemiah 4:6 So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.

Ver. 6. So built we the wall] This followed upon his prayer, as a gracious answer to it; the people were encouraged, and the wall finished. Faithful prayer is never ineffectual. Reproaching is a heart breaking, Psalms 66:20, but so long as a Christian can pray he is not without his cordial. "I came for thy prayer," Daniel 10:12.

And all the wall was joined together] Not with gold indeed (as Cassiodorus saith the walls of Susa in Persia were), but with that which was better than gold, faith in God’s goodness and zeal of his glory.

Unto the half thereof] Unto half the height, for they could not do all at once: neither can we in the spiritual building; but grow up and increase with the increase of God, Colossians 2:19.

For the people had a mind to work] And the more mind because they met with so much opposition. A free spirit is most seen, saith one, when there be most rubs in the way; when he that moves by outward poises will stick and be dull: as when a bowl runs up a hill, every bounce slows it; but when downhill, a bounce quickeneth it.


Verse 7

Nehemiah 4:7 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,

Ver. 7. And the Arabians’ and the Ammonites] A rabble of malignants meet and make head. Sanballat, by the help of Tobiah, had now gotten a great band of soldiers, and specially of Arabians, Ammonites, and Ashdodites, to fight for him against this feeble folk, but yet armed with God, and that had him for their champion. So we may see how readily one wicked man will be drawn to help another; and how the wickedness of one will infect another that will give ear to it. Read Psalms 83:6-8, Revelation 16:16-17, &c.

Heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up] Heb. That health (or as the old translation hath it, a salve) ascended upon the walls. A metaphor from surgeons, who when they heal wounds by salves or plasters, join the flesh together again which before was cut in sunder: so the breaches of the walls, which afore lay gaping open, were joined together, and made sound, as though it were one entire wall, et quasi tota moles in tantam magnitudinem ex unico ingenti lapide tam magnifice consurgeret.

Then they were very wroth] That old enmity, Genesis 3:15, stirred in them, and they were soon kindled; Satan being the boute-feu, or kindle coal. See Nehemiah 4:1.


Verse 8

Nehemiah 4:8 And conspired all of them together to come [and] to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

Ver. 8. And conspired all of them together] All of them, and together; and yet this was not unity, but conspiracy; such as is that among devils, Mark 5:9, among Antichristians, Revelation 17:13, among Turks, who have as little dissension in their religion as any. But well may that garment have no seam that hath no shape. The army of Nineveh was quiet, Nahum 1:12, no falling out nor complaining in their hosts; hence their king marched on, passed through. But so did not these conspirators, because they met with those that were no less well combined and far better resolved than themselves. The Thebans had a band of men they called Sacra Cohors, sacred cohorts, ιερος λοχος (Athen. 1.3), consisting of such only as were joined in the bonds of love, and resolved to live and die together. These Jews under the command of Nehemiah were none other, and were therefore insuperable.

To come and to fight] To turn their works into knocks.

And to hinder it] Heb. To make an error in it. The Hebrew word is used both of the error of the heart and of the foot, Isaiah 63:17, Psalms 119:176. It may be rendered here, to hinder him, to make an error in him; to make Nehemiah at a stand, or rather to run away, to creep into corners, and give over the work.


Verse 9

Nehemiah 4:9 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.

Ver. 9. Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God] Who is the saints’ sanctuary of safety, their present help in time of trouble. Prayer to him is an anchor in all storms and a salve for all sores; yea, it healeth not only body and soul, but even hard stony walls, Nehemiah 4:7, provided that we judge ourselves in prayer, and commit our cause to God to be judged by him, as the Hebrew word נחפלל here importeth. Thus did the children of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, when to fight against the Hagarenes. Thus did Jabiz, and Jehoshaphat, and Constantine, and Theodosius, and that late victorious king of Sweden, of whom it is storied in his Life (Mr Clark), that he would pray ashipboard, ashore, in the field, in the midst of a battle; as if prayer alone were the surest piece of his whole armour.

And set a watch] According to that of our Saviour, "Watch and pray," Luke 21:36, and that of the heathen, Admota manu invocanda est Minerva. Ora et labora, pray, and then use best policy; first conquer heaven, and then presume of earth’s conquest.

Against them] Or, beside them, at the workmen’s elbows, and in the face of the enemies.


Verse 10

Nehemiah 4:10 And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and [there is] much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.

Ver. 10. And Judah said] Here was επεμβολη, impedimenti domestici; aliud ex alio malum, a worse discouragement than the former. Judah (the chief labourers) begins to murmur and mutiny, to faint and fall off. A perilous practice in such a dangerous time, and enough to have undone all; as one coward in an army, breaking the array and running away, may set the rest a running, and the day be thereby lost. Lo, this was Judah, whose escutcheon was a lion; but here unlike himself.

The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed] Very specious reasons they allege; their shoulders ached, their strength was gone, there was no end of their painstaking, their work grew upon them, &c. The truth was, deerat ignis, deerat animus, they were weary of well doing, and not valiant for the truth, Jeremiah 9:3. More like they were to those fugitives of Ephraim, 12:4, than the lions of the tribe of Judah. Nehemiah therefore might well have said to them, as Alexander once did to a faint hearted soldier of his, that was of his own name, Either give up the name of Alexander, or be valiant. So, either hold out, and bear up under your burdens, or be Judah no more.

So that we are not able] Never was anything too hard for Alexander; because he never held anything impossible to be effected.


Verse 11

Nehemiah 4:11 And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.

Ver. 11. And our adversaries said] But their plot was some way discovered, and so prevented. Detexit facinus fatuus et non implevit, saith Tacitus of one in his time. So the gunpowder traitors betrayed themselves; and all came to light, though they had dug as low as hell to hide their counsels from the Lord.

They shall not know, neither see] But what shall he do who is omniscient and ολοφθαλμος, all-eye? whose providence is like a well drawn picture that vieweth all that comes into a room.

Till we come in the midst among them] Either in the night undiscerned; or by day, but unarmed, and not as enemies: for the Florentine secretary, though not yet (nor of many ages later) born into the world; yet the good of this world was as great a master then as afterwards.

And slay them, and cause the work to cease] The craft of the Church’s adversaries is never but accompanied with cruelty; and their cruelty is seldom without craft. The devil lends them his seven heads to plot, and his ten horns to push; but in the thing wherein they deal proudly, God is above these cruel crafties.


Verse 12

Nehemiah 4:12 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].

Ver. 12. And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came] Their brethren from abroad gave the workmen intelligence; and this was a friendly office; for praemonitus praemunitus, premonition is the best means of prevention. It is the property of a brother, though at other times not so kind, yet in affliction and extremity to find nature working in him, and to do his best. See Proverbs 17:17. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 17:17"}

They said unto us ten times] i.e. Oftentimes, Genesis 31:41, Numbers 14:22. The Lord knoweth how to deliver his, as he did David from Saul, Peter from the Jews, Acts 12:7-12, Paul from those conspirators, Acts 23:12-23, and this sinful nation oft from the blood thirsty Papists. Masses were said in Rome for the good success of the Catholic design (the gunpowder plot); but no prayers in England, for our deliverance: and yet they were defeated ( Sorex sue periit indicio), and we delivered. Admirable mercy.

From all places whence ye shall return, &c.] Some read it thus, And it came to pass, when the Jews which dwelt beside them, came and told us of their practices ten times out of all places, whence they came unto us, I set in the low places, &c. And here, I cannot tell, saith one, whether these intelligencers be worthy more praise or condemnation. It was their duty to have come home, stood in storms, and help to build Jerusalem. But God, which turneth our intelligence and foolishness to the setting forth of his wisdom and goodness, gave them a good will and boldness to further that building as they might. Thus God useth the service of all men and creatures to the comfort of his people.


Verse 13

Nehemiah 4:13 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.

Ver. 13. Therefore set I in the lower places] I took them off their work, and appointed them to stand upon their guard; appointing them their stations, and giving them orders.

I even set the people after their families] Or, according to their kindreds; for he knew that nature will move one kinsman to be truer to another in all dangers than a stranger; and that one kinsman will open his grief to his friend and take comfort at his hand, rather than to him whom he knoweth not. Hence Nehemiah in policy sorted his soldiers after this sort.

With their swords, their spears, and their bows] These were the ancient weapons of war; neither had death yet learned to cut his way through a wood of men out of the mouth of a murdering piece. Whether the Emperor Wenceslaus did well or ill in executing Barthold Swartz for inventing gunpowder, A. D. 1378, I determine not.


Verse 14

Nehemiah 4:14 And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, [which is] great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

Ver. 14. And I looked, and rose up] Et vidi, et surrexi, et dixi, so the original runs. He saw the enemy a-coming, he started up, and he made this excellent exhortation; which puts me in mind of that which one once said of Julius Caesar, If you had never known him to have been a soldier, yet hear him but speak only, and you will conclude him to be one, Si acta eius penitus ignorasses, per linguam tanten militem esse diceres.

And said unto the nobles] In a short but pithy oration; such as was that of Joab, 2 Samuel 10:12, of which Pellican saith, Non potuit vex duce dignior cogitari, as brave a speech as a man could make; or that of Hunniades, about to join battle with the Turks (see Turk. Hist. fol. 272); or, lastly, that of the Prince of Orange at the battle of Newport; where they had the sea on one side and the Spaniards on the other. If, said he, you will live, you must either eat up these Spaniards or drink up this sea. So here, Either you must fight lustily, or all you have is forfeited assuredly.

Be not ye afraid of them] Away with that cowardly passion, which unmans a man, et rectum tollit de cardine mentem, robs him of all power and policy.

Remember the Lord] Whom he that feareth needs fear none else. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower," &c.

Who is great and terrible] For the defence of his people, and offence of his enemies. The Lord is a man of war, Exodus 15:3. Yea, he alone is a whole army of men, van and rear both, Isaiah 52:12; and may better say to his soldiers than Antigonus did to his, when they were afraid of the enemy’s numbers, How many do ye reckon me for?

And fight for your brethren] Whether by race, or religion.

Your sons, and your daughters] Those φιλτατα, as the Greeks call them; Charissimi, as the Latins; dearest pledges.

Your wives, and your houses] In the last commandment houses are set first before wives, because a house is to be first provided; neither will a wise man take a wife before he hath a house. Here wives are set before houses; because far more precious, and a main part of a man’s self, Ephesians 5:28. House and riches are the inheritance of the fathers, but a prudent wife is of the Lord, Proverbs 19:14. She was one of the first real and royal gifts bestowed by God upon Adam. By the way note, that if men may fight for their civil right to their houses and lands, have they not as good warrant to fight for their religion, especially since they have the laws of the land for it; and, besides, a civil right at least to the outward peaceable profession and practice of it? The Athenians themselves, though their religion was no better than superstition, Acts 17:22, yet they bound themselves, by a public and solemn oath, to defend it to the utmost. The words of the oath were these: I will fight for the temples and holy rites, both alone and with others, Aμυνω δε και υπεο ιεοων και υπερ οσιων και μονος και μετα πολλων..


Verse 15

Nehemiah 4:15 And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work.

Ver. 15. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard] This rumour was enough to frighten these no less now timorous than before temerarious Samaritans; great brags they made at first what they would do, but now that they see they are defeated of their purpose, they are crest fallen, and have no mind at all to advance. So that to these may be fitly applied that which Guicciardine saith of Charles VIII, king of France, in his expedition against Naples, that he came into the field like thunder and lightning, but went out like a snuff; more than a man at first, and less than a woman at last.

And God had brought their counsel to nought] According to that of the psalmist, "The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations," Psalms 33:10-11. Here good men may learn, saith one, not to go nakedly, without weapons for their own necessary defence; and much less, said I, without their spiritual weapons, whether defensive, as the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, &c., or offensive, as the sword of the Spirit, the word, and the darts of prayer, lest they be surprised and subjugated by that old manslayer, Ephesians 6:13-18.

That we returned all of us to the wall] Not to the tavern, to toss pots, saith one, and boast of their great victory; but in the fear of God they return to the walls, and every man falleth to his work again. All histories declare that the greatest kingdoms, when they fell to idleness and luxury, then they lost their former glory faster than they won it. The Turkish Empire is thought to be on the declining hand, because their late emperors do far degenerate from their warlike progenitors, their soldiers generally give themselves to unwonted pleasures, their ancient discipline of war is neglected, rebellions raised, &c.


Verse 16

Nehemiah 4:16 And it came to pass from that time forth, [that] the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers [were] behind all the house of Judah.

Ver. 16. And it came to pass from that time forth] As it is told of that peerless Queen Elizabeth, that in times of greatest peace she ever made preparation for war; so did this incomparable Nehemiah; still fearing some new practice, and not knowing what those restless cads were even now a hammering.

That the half of my servants wrought in the work] No servants they were for Nehemiah, if they would not work. He was an active man himself, trading every talent; and those about him must all be active. One would wonder how this courtier should become on the sudden so cunning a soldier, and should marshal his men so skilfully, setting the younger before to bear the brunt of the battle, and the elders behind to direct and encourage, according to that of the poet,

Eογα νεων, βουλαι τ ανδρων, ευχαι τε γεροντων.

But it was his God that instructed him to this discretion, and taught him, Isaiah 28:26, and he might well break out and sing, with David, "Blessed be the Lord, my strength, which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight," Psalms 144:1. Quando Christus Magister, quam cito dicitur quod docetur? saith Austin. God’s scholars must needs be exact in a short space.

And the habergeons] These were armour for back and breast. In the Christian armour there is no mention of armour for the back, though there is for the breast, because a Christian soldier should never flee, but be like Androclid, whom, when one derided, because, being lame, he went into the war, he answered merrily, that he came thither to fight, not to run away.


Verse 17

Nehemiah 4:17 They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, [every one] with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other [hand] held a weapon.

Ver. 17. They which builded on the wall] The master masons, and they that bare burdens, Bajuli, labourers and porters, who bear upon their shoulders as much as they can stand under, yet go singing oft under their burdens: the reason whereof Alexander Aphrodisaeus saith is this, that their minds being delighted with the sweetness of the music, the body may be the less sensible of the weight they carry. But these burden bearers had little mind to sing, their lives being in suspense. And yet, as worthy workmen, they went on with the wall.

Every one with one of his hands wrought, and in the other hand had a weapon] i.e., When they were busiest in building they had their weapons in a readiness to resist. What a goodly sight was this, saith one, to see every one so full of courage, that they feared not the enemy; and so willing to work, that they would not be weary. Let Christian men look into this notable example, and be ashamed of their slothfulness, &c.


Verse 18

Nehemiah 4:18 For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and [so] builded. And he that sounded the trumpet [was] by me.

Ver. 18. For the builders every one had his sword girded by his side] Heb. on his loins; that is the place for the sword to hang on: Psalms 45:3, "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty." And Revelation 19:16, Christ’s name is written upon his vesture, that all may see it, and upon his thigh, where his sword hangs, to show that he won it by his valour. Among the Turks at this day, as the right hand is held uppermost for a scholar, so the left for a soldier; because it gives a man possession of his companion’s sword; though the Turks seldom bear weapons but in travel; and then some of them seem no less like a walking, than these builders did like a working, armoury.


Verse 19

Nehemiah 4:19 And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work [is] great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another.

Ver. 19. And I said unto the nobles, &c.] Nehemiah, the more a man observeth him the more he shall admire him. Surely he was (as Velleius saith of Cato Major) homo virtuti simillimus, a man as like virtue as might be; he was (as Pliny saith of the same Cato) optimus Orator, optimus Imperator, optimus Senator, omniumque bonarum artium Magister, an excellent orator, an exeellent general, an excellent statesman, a master of all good arts whatsoever. He had cropped off the very tops of all virtues, as Pindarus saith of Jerome ( δρεπων κορνφας αρετων απο πασων), and as Melancthon saith of Frederick, the elector of Saxony. From the builders here he turneth him to the nobles and rulers, &c., whom he would not have to be carpet knights, fitter for a canopy than a camp, for language than a lance, &c., but active in their orb, and ready pressed to serve in watching, warding, and preparing things necessary for the workmen.

The work is great and large] The compass of the walls at this time is thought by good writers to be certain miles about; and yet was enlarged as much afterwards by Herod.

And we are separated upon the wall] According to our divisions, noted Nehemiah 3:1, &c., and this is a weapon in the hand of our enemies; for dum pugnamus singuli, vincimur universi, being dispersed, we are much disadvantaged.


Verse 20

Nehemiah 4:20 In what place [therefore] ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.

Ver. 20. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet] Which, therefore, for the purpose he kept at his own elbow, Nehemiah 4:18, as a matter of trust and importance. Moses committed the blowing of the trumpets unto the sons of Aaron only, Numbers 10:8. "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" 1 Corinthians 14:8.

Resort you thither unto us] As to your rendezvous, that we may stand against the enemy in an entire body; meanwhile Nehemiah walketh the round, and watches the enemies’ motions, so that of him might be said, as once was of Hannibal, Nullo labore aut corpus fatigari, aut animus vinci poterat, he was indefatigable, insuperable (Liv. decad. 3, lib. 1), or as of Fabius Maximus.

Hic patria est, murique urbis stant pectore in uno (Sil. Ital.).

Our God shall fight for us] Courage therefore my hearts, he is "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle," Psalms 24:8, and may far better say than Henry VIII did, Cui adhaereo praeest, he whom I fight for is sure to prevail.


Verse 21

Nehemiah 4:21 So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.

Ver. 21. So we laboured in the work] Their fear of the enemy did not weaken them, but waken them rather to a redoubled diligence.

From the rising of the sun till the stars appeared] Time was precious; and they redeemed and improved it. The common complaint is, We want time; but the truth is, Non parum habemus temporis, sed multum perdimus. We do not so much want as waste it. The good man is perdius et pernox, night and day at his business; and his thoughts are the same with those of Rabbi Simeon, Dies brevis est, et opus multum, et operarii pigri, et paterfamilias urger, The time is short, the task large, the workmen dither, the master of the house urgent.


Verse 22

Nehemiah 4:22 Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day.

Ver. 22. Likewise at the same time I said unto the people] He had a saying to every one; and having ordered the work of the day, he appointeth a watch for the night season also; for they had many false friends within themselves too. Caesar’s vigilancy did ever equal his valour; so did Nehemiah’s.


Verse 23

Nehemiah 4:23 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.

Ver. 23. So neither I] He said not to his men, Ite, but eamus, as Caesar did; Go ye, but go we; and as Abimelech, 9:48, What ye see me do, make haste and do accordingly. Velleius flattered when he said, Tiberius imperio maximus, exemplo maior. Nehemiah was so in very deed.

Saving that every one put them off for washing] To keep themselves clean, and from being nasty; or otherwise, to wash themselves from legal pollutions.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Nehemiah 4:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/nehemiah-4.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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