Friday, April 26, 2013

Neheiah 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.

·       This is not at all surprising to hear. The children of Satan surely hate the children of Jesus. The dragon in Revelation was angry with the woman and her son and tried to eat them.

·         Nehemiah has been using the first sentence as an opening statement. Obviously before we read any more we see that this one is going to be about what Sanballat did to stop the work.

[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?
·         The army of Samaria that was given permission to burn the walls and gates are still garrisoned in the region. Sandballats plan is to stir them up, give a military speech of some kind.
·         Some background details are missing, but we can get the important things, Sandballat was jealous, angry, and wanted to attack the city, but is unwilling to commit yet. He is not speaking of what they will do so much as what they are doing. This was likely brought on by the number of people gathering in Jerusalem.
·         The stones were burned and fallen into heaps around the gaps. It was exactly their plan to pick them up and re-forge them into a useful structure, although when burned limestone becomes weaker and less reliable.
·         If the Jews wanted to they could build their wall. If they wanted to was the key point, if Sandballat could convince them that’s not what they wanted, then they would give up on their own accord, hence the threatening and mockery.

[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.
·         This looks like the troops were gathered along with a gathering of the people when this speech was given. How Nehemiah knows this is what happened could be by some of the nobles there, or this could have happened outside the gate.
·         Apparently Tobiah is a kind of ‘yes man,’ agreeing with whatever was already said or planned.
 
[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:
·         Nehemiah responds with this gathering by going to God in prayer. He prays their plan would be foiled, and that what they wanted to dish out, they would receive.

[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.
·         This is a mighty hard prayer for us to deal with and accept, but it’s by no means unusual.
·         1 Peter 3:12 has Peter saying that God will not listen to enemies
·         Psalm 69:25
·         Jeremiah 18:20-23
·         It is the will of God not to forgive sins by a decree of His will. Sins must be punished, and must be atoned for. See Isaiah 49:25
·         There are people God does not want to save: those who refuse to accept His Son.

[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.
·         The evidence that they were really wanting to work comes out strongly here, as reiterated by Nehemiah. Obviously his praying that God would help them to succeed and shrug off the criticism of his enemies was being answered.
·         The gaps in the wall were now closed, and was about half way up of it’s total height. None of the gates had been re-hung, but the work was progressing remarkably well in short order.

[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,
·         They had hoped that mockery would do the trick, and would be enough to cause the Jews to become disheartened and stop work.
·         Now the Ashdodites and the Ammonites join against Nehemiah. It’s likely Tobiah roused the Ammonites, and Sanballat went down to Philistia to stir up the Ashdodites against the Jews, this indicates they were putting in some considerable work to start a fight.
·         The word is derived from ‘to lay a bandage’ and heal a wound.

[8] And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.
[9] Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.
·         In response Nehemiah sets a watch day and night against an invading army marching on them, and prays. Nehemiah always prays.
·         They are not yet attacking, they are merely planning, conspiring to come in and wipe them out. God will intervene in the space of their anger and planning to cause them to think it through.

[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.
·         Keeping the watch, and moving into the harder phase of building began to discourage them, and embolden their enemies.

[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.
·         Their plan was being widely discussed and circulated – they would move in at an unexpected time, and wipe out all the people willing to work on the wall in Jerusalem.
·         Kill Nehemiah and a few choice leaders and we can win over the crowd for ourselves.
·         I suspect this was to intimidate them more than it was to kill them. Killing was problematic, but if the Jews believed that their lives were on the line they might be tempted to give in

[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.
·         With the workers in the city and the families left in the countryside they were exposed. One of the first orders of business would be to go into the defenseless homes and kill everyone there. This threat causes the families in the countryside to plead for help, and come back lest they die.
·         This would be the hardest one of all. Working with weaponry while building? No problem. Keeping watch on the off hours? Can do. Threatening to kill my family if I work longer? Problem. This called for great faith from the men of Tekoah, Jericho, Gibeon, who were working away from home.

[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.
·         Nehemiah is given this information by God so that he can prepare for an attack against the people.
·         He stations sentries on the high places, a tough word to translate, which likely mean the surrounding hillsides and the intact towers that provide a good view of the enemy movements. Knowing as much as possible ahead of time was a must.
·         Everyone is equipped as much as possible with weapons.

[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.
·         Nehemiah sees everyone standing armed and gives them a speech of encouragement before the battle. Presumably the army was marching on the city and Nehemiah could see them at a distance coming in.
·         His encouragement is to remember who God is. That is the kind of thing many of the leaders of old spoke of Joshua (Joshua 10:25), Moses (Deut 1:30, 20:4) king Hezekiah (2 Chron 32:8)
·         He also encourages them to remember who they are fighting to protect. If the city falls here then Sanballat and his army will plunder and kill their wives and children.

[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.
·         It’s one thing to go out and kill helpless unarmed villagers, it’s another to fight an army.
·         Their plan was largely to use the element of surprise to go in and make an end to the work. If Nehemiah was ready then the whole plan was blown and it was not worth the fight.

[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.
·         The army is nearby settling in for a siege and so Nehemiah cannot disarm his people to fully resume building.
·         The work force is cut in half, so the presence of the army has automatically reduced the speed of the building to half it’s original effort, at a time when the people are already fairly demoralized by the amount of work remaining.
·         The rulers were behind the effort as well. They were armed and carrying out the work of protecting the city.

[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.
·         So men who carried the burdens of rubbish or mortor, or whatever was only able to use one hand. It’s likely this work was taking place in front of the wall and on top of it where the enemy could see them
·         Reading v16 might incline you to think that the soldiers were on guard duty and were keeping watch. In actuality they were still moving burdens and carrying loads, they were just reduced to doing it in armor, on handed. The work didn’t get easier, it got much harder.

[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.
·         The builders who moved the stone needed two hands. The solution was to have them as militia with their weapons on them.
·         Nehemiah would be with the trumpeter and be monitoring the battle effort, likely rushing to whatever part of the wall was attacked first. It was the will of God that the walls were back up to half strength already, which would slow the attackers down significantly.

[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.
[20] In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.
·         The plan is to call everyone who can hear it to the point of attack. Militarily speaking you want the maximum number of people at a point, because the more people the fewer casualties.
·         The Jews had been using the trumpets as a call to arms since the days of Moses, Numbers
·         The exhortation again is that God will fight for them. God has called them here to do the work, He will not leave them alone now in a desperate hour. This is the work of a leader, to point the people to the faithfulness of God.

[21] So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.
·         All day the standoff occurred, and on into the night. So the people building the wall were putting in 14 hour days in front of the enemies

[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.
·         At nightfall the army was camped nearby, so Nehemiah suggests they camp together
·         The slaves and servants were not to leave the city at night anymore, they are to stay put and group up into a barracks.

[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.
·         Everyone slept on their weapons and in their work clothes, and likely did this for some time, perhaps a week or two.
·         There is a logical break into Nehemiah 5, which indicates that the enemy army withdrew. They brought enough supplies, they camped overnight to figure out their next move, but they ultimately decided to abort the mission as a failure and regroup. It seems to be at this point they put off their armor, and return to building as usual.
It’s likely looking at how much the work was slowed Sandballat got the idea to starve them out. If his noble friends could buy up everyone as slaves and starve them, then the work would stop, or at the end of it Sandballat and his team could have all the land and people like Pharaoh in the time of Joseph.

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