Scriptures

Nehemiah 6

Introduction

‘When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates—Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah 6:1-3

Further Opposition To The Rebuilding

In this chapter, we find that because all previous efforts of Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem failed to stop the work on the wall by the Jews, Nehemiah 2:19 / Nehemiah 4:6-9, they come up with yet another plan to stop the work.

The new plan was to be friends and they want to meet at a neutral place and talk things over. However, what they are really trying to do is get Nehemiah by himself, so they could possibly kidnap him or kill him, Titus 3:9-11. The place they wanted to meet was around 20 miles away and it was about 5 miles from Joppa.

They send four different invitations to him, but Nehemiah’s answer didn’t change, 1 Samuel 16:7. His enemies knew that Nehemiah played a critical role in the Jews’ efforts to rebuild, and if they could get rid of him, it could have put an end to their renewed faith or at least slow them down.

Even if their enemies just wanted to talk about the situation, Nehemiah wasn’t interested in compromising the work that God put into his heart to do, so he refused to negotiate, Leviticus 10:1-2 / 2 Samuel 6:6-7. Nehemiah had work to do and he wasn’t going to allow himself to get side-tracked by these evil men.

‘Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written: “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.” I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:4-9

After failing four times to set up a meeting with Nehemiah, Sanballat tries yet another approach. He sends a fifth letter which was unsealed and in it, he makes false accusations in the hope that it will cause Nehemiah to come to meet with him.

The letter was to be written in order to intimidate Nehemiah and because it was unsealed, this would allow the messenger to read the letter and they would have the option of telling everyone he met what it said. The idea is that Sanballat wanted the Jews to believe that the rumours were true.

Sanballat is basically accusing Nehemiah of having some kind of a hidden agenda to become king and that he’s using the prophets to help him influence the Jews.

Notice, in order to create some fear among the people, he even said he’s going to send the message to the king too. In other words, he’s trying to destroy Nehemiah’s reputation, 3 John 9-10.

Nehemiah knew that he had the support of the king of Persia, and so, Sanballat’s letter to the king would come to nothing. Nehemiah personally knew the king, for he was the king’s cupbearer, and the king knew him, Nehemiah 2:1-3 / 2 Timothy 1:12 / 2 Timothy 2:19.

The good news is that Nehemiah didn’t allow these false accusations to slow him down and so, he denies them and accused them of making these accusations up in their hearts. In other words, he’s calling them liars.

He then prays to God to strengthen his hands to continue the work he’s doing.

‘One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.” But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. ‘Nehemiah 6:10-14

In these verses, we discover that Shemaiah was an informer and he was hired by Tobiah and Sanballat to prophesy to Nehemiah. He wants Nehemiah to meet him in the temple where only the priest was allowed to go.

It’s possible that Shemaiah wanted Nehemiah to go into the inner part of the temple where only the priests were allowed to go, Numbers 18:7. If Nehemiah went into this part of the temple, then they would be able to accuse him of entering a place he wasn’t permitted to enter, 2 Chronicles 26:16-23.

It was because of this invitation that Nehemiah knew that this was a false prophecy because he knew it would violate God’s Law because he wasn’t a priest. Even if there was going to be an attempt on his life, he was not going to comprise God’s Law and hide in the temple.

Nehemiah had no intentions to run away to save his life, especially when his fellow Jews were putting their lives on the line to rebuild the wall. In other words, his enemies were hoping they could force him into sinning so they could have some leverage to use against the Jews.

It appears that there was more than one prophet involved in trying to strike fear in Nehemiah and cause him to sin, but he didn’t surrender to their words, and once again, he prays to God and asked Him to remember these evil deeds of Tobiah, Sanballat, the prophetesses Noadiah and prophets that were involved with this.

Once again we see the great leadership skill of Nehemiah in these verses, he was a leader who was willing and able to stand alone against the majority.

Opposition To The Completed Wall

‘So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them. For many in Judah were under oath to him, since he was son-in-law to Shekaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.’ Nehemiah 6:15-19

Despite all the opposition from their enemies, Nehemiah and those faithful Jews who were working alongside him managed to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days.

Nehemiah prayed for four months, Nehemiah 1:1, but the work itself took less than two months. In other words, he worked longer in prayer than they needed to work to do the job.

When their enemies saw the completed work, they become fearful and lost their self-confidence because they could see that all their efforts had failed.

They come to the conclusion that the only reason this was possible was that the work was done by God. The Jews were there to stay, and the completion of the walls of Jerusalem was a statement to all the nations that they were there to stay.

We read in these verses the reason why some of these priests were against Nehemiah. They had allowed their daughters to marry Tobiah and his son Jehohanan and so because of this, they were willing to report all the good things about Tobiah and stand against Nehemiah.

It appears that these priests’ personal connection with the enemy, had clouded their judgment and caused them to compromise God’s truth and side with the enemy. It was Tobiah who opposed the rebuilding work with Sanballat and he was the one who was greatly disturbed that Nehemiah came to rebuild the walls, Nehemiah 2:10.

He was the one who mocked Nehemiah’s work, Nehemiah 2:19 / Nehemiah 4:3, and he was the one who became angry because of the work, which was being done, Nehemiah 4:7. He was also one of the men who tried to get Nehemiah to stop the work and come to for a meeting to kill him, Nehemiah 6:1.

Later, Tobiah, in the absence of Nehemiah, was allowed to take up residence in the temple area, Nehemiah 13:4-7.

Go To Nehemiah 7

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