Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)CHAPTER 6
1. The attempt to entice Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:1-4)
2. The attempt to intimidate him (Nehemiah 6:5-9)
3. The attempt through a false prophet (Nehemiah 6:10-14)
4. The wall finished (Nehemiah 6:15-16)
5. The conspiracy between Jewish nobles and Tobiah (Nehemiah 6:17-19)
Nehemiah 6:1-4. Defeated in all previous efforts to hinder the work and to do harm to the builders of the wall, the enemies made new attempts to make them cease from the work. Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arabian, with the other enemies, had heard that the wall was about finished. Sanballat and Geshem sent the message to Nehemiah, “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.” Nehemiah knew their scheme, “they thought to do me mischief,” probably to assassinate him, or make him a prisoner. He therefore answered, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down; why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” Four times they tried to entice him, and four times he gave the same answer. Apparently Sanballat and Geshem offered a friendly meeting on neutral ground, suggesting some kind of an alliance. But Nehemiah, whole-hearted as he was, refused to come down and stop the important God-given work. He would not turn aside from the place given to him by the Lord and the work which he had been called to do. Maintaining this separation was his safeguard. In our own days of worldly alliance and compromise, when deceitful workers abound on all sides, who are like the Samaritans, who feared the Lord outwardly and served their own gods (2Kings 17:33) the only way of escape is to act like Nehemiah did and have no fellowship with such.
Nehemiah 6:5-9. After this failure they attempted to intimidate Nehemiah. Sanballat sent his servant the fifth time, and while the previous communications were sealed this one was in the form of an open letter. In this letter Nehemiah was slandered and a threat made to accuse him of treason to the king of Persia. Maliciousness breathed in every word of this open letter. With a clear conscience, knowing that all was a wicked invention, Nehemiah answered this new attack. “There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.” He recognized what they tried to do and afresh Nehemiah looked to his God. “Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” As it was in Nehemiah’s day so it is still. Wherever the work of the Lord is done and God’s servants labor to glorify Him, the enemy will rise up and hinder the work. When the Lord opens a door, then many adversaries will appear. The sneers, the hatred, the wiles and the lies of the world are the same today, because behind them stands the same person who acted through Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem--Satan, the god of this age.
Nehemiah 6:10-14. Shemaiah’s message was the message of a false prophet. He told Nehemiah that they would come to slay him. He supposed that Nehemiah would flee after receiving this information in the form of a message from the Lord. But Nehemiah said, “Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being such as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.” He was a man of faith, in fellowship with God and he at once knew that the message was not from Him. He perceived God had not sent him. Shemaiah was the hireling of the adversaries. It was a cleverly laid plan, not only to frighten Nehemiah, but to make him sin, so that they might have something against him. It seems that Shemaiah was ceremonially unclean; that is probably the meaning of “shut up.” He was not fit in that condition to be in the house of God, within the temple. And Nehemiah too, not being a priest, would have transgressed had he followed Shemaiah’s suggestion. This was the cunning scheme. With this hireling prophet there were also other prophets and a prophetess, by the name of Noadiah.
Nehemiah 6:15-16. “So the wall was finished in the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.” How grateful they must have been when their task was finished! Critics have remarked that fifty-two days is too short a time to accomplish that much work. But a large number of people as well as the servants of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:16) worked incessantly. The material, too, was ready, for they probably had to dig out the old stones to put them back into the right place; no new stones needed to be hewed and transported. God had worked and given His blessing. The success of it, next to God, was due to persevering prayer, personal and united effort, constant watchfulness and unfailing courage. And their enemies were more cast down, “for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.”
Nehemiah 6:17-19. The final paragraph of this chapter reveals another sad condition which resulted from disobedience to the law. Mixed marriages were responsible for it. Nehemiah only reports this serious fellowship of the nobles of the Jews and his enemy Tobiah. We shall read later how Nehemiah dealt with those who had allied themselves with this Ammonite (chapter 13).