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,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Were made up.—Arose to the height before mentioned.
Began to be stopped.—The wall, they heard, was continuous. The tribes here enumerated were only small parties under the immediate influence of Sanballat: nothing beyond that would have been likely to occur among subjects in common of Persia.Nehemiah 4:7-8. That the breaches began to be stopped — That is, the breaches which the Chaldeans had made and left in the walls were well nigh repaired. Then they were very wroth — They had flattered themselves with a notion that the work would soon stand still of itself; but when they heard that it went on and prospered, they were angry at the Jews for pushing it forward so hastily, and at themselves for being so slow in opposing it. And conspired all of them together — Though of different interests among themselves, yet they were unanimous in their opposition to the work of God. To come and fight against Jerusalem — Why? what quarrel had they with the Jews? Had the Jews done them any wrong, or did they design them any? No: they lived peaceably by them; but it was merely out of envy and malice that this Sanballat and his brethren opposed and persecuted them. They hated the piety of the Jews, and were therefore vexed at their prosperity, and sought their ruin. And to hinder it — Or, to cause the work to cease, as it is expressed Nehemiah 4:11, which they doubted not but they should be able to effect. The hindering of a good work is that which bad men aim at, and promise themselves; but as a good work is God’s work, it shall prosper.Nehemiah 4:2. A quarrel between such a band and the people of Jerusalem might be overlooked by the Persian king.
7-21. But … when Sanballat … heard that the walls … were made up, and … the breaches … stopped—The rapid progress of the fortifications, despite all their predictions to the contrary, goaded the Samaritans to frenzy. So they, dreading danger from the growing greatness of the Jews, formed a conspiracy to surprise them, demolish their works, and disperse or intimidate the builders. The plot being discovered, Nehemiah adopted the most energetic measures for ensuring the common safety, as well as the uninterrupted building of the walls. Hitherto the governor, for the sake of despatch, had set all his attendants and guards on the work—now half of them were withdrawn to be constantly in arms. The workmen labored with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other; and as, in so large a circuit, they were far removed from each other, Nehemiah (who was night and day on the spot, and, by his pious exhortations and example, animated the minds of his people) kept a trumpeter by his side, so that, on any intelligence of a surprise being brought to him, an alarm might be immediately sounded, and assistance rendered to the most distant detachment of their brethren. By these vigilant precautions, the counsels of the enemy were defeated, and the work was carried on apace. God, when He has important public work to do, never fails to raise up instruments for accomplishing it, and in the person of Nehemiah, who, to great natural acuteness and energy added fervent piety and heroic devotion, He provided a leader, whose high qualities fitted him for the demands of the crisis. Nehemiah's vigilance anticipated every difficulty, his prudent measures defeated every obstruction, and with astonishing rapidity this Jerusalem was made again "a city fortified."That the breaches began to be stopped, i.e. that the breaches which the Chaldeans had made and left in the walls were well-nigh stopped up.
and the Ammonites; over whom Tobiah was governor:
and the Ashdodites; who were of Ashdod or Azotus, one of the principalities of the Philistines, who were always enemies to the Jews:
heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up; or "the length of them went up" (d); that is, the height of them; that they rose up high apace, and were got up to, or almost to their proper height:
and that the breaches began to be stopped; for the walls were not all thrown down by the Chaldeans, but breaches made here and there, which were now repaired:
then they were very wroth; and could not avoid showing it; before they mocked them, as attempting what they could not go through with; but now, perceiving the work went on with great success, they were enraged.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,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7. In most editions of the Hebrew Bible, this is the 1st verse of the ivth Chapter.
Sanballat … Ashdodites] Here we have a complete list of the foes of Jerusalem. See notes on Nehemiah 2:10; Nehemiah 2:19. The Ammonites were the fellow-countrymen of Tobiah, the Arabians of Geshem (Nehemiah 2:19). With them are classed the dwellers by the coast (the Shephêlah) represented by the, Ashdodites or inhabitants of Ashdod (Azotus, modern Esdûd). Ashdod was one of the principal Philistine cities (1 Samuel 5). It occupied a strong position near the sea, and once seems to have commanded a seaport only 3 miles distant. The mention of Ashdod here is peculiar. It was, we may suppose, the chief town on the Philistine coast, and resented an undertaking which threatened to revive the power and importance of Jerusalem. On the intermixture of the Ashdodite or Philistine element with the Jews, see Nehemiah 13:23. ‘Ashdod’ was said to have been captured by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6). It commanded the caravan route into Egypt. It was captured by the Assyrians in 715 (Isaiah 20:1), and by the Egyptians under Psammetichus after a long siege (Herod. II. 157).
Ashdod was captured by the Maccabees and partially destroyed (cf. 1Ma 5:68; 1Ma 10:84; 1Ma 11:4). It was restored by Gabinius. Philips the Evangelist preached there (Acts 8:40).
It has been objected that a hostile coalition of different races, Samaritan, Arabian, Ammonite, Philistine, against the Jews of Jerusalem would have been impossible in a district subject to Persian rule.
But it is a mistake to suppose that the internal administration of the Persian Empire would be sufficient to prevent petty feuds among the subject races. The satraps took little notice of the ceaseless disputes between the tributary towns and nationalities on the frontier. The suggestion is needless that ‘the Arabians, Ammonites, Ashdodites’ are only names of the communities most largely represented in the mixed concourse which followed Sanballat.
that the walls of Jerusalem were made up] R.V. that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem went forward. R.V. marg. ‘Heb. healing went up upon the walls’. The literal rendering is given in the R.V. marg., the metaphor is that of an open wound or cut to which a bandage is applied, bringing relief and restoration (LXX. ὄτι ἀνέβη ἡ φυὴ τοῖς τείχεσιν Ἱερ.: Vulg. quod obducta esset cicatrix muri Jer.). The same words occur in 2 Chronicles 24:13 ‘the work was perfected by them,’ (R.V. marg. healing went up upon the work), and in Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 30:17.
and that the breaches began to be stopped] These words explain the metaphor of the previous clause. ‘Breaches,’ the same word that occurs in ‘Perez-Uzzah’ and ‘Baal Perazim.’ The verb derived from the same root is used of a wall ‘broken down’ (Nehemiah 1:3; 2 Chronicles 32:5). LXX. διασφαγαὶ ἀναφράσσεσθαι: Vulg. interrupta concludi.
to be stopped] Literally ‘to be closed.’
then they were very wroth] Their anger mentioned in Nehemiah 4:1 reached a higher pitch on hearing of the successful progress of the work.Verse 7. - It came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, at Samaria, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, in their respective residences, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, or "that the (entire) wall of Jerusalem was of a (good) height," they were wroth. Observe that Tobiah is here quite separated from the nation of the Ammonites, and in no way represented as their leader. Jealousy of Jerusalem on the part of the Ammonites and Philistines is quite natural; and, if the Arabs are the Edomites, their opposition would be equally a matter of course (Psalm 137:7; Ezekiel 25:12; Amos 1:11; Obadiah 1:10, 14); but the Edomites are not called Arabs in Scripture, nor do Arabs appear very often among the enemies of the Jews. It has been suggested that the "Arabians" here mentioned are the descendants of a colony which Sargon planted in Samaria itself. This, of course, is possible; but they may perhaps have been one of the desert tribes, induced to come forward by the hope of plunder (Ewald), and influenced by the Ammonites, their neighbours. Nehemiah 3:33-34)
The ridicule of Tobiah and Sanballat. - As soon as Sanballat heard that we were building (בּנים, partic., expresses not merely the resolve or desire to build, but also the act of commencing), he was wroth and indignant, and vented his anger by ridiculing the Jews, saying before his brethren, i.e., the rulers of his people, and the army of Samaria (חיל, like Esther 1:3; 2 Kings 18:17), - in other words, saying publicly before his associates and subordinates, - "What do these feeble Jews? will they leave it to themselves? will they sacrifice? will they finish it to-day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps that are burned?" עשׂים מה, not, What will they do? (Bertheau), for the participle is present, and does not stand for the future; but, What are they doing? The form אמלל, withered, powerless, occurs here only. The subject of the four succeeding interrogative sentences must be the same. And this is enough to render inadmissible the explanation offered by older expositors of להם היעזבוּ: Will they leave to them, viz., will the neighbouring nations or the royal prefects allow them to build? Here, as in the case of the following verbs, the subject can only be the Jews. Hence Ewald seeks, both here and in Nehemiah 4:8, to give to the verb עזב the meaning to shelter: Will they make a shelter for themselves, i.e., will they fortify the town? But this is quite arbitrary. Bertheau more correctly compares the passage, Psalm 10:14, אלהים על עזבנוּ, we leave it to God; but incorrectly infers that here also we must supply אלהים על, and that, Will they leave to themselves? means, Will they commit the matter to God. This mode of completing the sense, however, can by no means be justified; and Bertheau's conjecture, that the Jews now assembling in Jerusalem, before commencing the work itself, instituted a devotional solemnity which Sanballat was ridiculing, is incompatible with the correct rendering of the participle. עזב construed with ל means to leave, to commit a matter to any one, like Psalm 10:14, and the sense is: Will they leave the building of the fortified walls to themselves? i.e., Do they think they are able with their poor resources to carry out this great work? This is appropriately followed by the next question: Will they sacrifice? i.e., bring sacrifices to obtain God's miraculous assistance? The ridicule lies in the circumstance that Sanballat neither credited the Jews with ability to carry out the work, nor believed in the overruling providence of the God whom the Jews worshipped, and therefore casts scorn by היזבּחוּ both upon the faith of the Jews in their God and upon the living God Himself. As these two questions are internally connected, so also are the two following, by which Sanballat casts a doubt upon the possibility of the work being executed. Will they finish (the work) on this day, i.e., to-day, directly? The meaning is: Is this a matter to be as quickly executed as if it were the work of a single day? The last question is: Have they even the requisite materials? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish which are burnt? The building-stone of Jerusalem was limestone, which gets softened by fire, losing its durability, and, so to speak, its vitality. This explains the use of the verb חיּה, to revive, bestow strength and durability upon the softened crumbled stones, to fit the stones into a new building (Ges. Lex.). The construction שׂרוּפות והמּה is explained by the circumstance that אבנים is by its form masculine, but by its meaning feminine, and that המּה agrees with the form אבנים.
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