Matthew Poole's Commentary
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;)Sanballat and Tobiah, sending to Nehemiah to meet them, intend to do him mischief, Nehemiah 6:1,2. Nehemiah’s answer, Nehemiah 6:3. They charge him with rebellion, Nehemiah 6:4-7. His answer to it, Nehemiah 6:8,9. Shemaiah’s false prophecies to discourage Nehemiah, Nehemiah 6:10. His reply, Nehemiah 6:11-14. The work is finished to the terror of the enemies, Nehemiah 7:15,16. Secret correspondence between the nobles of Judah and Tobiah, Nehemiah 6:17,18.
I had not set up the doors; not all of them. See Poole "Nehemiah 3:1-3".
That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief.Let us meet together; to consult about the common service of our master the king of Persia, or to make a friendly accommodation.
Ono; a city in the tribe of Benjamin; of which see Nehemiah 11:35 1 Chronicles 8:12.
And I sent messengers unto them, saying, 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?I am doing a great work: he tells them one, but not the only, nor the principal, reason of his refusal, because his coming might cause the work to cease, not only by the neglect of it during his absence, but by his death, which they by this means might compass, though he thought it not fit to express so much to them.
Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.No text from Poole on this verse.
Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;Thereby bidding open defiance to him, as before he had used secret practices; and intimating that he would do that by manifest force, which he had intended to do by sudden surprise.
Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words.Among the heathen; the neighbouring people, whom you proudly and disdainfully call heathens or Gentiles. Gashmu, called Geshem, Nehemiah 6:1; who affirmed it and would prove it. According to these words, i.e. according to these reports; or, that thou mayst justify and verify these rumours. Others,
according to these things, i.e. when these things which thou art now doing shall be finished. But the first sense seems most agreeable to the use of the same words in the next verse.
And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.There is a king in Judah; we have now a king of our own nation, and are free from the bondage of a foreign yoke. Let us take counsel together, that we may impartially examine the matter, that either thy innocency may be cleared, and false accusations may be prevented; or if thou art guilty, the king may be informed.
Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.No text from Poole on this verse.
For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.They all made us afraid, i.e. they endeavoured to do so, and actually did terrify some persons.
Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.Shemaiah the son of Delaiah; probably one of the chief of the priests, 1 Chronicles 24:26.
Who was shut up in his chamber adjoining to the temple, upon pretence of singular devotion, sequestration from the world, and special acquaintance and much communion with God in his retirements, after the manner of the prophets; and withal upon pretence of certain knowledge, which he had by the Spirit of God and of prophecy, concerning their approaching danger, from which they could be safe no where but in the temple, which the very heathens owned for a sanctuary, which they might not violate.
Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple; for the danger is so near, that we cannot safely tarry here so long as to consult what to do in this juncture. His design herein was, partly, to discourage and disgrace Nehemiah, and thereby to strike a dread into all the people, and give a speedy and full stop to the work; partly, to prepare the way for the enemies to assault and take the city, whilst Nehemiah was shut up, and unable to give them any opposition; partly, to justify their accusation of Nehemiah to the king by his flight upon it; and partly, that there, by the help of other priests, who were conscious of his plot, he might either destroy him, or secure his person, till the city by some of his accomplices were betrayed into the enemy’s hands.
And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.Should such a man as I flee; I the chief governor, upon whose presence, and counsel, and conduct the very life and being of the whole city and nation in a great measure depends; I who have professed such resolution, and courage, and confidence in God; I who have had such eminent experience of God’s gracious and powerful assistances, of his calling me to this employment, and carrying me through it when our danger was greater than now it is. Shall I now dishonour God and religion, and betray the people and city of God by my cowardice? God forbid. This is not the counsel of God, nor of a friend; but a plot of mine enemies, as it here follows.
Who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? as if I had an evil cause or conscience; as if I were a malefactor, who fled thither for refuge; as if I durst not trust God with my preservation except I went into the temple, which it is not lawful for me, being no priest, to do.
And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.I perceived; partly, by considering the sinful nature and pernicious consequence of this counsel; partly, by the suggestion of God’s Spirit, whose counsel and help I sought in this matter; and partly, by the event, which discovered that there was no such danger from the approach of the enemy as was pretended.
Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.That I should do so, and sin, by going into a place forbidden to me, and that in such a time and manner, and upon such an occasion; which would have been both sinful and shameful: See Poole "Nehemiah 6:11".
That they might reproach me as a coward, and conscious of my own guilt, that so they might make me contemptible and odious, both to my own people, and to the king of Persia.
My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.The prophetess Noadiah; one that falsely pretended to the Spirit of prophecy, to deceive and destroy Nehemiah. He prays to God to remember and punish these false prophets, because he was not yet in a capacity to do it, having such powerful enemies round about him, and so many rich and potent Jews highly discontented for their great loss by his means, Ne 5.
So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.The month Elul; answering part to our August and part to September.
In fifty and two days; to be computed, either,
1. From the time of Sanballat’s sending this letter to him; or,
2. As most judge, from the beginning of the work; which though a great thing, yet it is not at all incredible, considering,
1. That the walls and gates were not wholly pulled down by the Chaldeans; for to what purpose should they make that waste of time and labour?
2. That where the walls were thrown down, yet the materials remained, which they now used.
3. That in the building of the walls they minded not curiosity, but only strength and safety.
4. The great numbers of the builders, and the prudent distribution of the work among them, and their admirable zeal and diligence in the work.
5. That there want not parallel instances even in heathen authors; for both Curtius and Arrian report, that Alexander the Great built the walls of new Alexandria, which contained above seven miles in length, within twenty days’ space.
6. That there was an eminent hand of God in carrying on this work, which their very enemies here acknowledge.
And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.In their own eyes, i.e. in their opinion, or themselves being judges; for though ordinarily men are very prone to judge partially, and still to flatter themselves with vain hopes and fancies, yet this case was so clear and remarkable, that they began to despair. Now they saw that all was lost, that their designs were broken, and that their mischief was now likely to fall upon their own heads. They perceived, by that admirable courage, and constancy, and quickness wherewith this work was managed, notwithstanding all their difficulties and discouragements.
That this work was wrought of our God; that it was the work of that mighty God of Israel, whom they had great reason to fear; and withal they took it for an ill omen to them, and a sure presage that God would still watch over that city and people, and crush those who should oppose or disturb them. Corresponding with him against Nehemiah, and against their own city and nation.
Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.Corresponding with him against Nehemiah, and against their own city and nation.
For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah.Sworn unto him, to be true to him in the prosecution of his wicked designs.
His son had taken the daughter of Meshullam: this is noted to show the mischief of such unequal and forbidden marriages, and how reasonable and necessary Ezra’s action was in the dissolution of them.
Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.No text from Poole on this verse.