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.
We see in this passage:
I. Co-operation. "The people had a mind to work." Success in war is due to two principles. The one is, Divide your enemy; and the other is, Unite yourselves. In proportion as co-operation has been real and vital, in that proportion has it been crowned with success.
II. Cheerfulness. "The people had a mind to work." (1) Some men think that their function is that of critic or censor. (2) Sometimes people have a mind to speak, but not to work. (3) As they worked with purpose, so they worked with cheerfulness.
III. Success. "And all the wall was joined unto the half thereof."
E. Mellor, The Hem of Christ's Garment, p. 192.
References: 4:7-6:1, Nehemiah 6:14.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi., p. 342. Nehemiah 4:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1156.
Nehemiah 4:17I. There are pressing difficulties in the believer's way while he is engaged in the prosecution of his work. The Christian life is a scene of perpetual conflict. Heart-corruption is the greatest foe of the Christian. From that he cannot flee. And had he nothing else than this corruption to fear while he strives to rear up the spiritual edifice—i.e., to advance in grace and in godliness—he would yet require to be furnished, as the people were under Nehemiah, with the weapon to defend as well as with the implement to build.
II. When we consider the very dangerous position which the Christian occupies, with a crafty adversary on the one side—viz., Satan—an alluring and sometimes a threatening foe on the other side—viz., the world—and a treacherous heart within, his proper attitude is that which was assumed by the people spoken of in the text, every one of whom, while with one of his hands he wrought in the work, with the other hand held a weapon. (1) The Jews in the text were in the exercise of constant watchfulness. They knew that there was evil meditated against them, but they knew not the moment when the onset might be, and therefore, like wise men, they stood prepared for it. Christian watchfulness is one of the most indispensable and, at the same time, one of the most comprehensive duties to which the disciples of Jesus are called. (2) The Jews were careful to furnish themselves with the means of defence. The Christian has the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (3) The attitude of the Jews indicates the firmest determination to make progress in their work. Advancement is the watchword of the Christian. Let each one act upon it.
A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 83.
Nehemiah 4:18, Nehemiah 4:21The restoration of God's temple by the armed labourers of Nehemiah is a familiar and noble illustration of the restitution of the spiritual temple, "which temple are ye," says St. Paul. Steadfast labour through trouble and hindrance is the method by which at once God's high purposes are accomplished and His servants disciplined and perfected. We can labour with but one hand, as it were; the other is on the hilt of our sword the while.
I. If we are temples of the Holy Ghost at all, as St. Paul assures us lovingly that we already are, we know this, that we are not perfect, well-built, undefiled shrines. Much is lost, but even in our souls there is a remnant left. The foundations of the first building are yet traceable. If the skyward roof is gone, and the tall and shining pillars lie low, we may yet set our feet on the unstirred marbles of the pavement.
II. But this were poor comfort if this were all. Little would it profit to know how glorious the past had been if we believed that its glory had departed never to return. In the time of Nehemiah it was dawning anew. If the Jews were no more a proud, unbroken race, they were a free people, a ransomed and liberated nation. And to us surely the application is very plain. We too have been set free, not without the strong crying and tears of our Saviour and our Prince, not that we may leisurely enjoy His realm, but be active and able lords of our own, and in His spirit and by our labour restore in ourselves that holiness and glory which we have lost.
III. The rebuilding was a very different scene from the first building. Of old, in profound peace, in wealth, in joy, the Temple, and the king's house, and the city walls had risen higher and higher. Now they laboured sore beset, savage, taunting foes about them and among them. It has been, and it is, even so with us; nor can we expect it otherwise. How far off and how fair is the story of the first foundation of this house of ours. How painful do we daily find the process of its rebuilding. Evil men and evil spirits fain would hinder the restoration of our holy city and of the temple that is in our hearts. Therefore there is but one thing for us to do: we must build our walls sword on side.
IV. Lastly, though this our temple be rebuilding at such disadvantage, in a way so different from its first rise, yet the promise is for us good also, as of old, "that the glory of the latter house shall exceed the glory of the former." That shall be more precious which was restored at the price of such trouble and pains than that which was founded in wealth and ease. Man reformed after his fall shall be greater and holier than unfallen man. Redeemed, he shall stand higher than when untempted.
Archbishop Benson, Boy Life: Sundays in Wellington College, p. 259.
Reference: 4—Parker, Fountain, Aug. 2nd, 1877.
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?
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.
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:
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.
So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.
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,
And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.
Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.
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.
In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.
So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.
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.
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.