Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, insidiously desire a conference with Nehemiah, which he refuses, 1-4. They then charge him with the design of rebelling, and causing himself to be made king, 5-7; which he denies, and prays to God for support, 8,9. A false prophet is hired by Tobiah and Sanballat, to put him in fear; he discovers the imposture, and defeats their design, 10-13. He prays to God against them, 14. The wall is finished in fifty-two days, 15. He discovers a secret and treasonable correspondence between Tobiah and some of the Jewish nobles, 16-19.
Notes on Chapter 6
Come, let us meet together in-the plain of Ono.
They wished to get him out of Jerusalem from among his friends, that they might either carry him off, or murder him. Ono is supposed to have been in the tribe of Benjamin, near Jordan.
I am doing a great work
Though he knew their design, he does not think it prudent to mention it. Had he done so, they would probably have gone to extremities, finding that they were discovered; and perhaps in a formidable body attacked Jerusalem, when ill provided to sustain such a shock. They wished to effect their purpose rather by treachery than by open violence. I know not any language which a man who is employed on important labours can use more suitably, as an answer to the thousand invitations and provocations he may have to remit his work, enter into useless or trivial conferences, or notice weak, wicked, and malicious attacks on his work and his motives: "I am doing a great work, so I cannot stoop to your nonsense, or notice your malevolence. Why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to such as you?"
With an open letter in his hand
This was an insult to a person of Nehemiah's quality: as letters sent to chiefs and governors in the East are always carefully folded up, and put in costly silken bags, and these carefully sealed. The circumstance is thus marked to show the contempt he (Sanballat) had for him.
And Gashmu saith it
You are accused of crimes against the state, and Geshem, the Arabian, is your accuser.
Thou hast also appointed prophets
Persons who pretend to be commissioned to preach to the people, and say, Nehemiah reigneth!
Come now therefore, and let us take counsel
Come and justify yourself before me. This was a trick to get Nehemiah into his power.
There are no such things done
You well know that what you say is false: I shall not, therefore, trouble myself about a false charge.
Who was shut up
Lived in a sequestered, solitary state; pretending to sanctity, and to close intercourse with God.
Let us meet together in the house of God
The meaning is, "Shut yourself up in the temple; appear to have taken sanctuary there, for in it alone can you find safety." This he said to discourage and disgrace him, and to ruin the people; for, had Nehemiah taken his advice, the people would have been without a leader, their enemies would have come upon them at once, and they would have been an easy prey. Besides, had Nehemiah done this, he would have been shut up in the temple, his government would have been declared at an end, and Sanballat would have assumed the reins.
Should such a man as I flee?
Shall I, who am governor of the people, appointed both by God and the king, shall I betray my trust, and leave the flock without a shepherd? Shall I be a traitor, and abandon the office to which I am appointed?
- No! Who, in my situation, with such responsibility, and such prospects, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not: I will stand at my post, and be ready to receive my enemies whensoever they come; so let Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem look to themselves.
And on the prophetess Noadiah
Whether this was a prophet or prophetess, we cannot tell; the Hebrew text only makes her a prophetess; all the versions have Noadiah the prophet, except the Arabic which has [Arabic] Younadaa the prophet. I think the he at the end of nebiah is a mistake, and that we should read Noadiah the prophet.
The twenty and fifth-of-Elul
This Jewish month answers to a part of our August and September.
Fifty and two days.
I see no difficulty in supposing that several thousand workmen, each of whom was working as for God, should be able to complete this wall in fifty-two days. There is little doubt that several parts of the old wall were entire; in many places the foundations still remained; there were all the materials of the old wall still at hand; and though they had to clear and carry away much rubbish, yet they do not appear to have had any stones to quarry. The work mentioned here was little when compared to what Caesar did in Gaul and other places; and to what Titus did at Jerusalem, who built a wall round Jerusalem of five thousand paces in three days, besides, thirteen towers of ten stadia in circuit. And Quintus Curtius and Arrian inform us that Alexander the Great built the walls of Alexandria, on the Tanais, which were nearly eight miles in compass, in the space of between twenty and thirty days. Nehemiah therefore had time sufficient in fifty-two days to repair and restore the walls of Jerusalem. See Calmet on this place.
This work was wrought of our God.
This is an additional reason why we should not wonder at the shortness of the time in which so great a work was done, for God helped them by an especial providence; and this was so very observable, that their carnal enemies could discover it.
The nobles of Judah sent many letters
The circumstances marked in this and the following verses show still more clearly the difficulties which Nehemiah had to encounter; he had enemies without and false friends within. A treacherous correspondence was carried on between the nobles of Judah and the Ammonites; and had almost any other man been at the head of the Jewish affairs, Jerusalem had never been re-established.
He was the son-in-law of Shechaniah
Previously to the coming of Nehemiah, the Jews seemed to be fast intermixing with the heathen, by intermarriages with Ashdodites, Ammonites, and Moabites; see Nehemiah 13:23. Ezra had many evils of this kind to redress, 9:3, though there were both chiefs and priests in that trespass. But here we find the heathen and Jewish nobles interlinked; and the latter were so far imbued with the spirit of idolatry, that they forgot God, his service, their brethren, and their own souls.