Dave Burnette's Commentary

Nehemiah Chapter 4

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Nehemiah
Date Penned: (445-432 BC)
Overview:  The Return of the 3rd Group of Jewish Exiles (c 1-13)
Theme: The Rebuilding of the Wall (c 1-7)
Message: The Enemies Oppose Rebuilding the Wall  (1-23)

Nehemiah 4 Commentary 

(4:1-5) The Jews Are Ridiculed - Ridicule can cut deeply, causing discouragement and despair. Sanballat and Tobiah used ridicule to try to dissuade the Jews from building the wall. Instead of trading insults, however, Nehemiah prayed, and the work continued. When you are mocked for your faith or criticized for doing what you know is right, refuse to respond in the same way or to become discouraged. Tell God how you feel and remember his promise to be with you.This will give you encouragement and strength to carry on.

(4:1-2) The Samaritans - Almost 300 years before Nehemiah's time, the northern kingdom of Israel had been conquered, and most of the people had been carried away as captives (722 BC. Sargon of Assyria had repopulated Israel with captives from other lands. These captives eventually intermarried with the few Israelites who remained in the land to form a mixed race of people who became known as Samaritans. The Jews who returned to Jerusalem and the southern region of Judea during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah would have nothing to do with Samaritans, whom they considered to be racially and religiously impure. Relations between both groups grew progressively worse--400 years later, the Jews and Samaritans hated each other (John 4:9).

(4:1) Sanballat's Plans Were Changed  - Sanballat was governor of Samaria, the region just north of Judea, where Jerusalem was located. Sanballat may have hoped to become governor of Judah as well, but Neheriah's arrival spoiled his plans. (For his other reasons for opposing Nehemiah, see 2:10.) Sanballat tried to scare Nehemiah away or at least discourage him by scorn (4:2), threats (4:8), and bluffs (6:6-2).

(4:4-5) A Prayer For Justice - Nehemiah was praying not for revenge but that God's justice would be carried out. His prayer is similar to many of David's (see Psalm 7:1-6) .

(4:6) Working Through Discouragement - The work of rebuilding the wall progressed well because the people had set their hearts and minds on accomplishing the task. They did not lose faith or give up but instead persevered in the work. If God has called you to a task, determine to complete it, even if you face opposition or discouragement. The rewards of work well done will be worth the effort.

(4:9) Application of Prayer - Nehemiah constantly combined prayer with preparation and planning. His people trusted God and at the same time kept vigilant watch over what had been entrusted to them. Too often we pray without looking for what God wants us to do. We show God we are serious when we combine prayer with thought, preparation, and effort.

(4:10-15) Working Through Opposition - The people working on the walls faced the continual threat of terrorist attacks from those who didn't want to see Jerusalem rebuilt. Threats demoralize. The tension created by the possibility of sudden assaults adds to fatigue. Nehemiah took wise, practical steps to counter the threats: (1) He stationed guards at obvious weak points; (2) he reminded the workers to keep weapons close at hand and to fight for God, their families, and the nation if an attack came; and (3) he established duty rotations so that some stood guard while others worked. The preparations for defense and the continuation of the work reversed the effects of terrorism and demoralized the enemies. Obstacles and foes can either make us work smarter and live wiser or make us give up our purpose and our way of living. If they accomplish the latter, they have won even if they haven't actually attacked us. But if we adjust our way of living wisely while continuing resolutely to live under God's instructions, the opposition will fail.

(4:10-14) Working Through Fatigue - Accomplishing any large task is tiring. There are always pressures that foster discouragement--the task seems impossible, it can never be finished, or too many factors are working against us. The only cure for fatigue and discouragement is focusing on God's purposes. Nehemiah reminded the workers of their calling, their goal, and God's protection. If you are overwhelmed by an assignment, tired, and discouraged, remember God's purpose for your life and his special purpose for the project. Look for devout and prayerful leaders and fellow workers. Encourage them as they are driven by God's purposes. Then give yourself wholeheartedly to completing

the project.

(4:16) Working In Pairs - The workers were spread out along the wall, so Nehemiah devised a plan of defense that would unite and protect his people--half the men worked while the other half stood guard. Christians need to help one another in the same way because we can become so afraid of possible dangers that we can't get anything done. By looking out for each other, we will be free to put forth our best efforts, confident that others are ready to offer help when needed. Don't cut yourself off from others; instead, join together with them for mutual benefit. You need them as much as they need you.

(4:18-20) Watching Out For Each Other - To further relieve the anxieties of the people, Nehemiah set up a communication system. The man who sounded the trumpet stayed with Nehemiah, and the people knew what to do if they heard it. We have no record that the trumpet was ever used, but simply knowing it would issue a warning when needed was reassuring. The system also put doubt into the minds of those trying to terrorize the workforce since the people on the wall were no longer passive targets. The promise of open, immediate communication helped the group counter the enemy threats and accomplish the reconstruction of the wall in record time.

(4:23) Protecting Each Other - Although the exact meaning of the Hebrew words behind the phrase " saving that every one put them off for washing" is unclear (it has also been translated "in his right hand" or "at his right hand at night"), the point is that each person always had a weapon close at hand. The guards were alert and prepared and took their responsibilities seriously. We should ask God to guide us and keep us alert to our surroundings--to the good we can accomplish and to the enemy who seeks to harm us. But being vigilant should not make us overanxious or fearful. On the contrary, it should help us be better prepared to live confidently and joyfully.


Dave Burnette's Life Application

Prayer Partners

 Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue in the book of Nehemiah with Chapter 4 and we see the enemies of Israel opposing the rebuilding of the walls. In opposition, Nehemiah prayed and prepared, devising a plan of teamwork of spreading out to have one work while the other protected and watched over the worker. In making application we see the plan for working together in the Body of Christ. Prayer partners and accountability groups are excellent ways to be strong in the Lord as we face the enemy and his attacks. Having a partner pray for you and keeping an eye on your Christian walk helps keep us focused on the Lord and avoid the pitfalls in life. How about you? Do you have a prayer or accountability partner to help warn you of the enemy attacks in your life. Let us learn from our text today and the life of Nehemiah to remember to watch out for each other as we serve the Lord.


Nehemiah 4

Nehemiah 4

 1But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.

 2And 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?

 3Now 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.

 4Hear, 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:

 5And 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.

 6So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.

 7But 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,

 8And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

 9Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.

 10And 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.

 11And 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.

 12And 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.

 13Therefore 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.

 14And 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.

 15And 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.

 16And 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.

 17They 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.

 18For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.

 19And 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.

 20In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.

 21So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.

 22Likewise 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.

 23So 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.