Context of the Passage:
In Nehemiah 5, Nehemiah faced internal challenges, while in Nehemiah 6 he faced external ones. The intensity of the conflict rose when the job was near completion. In what appears to be a last ditch effort to thwart Nehemiah’s efforts, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem join forces to oppose him.
Outline of the Passage
- 1-4 – The Challenge of Diversion
- 5-9 – The Challenge of False Accusation
- 10-14 – The Challenge of False Religion
- 15-16 – The Challenge of the Wall completed
- 17-19 – Lingering Challenges
Exegesis of the Passage
NOTE: the attacks Nehemiah faced to this point:
Mockery (2:19); Ridicule (4:1-3); Confusion (4:7-12); Distraction (6:2-4); False Accusation (6:5-9); Fear (6:10); Intimidation (6:19)
Here, he faced the challenge of Ono
- Nehemiah responded to the challenge of Ono by saying, “O No!”
Nehemiah responded to the challenge with two questions:
- Why should the work stop while I go to you?
- I am doing a great work!
- I don’t have time to be distracted
- Should a man such as I flee?
6:1 – Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem (and our other enemies) heard …
- It’s not clear who the “other enemies” were. But, it’s not uncommon when forces begin to form against God’s plans, other enemies are enticed to join
- The Niphal form of שָׁמַע (heard)could suggest the sense that they were informed
- Cf. 6:17-19
6:1 – Not a breach
- Despite how quickly the work was accomplished, it was not sloppily done
6:1 – The doors were not yet hung
- The last step in the completion of the walls were the gates and doors
- Nehemiah noted that the attacks started just as they were about to finish
6:2 – “Come let us meet”
- No agenda is given. Perhaps they wanted to appear cordial. But, Nehemiah rightfully was suspicious of their motives. He knew that they meant him harm.
- The Hebrew word here means, “bad.”
- It’s the same word Nehemiah used in 2:17 to describe the conditions of the city when he arrived => Bad!
- His enemies wanted to lure him away from the work
6:3 – I sent messengers to them
- Nehemiah refused to go down. Instead he sent messengers
- His message:
- I am doing a great work – Nehemiah understood the significance of his work
- Why should the work stop while I come to you – the interruption is too great
6:4 – Four times
- The enemies tried the same tactic three more times
- They did not want to take “No” for an answer. But, it was the only answer they were going to get!
6:5-9 – A new strategy
- This attack was in the form of a false accusation
- “There is a rumor.” It’s interesting how many false accusations begin with anonymous charges. Nehemiah identified the rumor for what it was and exposed the source of it and their intention behind it.
- The rumor was a charge of sedition. They accused Nehemiah of rebellion against the king and wanted to become king himself.
- They even had specifics – “You have appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘He is king.’”
- Vs. 7 – Ultimately, this was the same strategy – “Let’s meet.”
- Lit. “Let’s consult together.”
- They pretend to want to work together for a solution
- You are inventing them
- The Heb here means, “to devise.”
- The word only occurs in the Bible here and in 1 Kings 12:33
6:10 – A third strategy
- Flee to the Temple for protection
- It sounds religious
- The Temple suggests religious purpose
- In 1 Kings 2:28, Joab fled to the Tabernacle from Solomon (grabbing the horns of the altar) in hopes that it would protect him.
- Close the doors – lock ourselves in
- At best this was an effort to scare Nehemiah into hiding
- At worst, it was a ploy to try to trap him in a locked Temple with no escape.
6:10 – Let’s Meet at the Temple
- Same word as used in 6:2
- Nehemiah emphatically declined (6:11)
- Nehemiah went to the house of Shemaiah
- NKJV says that Shemaiah was a “secret informer” (Heb. “atsur”)
- NASB renders this word, “confined at home.”
- The word carries the idea of being restrained or detained
- It is unclear why Shemaiah was detained. Perhaps that is the reason Nehemiah went to him (because he was confined at home).
- Shemaiah proposes that they meet at the Temple, which suggests that his confinement was not imposed on him and he could voluntarily leave.
- For possible identification of Delaiah, see 1 Chron. 24:18.
6:11 – Such a man as I
- Nehemiah refused to be a coward
- He recognized the significance of his position and how showing cowardice as a leader would impact the people.
- “I will not”
- The appropriate response to temptation is emphatic denial
6:12 – I perceived
- This word carries the idea of recognizing through examination (Cf. Gen. 27:33; 37:33; 42:7-8)
- “Surely” (Heb. “behold”)
- Nehemiah perceived three things about Shemaiah:
- God did not send him
- His message was spoken to hurt him
- That Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him
- He was a false prophet hired by Sanballat and Tobiah
6:13 – That I might sin
- Nehemiah recognized that this was not only a challenge to distract him from the work, but an opportunity for them to cause him to “sin.” That way they would have an actual charge against him.
6:14 – As was his custom, Nehemiah turned this over to the Lord
- He also prays for the Lord’s judgment on the false prophets
6:15 – The wall was completed … in 52 days
- The remarkable feat was accomplished in an amazingly brief time
- See Neh. 2:1 – It was six months between the time Nehemiah presented his petition to the king, traveled to Jerusalem, rallied the people, and completed the wall.
6:16 – Even their enemies knew this was an act of God
- They could not deny that God had done this
- “They were very disheartened”
- Lit. “Their eyes fell greatly.”
6:17-19 – Nehemiah had some informants in his camp
- They were informing Tobiah of what Nehemiah said
- They were exchanging letters with Tobiah and also trying to persuade Nehemiah to think positively about Tobiah
- The people had a pact with Tobiah
- Lit. they were bound (Heb. “ba’al” – “lord; owner”) by an oath
Sermon on the Passage
- GOD HAS A BIG TASK FOR YOU!
- You Don’t Have Time to be Distracted (2-4)
- You Can’t Afford to be Discouraged (4-9)
- You’re Going to have to be Discerning (10-14)
- GOD IS BIGGER THAN YOUR TASK!
- Look at what they did
- Look How They Did it
- Look Who Got the Credit
- All of us have a great work to which God has called us. We cannot afford to get distracted. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58)
- Your enemy is relentless and may employ many different strategies to distract or defeat you.
- Our hope is in God and our help is from God.