Nehemiah 4

1 But when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry, and was very indignant, and mocked the Jews. 2 He spoke before his brothers and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, since they are burnt?” 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, “What they are building, if a fox climbed up it, he would break down their stone wall.” 4 “Hear, our God; for we are despised; and turn back their reproach on their own head, give them up for a plunder in a land of captivity; 5 don’t cover their iniquity, and don’t let their sin be blotted out from before you; for they have insulted the builders.” 6 So we built the wall; and all the wall was joined together to half its height: for the people had a mind to work. 7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabians, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem went forward, and that the breaches began to be filled, they were very angry; 8 and they all conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem, and to cause confusion amongst us. 9 But we made our prayer to our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. 10 Judah said, “The strength of the bearers of burdens is fading, and there is much rubble; so that we are not able to build the wall.” 11 Our adversaries said, “They will not know or see, until we come in amongst them and kill them, and cause the work to cease.” 12 When the Jews who lived by them came, they said to us ten times from all places, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” 13 Therefore I set guards in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in the open places. I set the people by family groups with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 I looked, and rose up, and said to the nobles, to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them! Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” 15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and God had brought their counsel to nothing, all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. 16 From that time forth, half of my servants did the work, and half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows, and the coats of mail; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. 17 They all built the wall, and those who bore burdens loaded themselves; everyone with one of his hands did the work, and with the other held his weapon. 18 Amongst the builders, everyone wore his sword at his side, and so built. He who sounded the trumpet was by me. 19 I said to the nobles, and to the rulers and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and large, and we are separated on the wall, one far from one another. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally there to us. Our God will fight for us.” 21 So we did the work. Half of the people held the spears from the rising of the morning until the stars appeared. 22 Likewise at the same time said I to the people, “Let everyone with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and may labor in the day.” 23 So neither I, nor my brothers, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes. Everyone took his weapon to the water.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–6

Many a good work has been looked upon with contempt by proud and haughty scorners. Those who disagree in almost every thing, will unite in persecution. Nehemiah did not answer these fools according to their folly, but looked up to God by prayer. God’s people have often been a despised people, but he hears all the slights that are put upon them, and it is their comfort that he does so. Nehemiah had reason to think that the hearts of those sinners were desperately hardened, else he would not have prayed that their sins might never be blotted out. Good work goes on well, when people have a mind to it. The reproaches of enemies should quicken us to our duty, not drive us from it.

Verses 7–15

The hindering good work is what bad men aim at, and promise themselves success in; but good work is God’s work, and it shall prosper. God has many ways of bringing to light, and so of bringing to nought, the devices and designs of his church’s enemies. If our enemies cannot frighten us from duty, or deceive us into sin, they cannot hurt us. Nehemiah put himself and his cause under the Divine protection. It was the way of this good man, and should be our way. All his cares, all his griefs, all his fears, he spread before God. Before he used any means, he made his prayer to God. Having prayed, he set a watch against the enemy. If we think to secure ourselves by prayer, without watchfulness, we are slothful, and tempt God; if by watchfulness, without prayer, we are proud, and slight God: either way, we forfeit his protection. God’s care of our safety, should engage and encourage us to go on with vigour in our duty. As soon as a danger is over, let us return to our work, and trust God another time.

Verses 16–23

We must watch always against spiritual enemies, and not expect that our warfare will be over till our work is ended. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, which we ought to have always at hand, and never to have to seek for it, either in our labours, or in our conflicts, as Christians. Every true Christian is both a labourer and a soldier, working with one hand, and fighting with the other. Good work is likely to go on with success, when those who labour in it, make a business of it. And Satan fears to assault the watchful Christian; or, if attacked, the Lord fights for him. Thus must we wait to the close of life, never putting off our armour till our work and warfare are ended; then we shall be welcomed to the rest and joy of our Lord.

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