Nehemiah 4–7comment (0)
January 4, 2007
By John A. Nixon
Related Scripture: Nehemiah 4–7
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Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
In Nehemiah 1–7, we see God at work through another Persian king in order to return His people to their land. Chapters 4–7 focus on the effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. Again there is opposition to the work. There is opposition from the enemies of God’s people, represented by Sanballat and Tobiah, as well as problems among God’s people.
Coping with Mockery and Attacks from God’s Enemies (4)
In Nehemiah 2:10, Sanballat and Tobiah are identified as enemies of God’s people. They were “greatly displeased that someone had come to seek the well-being of the Israelites.” Chapter 4 now reports further on their opposition as they mocked and became enraged at the work of God through His people. This opposition, however, only draws attention to the success that the builders were enjoying.
This success seems to flow from the faith of Nehemiah and the Israelites as they focused on God rather than the opposition (4–5).
They overcame their harsh circumstances by trusting that God would protect them (9), that God would fight for them (14, 20) and that God is “great and awe-inspiring.”
The builders enacted this faith as they “stationed a guard … day and night” (9) and “worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other” (17). Their faith was practical to the situation.
Coping with Problems Among God’s People (5)
Chapter 5 focuses on problems that arose among God’s people. Some Israelites were charging interest to other Israelites. This act had led to oppression and poverty among God’s people (1–13). In response, Nehemiah rebuked the people and corrected their actions in accordance with God’s law (see Deut. 23:20).
Not only did Nehemiah lead the people to repentance (8–13) and obedience (13), he also exemplified godly leadership for them.
Although he could require a food allotment from them as governor of the province, Nehemiah did not (14–19). He did not burden the people, and he gave generously to the builders of the wall (17–18). Nehemiah led the people by example.
Coping with Distractions and Manipulation (6–7)
Chapter 6 returns to the opposition and attacks of God’s enemies. Sanballat and Tobiah first devised an attractive and then a threatening distraction to lure Nehemiah out of Jerusalem so that they could eliminate him. Nehemiah, however, trusted God and strived to continue building the wall.
Finally Tobiah and Sanballat hired Shemaiah to act as a prophet in order to scare Nehemiah and to cause him to sin (6:13). Again Nehemiah trusted God and continued the work given to him.
The wall was finished in 52 days (6:15). The writer makes clear that this was a sign to the nations that the wall was rebuilt with the help of God (6:16).
Despite much opposition and several problems, God had given Nehemiah success. Now that the city was protected (7:1–3), Nehemiah could focus on restoring the religious life of the people (ch. 8–13).