Having had their plans to derail the rebuilding of the wall thwarted, Sanballat, Tobiah, and their allies conspire to ambush and kill Nehemiah. Several attempts are made to lure him into their trap, but he would not fall for it. In desperation Sanballat sends a messenger with a letter (and pretending to speak for the king), speaking of rumors of Nehemiah trying to usurp the king’s authority and claim kingship for himself. The ruse is intended to lure him to speak to Sanballat personally – at the king’s insistence (verses 5-7). Nehemiah knows that Sanballat is lying and says so in so many words – then just prays for more strength (verses 8-9).
We do not know much about Shemaiah, first mentioned in verse 10, or what the meaning is exactly of him being confined to his house – or what exactly had led Nehemiah there. It seems likely that he had been a priest. But Nehemiah realized that he was not speaking from God, but rather was working for the enemy when he tried to get Nehemiah to go into the Temple (verses 10-13). Nehemiah was not a priest, and so he knew that he was forbidden to go in (for just one example of scripture, refer to Numbers 16:39-40). Nehemiah responds once again with prayer to God, asking for His justice in the matter (verse 14).
Only 52 days after it was started, the wall was finished (verse 15); and this amazing feat being accomplished in so short a time brought fear to the nations surrounding them, because they perceived that it only could have been accomplished with the help of God. If God had helped them to do that, how else might He help them in gaining more power that could threaten them? Verses 17-19 make clear that many of the nobles in Judah were guilty in this matter; and many sent letters to Tobiah and reported on Nehemiah to him. So Tobiah now was sending letters to Nehemiah to intimidate him.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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