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Nehemiah Chapter Four


Nehemiah 4 Outlines

The Wall Defended Against Enemies

New King James Version (NKJV)


Nehemiah 4:1.  But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews.

   YLT And it cometh to pass, when Sanballat hath heard that we are building the wall, that it is displeasing to him, and he is very angry and mocketh at the Jews,

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall,....

Or were building it; for as yet it was not finished, see Nehemiah 4:6,

he was wroth, and took great indignation;

inwardly, though outwardly he pretended to treat the work with contempt, as if it never would be accomplished, which yet he feared:

and mocked the Jews;

as a set of foolish builders, and unable to finish what they had begun.


Nehemiah 4:2.  And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?”

   YLT and saith before his brethren and the force of Samaria, yea, he saith, `What [are] the weak Jews doing? are they left to themselves? do they sacrifice? do they complete in a day? do they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish? -- and they burnt!'

And he spake before his brethren,....

Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, and perhaps some other governors of the king of Persia in those parts:

and before the army of Samaria:

which, and the inhabitants of it, were implacable enemies of the Jews:

and said, what do these feeble Jews?

what do they pretend to do, or what can they do?

will they fortify themselves?

by building a wall about their city; can they think they shall ever be able to do this, or that it will be allowed?

will they sacrifice?

meaning not their daily sacrifice, as Jarchi, that they had done a long time, but for the dedication of their building, as Aben Ezra:

will they make an end in a day?

they seem to be in as great a hurry and haste as if they meant it; and indeed, unless they can do it very quickly, they never will: they will soon be stopped:

will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burnt?

where will they find materials? do they imagine that they can make burnt stones firm and strong again, or harden the dust and rubbish into stones, or make that, which is as if dead, alive? to do this is the same as to revive a dead man, and they may as well think of doing the one as the other; burnt stones being reckoned as dead, as Eben Ezra observes.


Nehemiah 4:3.  Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”

   YLT And Tobiah the Ammonite [is] by him and saith, `Also, that which they are building -- if a fox doth go up, then it hath broken down their stone wall.'

Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him,....

Who was one of his brethren he spake before, Nehemiah 4:2,

and he said;

in the like contemptuous and scoffing manner:

even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall break down their stone wall;

signifying not only that it was so low that a fox could easily get up to it, or leap over it; but that the materials were so bad, and the work so poorly done, that the weight of a fox would break it down; of which creatures many were thereabout, since Jerusalem was desolate, see Lamentations 5:18.


Nehemiah 4:4.  Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity!

   YLT Hear, O our God, for we have been despised; and turn back their reproach on their own head, and give them for a spoil in a land of captivity;

Hear, O our God, for we are despised,....

Here begins the prayer of Nehemiah, who had been informed of what these men said in contempt of him, and his builders, and to whom he sent no answer, but applied to God:

and turn their reproach upon their own head;

as they have despised and reproached us, let them be despised and reproached by their neighbours:

give them for a prey in the land of captivity;

let them be carried captive, as we have been, and become a prey and booty to their enemies.


Nehemiah 4:5.  Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.

   YLT and do not cover over their iniquity, and their sin from before Thee let not be blotted out, for they have provoked to anger -- over-against those building.

And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee,....

Let it not go unpunished, and even let it not be pardoned; which is spoken, not from a private spirit of revenge, but from a public spirit for the glory of God, and his justice; and not as a mere imprecation, but as a prophecy of what would be the case, in like manner as many of David's petitions in the Psalms; and for this there was a good foundation, since God had threatened the Moabites and Ammonites with utter destruction:

for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders;

by despising his people, and mocking at the work the Lord had called them to; and this they did publicly, and on purpose to discourage the workmen.


Nehemiah 4:6.  So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

   YLT And we build the wall, and all the wall is joined -- unto its half, and the people have a heart to work.

So built we the wall,....

Went on in building it, notwithstanding their scoffs and threats:

and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof;

it was carried all round the city to half the height of it:

for the people had a mind to work;

their heart was in it, they had a good will to it, and they made haste to finish it.


Nehemiah 4:7.  Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry,

   YLT And it cometh to pass, when Sanballat hath heard, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, that lengthening hath gone up to the walls of Jerusalem, that the breeches have begun to be stopped, then it is very displeasing to them,

And it came to pass that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians,....

Who were under and influenced by Geshem the Arabian:

and the Ammonites;

over whom Tobiah was governor:

and the Ashdodites;

who were of Ashdod or Azotus, one of the principalities of the Philistines, who were always enemies to the Jews:

heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up;

or "the length of them went up"F4עלתה ארוכה "ascendisset longitudo", Montanus; so Coeceius in rad. ארך. ; that is, the height of them; that they rose up high apace, and were got up to, or almost to their proper height:

and that the breaches began to be stopped;

for the walls were not all thrown down by the Chaldeans, but breaches made here and there, which were now repaired:

then they were very wroth;

and could not avoid showing it; before they mocked them, as attempting what they could not go through with; but now, perceiving the work went on with great success, they were enraged.


Nehemiah 4:8.  and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.

   YLT and they conspire, all of them together, to come in to fight against Jerusalem, and to do to it injury.

And conspired all of them together,....

All the above men and people entered into a confederacy and combination:

to come and to fight against Jerusalem;

to bring an army with them, and by force cause the Jews to desist; the JewsF5Pirke Eliezer, c. 38. pretend they came to war, and brought with them an army of 180,000 men, which is not probable:

and to hinder it;

the building of the walls of it; or "to make a wandering for him"F6לעשות לו תועה "ad faciendum ei errorem", Montanus; "ei aberrationem", Genevenses; "vagationem et palationem", alii apud De Dieu. ; for Nehemiah, or the people, or both, to, cause them to stray from their work, to frighten them from it, that they might become like men at their wits end, not knowing what to do, where to turn themselves, or what course to steer, but to wander about as persons out of their senses; so Aben Ezra. De Dieu joins this clause to the next verse, to cause everyone of them to wander, we prayed, &c.


Nehemiah 4:9.  Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

   YLT And we pray unto our God, and appoint a watch against them, by day and by night, because of them.

Nevertheless, we made our prayer unto our God,....

Spread their case before him in prayer, entreating direction and help from him:

and set a watch against them day and night, because of them;

to give notice of their approach, that they might prepare to defend themselves; though they prayed to God, and trusted in him for deliverance, they did not neglect the use of means.


Nehemiah 4:10.  Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.”

   YLT And Judah saith, `The power of the burden-bearers hath become feeble, and the rubbish [is] abundant, and we are not able to build on the wall.'

And Judah said,....

Several of the men of Judah:

the strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed;

through much labour, in carrying heavy loads of stone and timber to the builders, and yet more through fear of the enemy:

and there is much rubbish;

which ought to be removed, but that the labourers were so weak that they could not do it:

so that we are not able to build the wall;

to finish it before the enemy comes to attack us.


Nehemiah 4:11.  And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.”

   YLT And our adversaries say, `They do not know, nor see, till that we come in to their midst, and have slain them, and caused the work to cease.'

And our adversaries said, they shall not know,....

Our designs upon them:

neither see;

or perceive what we are about to do:

till we come in the midst of them;

with an army suddenly, at an unawares, and unexpected:

and slay them;

they being unarmed, and not prepared to defend themselves:

and cause the work to cease;

as it must in course, the builders being slain.


Nehemiah 4:12.  So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.”

   YLT And it cometh to pass, when the Jews have come who are dwelling near them, that they say to us ten times from all the places whither ye return -- [they are] against us.

Near Samaria, Arabia, and Ashdod, and had intelligence of their designs:

came, they said to us ten times;

that is, they came to them at Jerusalem, and often told them, as this phrase "ten times" signifies; see Gill on Genesis 31:7,

from all places whence ye shall return unto us:

they will be upon you, come which way you will, so that ye are in the utmost danger: or "from all places"; where you are repairing and rebuilding:

return to us;

that ye may enjoy peace and prosperity with us under Sanballat, &c. and escape the wrath and fury you are now exposed to; or "from all places we come, that ye may return to us"; so De Dieu; these Jews, though they pretended to be friends, to their brethren, yet seemed to be in friendship with their enemies, and sought to discourage them, and weaken their minds, and cause them to cease building.


Nehemiah 4:13.  Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.

   YLT And I appoint at the lowest of the places, at the back of the wall, in the clear places, yea, I appoint the people, by their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.

Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall,....

Where the wall was lowest, and the enemy could more easily break it down, or get over it:

and on the higher places;

where the wall was higher; or rather on the towers upon the walls, as the word signifies the tops of rocks, which are dry and smooth, see Ezekiel 24:2.

I even set the people after their families;

according to their rank, number, strength, and valour:

with their swords, their spears, and their bows;

with weapons they could use both near, and at a distance.


Nehemiah 4:14.  And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”

   YLT And I see, and rise up, and say unto the freemen, and unto the prefects, and unto the rest of the people, `Be not afraid of them; the Lord, the great and the fearful, remember ye, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.'

And I looked,....

Took a view of the people, and observed that they were in their proper place, and sufficiently armed, and also whether the enemy was coming:

and rose up and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people;

who were under their nobles and rulers, as their captains and commanders:

be not ye afraid of them;

of their enemies, their numbers, and their threats:

remember the Lord, which is great and terrible;

who is greater than they, and is to be feared and trusted in by his people, and is terrible even to the kings of the earth:

and fight for your brethren, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses;

 intimating, that they were in danger of losing all that was near and dear, valuable and precious to them, if they did not fight for them; and therefore it became them to quit themselves like men, and be strong.


Nehemiah 4:15.   And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.

   YLT And it cometh to pass, when our enemies have heard that it hath been known to us, and God doth frustrate their counsel, and we turn back, all of us, unto the wall, each unto his work;

And it came to pass, when our enemies heard it was known unto us,....

What they intended, as might be reported to them from the preparations made by the Jews to receive them, and defend themselves:

and God had brought their counsel to naught;

which was to come upon them secretly and unawares; but being discovered, they dropped their design, and their scheme came to nothing:

so that we returned all of us to the wall, every man to his work;

to that part of it where he wrought, in order to finish it.


Nehemiah 4:16.  So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah.

   YLT yea, it cometh to pass, from that day, half of my servants are working in the business, and half of them are keeping hold of both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the coats of mail; and the heads [are] behind all the house of Judah.

And it came to pass from that time forth,....

That they were thus alarmed of danger from their enemies:

that the half of my servants wrought in the work;

of building the wall; his domestic servants, his guards, or mighty men, as Jarchi, men of war, the soldiers:

and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows;

some offensive, others defensive weapons; some to fight with at a distance, others near at hand:

and the habergeons;

coats of mail, which they took and clothed themselves with:

and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah;

the Jews that were working at the wall, to animate and encourage them, protect and defend them.


Nehemiah 4:17.   Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.

   YLT The builders on the wall, and the bearers of the burden, those lading, [each] with one of his hands is working in the business, and one is laying hold of the missile.

That laid the mortar and stones upon it, and timber where it was necessary:

and they that bore burdens;

that carried the mortar, stones, and timber to the builders, and served them:

with those that laded;

which prepared the above for them, and laid them on their shoulders:

everyone with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon;

which is not to be understood strictly and literally, for without both hands they could not well perform either of the above works; but proverbially, signifying that they were intent on both working and fighting, and were ready and prepared to do the latter, as well as the former, having weapons lying by them, or girt about them, as is explained in the following verse.


Nehemiah 4:18.  Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.

   YLT And the builders [are] each with his sword, girded on his loins, and building, and he who is blowing with a trumpet [is] beside me.

For the builders had everyone his sword girded by his side, and so builded,....

Thus accoutred he wrought, and was prepared for either service:

and he that sounded the trumpet was by me;

to give the alarm of war, that everyone might lay aside his work, and prepare for the battle: this officer stood by Nehemiah, that when he found it necessary, might give him orders to sound his trumpet, for the men to gather to him.


Nehemiah 4:19.   Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall.

   YLT And I say unto the freemen, and unto the prefects, and unto the rest of the people, `The work is abundant, and large, and we are separated on the wall, far off one from another;

And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people,....

See Gill on Nehemiah 4:14,

the work is great and large;

the building of the wall all around the city of Jerusalem:

and we are separated upon the wall one far from another;

some at work on one part of it, and some at another, so that the distance between one another, at least in the further part, was very considerable.


Nehemiah 4:20.  Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

   YLT in the place that ye hear the voice of the trumpet thither ye are gathered unto us; our God doth fight for us.'

In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet,....

Be it what part of the wall soever they were at work, even the most distant:

resort ye thither to us;

to Nehemiah, and the half of his servants armed, where the trumpet was blown; that was to be the place of rendezvous:

our God shall fight for us;

and give us victory over our enemies; none have any reason to be intimidated, when they shall hear the sound of the trumpet.


Nehemiah 4:21.   So we labored in the work, and half of the men[a] held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared.

   YLT And we are working in the business, and half of them are keeping hold of the spears, from the going up of the dawn till the coming forth of the stars.

So we laboured in the work,....

Of building the wall: and half of them held the spears; and other weapons before mentioned, Nehemiah 4:16

from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared;

that is, from morning to evening, the space of time the builders and labourers worked.


Nehemiah 4:22.   At the same time I also said to the people, “Let each man and his servant stay at night in Jerusalem, that they may be our guard by night and a working party by day.”

   YLT Also, at that time I said to the people, `Let each with his servant lodge in the midst of Jerusalem, and they have been to us by night a guard, and by day [for] the work:'

Likewise at the same time said I unto the people,....

That were at work upon the wall:

let everyone with his servant lodge within Jerusalem;

every builder had a servant, or a lad, as the word signifies, to wait upon him, to bring mortar or stone, or what he wanted; and some of these builders, with their lads, came out of the country towns and villages in the morning, and returned at night; now Nehemiah proposed, for the safety of the city and its walls, that for the present they would lodge in Jerusalem:

that in the night they may be a guard unto us, and labour on the day;

might help to protect them in the night, should they be surprised with the enemy, and be ready for their work in the daytime.


Nehemiah 4:23.  So neither I, my brethren, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing.

   YLT and there are none -- I and my brethren and my servants, the men of the guard who [are] after me -- there are none of us putting off our garments, each [hath] his vessel of water.

So neither I, nor my brethren,....

The nobles and rulers:

nor my servants;

his domestic servants that waited upon him:

nor the men of the guard which followed me;

his bodyguard, which attended him as a commissioner of the king of Persia for state and grandeur:

none of us put off our clothes;

at night when they laid themselves down to sleep, but laid in, them, that they might be ready upon an alarm made:

saving that everyone put them off for washing;

not for common washing, because dirty, but for washing on account of ceremonial uncleanness, which required washing both of bodies and garments, see Leviticus 15:5, &c. and the Vulgate Latin version expresses it by baptism, as the apostle calls such ceremonial ablutions in Hebrews 6:2. It is in the margin of our Bibles, "everyone went with his weapon for water"; when he went to Siloam, or any other place, for water, he took a weapon with him to defend himself upon occasion; which is no bad sense of the words. NoldiusF7Ebr. Concord. Partic. p. 322. renders the words, "everyone with his weapon (and) water"; both were at his bolster, ready, if wanted, see 1 Samuel 26:11.


──John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible


New King James Version (NKJV)


a.    Nehemiah 4:21 Literally them