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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)
Upon the gates - Rather, "in the gates." This work would naturally be delayed until the last phase.
2That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief.
The choice made of Ono, on the skirts of Benjamin, 25 or 30 miles from Jerusalem, as the meeting-place, was, no doubt, in order to draw Nehemiah to a distance from his supporters, that so an attack might be made on him with a better chance of success.
3And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?
4Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.
5Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;
The letter was "open," in order that the contents might be generally known, and that the Jews, alarmed at the threats contained in it, might refuse to continue the work.
6Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words.
7And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.
8Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.
9For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
10Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.
Who was shut up - On account, probably, of some legal uncleaness. Compare Jeremiah 36:5.
11And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.
Would go into the temple to save his life - Rather "could go into the temple and live." For a layman to enter the sanctuary was a capital offence (see Numbers 18:7).
12And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.
The existence of a party among the Jews who sided with Sanballat and lent themselves to his schemes, is here for the first time indicated. Compare Nehemiah 6:14, Nehemiah 6:17-19; Nehemiah 13:4-5, Nehemiah 13:28.
13Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.
14My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.
Noadiah is not elsewhere mentioned. The examples of Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Anna, show that the prophetical gift was occasionally bestowed upon women (2 Kings 22:14 note).
15So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.
Elul - The sixth month, corresponding to the latter part of August and the beginning of September.
In fifty and two days - Josephus states that the repairs of the wall occupied two years and four months. But Nehemiah's narrative is thoroughly consistent with itself, and contains in it nothing that is improbable. The walls everywhere existed at the time that he commenced his task, and only needed repairs. The work was partitioned among at least 37 working parties, who labored simultaneously, with material ready at hand; and, notwithstanding all menaces, uninterruptedly.
16And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.
17Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.
18For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah.
Though Tobiah is called "the servant" or "slave" Nehemiah 2:10, Nehemiah 2:19, and was perhaps a bought slave of Sanballat's, yet he was in such a position that Jewish nobles readily contracted affinity with him. This is quite in harmony with the practice of the East, where slaves often fill high positions and make great marriages.
19Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.