Nehemiah 4

Protecting the City

The Opposition (1-3)

As the Jews began to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, Sanballat, the Samaritan leader, became furious and gathered the wealthy and the military leaders to mock the construction effort. He mocked the Jews' efforts with five rhetorical statements posed to question their determination to finish. Tobiah, the Ammonite governor of Jewish descent, joined the taunting by suggesting that even if they did finish the work it would be easily destroyed by the frailest of assaults (1-3).

The Prayer (4-6)

Nehemiah reacted to effort of Sanballat and Tobiah to discourage the Jewish workers in prayer. He asked for God to:

a) return their mocking with others mocking them
b) have them plundered and taken into captivity
c) not allow their sin to go on without reprisal so they could continue to threaten God's will by seeking to discourage the workers (4-5)

In spite of all the mocking, the Israelites were not discouraged, and they continued to move the construction forward until the wall reached half its height all the way around the city. They did not build in sections, but they built simultaneously all the way around the city. They were not detoured because they set their mind to ignore the ridicule and kept their mind to the work (6).

Attack Threatened (7-9)

As was Nehemiah's concern, Sanballat and Tobiah's open ridicule rallied support among other nations surrounding Jerusalem. The Ashdodites and Arabs were watching every breach close together and realized the city would be too fortified to make an easy raid, so they plotted together to come and attack Jerusalem from many sides to create confusion among the workers. Nehemiah, as was his custom, prayed and also put a guard 24/7 as a protection against attack.

The Construction Challenge (10-11)

With part of the work force being used to guard the city, the construction pace slowed. The moving of the rubble for building became so slow that the Jews could hardly see any progress. The situation seemed so sluggish that they began to doubt they would have the heart or time to complete the wall before some enemy invasion destroyed them and the progress they had made (10).  

The enemies of the Jews could tell well that the work was slacking and the city was vulnerable to attack, with too few guarding the city and too few left to work for measurable progress. The city was essentially defenseless, the workers and the makeshift army ready to kill (11).

Jews from Outside the Walls Warn (12-15)

Nehemiah was then warned by the Jews living outside the walls and in other places who had heard of the attack. These Jews told Nehemiah what was being planned and advised him to have the Jews abandon the city, save their lives, and leave the city to their enemies. They came to Nehemiah ten times, warning him of the invasion, telling him the attack would come from all directions as the wall was considered by their enemies easy to assail (12).  

Nehemiah then stationed all the workers in places where they could expect an attack and readied them for the defense of the city, reminding them they didn't need to fear, for it was Yahweh, great and awesome, Who was going to fight for them as they fought for each other (13-14). Eventually the enemies of the Jews learned that the Jews within the city had learned of their plan to attack from all sides and had prepared themselves to defend the city. The enemies felt they had been frustrated by God Himself, giving the Jews within the city hope, so the whole force of construction workers returned to the walls (15).

Change in Strategy (16-20)

Once Nehemiah knew they were out of immediate danger, he changed strategy.

a) Nehemiah took his own servants and bodyguards and had half of them work on the construction site while the other half was dressed and armed for battle, ready with all weapons for attack.  
b) Nehemiah had the leaders stay at the work site full time to direct and encourage the workers (16).  
c) Nehemiah had those who carried loads back and forth from the wall use their sword as both tool and weapon, always ready for a fight, with their sword never out of their hand as they labored (17).  
d) Nehemiah had all the actual builders wear a sword while they worked.
e) Nehemiah stationed a trumpeter always at his side to sound the trumpet (18). Nehemiah told the nobles and the workers that even though they were scattered all around the wall, when they heard the trumpet they were to rally to the place where the trumpet was sounding.
f) Nehemiah then gave assurance that God would be doing the fighting for them, as they rallied to the sound of the trumpet (19-20).

Nehemiah then summarized what happened. Half his servants and bodyguards kept watch from the time the sun came up until they could see the evening stars while the other half joined in the work (21-22). He would not let any of his servants or bodyguards leave the city by night, so they guarded by night and worked by day. Lastly, they all slept in their clothes, ready for any attack (23).