6 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”
But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written:
“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”
9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.”
11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.
14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.
16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
17 Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah, and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them. 18 For many in Judah were under oath to him, since he was son-in-law to Shekaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.
(Nehemiah 6:1-19 NIV)
While contending with the five neighboring enemies of Israel, Nehemiah discovers a far more insidious enemy – the Jewish people themselves.
The wealthy Jews were lending money and charging interest, confiscating their poorer neighbors’ land and even enslaving their neighbors’ children in exchange for payment of debt. Nehemiah confronted the Jewish people, put a stop to these practices, and reminded the people of God’s Laws to love their Jewish neighbors, not exploit them.
Nehemiah also used himself as an example, reminding them that he did not demand the governor’s food allowance from them. Nehemiah was looking out for the best interests of others, not merely looking out for his own selfish interests.
As we look into chapter 6, we see Nehemiah back to dealing with the neighboring governors and their ungodly ways.
In verses 1 – 4, the neighboring governors repeatedly try to lure Nehemiah away from Jerusalem in order to harm him. Nehemiah sees through their scam and replies that he is too busy to meet with them.
This is the classic “can’t we just meet and figure out how to get along?” ploy. Nehemiah knows that no good will come of these requested meetings; either he will have to compromise to get along, or they will take physical revenge on him when they get him by himself.
Since the “nice” invite didn’t work, the opposing governors increased the pressure in verses 5 – 9 by sending an open letter accusing Nehemiah of rebelling against King Artaxerxes and setting himself up as king of Judah and Jerusalem. Their hope was again to draw Nehemiah out to a face-to-face meeting and kill him. Again, Nehemiah saw through their plot and accused them of making up the story.
Since the “let’s just get along” invite didn’t work, Sanballat used the court of public opinion ploy to try to call out Nehemiah. Once again, Nehemiah withstood the fear tactic. He knew that the enemies of the Jews were trying to create fear among the people, not foster their strength. Nehemiah’s key to success was prayer (v. 9).
When Nehemiah went to visit one of the Jewish nobles, the tables were turned once again. Shemaiah was supposedly a godly prophet, but Nehemiah quickly figured out that even this man had compromised himself and sold out to the enemy. Shemaiah was supposedly confined to his house in fear and told Nehemiah that his enemies were trying to kill him. Shemaiah told Nehemiah to go hide in the Temple to avoid death.
If playing nice and the court of public opinion did not work, then the enemies of Nehemiah thought that a direct threat of murder might be enough to cause Nehemiah to act sinfully. Shemaiah’s plea for Nehemiah to take asylum in the Temple would be “safe”, but would be a total act of cowardice and sin, not a stand of leadership and faith in God. Once again, Nehemiah turned to prayer and faith as he faced his fears and trusted God (v. 14).
Nehemiah summarized the work in verses 15 – 16. They completed the rebuilding of the wall in 52 days. The enemies of the Jews realized that God was once again in their midst and standing with the Jewish people.
Despite his best efforts to minimize the enemies’ influence on himself, Nehemiah could not shut down Tobiah’s influence on the Jewish people. The Jewish people still interacted with Tobiah and were influenced by him. The Jewish people still acted as Tobiah’s intelligence gathering unit against Nehemiah. In turn, Tobiah used this information to continue speaking against Nehemiah and to try to intimidate Nehemiah (v. 17-19).
Are there people in your world that have the appearance of godliness but do not have your best interests at heart? Do they use their power, money, or influence to control others?
May we stand firm in our faith, not compromising, refusing to be publicly shamed when we walk with God, and not running away in fear or cowardice when faced with opposition, even death.
Jesus faced the cross and its shame; the apostles boldly proclaimed Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and were murdered for their faith.
May we, like Nehemiah, turn to the Lord in prayer when faced with our enemies and their evil schemes.