Nehemiah 3-5 part 3
Nehemiah 3 lets us see how Nehemiahís plan was laid out for
rebuilding the walls, gates and towers of
Most of the walls they were building have been discovered by
archeology and you can see the general shape of these walls surrounding
"There were approximately forty sections of the wall, in variable lengths and proportions; and, as they are listed here, they appear in a succession to the left, that is, counterclockwise, beginning here at the sheep gate and finally ending at this same sheep gate (Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 3, 476.)."
To give you idea of how big a project this was they were building this wall around a 50 acre plot of land. Chapter 3 begins with the High priest and his brethren repairing the sheep gate and the wall to the left of it. It was only fitting that they the priest would work on sheep gate since it was used to bring in the sacrificial lambs and it the only gate that sanctified by the priest.
In verse 3, the Fish Gate is repaired. Some think The Fish
Gate was called that because the fish sellers of
Nehemiah 13:16 Men of
We do have something
interesting in verse 5,
Nehemiah 3:5 Next to
them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to
the work of their Lord.
The reason these nobles
were not doing their fair share of the works was because they were loyal to
Tobiah who was the enemy of Nehemiah and we can see this connection in,
Nehemiah 6:17 Also in those days the nobles of
Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to
In verse 8, we can even see the businessmen were
building on the wall and in verse 12 a man and his daughter were working on the
wall together. The chapter continues listing those who are repairing the gates
and the walls all back around to the other side of the sheep gate. Our text
never mentions if Nehemiah physically helped build the wall, but we do know
that he planned and oversaw all this construction and that would have been job
within itself. Based on Nehemiahís character, he probably did help rebuild the
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.† 2 And he
spoke before his brethren and the army of
Sanballat was doing his best to intimidate the Jews with his mocking. It worked before, but as we will see it will not work this time. As he spoke before the army he was doing his best make his men seem more powerful than the Jews by making their progress seem insignificant. Tobiah also did this by claiming that if a small fox goes and touches the wall that it will fall over. The reason he may have used a fox as example was because there were foxes around the ruined walls according Lam. 5:18.
We can all relate to the strategy because this is the same tactic that coaches use on their players when they know they are going up against a better team. They try to build their team up and make the other team seem worse than they are, because the bigger and better you seem in your own mind the less intimidated you will be. Even though Saballat was talking a big talk, he knew deep down that the Jews were not as weak as he making them out to be.
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!† 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. 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.†
Instead of giving up, the
Jews prayed to God to protect them from their enemy and they kept on working.
They had managed to build their walls up to half it height because the people
had a mind to work. This is great example for us to follow today as well. As we
labor for the Lord, we should pray for his protection and his strength and not
turn away from our work. As Jesus said,
Luke 9:62 †No one, having put his hand to the plow, and
looking back, is fit for the
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,† 8 and all of them conspired
together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.† 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer
to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.
There is nothing that
makes the enemies of God angrier than when they see Godís people being
successful. Their enemies didnít want them to succeed and they knew they had to
act fast if they were going to have a chance at stopping the Jews. They hoped
that if they caused enough confusion it would make the work stop, but these
Jews were relying on God and they prayed to Him for help and strength. So they
began to watch and they were ready to fight. They didnít expect God to do
everything for them, but they did want his help.
When we pray we shouldnít
think that God is going to do everything for us. For instance, if we pray for
finical help we shouldnít think God is going to drop a load of money on our
front porch. Instead, we have to be work toward that end. God will open a door
of opportunity for you to make the money you need to help you out, and then you
must be prepared to do the work. There was song that was sung during world war
II that illustrates this because it said, ďpraise the Lord and pass the
Nehemiah 4:10 Then
Here we can see that
Sanballat was starting to break the Jews faith. They had been working so hard
on the wall and the gates, they were starting to get burned out and because
they were so tired, they were starting to believe that the enemies were going
to attack them any moment. Even their Jewish neighbors were coming to them
asking their fellow Jews to leave their work and come back to their homes. Now
if they had poor leadership at this time, the enemy would have won, but
thankful this was not the case because Nehemiah rose to occasion and
refortified the Jews faith. This is what Nehemiah did:
This shows how a strong a
leader can make a difference in the attitude of the people and keep the focused
on the task at hand.
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.† 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
When Sanballat saw that
the Jews were ready to defend themselves he changed his mind about his initial
attack. Again, we can see Nehemiahís great leadership at work as he had the
people ready to work and to defend. These Jews were committed to finishing the
work of God. One thing we can learn from this is that its important that we
carry out the work of God, but at the same time we must be ready defend the
Word of God. Instead, of having a physical sword, we use the spiritual sword,
which is the word of God.
So, while itís important
for us to reach out to lost, live faithful lives and comfort the sick, it also
important that we deal with false doctrine by defending Godís truth. We should
never put all our eggs in one basket and just do one work because we can both
work and defend Godís truth.
Nehemiah 5:1 And
there was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren.† 2 For there were those who said,
"We, our sons, and our daughters are many; therefore let us get
grain, that we may eat and live."† 3
There were also some who said, "We have mortgaged our lands and
vineyards and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine."† 4 There were also those who said,
"We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our lands and
vineyards.† 5 "Yet now
our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their
children; and indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves,
and some of our daughters have been brought into slavery. It is not
in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and
The events in this
chapter are not limited to the 52 days it took to rebuild the wall. These were
some serious problems that needed to be dealt with. Their 3 complaints.
1. Because there were so
many Jews in one area and there was famine going on and this first group wants
to be allowed to get some grain.
2. Some had to sell their
homes and vineyards so they could have enough money to buy some grain.
3. Some had to borrow
money to pay the kings tax and they were not able to pay back what they
borrowed and so they were being forced into offering up their sons and
daughters as slaves.
Again this would take a
good leader to solve this problem and Nehemiah is up for the task.
Nehemiah 5:6 And I
became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.† 7 After serious thought, I rebuked
the nobles and rulers, and said to them, "Each of you is exacting usury
from his brother." So I called a great assembly against them.† 8 And I said to them,
"According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were
sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they
be sold to us?" Then they were silenced and found nothing to say.† 9 Then I said, "What you are
doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of
the reproach of the nations, our enemies?"†
10 "I also, with my brethren and my servants, am
lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury!† 11 "Restore now to them, even
this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses,
also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you
have charged them."† 12
So they said, "We will restore it, and will require nothing from
them; we will do as you say." Then I called the priests, and required an
oath from them that they would do according to this promise.
Please notice the Nehemiah didnít make a rash decision. Instead, he gave it serious thought. Anytime, you begin to deal with a serous problem, you canít just do the first thing that pops into your mind. You must consider the possibilities of your plan. Once you have weighed the pros and the cons and have considered other plans then you can make a wise choice.
We also learn in this text that nobles were taking advantage of the poor. They knew they Jews would not be able to pay back what they owed and this would make them become richer because they would own their vineyards and land and they could use their children as slaves. As the saying goes the richer gets richer and poorer gets poorer, but Nehemiah puts a stop to this usury, which was the collection of unlawful interest, and this practice †was against the Law of Moses.
You shall not charge interest to your brother -- interest on money or food
or anything that is lent out at interest.† 20 "To a foreigner you may
charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the
LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which
you are entering to possess.
It was lawful to charge
interest to a Gentile, but not to a fellow Jew. So, these Nobles repented and
made an oath that they would give back the interest they charged and give back
the property they had taken.
Nehemiah 5:13 Then I
shook out the fold of my garment and said, "So may God shake out each man
from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise. Even
thus may he be shaken out and emptied." And all the assembly said,
"Amen!" and praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this
We see a lot a visual
demonstration throughout the Bible. Nehemiah was illustrating by shaking out
the folds of his garments that God will shake them out in the same manner if
the do not keep their promise. After seeing and hearing this the whole assembly
said Amen, and they praised God and the nobles kept their promise.
Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land
of Judah, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King
Artaxerxes, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the governor's
provisions.† 15 But the former
governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from
them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants
bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of
God.† 16 Indeed, I also
continued the work on this wall, and we did not buy any land. All my servants were
gathered there for the work.† 17
And at my table were one hundred and fifty Jews and rulers, besides
those who came to us from the nations around us.† 18 Now that which was
prepared daily was one ox and six choice sheep. Also fowl were
prepared for me, and once every ten days an abundance of all kinds of wine. Yet
in spite of this I did not demand the governor's provisions, because the
bondage was heavy on this people.† 19
Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for
This shows that Nehemiah was governor for 12 years, which was approximately 444 Ė 432 B.C. Being the Govern allowed you to have certain provisions and the governors before him had taken their provision, but Nehemiah did not because he didnít want to put a burden on the people, so he lived by his own means and took care of his servants. He continued to work on the wall. Of course this could be taken two ways. It could indicate that he worked on the wall himself or that continued to oversee the work of the wall. Again, based on his Character he probably did both.
Finally, he asked God to remember the good work he had done for his people. He wanted make sure that God knew what good he had done. Now God would know this without him reminding Him, but there was nothing wrong with him expressing this thought to God.
These 3 chapters show us once again what can be accomplished when you have strong leadership and people who have a mind to work for God.