|<< Neh 4|
The rebuilding project in Jerusalem has Messianic implications based upon Daniel 9:24-27 (see notes). For a full explanation of these implications, click here to read the introduction on the Book of Nehemiah.
Satan stirs the Jews up against each other (Nehemiah 5:1-13)
1 And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.
2 For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live.
3 Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.
4 There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.
5 Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.
6 And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.
7 Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.
8 And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.
9 Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?
10 I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.
11 Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.
12 Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.
13 Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise.
As a fellow pastor frequently says, "It's not the money, it's the money!" What else does Satan have in his bag of tricks to stop the work on the wall? How about bickering within...over money! Some of the Jews begin poor mouthing against their Jewish brethren about how tough the times are because of their wall-building effort. Attack from outsiders is one thing, but what about when your own relatives are giving you fits about your service to God? It was REALLY a struggle between the rich and the poor among the Jews. It appears that the financially-challenged Jews were losing their property (and kids) to the more financially astute Jews. There was also an issue of interest being paid to fellow Jews (a violation of Mosaic Law), not to mention the cost of taxes paid back to the Persians. Bottom line - it was about the money. An internal struggle within the community of God's people - Satan loves it! As we see here, it's one of his tried and proven techniques. The solution? Recognition of priorities - just that simple. When we recognize the "wiles (methods) of the devil" of Ephesians 6:11 (see notes), Satan has a tougher row to hoe. This dissension particularly disturbs Nehemiah (he was the governor); he blew his top (verse 6)! When Nehemiah recognizes this problem, I like the way verse 7 is worded regarding his reaction, "Then I consulted with myself..." When the smoke had cleared, that old tried and proven tactic of turning God's people on each other had failed. Nehemiah, as their governor, had motivated the people right through and past this period of selfishness. They all make some financial concessions so that the work of God can continue.
14 Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor.
15 But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God.
16 Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work.
17 Moreover there were at my table an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that are about us.
18 Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine: yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people.
19 Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
In these last six verses, Nehemiah reveals a little more about his passion for the wall-rebuilding project. He made his own significant financial sacrifices as governor over these Jews. He did not take his governor's wages from them and even put his own servants to work on the wall. Moreover, he personally fed many of the workers from his own table during this time. He concludes his explanation in verse 19 by saying, "Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people."
A conspiracy against the reputation of Godly leadership (Nehemiah 6:1-14)
1 Now 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;)
2 That 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.
3 And 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?
4 Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.
5 Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;
6 Wherein 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.
7 And 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.
8 Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.
9 For 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.
10 Afterward 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.
11 And 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.
12 And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.
13 Therefore 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.
14 My 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.
The word is out; the wall around the city is rebuilt with only the setting of the gates remaining to be done. Sanballat sends an open letter to Nehemiah after Nehemiah refuses four requests for a meeting about this Jerusalem-rebuilding project. Now keep in mind, Nehemiah is the governor over the region. The letter accuses Nehemiah of preparing to rebel against the King of Persia. But Nehemiah didn't fall for that ploy. Then Shemaiah (probably a priest) encouraged Nehemiah (through a prophecy) to hide out in the temple for fear of life. Look at Nehemiah's reply to him in verse 11, "And 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." Nehemiah deducts that Sanballat had put Shemaiah up to that also, and the prophecy was fake (verse 12). Sanballat and his evil buddies conjecture, "If we scare him, he'll stop and run. He'll abandon his principles." But he didn't - kept working until the wall was complete.
15 So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.
16 And 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.
17 Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.
18 For 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.
19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.
Despite Satan's use of evil people to stop the work and kill the beginning of the Messianic countdown, the wall is rebuilt in just 52 days - REMARKABLE! And all the neighbors knew this: God had empowered them. Click here to read about the "Messianic countdown" from the introduction on Nehemiah. Let me remind you, this wasn't JUST about building a wall; notice verse 16, "And 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." This rebuilding project was a testimony to God before the heathen.
1 Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed,
2 That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.
3 And I said unto them, Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house.
4 Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded.
5 And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein,
6 These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city;
7 Who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah. The number, I say, of the men of the people of Israel was this;
8 The children of Parosh, two thousand an hundred seventy and two.
9 The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two.
10 The children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two.
11 The children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand and eight hundred and eighteen.
12 The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four.
13 The children of Zattu, eight hundred forty and five.
14 The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore.
15 The children of Binnui, six hundred forty and eight.
16 The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and eight.
17 The children of Azgad, two thousand three hundred twenty and two.
18 The children of Adonikam, six hundred threescore and seven.
19 The children of Bigvai, two thousand threescore and seven.
20 The children of Adin, six hundred fifty and five.
21 The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight.
22 The children of Hashum, three hundred twenty and eight.
23 The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and four.
24 The children of Hariph, an hundred and twelve.
25 The children of Gibeon, ninety and five.
26 The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, an hundred fourscore and eight.
27 The men of Anathoth, an hundred twenty and eight.
28 The men of Bethazmaveth, forty and two.
29 The men of Kirjathjearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty and three.
30 The men of Ramah and Geba, six hundred twenty and one.
31 The men of Michmas, an hundred and twenty and two.
32 The men of Bethel and Ai, an hundred twenty and three.
33 The men of the other Nebo, fifty and two.
34 The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four.
35 The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty.
36 The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five.
37 The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and one.
38 The children of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred and thirty.
39 The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three.
40 The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two.
41 The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven.
42 The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen.
43 The Levites: the children of Jeshua, of Kadmiel, and of the children of Hodevah, seventy and four.
44 The singers: the children of Asaph, an hundred forty and eight.
45 The porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, an hundred thirty and eight.
46 The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hashupha, the children of Tabbaoth,
47 The children of Keros, the children of Sia, the children of Padon,
48 The children of Lebana, the children of Hagaba, the children of Shalmai,
49 The children of Hanan, the children of Giddel, the children of Gahar,
50 The children of Reaiah, the children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda,
51 The children of Gazzam, the children of Uzza, the children of Phaseah,
52 The children of Besai, the children of Meunim, the children of Nephishesim,
53 The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur,
54 The children of Bazlith, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha,
55 The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Tamah,
56 The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.
57 The children of Solomon’s servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Perida,
58 The children of Jaala, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel,
59 The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Amon.
60 All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon’s servants, were three hundred ninety and two.
61 And these were they which went up also from Telmelah, Telharesha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer: but they could not shew their father’s house, nor their seed, whether they were of Israel.
62 The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred forty and two.
63 And of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, which took one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite to wife, and was called after their name.
64 These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.
65 And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim.
66 The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore,
67 Beside their manservants and their maidservants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and they had two hundred forty and five singing men and singing women.
68 Their horses, seven hundred thirty and six: their mules, two hundred forty and five:
69 Their camels, four hundred thirty and five: six thousand seven hundred and twenty asses.
70 And some of the chief of the fathers gave unto the work. The Tirshatha gave to the treasure a thousand drams of gold, fifty basons, five hundred and thirty priests’ garments.
71 And some of the chief of the fathers gave to the treasure of the work twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand and two hundred pound of silver.
72 And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand pound of silver, and threescore and seven priests’ garments.
73 So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.
Nehemiah is now finished rebuilding the city, and it needs populating. He locates the genealogical records naming the previous inhabitants of the city, and the people (their descendants) start rolling into that big ol' vacant city. They bring gifts with them. Here's the plan in verse 6, "These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city;" The remainder of this chapter contains the same list of inhabitants we saw in Ezra 2 (see notes).
There's an issue with some so-called priests in verses 63-65. Ezra also mentions it in Ezra 2:61-63 (see notes). The ancestors of these men had married into the priesthood. That's unacceptable; it's gotta be in the genes. No more priesthood for these guys unless it can be proved that they, themselves, are in the bloodline of priestly families! They might be able resume when they get an official word from a high priest with the "Urim and Thummim." Our first reference to the Urim and Thummim is found in Exodus 28:30 (see notes), "And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aarons heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually." We're not sure what these two items looked like, and they are only mentioned seven times in the Old Testament. They obviously had much to do with knowing God's will. These items were placed into the breastplate of the High Priest beginning with Aaron.
Finally repopulated. Verse 73 says, "So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims (temple servants), and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities." How many? Verse 68 tells us there were 42,360 who returned at this time.