Nehemiah 6:1-19


There are three separate threats to the completion of the wall discussed in this chapter.

1.   Verse 1-9 - Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem write letters to Nehemiah trying to convince him to leave the work at Jerusalem, come to Ono and discuss some "mysterious" proposition.

2.   Verse 10-14 - Shemaiah tried to persuade Nehemiah to hide in the House of God instead of working on the wall.

3.   Verse 17-19 - The Nobles of Judah who wrote letters to Tobiah.


Part 1, Verse 1-9


Verse 1-3,  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?

I.    This is the fourth different type of attack by the enemies of Israel, who try to stop the building on the wall.

A.  The list of times.

1.   2:19 - The enemies begin their attack by laughing the Jews to scorn.

2.   4:2 - Secondly, they publicly made fun of the Jews.

3.   4:8 - Thirdly, they attempted to physically fight the people.

4.   6:1-9 - Fourthly, there is an attempt to draw off the leader.

B.   The attempt to draw off the leader.

1.   Every project needs a leader.

2.   The Jews hadn't worked on the wall without a leader.

3.   If the leader could be drawn off the project, the people would soon follow.  The pastor is the "angel" or "spiritual overseer" of the sheep.  If Satan can get him, he'll soon have the rest of the sheep.

4.   If Satan can get the other leaders of the church to go astray, he will soon get the younger members.

5.   Listen to this poem:



Twas a sheep, not a lamb that strayed away

in the parable Jesus told.

A grown up sheep that had gone astray,

from the ninety and nine in the fold.


Out on the hillside, out in the cold.

Twas a sheep the Good Shepherd sought,

and back to the flock safe into the fold.

Twas a sheep the Good Shepherd brought.


And why for the sheep should we earnestly long?

And earnestly hope and pray?

Because there is danger if they go wrong,

they will lead the lambs astray.


For the lambs will follow the sheep, you know.

Wherever the sheep may stray.

When the sheep go wrong, it will not be long,

till the lambs are as wrong as they.


And so for the sheep we earnestly plead,

for the sake of the lambs today;

If the lambs are lost, what terrible costs,

Some sheep will have to pay.


C.   Some comments about the "sheep".

1.   The word "sheep" in the New Testament always refers to either a saved person, or an small, adult, four-legged animal.

2.   The word "lamb" refers to either (1) a young, four-legged animal (young sheep), (2) a young saved person (Christian), or (3) Christ.

a.   When the word "lamb" is capitalized it always refers to Christ.

b.   When the small "l" is used, the word "lamb" refers to either a young sheep, or a young Christian.

3.   The word "lamb" or "lambs" appears 33 times in the New Testament.

a.   One time the word refers to a young sheep.

b.   One time, John 21:15, Christ instructing Peter to "feed the lambs" is the only time the word "lamb" refers to young Christians.

c.   The other 31 times, the word "lamb" refers to Christ, the lamb of the world!


II.   How did Nehemiah know his enemies were still against him?

A.  Past experience.

1.   We must not hold past errors against anybody, but we must not be fooled by "crocodile tears".

2.   We must forgive and forget, but this comes after forgiveness is asked.

B.   Present actions.

1.   If they wanted to help in the work, they would have come to Jerusalem, not ask Nehemiah to come to them.

a.   Jerusalem is the place to worship.

b.   The plain of Ono is far away.

1.   The city of Ono is in the plain of Ono.

2.   About 30 miles distant.

2.   If they had wanted to discuss the work, they would have come for a first hand look.

3.   The truth is: they want something different from the Jews.

4.   We have the same thing here:

a.   This is the place to worship God.

b.   Some people have left this place of worship.  They say they want to worship, but not like we do.

c.   They have attempted to draw away some of the members of this church to follow them.

d.   If they had really wanted to worship God, they would have stayed and worshipped God, but they desired to control the church, and had to go off by themselves and form their own church in opposition to this church.


III. Nehemiah's reaction.

A.  Sent messengers - didn't talk to them himself - his work is too important to leave.

B.   Couldn't leave work.

1.   The work was great and he couldn't leave.

2.   sometimes we consider the work of God so unimportant we leave it for any reason.

C.   The mischief might be some kind of physical harm.


Verse 4, Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

I.    The first four letters.

A.  The request of the enemies was always the same.

B.   The reply of Nehemiah was always the same.

1.   We shouldn't compromise even under repeated attacks.

2.   Don't be like Balaam.

3.   Many pastors and church members think it's easier to compromise than stand.  The long term results of compromise is destruction.

C.   Stopping the work of God to listen to the enemy is never good.

1.   God commanded Israel to leave the heathen alone, not listen to the reasons for their worship.

2.   If we begin to listen to their arguments, we'll soon begin to take sides with them, against God.

3.   Example:

a.   Israel marrying heathens.

b.   Compromising the truth.

c.   Samson listening to Delilah.


Verse 5, Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;

I.    The fifth letter.

A.  An open letter - written publicly, to all the Jews.

1.   Sanballat seemed to want to talk to Nehemiah privately, if he would come to Ono.

2.   The open letter proves that Sanballat has on his mind to hinder the work on the wall.

B.   Sanballat sent his servant with the letter.

1.   It is amazing that he wanted Nehemiah to leave his work and come to him, but he wouldn't even deliver the letter in person.

2.   This is very one sided.

3.   Sanballat expects Nehemiah to leave his work, but Sanballat won't leave his!

4.   If Sanballat really wanted to talk to Nehemiah, he would have come to Nehemiah.


Verse 6-7, 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.

I.    The "heathen" (A "heathen" is an unbeliever).

A.  The people who wrote the letter are heathen, and they are accusing others of being heathen!!

1.   Sanballat is attempting to say he is also a believer in God and His promises.  (If they were, they would be working on the wall.)

2.   Take counsel together - They were trying to appear as "angels of light" - attempting to help, when in truth they are a hindrance.

B.   The lies they tell, that Nehemiah and the Jews will attempt to rebel against the king.

1.   The threat is that if Nehemiah doesn't meet with his enemies that somebody will tell the king of the supposed plans.

2.   It is very clearly implied that Sanballat will tell the king about these false rumors.

3.   With Gashmu as a witness, of course.

4.   There is no Bible record of who Gashmu is, except that Gashmu is another spelling of Geshem.

5.   If Gashmu is Geshem the Arabian (2:19, 6:1, 6:2), then he is a sorry witness indeed.

C.   It is very interesting to notice the things some people think.

1.   If the heathen are saying that Nehemiah intends to lead the Jews in rebellion, that is what they would do if they had the opportunity.

2.   The reason so many people think so many bad things about others is because they would do exceedingly bad things if they had the opportunity.


Verse 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.

I.    The best defense.

A.  Tell it like it is.

1.   Didn't try to defend himself.

2.   There might have been some people in Jerusalem who were thinking of making Nehemiah king, but that wasn't on Nehemiah's mind.

B.   Nehemiah denies that there are any such rumors.

1.   Sanballat has reached this conclusion out of his own heart, not his mind.

2.   His heart is very wicked, therefore, his mind devises wicked thoughts.


Verse 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.

I.    The purpose of Sanballat's letters.

A.  To make the Jews afraid so they wouldn't work on the wall.

B.   These heathen are against the Jews and will do anything to hurt them.


II.   The result of Sanballat's letters.

A.  The Jews did become afraid.  And there is good reason to be afraid.

1.   If the king heard the false rumors, he might believe them, and not only stop the work on the wall, but tear down what they had built.

2.   He would probably take Nehemiah back to Shushan, along with the leaders at Jerusalem, and put them all in prison, or kill them.

B.   Nehemiah's prayer.

1.   Strengthen my hands - the perfect prayer for us.

2.   Didn't ask that the opposition be killed, or the truth be revealed to them or anybody else.

3.   Acts 4:23-31 - The same thing the early church did.

4.   God wants us to ask him for grace to overcome, not that all our troubles be removed.

5.   Troubles teach us to lean more and more upon the Lord.


Part 2, Verse 10-14


Verse 10-11,  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.

I.    We are children of the king and should flee from sin because of our position.

A.  I don't believe Nehemiah was running away from the work God gave him to do.

B.   He probably went to Shemaiah for a period of rest.


II.   There is really no way to tell who Shemaiah is, except that he is a person that Nehemiah thinks well of.

A.  It appears that Nehemiah went to Shemaiah for counseling, or rest.

1.   It appears that Nehemiah would not think this man would do anything to harm him, Israel, or give any bad advice at all.

2.   It is likely Nehemiah was seeking refuge from the strain of building the wall.

3.   He didn't find refuge in Shemaiah at all, but another problem.

B.   All servants of God ought to rest assured that they must follow God whether anybody else does or not.

1.   They must determine what God wants them to do, and do it with all their heart.

2.   Sometimes even our best friends will intentionally lead us astray just as assuredly as our enemies will.

3.   Sometimes our friends will lead us wrong, but won't intend to, but Nehemiah believed this man intentionally gave him bad advice.


III. Shemaiah was shut up, doing Satan's work - false prophets and prophetess.

A.  This means he had locked himself in the temple of God.

1.   For fear.

2.   Pretence for worship.

3.   He really hadn't lock himself in for fear or worship, but was carefully laying a trap for Nehemiah.

B.   Sanballat and his evil companions know they can't get Nehemiah to come to Ono, away from the wall construction, so they devise this plan to lure Nehemiah into the temple, away from the wall construction.

1.   Our enemies will try every scheme they can think of to get us to stop serving God.

2.   If they can't get Nehemiah to leave the work one way, they'll try another way.


IV. Shemaiah appears to have the best interest of Nehemiah on his heart.

A.  It is good for followers to think of the safety of their leaders.

B.   It is good for leaders to think of the safety of their followers.

C.   Shemaiah pretends to care for Nehemiah's life.

1.   If he really cared for Nehemiah, he would also care for the work of God.

2.   When Nehemiah leaves the work on the wall to hide in the temple, the work will stop.

3.   If Shemaiah really cared for Nehemiah and the work of God, he would grab his weapon, get out of hiding and protect Nehemiah with his own life while Nehemiah worked on the wall!


V.  Nehemiah's answer to Shemaiah.

A.  Why does Nehemiah say, "Should such a man as I?"

1.   I don't think Nehemiah is bragging on himself.

2.   He is stating that he is a man who is publicly trusting God in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.

3.   He is a public figure, thus he would influence many people.

B.   Nehemiah is willing to die for the wall.

1.   Sometimes we believe we have much conviction about a certain thing, but do we have enough conviction to die for it?

2.   Maybe a better way to ask this question is, "Do we have enough conviction about a certain thing to live like we have conviction?"

3.   The threat against Nehemiah's life was very real.


Verse 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.

I.    Nehemiah knew God hadn't sent him because his advice wouldn't further the work.

A.  A prophet would declare, "Thus saith the Lord..."

B.   Shemaiah didn't do this, but gave his advice.

C.   It is exceedingly terrible when the enemies of God can bribe our friends to lead us astray.

1.   This has happened to me.  A deacon in the Hornbeck church knew all kinds of wicked things were going on, but wouldn't do anything about them, or even tell me what was going on.  He did it for money.  Nobody actually gave him any money, but they told him if something didn't happen to take control of the church away from me, the pastor, and give control of the church back to the women of the church, they would stop giving their offerings to the church, then the church couldn't pay its bills, or their pastor.  I found all this out after I gave the church my resignation.  His wife told me.  It's a real shame the deacon wouldn't follow God, listen to his Godly wife, or follow his pastor.  It's a shame he was afraid because of money, for God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

2.   We need to be very careful lest we be bribed into giving false advice.  All of our advice should come from the Bible, and be "...thus saith the Lord".  We must be very careful to not give advice for the safety of our friends, against God's will for them.

D.  We must remember that any advice that is given that is "opinions" may not be good advice.

1.   Any advice we hear that is based on God's Word will be good.

2.   We ought to judge everything by "thus saith the Lord".


II.   Shemaiah was hired by Tobiah and Sanballat.

A.  Just how Nehemiah reached this conclusion could be debated, but we must believe that Nehemiah reached the right conclusion.

1.   We weren't with Nehemiah, so we can't understand all the details concerning his meeting with Shemaiah.

2.   Nehemiah wrote this book under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, therefore, what Nehemiah wrote is the truth.

B.   We need to consider how many people have turned against Nehemiah and the building of the wall.

1.   Some of the rulers and nobles that ate at Nehemiah's table charged usury against the Jews, thus hindered the work on the wall.

2.   See notes on Nehemiah 6:18 to understand that some family members worked on the wall, while other family members tried to stop the building of the wall.

C.   During all this, Nehemiah was responsible to know who was on God's side and to stand against all who rebelled against God.

1.   This can be a most difficult thing.

2.   When you have to stand against a member of a family, the other family members often don't understand that you are not against the person, but are against what they are doing.

3.   There are people who will stand with their family regardless of whether they are right or wrong.  Nehemiah was in this position, but he stood firm for Godly convictions.

4.   He is a very good example for us.


Verse 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.

I.    The reason Shemaiah was hired.

A.  That Nehemiah and the Jews should be afraid.

1.   It is not necessarily wrong to be afraid, but the kind of fear Shemaiah intended to instill in Nehemiah would be wrong.

2.   To have fear but go ahead, is courage, and is not sin.

3.   The fear that Shemaiah wanted to put into Nehemiah would be a sin against God.

4.   Nehemiah would become an open shame to God.  The reasonings would be that God was not able to give Nehemiah the strength necessary to continue regardless of fear.

B.   That this fear would become a sin.

1.   The fear would cause Nehemiah to lock himself in the temple and not work on the wall.

2.   Satan pulls the same trick on us today.

3.   It is possible for a person to "lock himself" in the church building, worshipping only inside the four walls of the building, never taking the gospel out into the world (which is the field), thus committing sin.

4.   Let us not be used - pretending safety, destroying God's cause.

C.   That this fear and hiding would be subject for an evil report.

1.   Nobody would see Nehemiah or know what he was thinking.

2.   People with evil rumors about Nehemiah and why he was in the temple would thrive and Nehemiah wouldn't be there to contradict them.

3.   As a matter of fact, his life would prove the evil rumors to be true.

D.  That all of this would be a reproach to Nehemiah.

1.   It would be a fact of his life that would make further work on the wall even more difficult.

2.   If Nehemiah hid in the temple, he would actually disqualify himself in the eyes of many people.

3.   Some people would continue working, but many would stop because they didn't believe in their leader.

4.   It is true that people ought to believe in God, but God has given leaders for the people to follow.

5.   Nehemiah - getting God's job done is more important than his own life.

6.   Matt. 16:25 - If we save our life we shall lose it.


Verse 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.

I.    Nehemiah doesn't bring a railing accusation against his enemies.

A.  We shouldn't either.

B.   Jude 9, Michael the archangel didn't bring a railing accusation against Satan, but said, "The Lord rebuke thee".

C.   It is enough that God would judge every man according to his own works.

1.   That will be a terrible judgment indeed.

2.   Only the grace of God to cover our sinfulness will allow us to be overcomers at the judgment.

D.  Nehemiah thought of his enemies as he desired God to think of Himself.

1.   This is what we ought to do.

2.   The golden rule of Matt. 7:12, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".


II.   There were several prophets against Nehemiah.

A.  There will always be those "prophets of doom" who judge after the flesh, not according to God's Word.

B.   Noadiah.

1.   There is no record of just who Noadiah is.

2.   One thing we know about her, she seems to be leading the men.

3.   We know this is not according to God's plan.

4.   But these people are so ignorant of God's Word, they follow whoever looks good to them.

C.   Today it is exactly the same.

1.   There are many women preachers when God plainly says a preacher (pastor) is to be the husband of one wife.

2.   Those that oppose women preachers are said to be narrow minded.

3.   God was narrow minded when he gave the qualifications of a preacher (pastor).

4.   I want to be just as narrow minded as God!


III. Compare 5:19 - Not a private accusation.

A.  Nehemiah said it publicly.

B.   God's Holy Spirit had Nehemiah record the though in the Bible.


Some concluding thoughts


How can we really be sure of the will of God?  Compare the following two points:

1.   Acts 19:21 - Paul purposed in the spirit that he would go to Rome.

a.   Acts 21:4, certain disciples at Tyre told Paul he shouldn't go to Jerusalem.

b.   Acts 21:8-14, At Philip's house, a prophet came from Judea, who warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem for he would be bound, Acts 21:14 - they decided the will of the Lord be done.

c.   Acts 23:11 - God appeared to Paul, assuring him and giving him comfort that he would bear witness of God at Rome.

d.   Acts 25:11 - The circumstances so arranged by God caused Paul to appeal to Caesar.

e.   This was very apparently the will of God, even though it eventually lead to Paul's death.

2.   Acts 16:7 - Paul and Silas desired to go into Bithynia, but the spirit suffered them not.

a.   They desired to go into Bithynia, not on vacation, but to preach the Word.

b.   What happened that they didn't go?

c.   I really don't know, except that the Holy Spirit so impressed them that they knew He didn't want them going into this area at this time.

3.   It is sometimes difficult to know God's will.

a.   If we will continually study and pray, God will reveal His will to us.

b.   His will will always be in accordance to the Word of God.

c.   His will will always give us peace.

4.   You can never go by the difficulty of the situation to determine God's will.

a.   God will sometimes put us in hard circumstances to try our faith.

b.   Men will always put us in hard circumstances because they are Satan's tools.

c.   We determine God's will by examining God's Word.

d.   There will always be several scriptures that will confirm what course of action we should take.

e.   God will never leave us in doubt.


The Completion of the Wall


Verse 15, So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.

I.    This is a very remarkable thing when it is considered that most of the workmen were not builders by trade.


II.   John Gill comments:

A.  The walls around New Alexandria were 60 furlongs in length (more than 7 miles) and were completed in 17 days.

B.   The high walls around Constantinople were 20 miles in circumference, and were finished in two months.

C.   Josephus does say that the wall around Jerusalem was completed in 2 years and 4 months.  It may be that Josephus calculates from the time Nehemiah first heard about the ruin of the wall until the time he finished it.


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.

I.    The enemies heard about the completion of the wall.

A.  They could have been a part of the building, but they tried to hinder it instead.

B.   The beginning of a thing is always harder than the ending.  At the beginning, there is nothing "concrete" or visible to build to, there is only an image in the mind.  At the end, all can see and understand.


II.   Cast down.

A.  Because they couldn't stop it.

B.   Envied the Jews.

1.   It is very important to note that the heathen weren't cast down in the eyes of the Jews.

2.   It is always wrong to look down on anybody, but it is always wrong to compromise God's Word to get along with anybody.

C.   Now can't defeat them.

D.  They know the work is of God - Even the heathen know.


Part 3, Verse 17-19


Verse 17, Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.

I.    Nobles of Judah corresponding with enemies.

A.  Here are those nobles again!

1.   These may be the same nobles that were charging usury to their fellow Jews.

2.   These people have riches, and are interested in keeping all of them they can.

3.   They are looking at things through the eyes of flesh, not faith.

4.   They are in the habit of using political situations to their benefit, and will continue to do so.

B.   Not honorable to God and country.

1.   They put their own personal wealth before the welfare of their own country.

2.   This same thing is happening today when people, businesses, government think only in the short term, and never in the long term.

C.   Nobles (wealthy people) are not always wise to God's plan.

D.  Sometimes nobles are not as important as they think they are.

1.   When I was in Hornbeck, the political machine there was very powerful.

2.   Nothing was done politically without "greasing the machine".

3.   Anything could be done politically by "greasing the machine".

4.   The gospel was hindered, even in the church, because this same "political" attitude prevailed in the church.


II.   There is no record of how many letters were sent, but Nehemiah says there were many.


Verse 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.

I.    Bad marriages caused this.

A.  Most people believe who they marry is their own business.

1.   If these Jews had married in the Jewish nation, they wouldn't even face this problem now.

2.   We can avoid many problems by obeying the commandments of God, even though we don't understand why certain things ought to be done.

B.   The truth is that they need to marry in the Lord because they and their children will pay for disobedience, and be blessed for obedience.


II.   Some of the Jews are sworn to men, not to God.

A.  The influence of people is stronger than the influence of God.  These Jews are living by sight, not faith.  They are trusting Tobiah's political connections, not expecting God to do anything at all.  They don't realize God has the heart of the king in His hand.

B.   They are looking at fleshly things to increase their temporal statue and material possessions.


III. Who are these people?

A.  Tobiah is the son in law of Shechaniah, the son of Arah, Ezra 2:5, who is a head of a family that traveled from Babylon to Israel with Zerubbabel.

1.   Tobiah's son had married the daughter of Meshullam, the son of Berechiah.

2.   Nehemiah 3:4,30 records that Meshullam is a diligent worker on the wall.

B.   What we have here is a mixture of truth and error.

1.   The Jews are very diligent to work on the wall, but are also very lax in who they associate with.

2.   They have allowed their children to marry the heathen.

C.   Question:  Why are these Jews working on the wall?

1.   One thing is true, they don't really understand the will of God, see the reading of the law in Nehemiah 8.

2.   They don't really understand the purpose of the wall, the temple, or Jerusalem, or God's precious promises to Israel.

3.   Many in the church are like this.

4.   They mix with the world to the destruction of their own families (their children).

5.   They don't understand what real separation is.

6.   A lot of people believe separation means women don't wear pants, and have long hair and men don't wear dresses and have short hair!

7.   They don't understand those outward things because they don't understand the inward separation.


Verse 19, Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.

I.    They told what a good fellow Tobiah was.  We don't need to speak ill of good men, but don't speak well of bad men.


II.   What is completely amazing was that some people never seemed to understand what was going on.

A.  Some people continued telling Nehemiah what a good fellow Tobiah and Sanballat were.

1.   This shows us that some Jews continued associating with Sanballat and Tobiah, listening to their Satanic ideas, and being convinced of their "truthfulness".

2.   A very good principle is to forsake the company of those that forsake God, and make friends of those that desire to fear God.

B.   When a church member is excluded, the remaining church members are commanded to treat them like they are lost people.

1.   Faithful church members will not listen to the "reasons" the excluded member did what they did, but will back up the actions of the church, never saying, "they (referring to the church) excluded you".

2.   They will always say "we (including themselves and approving the church action) excluded you.