King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Nehemiah 4

Opposition of Sanballat and others. (1-6) The designs of the adversaries. (7-15) Nehemiah’s precautions. (16-23)

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Opposition of Sanballat and others

1 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.

2 And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?

3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.

4 Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity:

5 And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.

6 So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.

The designs of the adversaries

7 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth,

8 And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

9 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.

10 And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.

11 And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.

12 And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.

13 Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows.

14 And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the LORD, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

15 And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work.

Nehemiah’s precautions

16 And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah.

17 They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.

18 For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.

19 And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another.

20 In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.

21 So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.

22 Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day.

23 So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 2. Multitude. Heb. and Sept. “army.” C. — Silly. Lit. “feeble.” H. — Sacrifice, at the dedication. T. — Day, in so short a time, as their present vigorous proceedings seem to promise, notwithstanding their feeble condition, and the paucity of their numbers. H. — But no: we shall have time enough to hinder them, (M.) if the nature of their materials do it not for us. H. — Raise. Heb. “revive;” a word used for reparations of walls, &c. C. Delrio, adag. 221. — Sept. “heal.” God’s providence did not permit the enemy to rage, till the work was greatly advanced; so infidels laugh at the attempts of your priests to restore religion, which nevertheless flourishes. W.

Ver. 3. Leap over. Heb. Sept. &c. “break down.” C. — Bitter sarcasm, which excites the indignation of Nehemias! T.

Ver. 4. Captivity. Since they have not learnt to commiserate others. C.

Ver. 5. Face. Punish the obstinate. T. — He does not wish that they may continue impenitent. C. — But, on that supposition, he approves of the divine justice, and foretells what will happen. E. — Revenge was equally criminal under the old law, as it is at present. But the servants of God express their approbation (C.) of his inscrutable counsels. The imperative in Heb. is often used for the future tense. H. — Mocked. Prot. “provoked thee…before the builders.” Sept. omit most of this and the following verses; having only, “Do not hide thyself, with respect to wickedness.” H.

Ver. 6. Thereof, all round; as masons were stationed in different parts, (v. 19.) and not barely on one side of the city. C. — Tobias alludes to the present lowness of the walls, v. 3. H.

Ver. 8. Together, to the number of 180,000, according to the Jews; who say that they were terrified, at the excommunication pronounced by 300 priests against them, while 300 young men sounded trumpets; and they fled, leaving Nehemias at liberty to continue the work. It is a pity that we have no foundation for this in Scripture. C. See 1 Esd. iv. 3. H. — The Samaritans durst not openly attack the Jews, who were under the protection of the Persian monarch. But they endeavoured clandestinely to injure them, (T.) and to prepare ambushes. H.

Ver. 10. Juda. Some of the Jews, (M.) who were dispirited at the greatness of the work and the threats of the enemy. — Burdens. Sept. “of the enemies.” Arab. “the Jews were strengthened, there were many porters, but they could not finish the work.” C. — Rubbish to be removed. T.

Ver. 12. Ten times, frequently. M. — Places, among the Cuthites. — Whence they. Prot. “ye return unto us, they will be upon you.“ Heb. the second person is put for the third, which occurs in the Sept. &c. though they refer it to the enemy. “They come up from all places against us.” H. — De Dieu would translate, “return to us,” cultivate the friendship of Sanaballat; or “return home,” and leave off this work. The sense of the Vulg. is the most easy, and the best. C.

Ver. 13. Place. Heb. adds, “below.” — Round. Heb. “on the hills.” H. — To remove the apparent contradiction, (C.) Prot. supply, “and on the higher places.” Sept. “in lurking holes,” skepeinois.

Ver. 14. Remember. These are the most powerful arguments to encourage an army. H.

Ver. 16. Their. Heb. “my servants,” (M.) half of whom only wrought, while the rest stood guard. If we adhere to the Vulg. we must suppose that Nehemias altered his first plan, and ordered almost all to be ready to fight or to labour, as occasion might require, v. 17. C. — In. “Over, (H.) or behind all the family of Juda,” (Vatab.) encouraging the people by word, and sometimes by example. T. M.

Ver. 17. Sword. Heb. “dart.” C. — The expression seems to be proverbial. So Ovid makes Canacea speak, “My right hand holds the pen, my left the sword;” (H.) while I write, I am on the point of killing myself. C.

Dextra tenet calamum, strictum tenet altera ferrum. Ep. Her.

Ver. 18. By me, when the enemy appeared. M.

Ver. 20. For us. Yet we must act with prudence and courage. H.

Ver. 22. Midst. Before they had gone home. C. — Let us. Prot. “that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day.” H.

Ver. 23. Clothes, even to sleep. — Only. Sept. Compl. “man and his arms to the water.” H. — They went armed to fetch water; (Malvenda) or they had their armour and water always at hand. Junius, &c. — Heb. “each kept his dart at the water.” It may have various senses. C. — Prot. agree with the Vulg. “saving that every one put them off for washing” (H.) them, or themselves. T.