Nehemiah 2:19
But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that you do? will you rebel against the king?
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(19) Geshem the Arabian.—This name completes the triumvirate of the leaders of the opposition to the mission of Nehemiah. They were not independent chieftains: Tobiah was Sanballat’s servant and counsellor, while Geshem was probably the leader of an Arabian company mostly in his service. The account of their contemptuous opposition is given in a few touches, as is the contempt with which it was met They charged Nehemiah with rebellion, as afterwards, in chapter 6:6.

Nehemiah 2:19-20. When Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, &c. — These three seem to have been chief men among the Samaritans, and perhaps were invested with some offices or authority by the king of Persia. You have no portion nor right — Do not trouble yourselves about this matter, who have no possession among us, no authority over us, nor interest in our church or state; nor memorial in Jerusalem — No testimony or monument either of your relation to us by birth or religion, or of your kindness to us or to this place, but you are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel: therefore mind your own business, and do not meddle with ours. 2:19,20 The enmity of the serpent's seed against the cause of Christ is confined to no age or nation. The application to ourselves is plain. The church of God asks for our help. Is it not desolate, and exposed to assaults? Does the consideration of its low estate cause you any grief? Let not business, pleasure, or the support of a party so engage attention, as that Zion and her welfare shall be nothing to you.Geshem the Arabian - The discovery that Sargon populated Samaria in part with an Arab colony explains why Arabs should have opposed the fortification of Jerusalem. 16-18. the rulers knew not—The following day, having assembled the elders, Nehemiah produced his commission and exhorted them to assist in the work. The sight of his credentials, and the animating strain of his address and example, so revived their drooping spirits that they resolved immediately to commence the building, which they did, despite the bitter taunts and scoffing ridicule of some influential men. Geshem the Arabian; either the king’s lieutenant in Arabia, as Tobiah was among the Ammonites, and Sanballat among the Moabites; or rather, an Arabian by his birth. And it seems probable that both he, and Sanballat, and Tobiah were chief men or governors among the Samaritans, or in their army. See Nehemiah 4:1-3.

Will ye rebel against the king? do you design to fortify the city against the king. But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian,.... This third man might be both an Arabian by birth, and governor of some part of Arabia near Judea:

heard it; of their beginning to build:

they laughed us to scorn, and despised us; as very silly people, that undertook what they could never perform:

and said; adding threatenings to their scoffs:

what is this thing that ye do? do ye know what ye are about? have ye any authority to do it? it is unlawful, you will certainly suffer for it:

will ye rebel against the king? the king of Persia; it will be deemed rebellion and treason, and you will be taken up and treated as rebels and traitors; take care what you do, be it at your peril if you proceed.

But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and {h} Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye {i} rebel against the king?

(h) These were three chief governors under the king of Persia beyond the Euphrates.

(i) Thus the wicked when they will burden the children of God, always lay treason to their charge both because it makes them most odious to the world, and also stirs the hatred of princes against them.

19, 20. The Derision of the Enemy

19. Sanballat … Tobiah] See Nehemiah 2:10.

Geshem the Arabian] A third prominent adversary of Nehemiah is here introduced. His name occurs again in Nehemiah 6:1-2. In Nehemiah 6:6, the name is written as ‘Gashmu,’ a dialectical variety agreeing, as it is said, with North-Arabian usage. Geshem is clearly the chief of some Arabian tribe. But whether he represented Arabians on the Southern border of Judah or the Arabian community established by Sargon king of Assyria in the depopulated neighbourhood of Samaria (715) is a disputed point. If the former, then the movement, which he now took part in, must be regarded as a coalition of all the neighbouring peoples against the restoration of Jerusalem’s greatness. If the latter, then the movement is to be chiefly connected with the hostility of the Samaritans.

the Arabian] See on Nehemiah 4:7.

laughed us to scorn] A strong word, familiar to us from its occurrence in the Psalter (Psalm 2:4, Psalm 22:7, Psalm 59:8, Psalm 80:6). We are not told whether this scorn was expressed by letter or in a personal interview.

despised us] See the two words occurring together in 2 Kings 19:21; Ezekiel 36:4. The ground of the contempt here expressed is not quite obvious. Some suppose that the enemy scoffed in ignorance of the king’s decree in favour of Nehemiah’s action, and that, regarding the Jews as embarking upon a course of open rebellion, they derided an undertaking which they thought could have but one conclusion. On the other hand, it is hardly likely that Nehemiah would have kept in the background the royal authority for his undertaking. We know he had been to the ‘governors’ of the province (Nehemiah 2:9).

It is more probable that in order to alienate the Persian officials and to frighten the more timid spirits among the Jews, they pretended to interpret Nehemiah’s action as the first step towards a real rebellion. The insignificance of the Jewish community in size and strength—its inability to take any political step of real importance—presented an easy target for ridicule, which was calculated to arouse the suspicions of Persian officials at the same time that it promoted disaffection amongst the waverers in Jerusalem.

will ye rebel] Or ‘are ye rebelling?’ Vulg. Numquid contra regem vos rebellatis? LXX. ἀποστατεῖτε.Verse 19. - Geshem the Arabian, elsewhere called Gashmu (Nehemiah 6:6), may have been an independent sheikh possessing authority in Idumea, or in the desert country adjoining upon Ammon; but it seems quite as likely that he was merely the head of a body of Arab troops maintained by Sanballat at Samaria (Nehemiah 4:7). Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem are united so closely, and act so much together (Nehemiah 4:1-7; Nehemiah 6:1, 2, 6, 12, 14), that it is difficult to suppose them to be three chieftains residing on three sides of Judaea, the north, the east, and the south, merely holding diplomatic intercourse with each other, which is the ordinary idea. Note that Tobiah is present with Sanballat in Samaria on one occasion (Nehemiah 4:3), and that Geshem and Sanballat propose a joint interview with Nehemiah on another (Nehemiah 6:2). They laughed us to scorn, and said. Either by messengers, like Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:17-35), or by a formal written communication, as Ewald supposes ('History of Israel,' vol. 5. p. 154, E. Tr.). Will ye rebel? Compare Nehemiah 6:6; and see also Ezra 4:12-16. Had Artaxerxes not granted permission, Nehemiah's proceedings might naturally have borne this interpretation. "And I went out by night by the valley-gate, and towards the dragon-well, and to the dung-gate." אל־פּני, in the direction towards. The dragon-well only occurs here by this name. Judging from its position between the valley-gate and the dung-gate, it is either identical with the well of Gihon (Robinson, Palestine, ii. p. 166), whose waters supply the upper and lower pools in the valley of Gihon, the present Birket el Mamilla and Birket es Sultan, or situate in its immediate neighbourhood. The valley-gate is the modern gate of the city leading to the valley of Gihon, and situated at or near the present Jaffa gate; see rem. on Nehemiah 3:13. The dung-gate (האשׁפּת שׁער), which in Nehemiah 3:13 also is placed next the valley-gate, and was a thousand cubits distant therefrom, must be sought for on the south-western side of Zion, where a road, to the south of Nebi Dd and the Zion gate, now descends into the valley of Hinnom, towards Sr Baher. "And I viewed the walls of Jerusalem which lay broken down, and its gates which were consumed by fire." The word שׁבר, which the lxx read, "I was breaking down," gives no tolerable sense; for it cannot mean, I broke through the walls, or, I made a path through the ruins. Many MSS, however, and several editions, offer שׂבר; and R. Norzi informs us that D. Kimchi and Aben Ezra read שׁבר. שׂבר, of which only the Piel occurs in Hebrew, answers to the Aramaean סבר, to look to something; and to the Arabic sbr, to investigate; and ב סבר means to look on, to consider, to direct the eyes and thoughts to some object. In the open מ of הם Hiller conjectures that there is a trace of another reading, perhaps מפרצים; comp. Nehemiah 1:3.
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