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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And Judah said.—As hereafter, in the case of the complaints of the people (Nehemiah 5), the writer gives a summary of difficulties. The Jews, or “Judah”—a significant term—complained of their growing feebleness, especially as so many were diverted to the watches.Nehemiah 4:10. And Judah said — That is, the Jews now dwelling in Judah; to wit, some of them, being partly terrified by their enemies, and partly wearied with continual labour: the strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed — The labourers have wrought so long and so hard that they are quite spent; and there is much rubbish — More than we are able soon to remove: so that we are not able to build the wall — Being forced to spend our time in removing the rubbish, and therefore we must desist for a season. Can Judah, that warlike, valiant tribe, speak thus? Active, leading men, have many times as much to do to grapple with the fears of their friends as with the terrors of their enemies.
7-21. But … when Sanballat … heard that the walls … were made up, and … the breaches … stopped—The rapid progress of the fortifications, despite all their predictions to the contrary, goaded the Samaritans to frenzy. So they, dreading danger from the growing greatness of the Jews, formed a conspiracy to surprise them, demolish their works, and disperse or intimidate the builders. The plot being discovered, Nehemiah adopted the most energetic measures for ensuring the common safety, as well as the uninterrupted building of the walls. Hitherto the governor, for the sake of despatch, had set all his attendants and guards on the work—now half of them were withdrawn to be constantly in arms. The workmen labored with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other; and as, in so large a circuit, they were far removed from each other, Nehemiah (who was night and day on the spot, and, by his pious exhortations and example, animated the minds of his people) kept a trumpeter by his side, so that, on any intelligence of a surprise being brought to him, an alarm might be immediately sounded, and assistance rendered to the most distant detachment of their brethren. By these vigilant precautions, the counsels of the enemy were defeated, and the work was carried on apace. God, when He has important public work to do, never fails to raise up instruments for accomplishing it, and in the person of Nehemiah, who, to great natural acuteness and energy added fervent piety and heroic devotion, He provided a leader, whose high qualities fitted him for the demands of the crisis. Nehemiah's vigilance anticipated every difficulty, his prudent measures defeated every obstruction, and with astonishing rapidity this Jerusalem was made again "a city fortified."And Judah said, i.e. the Jews now dwelling in Judah, to wit, some of them, being partly terrified by their enemies, and partly wearied with hard and continual labours.
There is much rubbish; more than we are able suddenly to remove.
We are not able to build the wall; being forced to spend our time in removing the rubbish, and other works imposed upon us; and therefore we must desist at least for a season.
the strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed; through much labour, in carrying heavy loads of stone and timber to the builders, and yet more through fear of the enemy:
and there is much rubbish; which ought to be removed, but that the labourers were so weak that they could not do it: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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. And Judah said] i.e. the Jewish community speaking, by their rulers or representatives, to Nehemiah.
The strength of the bearers of burdens, &c.] Literally ‘the strength of the bearer of burdens, &c.,’ referring to the whole class of the working population. The LXX. wrongly ἡ ἰσχὺς τῶν ἐχθρῶν.
so that we are not able, &c.] The complaint here described seems to be introduced at this point to show the variety of obstacles to the work. Besides the direct hostility of the Samaritans, the Jews themselves declared their strength to be giving way before the fatigue. The task of clearing away the accumulated rubbish before building the walls had exhausted their patience and their powers. It is not necessary to regard this declaration as mutinous. It was occasioned by the pressure felt by the whole community in consequence of the continuous labour upon the wall. There was no reserve to fall back upon in case of a sudden alarm. To Nehemiah at such a crisis the complaint must have greatly added to the difficulties of the moment. It had all the tone of disaffection, and reminded him that in the face of a hostile foe he could place little confidence either in the power or in the willingness of the Jewish citizens to defend themselves.Verse 10. - The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed. The complaint seems to be, that by the drawing off of men from the working parties to act as guards, those parties were so weakened that they could not continue the work, the quantity of rubbish being so great. Nehemiah 3:36-37)
When Nehemiah heard of these contemptuous words, he committed the matter to God, entreating Him to hear how they (the Jews) were become a scorn, i.e., a subject of contempt, to turn the reproach of the enemies upon their own head, and to give them up the plunder in a land of captivity, i.e., in a land in which they would dwell as captives. He supplicates, moreover, that God would not cover, i.e., forgive (Psalm 85:3), their iniquity, and that their sin might not be blotted out from before His face, i.e., might not remain unpunished, "for they have provoked to wrath before the builders," i.e., openly challenged the wrath of God, by despising Him before the builders, so that they heard it. הכעים without an object, spoken of provoking the divine wrath by grievous sins; comp. 2 Kings 21:6 with 2 Chronicles 33:6.
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