Nehemiah 4:12
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) From all places.—The neighbouring Jews in their terror said by repeated messages “from all places ‘Ye shall return to us,’ “: that is, for our protection.

Nehemiah 4:12. And the Jews which dwelt by them — Who were neighbours to that people; or dwelt among them, as the words may be rendered, whereby they became acquainted with their counsels. They said unto us ten times — That is, they came and informed us very often, for ten times, in Scripture, signifies a great many times. From all places whence ye shall return unto us, &c. — That is, they will attack you by all the ways by which we can come to you, or you to us, or wherever there is any communication between you and us; therefore take care to keep watches on every side. Hence it appears, that though those Jews, who dwelt near or among the Samaritans, had not zeal enough to induce them to come to Jerusalem to help their brethren in building the wall; yet, having discovered the enemies’ design, they had so much honesty, and affection to the cause, as to give intelligence of it: nay, that their information might be the more credited, they came themselves to make them acquainted with it, repeating it many times, as men in earnest, and under a concern to have it believed.

4:7-15 The hindering good work is what bad men aim at, and promise themselves success in; but good work is God's work, and it shall prosper. God has many ways of bringing to light, and so of bringing to nought, the devices and designs of his church's enemies. If our enemies cannot frighten us from duty, or deceive us into sin, they cannot hurt us. Nehemiah put himself and his cause under the Divine protection. It was the way of this good man, and should be our way. All his cares, all his griefs, all his fears, he spread before God. Before he used any means, he made his prayer to God. Having prayed, he set a watch against the enemy. If we think to secure ourselves by prayer, without watchfulness, we are slothful, and tempt God; if by watchfulness, without prayer, we are proud, and slight God: either way, we forfeit his protection. God's care of our safety, should engage and encourage us to go on with vigour in our duty. As soon as a danger is over, let us return to our work, and trust God another time.Ten times - i. e. repeatedly.

From all places ... - Better as in the margin. The Jews who dwelt on the Samaritan border, came to Jerusalem and tried to withdraw their contingents of workmen from the work, representing to them the impending danger, and saying, "You must return to your homes, and so escape it."

Ne 4:7-23. He Sets a Watch.

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."

Which dwelt by them, or, among them; whereby they came to the knowledge of their counsels.

Ten times, i.e. very often. A certain number for an uncertain.

They will be upon you, i.e. they will invade you every way, by which we can come to you, or you to us; and therefore do you keep watches on every side. But these words may be otherwise rendered thus, On all parts where you shall be quiet, or at rest, (i.e. secure; for the Hebrew schub signifies not only to return, but also to be quiet, or at ease, as Hebricians know,) they will be upon us, i.e. upon our people, and city Jerusalem, where you are. And they rather say upon us than upon you, to manifest their affection to them, and conjunction with them, and that they looked upon themselves as members of the same body and church with them, and took what was designed or done against them, as if it were against themselves, and therefore gave them this friendly notice. Or the place may be rendered thus, They told this (to wit, the enemy’s intentions) to us ten times, coming from all places where they dwelt, or rested, (Heb. you rested; the second person being put for the third, as it is both in the Hebrew language, as Genesis 10:19,30 Ge 25:18, and in the Hebrew text, Psalm 22:9, and in other languages and authors; of which see my Latin Synopsis upon Genesis 10:19; and that it is so here we have the consent of the LXX. and Arabic, and of some modern and accurate interpreters, who render it by a verb of the third person,) about us; whence they came purposely to inform and warn us. Or thus, They told this to us ten times from all places whence they did return to us: which phrase of returning to us, i.e. to Jerusalem, suits very well with those persons who came up with their brethren from Babylon to Jerusalem, and went thence into several parts of the country to dwell where they thought meet, and returned now, and at other times, as they had occasion, to their brethren at Jerusalem.

Near Samaria, Arabia, and Ashdod, and had intelligence of their designs:

came, they said to us ten times; that is, they came to them at Jerusalem, and often told them, as this phrase "ten times" signifies; see Gill on Genesis 31:7,

from all places whence ye shall return unto us: they will be upon you, come which way you will, so that ye are in the utmost danger: or "from all places"; where you are repairing and rebuilding:

return to us; that ye may enjoy peace and prosperity with us under Sanballat, &c. and escape the wrath and fury you are now exposed to; or "from all places we come, that ye may return to us"; so De Dieu; these Jews, though they pretended to be friends, to their brethren, yet seemed to be in friendship with their enemies, and sought to discourage them, and weaken their minds, and cause them to cease building.

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

(f) That is, often.

(g) They who brought the tidings said this, when you leave your work, and go either to eat or to rest, your enemies will assail you.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. The translation of the last clause of this verse presents a great difficulty, and leaves us doubtful with what intention the Jews here spoken of addressed their countrymen.

The verse stands in very loose connexion with the two previous verses. It represents a fresh complication in the difficult position which confronted Nehemiah. To discontent within, and the schemes of the foe without, is added the panic of the Jews in the outlying districts.

the Jews which dwelt by them] By this expression are apparently intended the Jewish dwellers in towns and districts adjacent to the territory of the Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabians and Philistines, who had sent contingents to assist in the rebuilding of the walls—e.g. Jericho, Tekoah, Gibeon, Mizpah, Zanoah (chap. Nehemiah 3:2; Nehemiah 3:5; Nehemiah 3:7; Nehemiah 3:13). ‘by them,’ comp. Nehemiah 5:3.

they said unto us ten times] i.e. again and again, as often as occasion offered—cf. Genesis 31:41, ‘Thou hast changed my wages ten times.’

From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you] R.V. from all places, Ye must return unto us, marg. ‘Or, From all places whence ye shall return they will be upon us’. The Authorised Version is here unintelligible.

(1) The R.V. text is a literal translation, with the exception of the omission of the relative before ‘Ye must return.’ This however may be explained as an instance of the relative in late Hebrew idiom prefixed to the ‘Oratio Recta,’ like ὅτι in late Greek. ‘From all places’ refers to the scattered Jewish communities. The foes of Jerusalem were on every side; the fears of the Jewish frontier-towns on every side were increased by the growing hostility of the neighbouring peoples. The words of their petition to Nehemiah and his companions may be explained in one of two ways.

(a) They express apprehension on their own account and for their own homes. Deprived of the able-bodied men who had been sent to work at the walls on Jerusalem, these little towns and villages could not hope to defend themselves against the gathering foe. Wherefore they address themselves through the leaders to their fellow-townsmen sojourning in Jerusalem, ‘Ye must return unto us.’

(b) They are alarmed for the safety of their fellow-townsmen. They see the combination of foes against Jerusalem and regard her overthrow as certain. They entreat their own friends and relatives to return home in time to save their lives.

Of these alternatives (a) is much to be preferred.

(2) The R.V. marg. ‘From all places whence ye shall return they will be upon us.’ This rendering is perfectly literal, but it seems impossible to find a satisfactory meaning for ‘whence ye shall return.’ The interpretation ‘On every side, as soon as you leave a place, the enemy occupy it and attack us,’ gives a fair sense, but is hardly applicable to the circumstances. The Jews had no moving forces in the field.

(3) Another rendering which is supplied by the reading of the 3rd pers. for the 2nd pers. plur. is found in the Versions, LXX., Vulg., and Peshitto Syriac. The 3rd pers. plur. then refers to the enemy; and the translation will run, ‘And they told it us ten times from all the places where the enemy went to and fro against us.’ (LXX. ἀναβαίνουσινἐφʼ ἡμᾶς. Vulg. venerant ad nos). But the alteration of the text has the appearance of a correction to make the passage easier; and the renderings ‘told,’ instead of ‘said,’ ‘went to and fro,’ instead of ‘return,’ introduce fresh difficulties.

Verse 12. - If the text is sound, it can only mean that the Jews who dwelt in the outlying towns, in the neighbourhood of Ammon, Samaria, Ashdod, etc., came repeatedly to Jerusalem, and tried to draw off their contingents, saying to them, "You must return to us." But it is suspected that there is a corruption of the original words of Nehemiah, and that what he wrote was, that these Jews came repeatedly to Jerusalem and warned him of the enemy's designs. (So Ewald, Houbigant, Dathe, A. Clarke, and others. ) Nehemiah 4:12(Nehemiah 4:6-7)

When, therefore, the Jews who dwelt near them, i.e., in the neighbourhood of the adversaries, and heard their words, came to Jerusalem, "and said to us ten times (i.e., again and again), that from all places ye must return to us, then I placed," etc. Jews came from all places to Jerusalem, and summoned those who were building there to return home, for adversaries were surrounding the community on all sides: Sanballat and the Samaritans on the north, the Ammonites on the east, the Arabians on the south, and the Philistines (Ashdodites) on the west. אשׁר before תּשׁוּבוּ introduces their address, instead of כּי; being thus used, e.g., before longer speeches, 1 Samuel 15:20; 2 Samuel 1:4; and for כּי generally, throughout the later books, in conformity to Aramaean usage. "Return to us" (על שׁוּב, as in 2 Chronicles 30:9, for אל שׁוּב), said the Jews who came from all quarters to Jerusalem to their fellow-townsmen, who from Jericho, Gibeon, and Tekoa (comp. Nehemiah 3:2-3, Nehemiah 3:5, Nehemiah 3:7) were working on the wall of Jerusalem. These words express their fear lest those who were left at home, especially the defenceless women, children, and aged men, should be left without protection against the attacks of enemies, if their able-bodied men remained any longer in Jerusalem to take part in the building of the wall.

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