Nehemiah 4:18
For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Nehemiah 4:18. He that sounded the trumpet was by me — To give the alarm, and call the people together, when and where it was necessary. It appears by this he was continually with them while they wrought upon the wall.

4:16-23 We must watch always against spiritual enemies, and not expect that our warfare will be over till our work is ended. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, which we ought to have always at hand, and never to have to seek for it, either in our labours, or in our conflicts, as Christians. Every true Christian is both a labourer and a soldier, working with one hand, and fighting with the other. Good work is likely to go on with success, when those who labour in it, make a business of it. And Satan fears to assault the watchful Christian; or, if attacked, the Lord fights for him. Thus must we wait to the close of life, never putting off our armour till our work and warfare are ended; then we shall be welcomed to the rest and joy of our Lord.Habergeons - Or, "coats of mail." Coats of mail were common in Assyria from the ninth century B.C., and in Egypt even earlier. They were made of thin laminae of bronze or iron, sewn upon leather or linen, and overlapping one another. 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the governor, for the sake of despatch, had set all his attendants and guards on the work—now half of them were withdrawn to be constantly in arms.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."

To call the people together, when and where it was fit and necessary.

For the builders had everyone his sword girded by his side, and so builded,.... Thus accoutred he wrought, and was prepared for either service:

and he that sounded the trumpet was by me; to give the alarm of war, that everyone might lay aside his work, and prepare for the battle: this officer stood by Nehemiah, that when he found it necessary, might give him orders to sound his trumpet, for the men to gather to him.

For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. For the builders] R.V. And the builders. Not, as A.V., a fresh explanatory sentence, but a continuation of the foregoing, a description of the other class of those engaged in the work.

his sword girded by his side] Both hands were occupied in the work of laying the stones, which would be done chiefly by skilful mechanism with pulleys and rollers. The free action of both hands would be requisite. But though thus fully occupied, they were to be armed against a surprise attack. The mention of the ‘sword’ here accounts for its absence in Nehemiah 4:16.

And he that &c.] This is a distinct parenthetical sentence introducing the personal reminiscence. The men were scattered over a large area, and the commands of the governor were to be given by sound of trumpet, so that the alarm could be given to all at the same time.

by me] i.e. at my side, cf. Nehemiah 4:3. The words imply that Nehemiah was the life and soul of the defence, and that he was untiring in moving from point to point in the wall, superintending the work and directing the disposition for the defence.

Verse 18. - For the builders. Rather, "and the (actual) builders"- masons, bricklayers, and the like, as distinct from the bearers of burthens, or carriers of material. He that sounded the trumpet. The signalman. Trumpeters appear both in the Egyptian and the Assyrian sculptures (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 539, second ed.; Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 2. p. 260). Nehemiah 4:18From that day the half of my servants wrought at the work, and the other half of them held the spears and shields, the bows and the armour, i.e., carried the arms. The servants of Nehemiah are his personal retinue, Nehemiah 4:17, Nehemiah 5:10, Nehemiah 5:16, namely, Jews placed at his disposal as Pechah for official purposes. The ו before הרמחים was probably placed before this word, instead of before the המּגנּים following, by a clerical error; for if it stood before the latter also, it might be taken in the sense of et - et. מצזיקים, instead of being construed with בּ, is in the accusative, as also in Nehemiah 4:11, and even in Jeremiah 6:23 and Isaiah 41:9, Isaiah 41:13. Unnecessary and unsuitable is the conjecture of Bertheau, that the word בּרמחים originally stood after מצזיקים, and that a fresh sentence begins with והרמחים: and the other half held the spears; and the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the armour, and the rulers, were behind the whole house of Judah, - a strange combination, which places the weapons and rulers behind the house of Judah. Besides, of the circumstance of the weapons being placed behind the builders, so that they might at any moment seize them, we not only read nothing in the text; but in Nehemiah 4:11 and Nehemiah 4:12 just the contrary, viz., that the builders wrought with one hand, and with the other held a weapon. "The rulers were behind all the house of Judah," i.e., each was behind his own people who were employed on the work, to encourage them in their labour, and, in case of attack, to lead them against the enemy. - In Nehemiah 4:11 בּחומה הבּונים is prefixed after the manner of a title. With respect to those who built the wall, both the bearers of burdens were lading with the one hand of each workman, and holding a weapon with the other, and the builders were building each with his sword girt on his side. The ו prefixed to הנּשׂאים and הבּנים means both; and בסּבל נשׂא, bearers of burdens, who cleared away the rubbish, and worked as labourers. These, at all events, could do their work with one hand, which would suffice for emptying rubbish into baskets, and for carrying material in handle baskets. ידו בּעחת, literally, with the one (namely) of his hands that was doing the work. The suffix of ידו points to the genitive following. ואחת אחת, the one and the other hand. השּׁלח, not a missile, but a weapon that was stretched out, held forth, usually a sword or some defensive weapon: see rem. on Joshua 2:8; 2 Chronicles 32:5. The builders, on the contrary, needed both hands for their work: hence they had swords girt to their sides. "And he that sounded the trumpet was beside me." Nehemiah, as superintendent of the work, stood at the head of his servants, ready to ward off any attack; hence the trumpeter was beside him, to be able to give to those employed on the wall the signal for speedy muster in case danger should threaten.
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