Nehemiah 4:2
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?
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(2) His brethren and the army of Samaria.—The counsellors and body-guard of Sanballat.

Will they fortify themselves?—Rather, will they leave them to themselves? The nations are referred to; but contempt is not scrupulous or precise.

Will they sacrifice?—This is the provocation of God mentioned in Nehemiah 4:5.

4:1-6 Many a good work has been looked upon with contempt by proud and haughty scorners. Those who disagree in almost every thing, will unite in persecution. Nehemiah did not answer these fools according to their folly, but looked up to God by prayer. God's people have often been a despised people, but he hears all the slights that are put upon them, and it is their comfort that he does so. Nehemiah had reason to think that the hearts of those sinners were desperately hardened, else he would not have prayed that their sins might never be blotted out. Good work goes on well, when people have a mind to it. The reproaches of enemies should quicken us to our duty, not drive us from it.The gate Miphkad - Not elsewhere mentioned. It must have been in the east, or northeast, wall, a little to the south of the "sheep-gate" CHAPTER 4

Ne 4:1-6. While the Enemies Scoff, Nehemiah Prays to God, and Continues the Work.

1. when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth—The Samaritan faction showed their bitter animosity to the Jews on discovering the systematic design of refortifying Jerusalem. Their opposition was confined at first to scoffs and insults, in heaping which the governors made themselves conspicuous, and circulated all sorts of disparaging reflections that might increase the feelings of hatred and contempt for them in their own party. The weakness of the Jews in respect of wealth and numbers, the absurdity of their purpose apparently to reconstruct the walls and celebrate the feast of dedication in one day, the idea of raising the walls on their old foundations, as well as using the charred and mouldering debris of the ruins as the materials for the restored buildings, and the hope of such a parapet as they could raise being capable of serving as a fortress of defense—these all afforded fertile subjects of hostile ridicule.

Before his brethren; Nehemiah 4:3, and Geshem, Nehemiah 2:19, and others, whom he calls

his brethren, because of their conjunction with him in office and interest.

The army of Samaria; whom he designed hereby to incense against them, or at least to understand their minds herein.

Will they make an end in a day? do they intend to begin and finish the work, and keep the feast of dedication by sacrifice, all in one day? for if they spend any long time about it, they cannot think that we, and the rest of their neighbours, will suffer them to do it. Thus he persuaded himself and his companions that their attempt was ridiculous; and this mistake kept him from giving them any disturbance till it was too late. So God infatuated him to his own grief and shame, and to the advantage of his people.

Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish? will they pick up their broken stones out of the ruins, and patch them together? for other materials they want.

Which are burned, i.e. which stones were burned, and broken, or consumed to powder, to wit, by the Chaldeans when they took the city. See Poole "Nehemiah 1:3".

And he spake before his brethren,.... Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, and perhaps some other governors of the king of Persia in those parts:

and before the army of Samaria: which, and the inhabitants of it, were implacable enemies of the Jews:

and said, what do these feeble Jews? what do they pretend to do, or what can they do?

will they fortify themselves? by building a wall about their city; can they think they shall ever be able to do this, or that it will be allowed?

will they sacrifice? meaning not their daily sacrifice, as Jarchi, that they had done a long time, but for the dedication of their building, as Aben Ezra:

will they make an end in a day? they seem to be in as great a hurry and haste as if they meant it; and indeed, unless they can do it very quickly, they never will: they will soon be stopped:

will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burnt? where will they find materials? do they imagine that they can make burnt stones firm and strong again, or harden the dust and rubbish into stones, or make that, which is as if dead, alive? to do this is the same as to revive a dead man, and they may as well think of doing the one as the other; burnt stones being reckoned as dead, as Eben Ezra observes.

And he spake before his {a} brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these {b} 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?

(a) Of his companions who dwelt in Samaria.

(b) Thus the wicked who do not consider that God's power is always ready to defend his, mock them as thought they were weak and feeble.

2. And he spake before his brethren] Sanballat’s ‘brethren’ would be the chiefs of the Samaritan community.

and the army of Samaria] ‘the army’ (LXX. δύναμις): the word here used is the one generally employed for ‘armed forces,’ see Nehemiah 2:9; Ezra 8:22; Esther 1:3. The Samaritans seem to have hastily summoned their forces to consider whether it would be practicable to compel the Jews by a sudden onslaught to desist from an undertaking so menacing to Samaritan independence. ‘The army’ therefore is not equivalent to ‘an assembly (Vulg. frequentia),’ but to the population trained in war and capable of bearing arms, collected in face of a sudden emergency. Some have supposed that a body of regular Persian troops stationed at Samaria under a Governor (Nehemiah 2:7) is intended.

What do these feeble Jews?] The word rendered ‘feeble’ only occurs here in the O.T. It denotes the languor of weakness. It is akin to a word found in 1 Samuel 2:5, ‘And she that hath many children languisheth’ (A.V. ‘is waxed feeble’).

will they fortify themselves?] so R.V. text. R.V. marg. ‘Or, will they leave to themselves aught? Or, will men let them alone?

This short interrogative clause has occasioned much difficulty, on account of the word rendered ‘fortify,’ the natural rendering of which (as in Nehemiah 3:8, where see note) would be ‘leave.’ The versions, LXX. ὄτι οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι οὗτοι οἰκοδομοῦσι τὴν ἑαυτῶν πόλιν, Vulg. Numbers dimittent eos gentes, fail to throw any light upon the passage.

(a) The rendering of the English versions gives a clear and intelligible meaning. But (1) the use of the word in the sense of ‘fortify’ belongs to late Hebrew and is very rare: (2) in Biblical Hebrew it can only be supported by the uncertain testimony of Nehemiah 3:8 : (3) there is no mockery in such a question, corresponding to the tone of the other queries.

(b) ‘will they leave to themselves aught?’ This rendering which preserves the usual meaning of the disputed word, is open to the two very strong objections that, (1) the point of the question is conveyed by a word which is not found in the text, i.e. ‘aught,’ (2) the full meaning, obtained from this rendering (i.e. ‘do they expect to survive such an attempt? the Persian Empire will extirpate a people of such presumption; and nothing will be left to them’), is read into the words rather than derived from them.

(c) ‘will men let them alone?’ i.e. will the Persian Government or the neighbouring races permit the Jews to carry out their design? Against this rendering, which gives a very intelligible meaning, it must be urged, that (1) it necessitates an awkward change of subject introducing a new subject between two clauses in which ‘the Jews’ are the subject, (2) it treats the Jewish project with serious indignation instead of with the contempt expressed in the other queries.

(d) ‘will they commit themselves unto them?’ i.e. will the Jews entrust themselves and so great a work to their leaders? But we should expect a greater definiteness of expression in a short scornful question.

(e) ‘will they on their own behalf (lit. for themselves) commit themselves (i.e. unto God)?’ According to this rendering Sanballat is quoting a cant Jewish phrase ‘to commit oneself,’ leaving his hearers to understand its special application. This use of the word may be illustrated from Psalm 10:14, ‘the helpless committeth (lit. leaveth) himself unto thee.’ The mockery of such a question is quite in harmony with the general tone of Sanballat’s question.

(f) But it is more probable that the great obscurity of the words arises from an early error in the text, a scribe omitting two syllables very similar to those which followed, and writing ‘lâhem’ = ‘to them’ for ‘lêlôheyhem’ = ‘to their God.’ The sense then would be, ‘Will they commit themselves to their God?’ The same textual error occurs in 1 Samuel 3:13 (see R.V. marg.). It may then be compared with Rabshakeh’s words in 2 Kings 18:30; 2 Kings 18:32; 2 Kings 18:35.

will they sacrifice?] A mocking question; equivalent to ‘do the Jews imagine that they have only to collect together and propitiate their God with sacrifices, and their work will be done?’

will they make an end in a day?] Is it to be all done so simply and so quickly? ‘In a day’ might be rendered ‘in the day,’ as if they said, ‘will they make a beginning and an end in this day?’ (LXX. σήμερον, Vulg. in una die).

will they revive …?] Are they going to work miracles? The LXX. renders ‘will they heal?’ (ἰάσονται). Cf. ‘the repairing’ (R.V.) in Nehemiah 4:7.

of the heaps of the rubbish which are burnt] R.V. out of the heaps of rubbish, seeing they are burned? The word ‘burned’ refers to ‘the stones.’ Compare on the accumulation of rubbish Sir C. Warren’s statements respecting the excavations at Jerusalem, e.g. in his paper ‘The site of the Temple of the Jews’ (Trans. Bibl. Arch. vol. vii. p. 320), ‘We … found that the old wall exists to the enormous depth of 125 feet below the rubbish, with stones of very great size.’

Verse 2. - Before his brethren. By "his brethren" would seem to be meant his chief counsellors - probably Tobiah among them. The army of Samaria. Some understand by this a Persian garrison, stationed in Samaria under its own commander, with which Sanballat had influence (Ewald, 'History of Israel,' vol. 5. p. 153), but there is no real ground for such a supposition. Psalm 83, belongs probably to David's time; and as Samaria had doubtless its own native force of armed citizens, who were Sanballat's subjects, it is quite unnecessary to suppose that he addressed himself to any other "army" than this. The Persians would maintain a force in Damascus, but scarcely in Samaria; and Persian soldiers, had there been any in that city, would have been more likely to support a royal cupbearer than a petty governor with no influence at court. We can really only explain the disturbed state of things and approach to open hostility which appears in Nehemiah's narrative, by the weakness of Persia in these parts, and the consequent power of the native races to act pretty much as they pleased - even to the extent of making war one upon another. Will they fortify themselves? No other rendering is tenable. Ewald ('History of Israel,' vol. 3. p. 154, note 5)defends it successfully. Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? The meaning seems to be, "Will they begin and make an end in a day?" It is assumed that they will begin by offering a sacrifice to inaugurate their work. Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Rather, "Will they revive the burnt stones (the stones that are burned) out of the heaps of the rubbish?" Will they do what is im-possible-solidify and make into real stone the calcined and crumbling blocks which are all that they will find in the heaps of rubbish? If not, how are they to procure material? Nehemiah 4:2(Nehemiah 3:33-34)

The ridicule of Tobiah and Sanballat. - As soon as Sanballat heard that we were building (בּנים, partic., expresses not merely the resolve or desire to build, but also the act of commencing), he was wroth and indignant, and vented his anger by ridiculing the Jews, saying before his brethren, i.e., the rulers of his people, and the army of Samaria (חיל, like Esther 1:3; 2 Kings 18:17), - in other words, saying publicly before his associates and subordinates, - "What do these feeble Jews? will they leave it to themselves? will they sacrifice? will they finish it to-day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps that are burned?" עשׂים מה, not, What will they do? (Bertheau), for the participle is present, and does not stand for the future; but, What are they doing? The form אמלל, withered, powerless, occurs here only. The subject of the four succeeding interrogative sentences must be the same. And this is enough to render inadmissible the explanation offered by older expositors of להם היעזבוּ: Will they leave to them, viz., will the neighbouring nations or the royal prefects allow them to build? Here, as in the case of the following verbs, the subject can only be the Jews. Hence Ewald seeks, both here and in Nehemiah 4:8, to give to the verb עזב the meaning to shelter: Will they make a shelter for themselves, i.e., will they fortify the town? But this is quite arbitrary. Bertheau more correctly compares the passage, Psalm 10:14, אלהים על עזבנוּ, we leave it to God; but incorrectly infers that here also we must supply אלהים על, and that, Will they leave to themselves? means, Will they commit the matter to God. This mode of completing the sense, however, can by no means be justified; and Bertheau's conjecture, that the Jews now assembling in Jerusalem, before commencing the work itself, instituted a devotional solemnity which Sanballat was ridiculing, is incompatible with the correct rendering of the participle. עזב construed with ל means to leave, to commit a matter to any one, like Psalm 10:14, and the sense is: Will they leave the building of the fortified walls to themselves? i.e., Do they think they are able with their poor resources to carry out this great work? This is appropriately followed by the next question: Will they sacrifice? i.e., bring sacrifices to obtain God's miraculous assistance? The ridicule lies in the circumstance that Sanballat neither credited the Jews with ability to carry out the work, nor believed in the overruling providence of the God whom the Jews worshipped, and therefore casts scorn by היזבּחוּ both upon the faith of the Jews in their God and upon the living God Himself. As these two questions are internally connected, so also are the two following, by which Sanballat casts a doubt upon the possibility of the work being executed. Will they finish (the work) on this day, i.e., to-day, directly? The meaning is: Is this a matter to be as quickly executed as if it were the work of a single day? The last question is: Have they even the requisite materials? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish which are burnt? The building-stone of Jerusalem was limestone, which gets softened by fire, losing its durability, and, so to speak, its vitality. This explains the use of the verb חיּה, to revive, bestow strength and durability upon the softened crumbled stones, to fit the stones into a new building (Ges. Lex.). The construction שׂרוּפות והמּה is explained by the circumstance that אבנים is by its form masculine, but by its meaning feminine, and that המּה agrees with the form אבנים.

Nehemiah 4:2 Interlinear
Nehemiah 4:2 Parallel Texts

Nehemiah 4:2 NIV
Nehemiah 4:2 NLT
Nehemiah 4:2 ESV
Nehemiah 4:2 NASB
Nehemiah 4:2 KJV

Nehemiah 4:2 Bible Apps
Nehemiah 4:2 Parallel
Nehemiah 4:2 Biblia Paralela
Nehemiah 4:2 Chinese Bible
Nehemiah 4:2 French Bible
Nehemiah 4:2 German Bible

Bible Hub

Nehemiah 4:1
Top of Page
Top of Page