So we labored in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)So we laboured.—This is a general recapitulation, with additional note of the length of the day’s work during this pressing season.Nehemiah 4:21-22. Half of them held the spears — For the use of every man, if there should be occasion. From the rising of the morning till the stars appeared — Working very early and very late. Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem — Not in the suburbs or adjoining villages, as probably many of them had done, returning thence to their work in the morning: but now he would have them all lodge in Jerusalem, for the greater security of the city; and in turns to watch by night, or work on the walls by day.
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the governor, for the sake of despatch, had set all his attendants and guards on the work—now half of them were withdrawn to be constantly in arms.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."Nehemiah 4:16 So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)21. So we laboured] R.V. So we wrought. The word in the original being the same as that rendered ‘wrought’ in Nehemiah 4:16-17, it is best to adhere to the same English equivalent. ‘We:’ the pronoun is emphatic, i.e. I and my servants. The verse refers to Nehemiah and his men alone, as is shown by the mention of ‘half of them.’ It continues the narrative from Nehemiah 4:18. Nehemiah 4:19-20 are parenthetical.
half of them held the spears] That is to say, Nehemiah’s bodyguard was divided into two companies, who alternately worked at the wall and mounted guard, holding the weapons of their comrades in readiness.
till the stars appeared] literally ‘till the going forth of the stars.’ The word is familiar to us from such passages as Genesis 19:23, ‘The sun was risen (lit. gone forth) upon the earth when Lot came unto Zoar’. Psalm 19:6, ‘His (the sun’s) going forth is from the end of heaven.’ The stars come forth from their ‘chambers’ (Job 9:9).Verse 21. - So we laboured: and half of them held the spears. This is a summary of the main points previously related: "So we continued to work; and one-half of my personal followers continued to keep watch, and to hold the spears" (ver. 16). From the rising of the morning, etc. This is additional, and shows how early the work commenced each morning, and how late it continued. Nehemiah 4:9-17)
Thus was the design of the enemy circumvented, and the Jews returned to their work on the wall, which they had forsaken to betake themselves to their weapons. The manner in which they resumed their building work was, that one half held weapons, and the other half laboured with weapons in hand.
When our enemies heard that it (their intention) was known to us, and (that) God had brought their counsel to nought (through the measures with which we had met it), we returned all of us to the wall, every one to his work. The conclusion does not begin till ונּשׁוב, האל ויּפר belonging to the premiss, in continuation of נודא כּי.
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