Nehemiah 4:4
Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity:
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(4) Hear, O our God.—The habit of Nehemiah is to turn everything to devotion as he goes on. This prayer is full of an angry jealousy for the honour of a jealous God.

They have provoked thee.—The tone of its holy revenge pervades the Old Testament, and has not altogether departed in the New.

Nehemiah 4:4-5. Hear, O our God — Nehemiah here interrupts the relation, to mention the prayer he made on the occasion. Turn their reproach upon their own head — Let them really be as contemptible as they represent us to be. This and the following requests must seem harsh to us, who are taught by the Lord Jesus to love our enemies, to bless those that curse us, and pray for those that despitefully use and persecute us. Probably they were uttered rather by a spirit of prophecy than a spirit of prayer, and are to be considered as declaratory of the judgments of God against persecutors. They certainly had their accomplishment in the subsequent doom of these nations. And give them for a prey in the land of their captivity — Let them be removed from our neighbourhood, and carried into captivity; and there let them find no favour, but further severity. Or, give them for a prey to their enemies, and let these carry them into the land of captivity. And cover not their iniquity — Let their wickedness be in thy sight, so as to bring down judgments upon them, that either they may be reformed, or others may be warned by their example. God is said to cover or hide sin, when he forbears to punish it. For they have provoked thee — They have not only provoked us builders, but thee also. Or, they have provoked, or derided, the builders to their face; that is, openly and impudently, in contempt of God, and of this work, which is done by his direction and encouragement. Nehemiah, in these petitions, if they be petitions, and not rather predictions, as has just been intimated, is not to be imitated by us, but rather he, whose disciples we profess to be, and who, when upon the cross, and under the bitterest agonies, prayed most fervently for the forgiveness of those that crucified him.

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 parenthetical prayers of Nehemiah form one of the most striking characteristics of his history. Here we have the first. Other examples are Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 6:9, Nehemiah 6:14; Nehemiah 13:14, Nehemiah 13:22, Nehemiah 13:29, Nehemiah 13:31. 4, 5. Hear, O our God; for we are despised—The imprecations invoked here may seem harsh, cruel, and vindictive; but it must be remembered that Nehemiah and his friends regarded those Samaritan leaders as enemies to the cause of God and His people, and therefore as deserving to be visited with heavy judgments. The prayer, therefore, is to be considered as emanating from hearts in which neither hatred, revenge, nor any inferior passion, but a pious and patriotic zeal for the glory of God and the success of His cause, held the ascendant sway. Turn their reproach upon their own head; let them be really as contemptible as they represent us to be. This, and the following requests, may seem harsh, but they were both just, as being directed against such malicious, inveterate, and implacable enemies to God and to his people, and necessary for the vindication and defence of God’s honour, and worship, and people.

Give them for a prey in the land of captivity; let them be removed from our neighbourhood, and carried into captivity; and there let them find no favour, but further severity. Or,

give them for a prey to their enemies, and let these carry them into

the land of captivity.

Hear, O our God, for we are despised,.... Here begins the prayer of Nehemiah, who had been informed of what these men said in contempt of him, and his builders, and to whom he sent no answer, but applied to God:

and turn their reproach upon their own head; as they have despised and reproached us, let them be despised and reproached by their neighbours:

give them for a prey in the land of captivity; let them be carried captive, as we have been, and become a prey and booty to their enemies.

{c} Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey {d} in the land of captivity:

(c) This is the remedy that the children of God have against the derision and threatenings of their enemies, to flee to God by prayer.

(d) Let them be spoiled and led away captive.

4, 5. Nehemiah’s Soliloquy and Prayer.—A parenthesis

4. This is the first of the parenthetical addresses to the Almighty, which are a characteristic feature of Nehemiah’s writing. See also Nehemiah 5:19, Nehemiah 6:9; Nehemiah 6:14, Nehemiah 13:14; Nehemiah 13:22.

Hear, O our God] Cf. Lamentations 3:61, ‘Thou hast heard their reproach O Lord, and all their devices against me.’

for we are despised] Literally, ‘we have become an object of contempt.’ The people are inseparable from their God; the mockery of Sanballat and Tobiah directed against the Jews affects Jehovah.

turn their reproach upon their own head] R.V. turn back &c. Cf. Psalm 79:12, ‘And render unto our neighbours sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, wherewith they have reproached thee, O Lord.’ Lamentations 3:64, ‘Thou wilt render unto them a recompence, O Lord, according to the work of their hands.’

and give them for a prey in the land of captivity] R.V. and give them up to spoiling in a land of captivity—‘Spoiling,’ a word used in late Hebrew (2 Chronicles 14:13; 2 Chronicles 25:13; 2 Chronicles 28:14; Ezra 9:7; Esther 9:10; Esther 9:15-16; Daniel 11:24; Daniel 11:33) here, as in Ezra 9:7, Daniel 11:33, to denote the process of plundering, not as in A.V. the thing plundered and carried off. ‘A land of captivity’ (not ‘the land’), the expression is general, but obviously Nehemiah wishes for the enemies of the Jews the misfortunes of his own race.

Verse 4. - Hear, O our God. Compare Ezra's parenthetic burst of thanksgiving (Ezra 7:27, 28). That which in Ezra was a sudden impulse has become a settled habit with Nehemiah (comp. Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 6:9, 14; Nehemiah 13:14, 22, 29, 31). Turn their reproach upon their own head. The imprecations of Nehemiah are no pattern to Christians, any more than are those of the Psalmists (Psalm 69:22-28; Psalm 79:12; Psalm 109:6-20, etc.); but it cannot be denied that they are imprecations. Before men were taught to "love their enemies," and "bless those that cursed them" (Matthew 5:44), they gave vent to their natural feelings of anger and indignation by the utterance of maledictions. Nehemiah's spirit was hot and hasty; and as he records of himself (Nehemiah 13:25) that he "cursed" certain Jews who had taken foreign wives, so it is not to be wondered at that he uttered imprecations against his persistent enemies. Nehemiah 4:4(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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