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©Michael Player

Chapter 2:11-20 (ESV)

Posted on October 27, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 2:11-20 (ESV) - So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”

Question to consider: Why did Nehemiah wait to reveal his building plan to the people?

When Nehemiah asked king Artaxerxes for letters to accomplish his request to restart the building project in Jerusalem, the king gave him a set of letters to give to the governors who lived Beyond the River. I assume this was the land west of the Euphrates which contained a number of people who were hostile to those traveling to Jerusalem. Another letter was to be given to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, who would grant Nehemiah the necessary lumber to complete the rebuilding.

Nehemiah apparently used the first set of letters to get his group safely across the land Beyond the River, but he had revealed to nobody his true intentions for coming to Jerusalem. Instead, he took a few men under the cover of darkness to get an idea of the work that lay ahead of them. This way, when he revealed his plans the next day to those who would do the work, he would be fully informed about what needed to be done and could overcome any objections people might raise regarding  the task. A project does not lie dormant for more than a decade without a group of people who have given up hope of it ever being done.

When king Darius had first stopped the building program, those who delivered the edict went beyond the king’s request and delivered the message with force. What little progress that had been made was burned, and the debris was such that there were places Nehemiah’s horse couldn’t go. It is hard to come up with the strength to go on when you have lived in disgrace for so many years.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about the walls. I understand that they perceived the walls to be like the arms of God stretched around to protect them from their enemies, but during the time of Ezekiel before God’s judgment against Jerusalem by Babylon, the walls gave them a false sense of security. Instead of repenting, people listened to the false prophets who said there was peace when there was no peace, and people looked to the walls for protection when God said they would fail them. If God had now declared that He was at peace with Israel, they really didn’t need walls to be safe from harm.

However, Nehemiah had the materials and laborers, permission from the king, and most importantly, the blessing of God to get the project done, and so the people were motivated to rise up and build. Immediately after they started, some men from the surrounding areas stepped in to stop the work. The text says their enemies “jeered at us and despised us,” but I’d imagine it wasn’t just in the sense of making fun of them. Invoking the king’s original edict for them to stop building suggests that they intended to set new fires and force people to stop once again. However, this time, Nehemiah had the new edict, officers and horsemen that said otherwise, and this time, God would make them prosper.

Those in opposition may have professed to worship the same God as Nehemiah, but they would have no portion or right or claim to anything within the rebuilt walls.


Dear heavenly Father, may the weapons of Your enemies have no power against us as Your people. Help us to find safety in Your wings and rest peacefully in the righteousness given to us by Christ instead of putting our hope in government or money. Amen.