Sanballat and friends plot against Nehemiah (Neh 6:1-6:9)

“It was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and to the rest of our enemies that I had built the wall. There was no gap left in it, although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates. Sanballat and Geshem sent to me. ‘Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.’ But they intended to do me harm. I sent messengers to them, saying. ‘I am doing a great work. I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?’ They sent to me this message four times. Each time I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written. ‘It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel. That is why you are building the wall. According to this report, you wish to become their king. You have also set up prophets in Jerusalem concerning you who say. ‘There is a king in Judah.’ Now it will be reported to the king according to these words. So come, therefore! Let us confer together.’ Then I sent to him, saying. ‘No such things as you say, has been done. You are inventing them out of your own mind.’ They all wanted to frighten us. They were thinking. ‘Their hands will drop from the work. It will not be done. But now, O God, strengthen my hands.’”

Once again, we pick up on the intrigues of Sanballat and Tobiah that we saw earlier in chapter 4. Geshem, the Arab, also was in chapter 2 of this work. This time they intended to do more than mock the Jews in Jerusalem. They knew that there were no more gaps in the wall, even though not all the doors on the gates were complete. They invited Nehemiah to the plains of Odo to harm him. 4 different times they tried to persuade him to come to Odo. Each time, Nehemiah said no. On the 5th time, they said that building the wall was like an act of rebellion. They thought that Nehemiah wanted to be the king of Judah. Nehemiah responded that they were inventing things out of their own minds. They just wanted to frighten him. They thought that the Jerusalem Jews would drop from the work, which did not happen. Nehemiah ended with a prayer to God to strengthen his hands.

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The dispute between Nehemiah and the royal officials (Neh 2:19-2:20)

“When Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they mocked and ridiculed us. They said. ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’ Then I replied to them. ‘The God of heaven is the one who give us success. We his servants are going to start building. You have no share. claim or historic rights in Jerusalem.”

The local officials of the Province Beyond the River, with one of its major cities in Samaria, were lead by Sanballat and Tobiah. This time they were joined by Geshem, the Arab, which might mean that he was an official from Edom or the other side of the Jordan River. They wanted to know what Nehemiah was doing. He seemed to be rebelling against the king, but that is unclear. Nehemiah was clear that he had official approval since he came directly from the court of the king of Persia. Once again he referred to the “God of heaven” in his response. God would give them success. They were going to start building. In fact, he seemed to say that these officials had no rights in Jerusalem, which is not exactly correct. Jerusalem was in the Province Beyond the River, and these were the officials of that territory.