Reaction of the Enemies [ESV 4:1–3]
- When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about it, it was very displeasing to them that someone had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel.” Nehemiah 2:10
- “But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard it, they mocked us and despised us and said, “What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”” Nehemiah 2:19
Some notes: Sanballat is a Horonite and his name meaning Sin has been vivified or made a new. They were Sun worshippers and a caste of royal priests who served at the sun temples & controlled the trade routes from the wet Sahara to the Indus River and from Anatolia to ancient Brittany. These shrine and temple attendants kept records on weather, travellers & collected taxes on cargo that moved along the trade routes and major water systems.
Tobiah is the Ammonite governor. He is also mentioned in Ezra 2:60. They are descendants of Ben-Ammi and were a nomadic people who lived in the territory of modern-day Jordan, whose capital Amman, reflects the name of those ancient inhabitants.
Geshem is an incorrect translation here by the ESV and should be Gashmu, as an Arab tribe named “Gushamu” is known. They were just another pagan group in the area.
They could not complain about it to the Persian king, because Nehemiah had his permission, so instead they were angry and helpless spectators of events that they disliked and so heaped ridicule upon him. Tobias’s comment infers poor quality of work as even a fox could knock it down.
These comments do not go unheard for Nehemiah prays to Yahweh because Nehemiah believes he is doing God’s work and opposition to the work is thwarting God.
(⁴:⁴)“Hear, our God, how we are despised. Turn their taunt down on their own heads and give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. (⁴:⁵)Because they have insulted the builders, please do not forgive their iniquities and sins. Let it not be blotted out.”
(⁴:⁶)And we rebuilt the wall and the whole wall was joined together up to half its height, because the people were inspired by the work. (4:4–6)
Nehemiah continues on, which is the key to discouragement, put pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. Nehemiah does not give up, he continues because as a devout man, he acknowledges his tribes strength is their great and terrible God. Do not be discouraged, do not allow yourself to believe that others say because who are they anyhow?
Trust in God and Continue on. that’s the key, do not just wait there for a mystical moment when all clear signal is given, but instead, continue what you are doing if you believe it is right, and it does not defame the word of God, but inspires others to see his glory as well. That is the answer of Nehemiah — prayer and work, which is not all that different than Paul’s book of Acts.
He is also important for reminding us that when we succeed, we should not give ourselves too much of the glory — for without God’s helping us along, all would be naught, and obversely if he is helping us, do not fail Him but take courage in His support and go full steam ahead.