IV The enemies scoff, but Nehemiah prays, and continues the work, ver. 1-6. To frustrate their design, he prays and sets a guard, ver. 7-13. He encourages the workmen, and directs them how to proceed, ver. 14-18. His farther directions, ver. 19-23.
Verse 2. In a day - Do they intend to begin, and finish the work, all in one day? For if they spend any longtime about it, they cannot think that we will suffer them to do it. The stones - Will they pick up their broken stones out of the ruins, and patch them together. Burnt - Which stones were burnt, and broken, by the Chaldeans when they took the city.
Verse 4. A prey - Give them for a prey to their enemies, and let these carry them into the land of captivity.
Verse 5. Cover not - 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. Provoked thee - They have not only provoked us builders, but thee also.
Verse 6. The half - Unto half its height.
Verse 10. Judah - The Jews now dwelling in Judah, some of them being partly terrified by their enemies, and partly wearied with continual labour. Rubbish - More than we are able suddenly to remove. Not able - Being forced to spend our time in removing the rubbish, and therefore we must desist for a season.
Verse 12. By them - Or, among them: whereby they came to the knowledge of their counsels. Tho' these had not zeal enough to help in the work, yet they had some concern for their brethren. Ten tribes - Very often, a certain number for an uncertain. Be upon you - They will invade you every way, by which we can come to you, or you to us; therefore keep watches on every side.
Verse 13. Behind - Within the walls where they were not yet raised to their due height, and therefore most liable to the enemies assault. Higher - Upon the tops of the walls where they were finished, and the towers which were built here and there upon the wall; whence they might shoot arrows, or throw stones.
Verse 14. Looked - He looked up, engaged God for him, and put himself and his cause under the Divine protection. That was his way, and should be ours: all his cares, all his griefs, all his fears he spread before God. Great and terrible - You think your enemies are great and terrible. But what are they in comparison of God? Especially in opposition to him?
Verse 16. From that time forth - Lest our enemies should repeat their enterprize. My servants - Of my domestick servants, and of my guards. Held, &c. - All their weapons: they stood in their arms prepared for battle. Were behind - To encourage them in their work, sometimes to assist with their own hands: and to direct and command them in case of an assault. Judah - The Jews who were upon the wall.
Verse 17. A Weapon - This is to be taken figuratively; being a proverbial speech, as when they say of a man pretending kindness, he carries bread in one hand, and a stone in another. Thus must we work out our salvation, with the weapons of our warfare in our hands. For in every duty we must expect opposition from our spiritual enemies.
Verse 18. Sounded - To call the people together, when, and where it was necessary.
Verse 23. Washing - When they were to wash and cleanse themselves from some impurity, which might befall them or their garments.