God Strengthen My Hands

There are always a few people that may not agree with you or may not like what you are doing, but Nehemiah is facing people that want to stop his work altogether. We already know who they are, the Horonites (Samarians), the Ammonites, the Arabs, and another group joins in, the Ashdodites (Phillistines). They begin by mocking the Jews and then threaten to attack them as they work and threaten to attack them in their homes. God gives Nehemiah a strategy for their defense and they all get back to work on the wall. It isn’t easy for them to work and carry weapons, but they are making good progress. Their enemies then try to trap Nehemiah inviting him to meet sending an open letter with accusations about rebellion. Nehemiah knows who they are and refuses them. He prays that God will turn this back on them and will strengthen is hands for the work.

The Horse Gate, The East Gate, The Sheep Gate

Nehemiah 3:28–32
As the work on the wall continues in Nehemiah 3:28-32, the priests repaired, the son of the keeper of the gate repaired, one of the goldsmiths repaired, the merchants repaired, and others are named with them.

He Mocked the Jews

Nehemiah 4:1–6
We have already heard the names of the enemies of the Jews and in Nehemiah 4:1-3 Sanballat throws insults “What are the feeble Jews doing? Will they restore these things for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the piles of rubble—even those burned up?” and Tobiah also joins in. Then in Nehimiah 4:4-6 we hear the prayer of Nehemiah and the Jews “Hear, our God, for we are despised. Turn their scorn on their head and give them over to plunder in the land of captivity”. But what was intended to discourage the workers only angered them and they worked all the harder so that in Nehemiah 4:6 “we rebuilt the wall, and all of the wall was joined up to half its height. For the people had a heart to do it”. 

Then Our Enemies Said

Nehemiah 4:7–14
In Nehemiah 4:7 we have a new addition to the list of enemies, the Ashdodites and “they were very angry” because “the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem were going forward”.

The people of Ashdod were initially Canaanites, then Philistines, “Jeremiah speaks of the barely rebuilt state of Ashdod as he lists the nations who would be compelled to drink the cup of God’s wrath and experience utter ruin. Among them are “all the kings of the land of the Philistines, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod” (Jer 25:20). The same four cities appear in Zephaniah’s condemnation of Philistines and other nations who had ravaged Judah. He declares that Ashdod would be emptied at noon (Zeph 2:4). In the postexilic period, Zechariah pronounced woe on Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod, which would be occupied by foreigners (Zech 9:5–6)”.1

These were not new enemies, and they came with threats to the work in

Nehemiah 4:11 (LEB) Then our enemies said, “They will not know nor see until we come upon them and will kill them and stop the work.”

And they came with threats to the people in their homes in

Nehemiah 4:12 (LEB) When the Jews who lived beside them came, they said to us ten times, “From all of the places where they live, they will come up against us.”

So in Nehemiah 4:13-14 Nehemiah prepares the people and encourages them as he “stationed people” and armed them with “swords, spears, and bows” and said to them, “Do not be afraid”, “remember the Lord”, “and fight”. 

We All Returned to the Wall

Nehemiah 4:15–23
It is interesting to see how Nehemiah deals with problems. Here, an enemy threatens to attack them, and God gives him a strategy for their defense. When the enemy hears they have taken action to protect themselves, they drop their plans. In Nehemiah 4:15 Nehemiah says, “God had frustrated it (their plan was known)”.

Then, in Nehemiah 4:16-23 it says “From that day forward” they implemented these defenses:

  • in vs. 16 “half … were working on craftsmanship, half were holding spears”
  • in vs. 17 “the materials were carrying in one hand … the other hand were grasping a weapon”
  • in vs 18 “the builders had his sword tied to his side … the trumpet was beside me”
  • in vs. 19-20 “the work is great and widespread … wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, come together”
  • in vs. 22 “spend the night inside Jerusalem … be a a guard for us in the night”
  • in vs. 23 they remained in their clothes, “each one kept his weapon even in the water”

They were not leaving any opening for a surprise attack. If an attack came, they were ready to fight, all of them together.

There Was a Great Cry of Distress

Nehemiah 5:1–8
Nehemiah was not surprised by the opposition from the outside, but he was surprised by this trouble between Jewish brothers. Everyone was working hard, day and night living where they could in Jerusalem. But they still needed to provide for their families and the pressure and fatigue was too much to handle. Nehemiah didn’t realize that some of the families had fallen on hard times, they had mortgaged their land to try to feed their families. In Nehemiah 5:2-5 they describe the famine, then the tax for the king, and the result, they and their children are slaves to their brothers.

Nehemiah is angry and immediately confronted those that were “taking interest from your own brother!”. Then he “called a great assembly against them”.

The Thing You Are Doing is Not Good

Nehemiah 5:9–13
Nehemiah makes the case against them in public in Nehemiah 5:9-11 he tells them to stop taking interest, and to “restore to them this day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves, their houses, and the interest on the money, the grain, the grape juice, and the olive oil that you have been taking from them”. And they say they will. But Nehemiah doesn’t stop there, he “called the priests and made them take an oath to do this promise”. And then goes one step more by shaking out his garment against them saying “This is how God will shake out everyone from his house who will not keep this promise. So this is how his possessions will be shaken out and emptied”. This united the people again.

The Former Governors Laid Burdens on the People

Nehemiah 5:14–19
In Nehemiah 5:14-19 Nehemiah gives an account of his service as “governor in the land of Judah”:

  • in vs. 14 He did not eat the food allowance of the governor.
  • in vs. 15 He did not lay burdens on the people and did not take food or money from them or exercise control over them.
  • in vs. 16 He devoted himself and all of his servants to the work and did not buy land for himself.
  • in vs. 17 He fed one hundred and fifty men, “at my table”

All of this was done from his personal finances “because the slavery was too heavy on this people”.

Come Let Us Meet Together

Nehemiah 6:1–7
The work on the wall was done, but in Nehemiah 6:1 “time I had not erected doors in the gates”. And his enemies sent an invitation in Nehemiah 6:2 “Come and let us meet together … but they planned to do evil to me”. Nehemiah was a wise man and recognized the trap. His enemies invited him again, and again, and in Nehemiah 6:5-7 “sent an open letter” that said “you and the Jews are considering rebellion” … now come and we will plan together”. This was a complete fabrication, and a trap. An open letter could, and would be read by many who would spread the contents so the king might hear it. And by declaring that the prophets have spoken of a king in Judah and inviting Nehemiah to come, they were inviting him as that new king. If he had gone, it would have been an acceptance of their lies, at least he would not be able to deny his part. 

God Strengthen My Hands

Nehemiah 6:8–14
Nehemiah sees through this plot to trap him and responds in Nehemiah 4:8-9 “None of these words you have spoken has happened. You are indeed saying things created in your own mind”. Nehemiah refuses to have any contact with them so they try another approach. In Nehemiah 6:10 A prophet says “Let us meet in the house of God … they are coming to kill you”. But Nehemiah sees through this as well, and refuses. Read how Nehemiah responds to this in Nehemiah 6:13 “he was hired: to frighten me so that I would act and sin, so that they would have a bad report so they could taunt me. This is a tactic of our enemies, make us afraid, get us to reach emotionally and sin, and then they can use your reaction to publicly shame you. Think, pray, respond with God’s strategy.

Study Verses

Today’s Reading

  • Nehemiah 3:28-32
  • Nehemiah 4:1-23
  • Nehemiah 5:1–19
  • Nehemiah 6:1–14

Operation Exodus

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Return to Israel – Ezra

We often read one book of the Bible at a time and that is easier for everyone to follow. The order of our readings, beginning with Ezra, are from the Tyndale One Year Chronological Bible because the return from Babylonian exile includes Haggai, Zechariah, Nehemiah, Esther, a few Psalms, and other connections. Covering these events chronologically as they happened, gives a much better context and helps us understand the move of God as He is reestablishing His people. Review the whole series beginning with Go Up To Jerusalem.


  • 1. Phillips, E. A. (2016). Ashdod. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.