Escaping a Conspiracy
“They all wanted to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands” (v. 9).- Nehemiah 6
If the importance of a project can be measured by the extent of the opposition to it, then Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem was important indeed. After all, even though the foreigners opposed to Nehemiah were thwarted by his confidence in the Lord’s favor and his arming of the builders (Neh. 2:19–20; 4), they would not quit trying to stop the restoration of the city. They made yet a third attempt to keep the walls of Jerusalem from completion, as we see in Nehemiah 6.
When the wall was complete except for the placement of the doors in the gates, Sanballat of Samaria and the other enemies of the Jews sent messages to Nehemiah to draw him out of the city and have him meet them at the plain of Ono, about a day’s journey away from Jerusalem (6:1–2). They had to act fast, because after the wall was finished, the only way to destroy the Jews would be to lay siege to Jerusalem, and the Persians would not take kindly to their subjects’ going to war against one another. Nehemiah saw through their ruse and refused to meet them for what would have certainly meant his death (vv. 3–4).
After failing to get Nehemiah to meet him, Sanballat sent another letter calling for a meeting. This time, he spoke of allegations that the Jews were planning to rebel and that Nehemiah was going to appoint himself king. He called for him and Nehemiah to meet so that they could collectively deal with the rumors before they got to the Persian emperor (vv. 5–7). Nehemiah saw through this plan as well and told Sanballat that he knew what the Samaritan leader was up to, thereby preserving his own life (vv. 8–9).
Finally, Shemaiah, among several other false prophets, attempted to undermine Nehemiah’s authority and thus hamper the reconstruction efforts. He called for Nehemiah to go with him to the temple for sanctuary in light of the fact that some wanted to put Nehemiah to death. But Nehemiah recognized that Shemaiah’s intent was to make him sin, for Nehemiah was not a priest and thus could not lawfully enter the temple. Essentially, the plan was to get Nehemiah to transgress the law, which would have ruined his reputation in the eyes of the Jews and threatened the completion of the wall. But Nehemiah did not fall for this trick either (vv. 10–14). So, the wall was completed, Jerusalem was made safer, and the other peoples around Judah feared the Jews (vv. 15–19).
Not everyone who expresses a desire for our welfare intends good for us. Thus, we must take great care in whom we choose to be our friends and be wise when people who once seemed to hate us suddenly appear ready to help us. At the same time, we should not cultivate a suspicious attitude toward everyone. We should believe the best about people, especially in the body of Christ, until they give us good reason to believe otherwise.
Passages for Further Study
Acts 9:23–25; 23:12–34