The Words of Nehemiah

Chapter 4

While the enemies scoff, Nehemiah prays and continues the work, 1-6. Understanding the wrath and secrets of the enemy, he sets a watch, 7-12. He arms the laborers, 13-18; and gives military precepts, 19-23.

1 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry, took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. 2 And he spoke before his brothers and the army of Samaria, and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of debris which are burned?" 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, "Even that which they build, if a fox should go up, he would even break down their stone wall."

4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. And turn their reproach upon their own head and give them for plunder in the land of captivity. 5 And do not cover their iniquity and do not let their sin be blotted out from before you, for they have provoked you to anger before the builders.

6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to the half of it, for the people had a mind to work.

7 But it came to pass, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabians, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were set up and that the breaches began to be stopped, they were very angry, 8 And all of them conspired together to come and to fight against Jerusalem and to hinder it.

9 Nevertheless, we made our prayer to our God and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.

10 And Judah said, "The strength of the bearers of burdens is fading and there is much debris. We are not able to build the wall."

11 And our adversaries said, "They shall not know, neither see, until we come in the midst among them, slay them, and cause the work to cease." 12 And it came to pass, that when the Jews who dwelt by them came, they said to us ten times, "From all places where you shall return to us they will be upon you." 13 Therefore, I set in the lower places behind the wall and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked, arose, and said to the nobles, to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses."

15 And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had brought their counsel to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 And it came to pass from that time forth, that one half of my servants wrought in the work and the other half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows, and the habergeons. And the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. 17 Those who built the wall and those who carried loads, as they were loaded, each did the work with one of his hands, and with the other hand held a weapon. 18 For each of the builders had his sword girded by his side, and in this manner built. And he who sounded the trumpet was by me. 19 And I said to the nobles, to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, "The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. 20 In what place therefore you hear the sound of the trumpet, resort there to us. Our God will fight for us."

21 Thus we labored in the work. And half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning until the stars appeared. 22 And at the same time I said to the people, "Let everyone with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, so that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labor in the day." 23 Thus neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing.


Matthew Henry Commentary - Nehemiah, Chapter 4[➚]


[v.23] - "except that everyone took them off for washing" - This phrase has been rendered in various ways and is considered by some to be unsatisfactory. The ASV renders the phrase as, "every one went with his weapon to the water." Young's Literal Translation has this: "each has his vessel of water." The Septuagint omits the phrase completely. The Hebrew reads something like, "each man his weapon water." Since there is no clear direction to go with this phrase, I chose to follow the rendering of the WBS/KJV.