The opponents of the city’s restoration project continue to mock and deride the workers and try to sabotage their efforts to prevent completion. The wall is now completed to half its intended height (v 6). The Jews end up having to protect the work sites, with half the workers alternating as guards and the other half doing the construction. It becomes so dangerous that everyone remains clothed and armed at all times, round the clock, with an elaborate plan of trumpeters being ready to warn of any attacks. Yet meanwhile, Nehemiah is telling his followers: “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious” (v 14). This makes me laugh – how is god protecting them? They are doing all the work themselves! It reminds me of that old song “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition”.
This book is told in the first person, and never is that more evident than in this chapter, where Nehemiah makes himself out to be a saint and savior to Jerusalem. He becomes a populist, advocating for families who are suffering during a famine. Many have already mortgaged their properties, sold their children into slavery, and sold off their daughters to pay the taxes, and yet still cannot make ends meet. (I wonder where Yahweh was during this time.) Nehemiah calls the nobles and officials, and persuades them that they should not take such advantage of their own relatives. And they agree and give everything back. Does anyone else find this a little implausible? Next Nehemiah claims that during his entire 12 years as governor, he took no food allowance. What did he live on?
Nehemiah continues to blow his own horn in chapter 6, where he describes how he rebuffs and outsmarts his saboteurs and completes the wall in 52 days. (52 days from when? Not start to finish, surely, which makes the comparison meaningless.) And if he was there for 12 years, what was he doing the rest of the time?