Opposition to the Rebuilding Efforts Continues1When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and no breach remained in it (even though up to that time I had not positioned doors in the gates), 2Sanballat and Geshem sent word to me saying, “Come on! Let’s set up a time to meet together at Kephirim ▼
▼ It is not entirely clear whether the Hebrew word כְּפִירִים (kefirim) is a place-name not mentioned elsewhere in the OT (as indicated in the present translation; so also NAB, NASB) or whether it means “in [one of] the villages” (so, e.g., NIV, NRSV, NLT; see BDB 499 s.v.; HALOT 493 s.v.). The LXX and Vulgate understand it in the latter sense. Some scholars connect this term with the identically spelled word כּפירים (“lions”) as a figurative description of princes or warriors (e.g., Pss 34:11; 35:17; 58:7; Jer 2:15; Ezek 32:2, 13; Nah 2:14; see HALOT 493 s.v.): “let us meet together with the leaders in the plain of Ono.”in the plain of Ono.” Now they intended to do me harm.
3 So I sent messengers to them saying, “I am engaged in ▼
▼ Heb “[am] doing.”an important work, and I am unable to come down. Why should the work come to a halt when I leave it to come down to you?” 4They contacted ▼
▼ Heb “sent to.”me four times in this way, and I responded the same way each time. ▼
▼ Heb “and I answered them according to this word.”
5 The fifth time that Sanballat sent his assistant to me in this way, he had an open letter in his hand. 6Written in it were the following words:
“Among the nations it is rumored ▼
▼ Heb “heard.”(and Geshem ▼ has substantiated ▼
▼ Heb “is saying.”this) that you and the Jews have intentions of revolting, and for this reason you are building the wall. Furthermore, according to these rumors ▼ you are going to become their king. 7You have also established prophets to announce ▼
▼ Heb “call.”in Jerusalem ▼ on your behalf, ‘We have a king in Judah!’ Now the king is going to hear about these rumors. So come on! Let’s talk about this.” ▼
▼ Heb “Let us consult together.”
8 I sent word back to him, “We are not engaged in these activities you are describing. ▼
▼ Heb “We are not according to these matters that you are saying.”All of this is a figment of your imagination.” ▼
▼ Heb “For from your heart you are inventing them.”
9 All of them were wanting ▼ to scare us, supposing, “Their hands will grow slack from the work, and it won’t get done.”
So now, strengthen my hands! ▼
▼ The statement “So now, strengthen my hands” is frequently understood as an implied prayer, but is taken differently by NAB (“But instead, I now redoubled my efforts”).
10 Then I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel. He was confined to his home. ▼
▼ Heb “shut in.” The reason for his confinement is not stated. BDB 783 s.v. עָצַר suggests that it had to do with the fulfillment of a vow or was related to an issue of ceremonial uncleanness.He said, “Let’s set up a time to meet in the house of God, within the temple. Let’s close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. It will surely be at night that they will come to kill you.”
11 But I replied, “Should a man like me run away? Would someone like me flee to the temple in order to save his life? ▼
▼ Heb “go into the temple and live.”I will not go!” 12I recognized the fact that God had not sent him, for he had spoken the prophecy against me as a hired agent of Tobiah and Sanballat. ▼
▼ Heb “and Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.”13He had been hired to scare me so that I would do this and thereby sin. They would thus bring reproach on me and I ▼
▼ The translation reads לִי (li, “to me”) rather than the MT reading לָהֶם (lahem, “to them”).would be discredited. ▼
▼ Heb “would have a bad name.”
14 Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat in light of these actions of theirs – also Noadiah the prophetess and the other prophets who were trying to scare me!
The Rebuilding of the Wall Is Finally Completed15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in just fifty-two days. 16When all our enemies heard and all the nations who were around us saw ▼
▼ The MT understands the root here to be יָרֵא (yare’, “to fear”) rather than רָאָה (ra’ah, “to see”).this, they were greatly disheartened. ▼
▼ Heb “they greatly fell [i.e., were cast down] in their own eyes.” Some scholars suggest emending the reading of the MT, וַיִּפְּלוּ (vayyipelu) to וַיִּפָּלֵא (vayyippale’, “it was very extraordinary in their eyes”).They knew that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
17 In those days the aristocrats of Judah repeatedly sent letters to Tobiah, and responses from Tobiah were repeatedly coming to them. 18For many in Judah had sworn allegiance to him, ▼
▼ Heb “were lords of oath.”because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah son of Arah. His son Jonathan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah. 19They were telling me about his good deeds and then taking back to him the things I said. ▼
▼ Heb “my words.”Tobiah, on the other hand, sent letters in order to scare ▼
▼ Or “to intimidate” (so NIV, NRSV, NLT).me.
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