Nehemiah 2:19-20 brings out the theme of opposition first identified in 2:10. The main opposing figures are two. They are Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. Later accounts include Geshem the Arabian (Neh 2:19; 4:1). These men were greatly upset that someone had come to help the Israelites with their problems. Like Nehemiah, those serving God will inevitably encounter opposition. In this study, therefore, an attempt is made to look at the strategies that these identified adversaries used to oppose Nehemiah in building the wall of Jerusalem. Accordingly, we will look at how Nehemiah skillfully responded to these adversaries and thus what we can learn from each strategy. Before looking at their strategies, it is important that we briefly study their backgrounds.
Knowing Nehemiah’s Adversaries
Nehemiah’s efforts to building the wall encountered opposition by some people who could be identified as enemies. It is interesting to imagine that some people could just stand out to oppose a good project. Insightfully, it could be observed that these men were all enemies of the Jews.
Nehemiah 4:2 tells us that Sanballat belonged to the army of Samaria. This presupposes that he was part of the mixed breed of Samaritans who had been brought into the land by the Assyrians after they removed the northern tribes of Israel into captivity. In this case, they were not real Israelites and had no inheritance in Israel (2:20). Worshipping God was a perversion. They professed to serve God but included idol worship. Tobiah was an Ammonite. The Amonites were descendants of Abraham’s nephew Lot. The Ammonites lived near the desert east of the Jordan River.
Geshem was an Arab. The Arabians have not been mentioned much in the Old Testament and they appear to have traveled from place to place without settling in any one area. By this time, however, at least some of these people must have lived in or near the area of Jerusalem. So they were not happy to see the Jews prosper.
All three of these men had some local authority and influence. It is most probable that they were among the governors because they reacted immediately after Nehemiah reported about his project.
It is most probable that our human opposers might be influenced by long family history or cultural traditions. It is worth trying to briefly look at some background information of our adversaries for a possible wise response.
The strategies that the enemy used to oppose the work
- Grieving (Neh 2:10)
- Mockery (laughter) – (Neh 2:19)
- Wrath and indignation (Neh 4:1-3)
- Fighting – (Neh 4:7-8)
- Subtlety or crafty (6:5-7).
- Accusation – (6:5-9)