Nehemiah’s Answers By Prayer & Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem

I see trouble coming, and those guys were laughing at You, not a smart thing to do.

Tobiah was a high ranking official of the transjordan Ammonites when Nehemiah was rebuilding Jerusalem after returning from Babylonian captivity in 516 B.C.

Tobiah was one two central figures who, mocked, harassed, intimidated and opposed the rebuilding of Jerusalem:

“When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about it, it was very displeasing to them that someone had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel” (Neh 2:10).

There are three remarkable phases of Tobiah’s life:

1. Opposition to the rebuilding of the temple.

2. Joining in worshiping and running the temple.

3. When he was thrown out of the temple, he crossed the Jordan and built his own temple and palace.

“Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel” (Neh 3:1).

The men repaired everything, but the nobles didn’t do much work, the…

“…nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord” (Neh 3:2-32).

“But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.

And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? 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 the rubbish which are burned?

Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.

Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity:

And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.

But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth,

And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.

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

And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.

And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.

The Kidron Valley is the valley on the eastern side of The Old City of Jerusalem, separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives.

It continues east through the Judean Desert, towards the Dead Sea, descending 4000 feet along its 20 mile course.

The settlement Kedar, located on a ridge above the valley, is named after it.

The neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz bears the valley’s Arabic name.

The Bible calls the Valley “Valley of Jehoshaphat – Emek Yehoshafat.”

It appears in Jewish eschatologic prophecies, which include the return of Elijah, followed by the arrival of the Messiah, and the War of Gog and Magog and Judgment Day.

The central point of reference for the Kidron Valley is its confluence of Jerusalem’s richest concentration of rock-hewn tombs.

This area, located on the periphery of the village Silwan, was one of the main burial grounds of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period.

Several of these tombs were also used later in time, either as burial or as shelters for hermits and monks of the large monastic communities, which inhabited the Kidron Valley.

The ancient tombs in this area attracted the attention of ancient travelers, most notably Benjamin of Tudela.

And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.

Therefore set I 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.

Silwan is a predominantly Arab neighborhood on the outskirts of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Forty Jewish families also live in the area.

Silwan is located in East Jerusalem.

After 1948 Palestine War, the village fell under Jordanian occupation. Jordanian rule lasted until the 1967 Six-Day War after which it was occupied and later annexed by Israel.

Silwan is under the administrative jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Municipality.

The international community considers Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem as illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this.

In 2009, Silwan had an estimated population of 31,000.

And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work.

And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah.

They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.

For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.

And I said unto the nobles, and 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.

In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.

So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.

Nehemiah motivated his people to rebuild the wall protecting Jerusalem in 52 days.
This was definitely accomplished with God’s help.

This wall is said to have been 4.5 miles long, 24 ft at the base and just over 26 ft. tall. By hand.

No power tools. No machinery.
Could we take 52 days to accomplish something similar?
Rebuild our health.
Our hearts.
Our self image. Our confidence.
Our relationship to our Father?
To change our lives?
How about changing our mental dialog?
With God all things are possible, as evidenced by Nehemiah’s wall.

Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day.

So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing” (Neh 4:1-23).

Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem

North Wall of the Old City Jerusalem
This wall which surrounds the Old City is 2 1/2 miles of lime stone.

It encompasses an area of approximately one square kilometer.

This is the size of the Old City.

The ancient city of David is located on the south side outside the wall and borders the Kidron Valley.

Aside from the physical rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls, a more important rebuidling process was underway.

That is, Nehemiah led Israel back to God.

Essentially, Israel wanted to demonstrate that they were committed to reclaiming their lives and returning to the proper worship of God.

When Nehemiah began rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in 445 B.C., he met with strong resistance from three individuals named Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem.

Although Nehemiah did not record their titles, we know from extra-biblical evidence that they were rulers of adjoining areas (cf. Neh 2:9-10).

Sanballat: Sanballat was the governor of Samaria, the province north of Judah. We know, in fact, of three men by this name who ruled Samaria at different times.

A 407 B.C. papyrus letter from Elephantine in Egypt mentions the Sanballat of Nehemiah’s time.

Written to the governor of Judah, requesting permission to rebuild the ruined temple at Elephantine, it states:

“All these things in a letter we sent in our name to Delaiah and Shelemiah sons of Sanballat governor of Samaria.”

Sanballat means “hatred in secret” (represents the devil. Tobiah means “Jehovah is good” (represents the flesh) Geshem means “having material substance”
Every redemptive and good story has a villain.
Dorothy and Toto had the Wicked Witch of the West.

Cinderella had the Evil Stepmother—and Nehemiah had Sanballat, the governor of Samaria.

If there was ever a picture of how evil operates—and escalates—to attempt to sabotage God’s work, it’s in the pages of Nehemiah.

No matter your purpose or what you are accomplishing for God’s glory, whether you are building a marriage, an organization, or like Nehemiah, rebuilding something that was broken, you’ll find encouragement in recognizing Sanballat’s tactics, which are a great picture of your opponent’s schemes.

When Nehemiah first approached King Artaxerxes and asked for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall that had been burned by fire, Sanballat heard the news and was disturbed.

Then when Nehemiah and the Jews actually began the rebuilding project, Sanballat, and his friend Tobiah, mocked and ridiculed them.

As the building project progressed, Sanballat’s irritation grew and he became angry and “greatly incensed.

It appears that at this time, 38 years after Sanballat’s confrontation with Nehemiah, Sanballat’s sons were acting on behalf of their aged father.

A coin and a bulla (seal impression) from the mid-4th century B.C., inscribed with the name of Sanballat, governor of Samaria, were discovered in a cave in the wilderness of Judah.

This particular Sanballat was likely the grandson of Nehemiah’s Sanballat.

The an­cient Jewish historian Josephus mentions a third Sanballat, who was ruling Samaria in 332 B.C. and was perhaps the great-grandson of the Sanballat who opposed Nehemiah.

Tobiah: The Tobia family was well known in the 3rd century B.C. as powerful Jewish aristocrats living in the Transjordan.

Papy­rus letters of an Egyptian official named Zenon, dating from around 260 B.C., mention a wealthy landowner, businessman and tax collector named Tobias (an alternative spell­ing of Tobiah) in the province of Ammonitis.

Ruins of the Tobiah family’s palatial estate from the 2nd century B.C., mentioned by Josephus, have been excavated 11 miles (18 km) west of modern Amman, Jordan.

The family name is inscribed above two entrances to rock-cut halls on the estate. 

The Tobiah of Nehemiah’s acquaintance appears to have been governor of the province of Ammon, east of Judah in Transjordan.

Geshem: An inscription found in north­western Arabia from the time of Nehemiah reads, “Geshem son of Sahrand Abd, governor of Dedan.”

A silver offering bowl uncovered in the eastern delta region of Egypt from the late 5th century B.C. bears the same name, stating:

“That which Kainu son of Geshem king of Kedar offered to Hanilat.”

Since Dedan and Kedar were tribal nations occupying the eastern desert, including Syria, northern Ara­bia, Sinai and northern Egypt, Geshem must have been a powerful ruler who controlled a vast area.