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Tobiah was an Ammonite official[1] who tried to deliberately hinder Nehemiah's plan to rebuild Jerusalem from it's destruction of the Babylonians.[2]

Biography[]

Opposition against Nehemiah's effort to rebuild Jerusalem[]

When he and Sanballat the Horonite heard about Nehemiah's arrival, they were displeased regarding the fact that there was a man who came to help the grieved Israelites.[1]

On Nehemiah's arrival he began inspecting the broken walls and rotting gates[3], although it was late, he went unto the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before he turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.[4] At the time of his examination, he had not yet told the Jewish officials, the priest or other people of the administration of what he was doing nor his plans: and then he eventually told them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” He told them that about how the gracious hand of God had been on him, and about his conversation with the king. And the people courageously agreed to rebuild the wall.[5]

Then rumors spread which eventually came unto Sanballat, him and Geshem the Arab, and they tittle-tattled and ridiculed him concerning it. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” Nehemiah, answered that God would give them success and as His servants they would rebuild it, but as for them, they have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.[6]

Progression of Nehemiah's effort[]

As Nehemiah's "rebuilding" progressed, Sanballat became very upset and flew into a rage and mocked the Jews for it Infront of his friends and the Samarian troops saying, "What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?” Tobiah who was standing before him remarked “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”.[7]

At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm. Once again the opposers (them) became very furious. They tried scarcely to try to ruin his efforts, but since they prayed to Yahweh, God protected them.[8]

Trouble Arrives to Nehemiah[]

Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” Meanwhile they, being the enemies where scheming “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.”[9] The Jews living near them manage to get the opportunity to say to Nehemiah, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”. Then he placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. He stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.[10]

Seeing the situation Nehemiah began to encourage the people by saying "Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” In discontent, they (being with Tobiah) were frustrated that God helped Nehemiah know of their plans.[11] They were then ongoing, determined to build the wall, but from then on, only half Nehemiah's men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. The leaders stationed themselves behind the people of Judah who were building the wall. The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with him to sound the alarm.[12]

Then he explained to the nobles and officials and all the people, “The work is very spread out, and they are widely separated from each other along the wall. When they hear the blast of the trumpet, they will rush to wherever it is sounding. Then God will fight for them!”[13] They worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset. And half the men were always on guard. Nehemiah also told everyone living outside the walls to stay in Jerusalem. That way they and their servants could help with guard duty at night and work during the day. During this time, none of them—not he, nor his relatives, nor his servants, nor the guards who were with him—ever took off their clothes. Nehemiah and his men carried their weapons with them at all times, even when they went for water to protect them.[14]

Continuation of the Opposition[]

Upon learning that Nehemiah had finished the wall and left no gaps though had not yet established a door, they created a strategem that would try to fool Nehemiah that they were making a conference to him by meeting up at Ono. Four times they sent this message and Nehemiah answered the same.[15]

At the fifth time, Sanballat's servant came with an open letter in his hand, and it contained:

“There is a rumor among the surrounding nations, and Geshem tells me it is true, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king. He also reports that you have appointed prophets in Jerusalem to proclaim about you, ‘Look! There is a king in Judah!’ “You can be very sure that this report will get back to the king, so I suggest that you come and talk it over with me.”[16]

Their objection was to frighten him from completing the restoration of Jerusalem's walls and to do him some kind of harm. As expected Nehemiah was not intimidated by any of it and decided to continue, then they sent Shemaiah, son of Delaiah son of Mehetabel to deceive Nehemiah by saying, “Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.” He answered “Should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won’t do it!”[17] God then opened Nehemiah's eyes to perceive that Shemaiah was not sent by God but uttered the prophecy against him because he was hired by Sanballat and Tobiah to indimidate and accuse him of some wrongdoing.[18]

Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophetess and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me. - Nehemiah's Prayer[19]

The enemies realize that the work of Nehemiah was finished because of the power of God[]

On October 2 or the 25th day of the month of Elul, just 52 days after Nehemiah's efforts were just beginning, they being the scoffers were frightened and humiliated since God had helped Nehemiah complete his mission.[20]

During the days of his efforts, many messages back and forth went between Tobiah and the nobles of Judah. For many in Judah had sworn alliegance to him because he was married to the daughter of Shechaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan was married to the daughter of Meshullam. This was the root of Tobiah's insolence, for they were sending what Nehemiah's replies to him, and the Judahites keep telling him about Tobiah's "good deeds".[21]

Storerooms in the Temple[]

Eliashib, the high priest at the time, was a relative of Tobiah who was appointed as the manager of the storerooms of the Temple. He had converted a large storage room and placed it at Tobiah’s disposal. The room had previously been used for storing the grain offerings, the frankincense, various articles for the Temple, and the tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil (which were prescribed for the Levites, the singers, and the gatekeepers), as well as the offerings for the priests.[22]

Nehemiah, seeing Eliashib's betrayal, threw all of Tobiah's belongings out of the room, Then he demanded that the rooms be purified, and he brought back the articles for God’s Temple, the grain offerings, and the frankincense.[23]

Verses[]

[1]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Nehemiah 2:10
  2. Nehemiah 2 (Link)
  3. Nehemiah 2:13 (Link)
  4. Nehemiah 2:15 (Link)
  5. Nehemiah 2:16-18 (Link)
  6. Nehemiah 2:19-20 (Link)
  7. Nehemiah 4:1-3 (Link)
  8. Nehemiah 4:6-9 (Link)
  9. Nehemiah 4:10-11 (Link)
  10. Nehemiah 4:12-13 (Link)
  11. Nehemiah 4:14-15 (Link)
  12. Nehemiah 4:16-18 (Link)
  13. Nehemiah 4:19-20 (Link)
  14. Nehemiah 4:21-23 (Link)
  15. Nehemiah 6:1-4 (Link)
  16. Nehemiah 6:5-6 (Link)
  17. Nehemiah 6:7-11 (Link)
  18. Nehemiah 6:12-13 (Link)
  19. Nehemiah 6:14 (Link)
  20. Nehemiah 6:15-16 (Link)
  21. Nehemiah 6:17-19 (Link)
  22. Nehemiah 13:4-5 (Link)
  23. Nehemiah 13:7-9 (Link)
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