Nehemiah’s response to verbal attacks

Nehemiah’s leadership in the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls is noteworthy due to his reliance on prayer and his wisdom in decision-making. After he inspected the destroyed walls, Nehemiah informed the people of his intent and encouraged them with news of King Artxerxes’ approval and the Lord’s blessing. But as soon as the plan been made public, enemies of Judah started to ridicule the project and suggested a rebellion was beginning. Nehemiah 2:19 says, “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. ‘What is this you are doing?’ they asked. ‘Are you rebelling against the king?’”

Instead of launching a verbal tirade back or resorting to violence, Nehemiah responded with wisdom. He said, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it” (Nehemiah 2:20). His reply is brilliant–he gives glory to God and reminds these people this is none of their business.

Back in his exile in Babylon, Nehemiah could have been exposed to the wisdom of God through the Scriptures, specifically Proverbs. This may be the reason he was able to respond wisely. For example, Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.” Similarly, Proverbs 20:3 says, “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.”

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