The Enemies Mock The Jews
Sanballat was “furious” over the building of the wall. He was not angry over an attack or any threats from the Jews. Rather, he did not like the fact they were working – doing God’s work. So, he set out to discourage the Jews by mocking them.
The Jews appealed to God for help and remained diligent in their work. Thus, the insults did not work and may have provoked the Jews to work even harder.
The Enemies Planned An Attack
A confederation of enemies planned to attack the Jews to stop the work. As part of the psychological warfare, they kept hearing that the attack was coming (as indicated by the “ten times” in 4:12). Word reached the Jews of the pending attack and they again prayed to God. It is also interesting that the New American Commentary notes 4:10 is likely a type of “spiritual” sung by the workers as they labored.
Nehemiah took action to thwart any attack by putting teams of guards at the most vulnerable parts of the wall. He organized them by families and armed them for the fight. He motivated them to fight with two basic thoughts: (1) The Lord is great and awesome; (2) there are things worth fighting for – brethren, family, property.
The Jews Remained On A War-Footing
After the immediate threat of an attack passed, Nehemiah put the Jews on a ready-for-war footing. His men were divided into those heavily armed and ready to fight and those who continued to work. The workers in general continued in the work while also having their weapons readily available to fight if need be. They also set it up to rally to any spot where fighting might break out.