Volume 48 - Issue 3

Dealing with Criticism: Lessons from Nehemiah

By Brian J. Tabb

While in seminary, I read C. H. Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, and the chapter to which I return most often is “The Blind Eye and the Deaf Ear.”1 The great preacher explains that “a minister ought to have one blind eye and one deaf ear,” a vivid image that captures the truth of Ecclesiastes 7:21: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you.” Spurgeon acknowledges, “You must be able to bear criticism, or you are not fit to be at the head of a congregation.”2 Leaders should not only expect criticism and prepare to endure it, but they must use wisdom to respond rightly to different sorts of critics:

Public men must expect public criticism, and as the public cannot be regarded as infallible, public men may expect to be criticized in a way which is neither fair nor pleasant. To all honest and just remarks we are bound to give due measure of heed, but to the bitter verdict of prejudice, the frivolous faultfinding of men of fashion, the stupid utterances of the ignorant, and the fierce denunciations of opponents, we may very safely turn a deaf ear.3

This column reflects on how Nehemiah employs a blind eye and deaf ear when faced with all manner of criticism and opposition. Who were his critics? Why did they oppose Nehemiah and his plans to rebuild the wall? How did the governor respond to his critics, and what lessons might ministry leaders today glean from Nehemiah’s example?

1. Profile of Nehemiah and His Critics

Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah is a devout Jew who serves as cupbearer to the Persian king, Artaxerxes (Neh 1:1, 11; 2:1). When he learns of the great trouble and shame of Jerusalem, he pours out his heart in prayer and asks the Lord to “give success” to him as he prepares to take action (1:11). Nehemiah then requests a leave of absence and supplies to rebuild Jerusalem, and the king authorizes him to go. Later, readers learn of his appointment as governor in the land of Judah (5:14–15). He completes Jerusalem’s wall and initiates various reforms in the land, and at every turn he faces blistering criticism and dogged resistance.

Nehemiah’s most strident critics are introduced in chapter 2:

But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel. (2:10)

But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” (2:19)

Sanballat is Nehemiah’s foremost political opponent, mentioned ten times in the book.4 His Babylonian name means “the god Sin has saved” or “the god Sin has given life,”5 and the designation Horonite may link him to Beth-Horon (cf. Josh 16:3–5) or Horonaim in Moab (cf. Isa 15:5).6 Clearly, Sanballat is a person of status and influence. He is the father-in-law of the high priest (Neh 13:28), and a well-preserved papyrus identifies Sanballat as “the governor of Samaria,”7 which explains why he addresses the army of Samaria (4:2).

Sanballat’s chief ally is “Tobiah the Ammonite servant,” referenced by name fourteen times in Nehemiah.8 While the designation הָעֶבֶד could be pejorative (“the slave”), in this case it is likely an honorific title of an official (“the servant”). In fact, scholars typically identify this Tobiah as governor of the Ammonite region.9 Tobiah has significant family ties and influence among the nobility in Judah (see Neh 6:17–18). Even though his name in Hebrew means “Yahweh is good” (טוֹבִיָּה), Tobiah consistently opposes the Lord’s work throughout the book, and the final chapter reveals that this Ammonite leverages his personal connections with a priest to secure personal accommodations in a temple chamber intended to store provisions for priests and Levites (13:4–7).

A third critic, Geshem the Arab, appears alongside Sanballat and Tobiah in Nehemiah 2:19 and 6:1–2. Inscriptional evidence suggests that Geshem influenced politics from northeast Egypt to northern Arabia and southern Palestine.10 Kidner comments, “So, with already a hostile Samaria and Ammon to the north and east,” the addition of Geshem the Arab meant that “Judah was now virtually encircled, and the war of nerves had begun.”11

Thus, the governor of Judah faces formidable opposition from a coalition of powerful, influential people. Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem relentlessly criticize and resolutely challenge Nehemiah’s reform efforts, which threaten their own political, economic, and social interests in the region.12

2. The Efforts and Aims of Nehemiah’s Critics

The opposition and antagonism towards Nehemiah and his work takes various forms (see the table below). The book initially highlights the displeasure of Sanballat and Tobiah at Nehemiah’s arrival in Judah “to seek the good of the sons of Israel” (2:10, my translation). Their emphatic disapproval is captured by the Hebrew phrase וַיֵּרַע לָהֶם רָעָה גְדֹלָה: “it was a great evil to them.”13 The opponents then ridicule and publicly question Nehemiah about his plans to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall. They “jeered” (ESV) or “mocked” (NIV)—rendering לעג—and “despised” (בזה) Nehemiah and his allies (2:19; cf. 4:1). The hostile trio asks, “Are you rebelling [מֹרְדִים] against the king?” (2:19).

As Nehemiah moves forward with the work of repairing the city’s wall and gates, the opposition intensifies. Boiling with anger,14 Sanballat heckles the Jews with a series of derisive questions:

What are these feeble Jews doing?
Will they restore it for themselves?
Will they sacrifice?
Will they finish up in a day?
Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that? (4:1–2)

Tobiah adds his own taunt: “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” (4:3).

As the work progresses, Nehemiah’s opponents unite in a plot to fight against Jerusalem and cause confusion (4:8). This confusion manifests in various ways.15 The people of Judah begin to doubt their capacity to deal with the rubble and complete the task of rebuilding (4:10). Their enemies continue to scheme about ways to attack them to stop the work (4:11). And Jews from surrounding areas urge the workers in Jerusalem to abandon the city and return to them, presumably because they hear news of looming threats to their safety (4:12).

In chapter 6, Sanballat and Geshem repeatedly send messengers to Nehemiah urging him to meet with them “in one of the villages on the plain of Ono” (v. 2 NIV),16 a considerable distance northwest of Jerusalem. Nehemiah rebuffs their requests, discerning their malicious aims: “But they intended to do me harm [רָעָה].” On the fifth effort, Sanballat’s servant brings an open letter that circulates a salacious report that “you and the Jews intend to rebel [לִמְרוֹד]; that is why you are building the wall” (6:6). He accuses Nehemiah, not only of rebelling against the king, but of seeking regal authority for himself, restating and amplifying his earlier charges in 2:19. Nehemiah dismisses these baseless rumors and recognizes their efforts to scare and demoralize the builders (6:9). Then Shemaiah warns Nehemiah of a nocturnal attack and urges him seek refuge in the temple (6:10). He refuses to run away from danger and realizes that this prophet has not delivered a message from God but has been hired by his opponents to damage his reputation and taunt him (לְשֵׁם רָע לְמַעַן יְחָרְפוּנִי, 6:13). Nehemiah’s prayer in 6:14 signals that this was no isolated occurrence, as he mentions “the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid [מְיָרְאִים אוֹתִי].”17

Even after the wall is finished in remarkable time, the opposition to Nehemiah persists. Tobiah the Ammonite leverages his influence and family ties with leading men in Judah (Neh 6:17–19). “His numerous binding agreements (by oath, 18) within the Jewish community were probably trading contracts, facilitated by his marriage connections.”18 Tobiah’s powerful allies openly speak about his accomplishments in Nehemiah’s presence while also leaking information back to Tobiah. These deep social connections within Judah and economic interests exert ongoing pressure on Nehemiah and his allies, even as Tobiah continues to send threatening letters “to make me afraid” (לְיָרְאֵנִי).

Thus, the book recounts the unrelenting criticism and multifaceted opposition that Nehemiah and his allies faced in the difficult task to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and institute reforms. His enemies employ various strategies to pressure, intimidate, distract, and demoralize Nehemiah, including public taunting, mockery, threats, bad press, baseless accusations, and sowing confusion in the city.

Nehemiah and His Critics19
Event Critics’ Response Nehemiah’s Counter-response
Nehemiah arrives (2:9) Sanballat, Tobiah are greatly displeased (2:10) Action: Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem (2:11)
People resolve to work (2:17–18) Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem jeer, despise, and question (2:19) Speech: “God … will make us prosper” (2:20)
People begin construction (4:1) Sanballat, Tobiah are angry and jeer (4:1–3) Prayer: “Hear … for we are despised” (4:4–5)
The wall is joined together to half its height (4:6) Sanballat, Tobiah, Arabs, Ammonites, Ashdodites are angry and plot to fight and confuse (4:7–8, 11) Action: They pray and set a guard (4:9)
Speech: “Remember the Lord” (4:14)
People return to work (4:15) Enemies hear that God has frustrated their plan (4:15) Action: They people work while armed (4:15–23)
Wall is completed without doors (6:1) Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem ask to meet Nehemiah outside the city and spread false reports (6:1)
Shemaiah counsels Nehemiah to hide in the temple (6:10, 12)
Actions: Nehemiah refuses to stop working or run away (6:3, 11)
Prayers: “Strengthen my hands” (6:9); “Remember … O my God” (6:14)
Wall is finished with doors (6:15; 7:1) All enemies fear, Tobiah sends letters (6:16–19) Action: They shut the gates and stand guard (7:3)

3. Nehemiah’s Response to His Critics

How does Nehemiah respond to such vicious slander, violent threats, and stringent resistance to his work? What lessons might readers today glean from his wise example? We see that Nehemiah consistently demonstrates confidence in the Lord, dependence on God in prayer, courage to persevere in God’s work, and discernment to distinguish truth from falsehood.

3.1. Confidence in the Lord

Nehemiah acts with conviction because he is confident that the God of heaven is with him. When the king responds positively to his request to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it, Nehemiah recognizes that “the good hand of my God was upon me” (Neh 2:8). He then tells the people of Judah “of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good” (2:18). When Nehemiah receives public criticism and questions, his expresses unwavering confidence in God and commitment to his task: “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build” (2:20). He is resolute in his plans to do what God has put in his heart (2:11; cf. 7:5).

Later, Nehemiah reassures the discouraged people of Judah. He says, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes” (4:14). Later he adds, “Our God will fight for us” (4:20). This description of Yahweh as “great and awesome” recalls Nehemiah’s opening prayer (1:5), and his exhortations may allude to Moses’s charge in Exodus 14:13–14, “Fear not.… The Lord will fight for you,” as well as Joshua’s words to Israel, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.”20

The book closes with Nehemiah’s prayer, “Remember me, O my God, for good” (Neh 13:31), which reiterates the governor’s earlier requests (5:19; 13:14, 22). Such entreaties may seem at first glance to be boastful, self-centered, or even self-justifying, but this conclusion misses the mark. “Nehemiah is not claiming merit but professing sincerity.”21 This leader accomplishes much, he receives much criticism and opposition, and after many years of toil much still remains to be done in Jerusalem. Nehemiah takes confidence not in his reputation or his achievements, but in God. Thus, he asks God to remember him, which is not simply an appeal for divine awareness but for divine action on behalf of his covenant people.

3.2. Dependence in Prayer

The book opens with Nehemiah’s lengthy prayer in response to news of Jerusalem’s woes (1:4–11) and closes with him request that the Lord “remember” him for good (13:31). These petitionary bookends highlight Nehemiah’s sincere dependence on God, which is particularly evident in his responses to criticism and challenges. For example, when the critics mock and revile the Jews’ work on the wall, Nehemiah does not stoop to their level but calls on God in prayer:

Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. (Neh 4:4–5)

This entreaty reflects Nehemiah’s conviction that the Lord is attentive to his people’s plight (see 1:10–11) and that he will vindicate them and deal with their enemies. Nehemiah similarly calls for the Lord to “remember Tobiah and Sanballat” and thus hold them accountable for their deeds (6:14).

As opposition swells, Nehemiah and his allies appeal for God’s help and also arrange for protective guards (4:9). This recalls Nehemiah’s earlier prayer to the God of heaven before he responds to a question from the powerful Persian king (2:4). Later, as he is being publicly slandered by Sanballat, Nehemiah prays, “Now, O God, strengthen my hands” (6:9). These examples illustrate that dependent prayer and bold action are not at odds but work hand in glove, as the Lord supports, sustains, and satisfies his people, whose strength is the joy of the Lord (8:10).

Time and again, the book of Nehemiah recounts the governor’s reflexive prayerfulness when he faces danger, distress, and denigration. His example reflects the advice that Joel Beeke and Nick Thompson offer criticized ministers:

Our response to criticism must begin, not horizontally, but vertically. Biblical sobriety calls us to reckon first with God, then our fellow man. If we would reply to criticism in a manner that honors the Lord, we must be well-acquainted with the secret place, which assists us in making God big and people small in our personal estimation.22

3.3. Courage to Persevere in God’s Work

The Judean governor also consistently displays courage through intense adversity. Joe Rigney explains, “Courage involves a kind of double vision. It attends to both the danger or hardship before us and the reward and good beyond.”23 Nehemiah demonstrates this sort of “double vision” as he fearlessly perseveres in the good work he is called to do despite great opposition and real challenges. The cupbearer faces his fears (Neh 2:2) and courageously asks the powerful Persian ruler to send him to Jerusalem. Though Sanballat and Tobiah mock their efforts, Nehemiah and the workers are undeterred: “So we build the wall … for the people had a mind to work” (4:6). As the opposition increases, we see Nehemiah’s courageous determination on display as he and the people continue working on the wall from morning to night while holding their weapons to guard against potential attacks (4:15–23). Through their fearless resolve, God frustrates the plans of their enemies (4:16).

Repeatedly, the governor of Judah states that his adversaries wanted to frighten him and his allies:

For they all wanted to frighten [מְיָרְאִים] us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” (Neh 6:9)

For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid [אִירָא] and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. (Neh 6:13)

Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, … and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid [מְיָרְאִים]. (Neh 6:14)

And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid [מְיָרְאִים]. (Neh 6:19)

Nehemiah does not allow criticism to discourage him nor threats to distract him from his calling. He replies to repeated appeals from Sanballat and Geshem with a consistent, determined message: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Neh 6:3). Faced with slanderous accusations of rebellion, Nehemiah briefly corrects the misinformation and then asks God to strengthen his hands to complete the work (6:8–9). Like the Lord’s servant in Isaiah 50:7, the governor’s face is “set … like a flint” and he is not put to shame because the sovereign God helps him (cf. Luke 9:51).

In addition to his fearless commitment to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah also demonstrates courage by challenging his fellow Jews about their injustice and faithlessness. For example, on four occasions Nehemiah “confronts” or “rebukes” (Hebrew ריב): for exacting interest from fellow Jews (5:7), for neglecting the house of God (13:11), for profaning the Sabbath (13:17), and for taking wives from the unbelieving nations (13:25). He also acts decidedly to remove Tobiah’s belongings from the temple champers (13:8–9). Commentators have called Nehemiah “a man of a volcanic temperament,”24 an apparently “angry man (13:8, 25) who has lost his patience with the unfaithfulness of his people,”25 and a reformer who comes to Jerusalem first as “a whirlwind” and the second time “all fire and earthquake.”26 While there is something to such descriptions, it is crucial to remember why Nehemiah responds with such intensity. For example, 13:8 records Nehemiah’s strong displeasure27 when he arrives in Jerusalem and discovers that a priest has provided Tobiah with personal living quarters in the temple courts. Nehemiah acts decisively not because of a personal grudge against Tobiah the Ammonite (though his seedy character is well established) but because the Law prohibits Ammonites from entering God’s assembly (Neh 13:1; cf. Deut 23:3–5) and because the temple storeroom intended to keep provisions for the priests and Levites had been grossly misappropriated (Neh 13:5). The governor “was greatly displeased” (וַיֵּרַע לִי מְאֹד) because of the “evil” (רָעָה) of the situation (13:7–8), and his leadership action reflects his biblical clarity and courageous conviction.28 This scene offers something of an old covenant preview of the Lord Jesus’s righteous zeal that moves him to overturn tables and drive out traders from his Father’s house (John 2:14–17).

Nehemiah does not allow the critics to derail, distract, or discourage him. Rather, he remains focused on the Lord and courageously carries out the Lord’s work.

3.4. Discernment between Truth and Falsehood

The governor also displays remarkable discernment during various public controversies. This is particularly evident in chapter 6, as the trio of critics conspire against Nehemiah. He perceives the malevolent intent behind their request to meet with him outside the city: “But they intended to do me harm” (Neh 6:2). So he refuses their overtures and remains resolutely focused on the important work of rebuilding the wall. When Sanballat publishes spurious reports about Nehemiah, he clearly corrects the false allegations, discerns his opponents’ aims, and calls on the Lord for support:

Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands. (6:8–9)

We see a further example of Nehemiah’s discernment in response to Shemaiah’s counsel that the governor should hide in the temple to protect himself from violent threats. Little is known about Shemaiah or why he was holed up in his house (6:10). The text presents him as a prophet, and he is presumably Levite with some level of temple access.29 Once again, Nehemiah shows courage by refusing to run away from trouble (6:11). He then explains,

And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. (6:12–13)

Shemaiah’s exhortations do not ring true to Nehemiah on at least two counts. First, he recommends action motivated by fear and self-protection, rather than principled obedience to God. Moreover, following the counsel to seek refuge within the doors of the temple would violate God’s law, since Nehemiah was not a priest and so was not authorized to enter into God’s house (cf. Num 18:7).30 Some have interpreted “within the temple” in 6:10 to refer to the temple courtyard, not the sanctuary itself.31 However, the specific direction to “close the doors of the temple” and Nehemiah’s stern reply (“And what man such as I could go into the temple and live?”) more likely suggest that Shemaiah has urged him to violate God’s law to preserve his own life.32 The governor rightly discerns that such a proposal that promotes cowardice and compromises divine standards is surely not from the Lord and must be resisted.

Spurgeon counsels, “Learn to disbelieve those who have no faith in their brethren,”33 and Nehemiah’s discerning responses to his detractors offers a wise model for leaders today. The governor may well have received timely encouragement and constructive correction along the way from faithful allies like Ezra the priest, but the book focuses attention on Nehemiah’s refusal to be duped, distracted, or discouraged by critics with ill motives.

4. Conclusion

This column has focused on Nehemiah’s responses to criticism, though an expanded study of criticism in the Scriptures could consider Korah’s rebellion against Moses and Aaron (Num 16), Shimei’s tirade against King David (2 Sam 16), the various insults and hardships weathered by the apostle Paul (2 Cor 12:10), and above all the false accusations and mockery endured by the Lord Jesus (Luke 22–23).34

Nehemiah’s faithfulness through adversity anticipates the Righteous Sufferer par excellence, who not only endured hostility and injustice but bore our sins on the cursed tree (1 Pet 2:24). Christ did not revile and threaten his critics but entrusted himself “to him who judges justly,” and in this way he offers us an example to emulate (1 Pet 2:21–23). Jesus declares that his followers are “blessed” when reviled, persecuted, or falsely accused on his account, and he calls us to “rejoice and be glad” in view of our heavenly reward (Matt 5:11–12).

We see in Nehemiah’s account a servant of the Lord who remains focused on a great work and refuses to be swayed by even the harshest criticism. Pastors and other ministry leaders today would do well to employ a blind eye and deaf ear as they endure criticism from within and beyond their churches and organizations. As we seek to honor God and remain faithful in and through criticism and controversy, let us like Nehemiah maintain confidence in the Lord, depend on him in prayer, show courage to persevere in our God-given work, and exercise discernment to know when to humbly receive criticism and when to ignore it.

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, reprint ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 321–35.

[2] Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 326.

[3] Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 330.

[4] Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:1, 7; 6:1–2, 5, 12, 14; 13:28. Unless otherwise noted, biblical citations come from the ESV. Nehemiah 4:1–23 in English translations corresponds to 3:33–4:17 in Hebrew and Greek versions. For simplicity, I employ the English versification when discussing this section of the book.

[5] Respectively, HALOT 760 (s.v. סַנְבַלַּט), and Joseph Blenkinsopp, Ezra-Nehemiah: A Commentary, OTL (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988), 216.

[6] H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, WBC 16 (Waco, TX: Word, 1985), 182–83.

[7] “Petition for Authorization to Rebuild the Temple of Yaho,” in ANET 492.

[8] Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:3, 7; 6:1, 12, 14, 17, 19; 7:62; 13:4–5, 7–8.

[9] For example, Blenkinsopp, Ezra-Nehemiah, 218; Edwin M. Yamauchi, “Ezra and Nehemiah, Books of,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, ed. Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 292.

[10] Edwin M. Yamauchi, “Ezra and Nehemiah,” in 1 Chronicles–Job, ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, EBC 4, revised ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 479.

[11] Derek Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC 12 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 91.

[12] Cf. Blenkinsopp, Ezra-Nehemiah, 226.

[13] Neh 2:10, as translated by Gary V. Smith, Ezra and Nehemiah, ZECOT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2022), 15. Compare the renderings of this phrase in the KJV (“it grieved them exceedingly”) and NIV (“they were very much disturbed”).

[14] The Hebrew of Neh 3:33 (4:1 in English Bibles) reads וַיִּחַר לוֹ וַיִּכְעַס הַרְבֵּה, which Smith renders, “He became angry and he was very indignant” (Ezra and Nehemiah, 294).

[15] Blenkinsopp states that this verse introduces “a rather sudden transition to a quite different problem” (Ezra–Nehemiah, 248) though it seems more likely that 4:10–12 closely relate to the enemy’s scheming plans in verse 8.

[16] Scholars debate whether בַּכְּפִירִים is a place name (cf. ESV, “Hakkephirim”) or a general reference to villages (cf. LXX, ἐν ταῖς κώμαις).

[17] “Shemaiah’s was only one voice in an impressive chorus of discouragement,” according to Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, 109.

[18] Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, 110–11.

[19] This table adapts material in W. Brian Aucker, “Nehemiah,” in Ezra–Job, ESV Expository Commentary 4 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 152.

[20] Josh 10:25 and Neh 4:14 (4:8 Heb.) are the only two texts in the OT that combine the imperative אַל־תִּירְאוּ (“do not fear”) and a summons to fight (לחם), and Joshua also refers to Yahweh fighting for Israel in 10:14, 23.

[21] Derek W. H. Thomas, Ezra and Nehemiah, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2016), 286.

[22] Joel R. Beeke and Nick Thompson, Pastors and Their Critics: A Guide to Coping with Criticism in the Ministry (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2020), 88.

[23] Joe Rigney, Courage: How the Gospel Creates Christian Fortitude, Union (Wheaton, IL Crossway, 2023), 32.

[24] Yamauchi, “Ezra and Nehemiah,” 561.

[25] Smith, Ezra and Nehemiah, 453.

[26] Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, 141.

[27] In 13:8, the Hebrew וַיֵּרַע לִי מְאֹד may be translated “I was very angry” (ESV), or “I was greatly displeased” (NIV, CSB), though the Septuagint renders the phrase more formally, καὶ πονηρόν μοι ἐφάνη σφόδρα (“and it seemed very wicked to me”).

[28] Similarly in 13:28–29, Nehemiah expels the son-in-law of Sanballat, who has desecrated the priesthood.

[29] For additional discussion, see Blenkinsopp, Ezra-Nehemiah, 270.

[30] If Nehemiah was a eunuch as a condition of his service to the king (Neh 1:11), that would have been a further violation of the Torah (Deut 23:1), as argued by Jacob M. Myers, Ezra–Nehemiah: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, AB 14 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), 139.

[31] For example, Smith, Ezra and Nehemiah, 327.

[32] For this interpretation, see Rashi, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, trans. Judah J. Slotki (London: Soncino, 1951),; Blenkinsopp, Ezra-Nehemiah, 271; Yamauchi, “Ezra and Nehemiah,” 505.

[33] Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 329.

[34] See the discussion in Beeke and Thompson, Pastors and Their Critics, 19–51.

Brian J. Tabb

Brian Tabb is interim president, academic dean, and professor of biblical studies at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis and general editor of Themelios.

Other Articles in this Issue

Menzies responds to Tupamahu’s post-colonial critique of the Pentecostal reading of Acts and the missionary enterprise...

In this article, I argue that John provides a window into the mechanics of how Jesus’s death saves, and this window is his use of the OT...

This article seeks to construct a biblical theology of gender based on Geerhardus Vos’s magisterial Biblical Theology...

This article argues that the One God of the Old Testament and Judaism is exactly the same God as the Trinitarian God of the New Testament and Christian creeds...

A well-known Christian intellectual and cultural commentator, John Stonestreet, has often publicly spoken of the need for Christians to develop a theology of “getting fired...