Nehemiah 6 p3: Sanballat Strikes Back - The angel of light!

Bible Study Series on the Book of Nehemiah

Nehemiah 6:10-14 Sanballat Strikes Back - The angel of light!

by I Gordon

Neh 6:10-14 And when I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined at home, he said, 'Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night.' But I said, 'Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.' Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He was hired for this reason that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me. Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me.

Very resourceful this Sanballat. You'd sort of think he'd just give up wouldn't you? Why does he bother so much and what else can he try? Well, the answer was not long in coming for we read in vs 10  "When I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, he said 'Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you and they are coming to kill you at night."  What other tactics can the enemy use when the walls of salvation are rebuilt? If he can't use Geshem to get you out, maybe he can get you from within? Of course, for that to happen he would have to get one of his men in. Hmm... but how could he do that?

Enter the Angel of Light

Neh 6:10 And when I entered the house of Shemaiah... he said, 'Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night... he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.'

This next attack then is the angel of light, and again, the tactics and players used are completely accurate with biblical teaching on this subject. So what do we have so far? Well, having seen off the other attacks, Nehemiah suddenly gets a prophecy to hide in the temple for his enemies are coming to kill him. What would you do? I'm sure Nehemiah didn't want to die but how do you evaluate what's been said? Before we look at his answer, lets first look at the source of this prophecy. We read later on in the chapter that Shemaiah had  "uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him." (vs 12). Shemaiah was coming under the influence of that dynamic duo, Tobiah and Sanballat - aka the sinful nature and Satan! Two guesses where the New Testament says the source of false prophecies come from!1 So what does the Bible have to say about false teachers and false prophets? Quite a lot actually!

False teachers and false prophets

The Corinthian Church were involved in some horrendous sins like sexual immorality, lawsuits amongst believers, drunk at the Lords supper, divisions and following men instead of the Lord.... but Paul still wrote to them and blessed them as Christians (1Cor.1-9). Now read the intro to the Galatians' Church, who had listened to another gospel. "I am amazed at how quickly you deserted him... for another gospel...But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be eternally condemned." Didn't hold much back did he? 

The Bible teaches "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness." (2Cor 11:14-15) Peter also spoke of the false prophets and teachers "and in their greed they will exploit you with their false words." (2 Pet 2:1-3) John spoke of them in 1John 2:18-19, 4:1-6. Paul spoke about them a lot, especially at the end of his ministry as in Acts 20:28-32 stating 'Be on your guard for yourselves and the flock...I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, not sparing the flock..' Also check out 1Tim 4:1-5, 2Tim 3:1-9, 4:3-4.

Probably the worrying aspect is that nearly all of the verses on this topic speak of how it will increase in the last days. So getting back to the original question, how then do you evaluate a prophecy such as this? It sounded realistic given the previous attacks by Nehemiah's enemies. How do you know? I'm sure the temptation for Nehemiah, was to just go with it, and run and hide. What would you do?

Our defense: How much do you love the truth?

Neh 6:11 But I said, 'Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.'

Nehemiah's response gives a good insight into how to discern between true and false prophecies. What did he do? In vs 11 we read  "But I said, 'should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.' "  Nehemiah judged the word by two means; Firstly, whether or not it lined up with what he knew to be the will of God for his life. And secondly, whether it lined up with Gods word. His first thought was whether a man like himself should flee. Up until this point Nehemiah had always stood strong and had defeated the enemy by not compromising or acting through fear. Should he now run? He had always said that  "the God of Heaven shall grant us success; therefore we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem  ." (Ch 2:20) He had, up until this point, always acted in faith and with determination. Should he now go against what he believed God was asking from him? Clearly, what the prophet had said was not from God. There was however, a clearer test that had to be applied.

Nehemiah's second thought was  'And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.'  Nehemiah had to judge the prophecy by Gods word. The word of God stated that only the Levites  "shall attend to the priesthood for everything concerning the altar and inside the veil...but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death."  (Num 18:7) And yes, Nehemiah was not a Levite. Thankfully however, in a time when most of Israel had forgotten the word of God, Nehemiah still knew the word and judged and acted by its truth! Many could learn from his actions today2. One question that keeps coming back is just how important is truth? Does it matter what we believe or what is being taught to Gods people? Should we make a deal out of error in the church or just let it ride?

Paul's emphasis on truth and the word of God

Now this is an important question so I will spend a bit of time on it. On the one hand we should never get to the stage where all we are trying to do is make issues out of tiny errors or cause disagreement in areas where judgment is not allowed. (Rom 14). That is a critical spirit and is plain wrong! I do believe though, that the word of God tells us to watch and guard the truth of the gospel. Jesus Himself is the truth (Jn 14:6) and its the truth of who He is and what He did that sets us free. It is always the action of the enemy to try to corrupt the truth by sowing seeds of error among the true seed. If we end up with a gospel of half-truths, we'll have converts that are half set free! And as we saw earlier, its the belt of truth that holds all the armour together. If your theology is loose, so is your belt of truth and then so is your armour, and then we're back to where we began - with disciples half set free, trying to live the Christian life without the armour (spiritual protection) God provides! And that's when the Christian life becomes a drag and a chore. So lets look at what the word of God says. The next few verses are what Paul wrote to Timothy. Having now come to the end of his ministry, he was passing on important truths for this young leader. I believe that what he stressed most was guarding and preaching the truth! 

  • 1 Timothy 1:3 'As I urged you upon my departure. stay on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines.'
  • 1 Timothy: 4:6 'In pointing out these things (correcting wrong teaching in verses 1-5) you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.'
  • 1 Timothy 4:13 'Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation and teaching.'
  • 1 Timothy 4:16 'Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching.. for as you do so you will ensure salvation for yourself and for those who hear you.'
  • See also 1 Tim 5:17, 6:2-3, 6:17-18
  • 2 Timothy 2:15 'Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.'
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 'All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.'
  • 2 Timothy 4:1-2 'I solemnly charge you... preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.'
  • See also 2 Tim 1:13-14, 2:2, 2:24-26, 3:10-15

I hope you can see where Paul's heart was. Truth is important. A man may say he believes, but if what he believes is a lie, his faith is in vain. Paul described the word of God as being for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness. Two seem positive, two negative. But they are all for the positive in the long run. Part of biblical love is to correct and train. They go hand in hand. Look at the Fathers love. (Heb 12:5-11)

From what we have seen of Nehemiah, he was a man of integrity who committed his life and actions to the truth of God's word. He loved the truth! And as we shall now see, through that love and knowledge of Gods word he was able to discern the true from the counterfeit, even when Israel's other leaders could not. This is how we see the false 'angels of light' and discern truth from error!


1. Yeah, sort of given it away haven't I? False words and prophecies only come from one of two places:

1) They are inspired by Satan as warned by Jesus that in the last days false Christ's and false prophets will deceive many. (Matt 24:5, 11, 24) This is Sanballat again at work.
2) The words and prophecies can come from the flesh, and its usually the religious flesh (Tobiah) seeking honour and glory for himself that's says such things. As in Col 2:18 where Paul warns against those who "take their stand on visions they have seen, inflated without cause by their fleshly mind."

2. Both Old and New Testaments tell us to go to the word to judge things. Why is it that this is now frowned upon? Isn't it the attitude of the world to tolerate all things and not have any base to judge things by? But Gods word still gives us the attitude that God is after. "When they say to you, 'Consult the mediums and spiritists who whisper and mutter'...To the word and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word it is because they have no light." (Isa 8:19-20) The New Test. tells us 'not to exceed what is written' (1Cor 4:6) and when Paul preached to the Bereans it is written that the Bereans 'were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.' (Acts 17:11) Paul didn't just want them to accept everything he said (even though it was true). These Bereans were commended because they went back to the word each day to see whether what Paul was saying was the truth or not. I believe that the prophetic gift is a gift of the Spirit and is still for use today. Just don't be naive. 1 Thess 5:20-21 ' Do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully and hold on to what is good.' Christians should be able to discern by the word. It is only spiritual babies who cannot. (Heb 5:12-14)


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