Those who returned from captivity were making progress toward their goal of rebuilding. Many of the inhabitants of the land saw what was occurring and wanted to participate (4:1-2). This was refused because, at the very least, it was a Jewish matter and not anything that belonged to people in no covenant relationship to the Lord. At worst, at this seems likely, the Jews detected some nefarious motives (cf. Nehemiah 4). With this rejection those in opposition to the rebuilding set themselves in the direction of the king. The king brings to a halt the activity going one (4:7-24).
Application: The Jews returned from the land the Lord sent them into. They set about to do the Lord’s will, and opposition quickly arises against them. What did the Jews think when this occurred? Did they think the Lord was bringing them to the point of stoppage for something they did, and when the stoppage was forced, were they sure in their minds that the Lord was against them? These are thoughts easy to think. When Satan was thwarted by the Lord in the wilderness Satan determined there would be another time, and there was (cf. Luke 4:13; 24:21). What it is that man can see is only limited, and yet he judges as if he has full knowledge. The Lord sees things much differently, and in this we are to take encouragement.