Biblical People

Biblical People: Sanballat

As Nehemiah sets about rebuilding the wall surrounding the city of Jerusalem, he faces obstacles. These come primarily from three men who band together to oppose him and his work. They are Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. Though they share a common goal to stop Nehemiah, each plays a different role in their efforts to halt the rebuilding of the wall.

First is Sanballat. He’s a Horonite, which is likely a race or people group. 

Sanballat heads the opposition to Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall. Tobiah and Geshem take their lead from Sanballat. Without his leadership, the other two men might not have had the boldness to act against Nehemiah’s efforts.

We don’t know Sanballat’s motivation for obstructing Nehemiah’s work, but we do get a hint of it when we later learn that Sanballat’s daughter is married to the high priest’s grandson. This marriage between a priest and a foreign woman is extra distressing because it occurs not long after Ezra’s efforts to eliminate all such unholy marriages.

Perhaps through this alliance, Sanballat enjoys a bit of influence that he fears he might lose under Nehemiah’s leadership. This seems a legitimate concern because Nehemiah later drives away Sanballat’s son-in-law. Implicitly, this removes Sanballat’s connection with the high priest and Jerusalem, lessening his ability to impact what goes on in the temple and in the city.

Have we ever opposed something with selfish motives? Do we use our position to influence God-honoring issues, the matters the Almighty cares about?

[Read Sanballat’s story in Nehemiah 2:10–20; 4:1–7; 6:1–14; and 13:28.]

Learn about more biblical characters in Old Testament Sinners and Saints, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy today.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at