We think fake news is a modern ‘invention.’ It is not. The Bible describes how it was used by hostile forces 2,400 years ago. Governor Nehemiah experienced it.
Nehemiah’s task was to repair Jerusalem’s walls. His enemies were very alarmed that somebody would dare to promote the welfare of the Jews.
Their first strategy was to send Nehemiah a message,
‘Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.’ Nehemiah 6:2
Nehemiah understood the plot,
‘…they were scheming to harm me.’ Nehemiah 6:2b
He let them know,
‘I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?’ Nehemiah 6:3
Their strategy failed and they came up with the fake news scheme. They sent an unsealed letter to Nehemiah,
“It is reported among the nations – and Geshem says it is true – that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king, and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us confer together.” Nehemiah 6:5-7
Nehemiah’s reply is classic,
‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.’ Nehemiah 6:8
Look at the format of the fake news:
- ‘It is reported.’ There are no facts, only rumours.
- ‘Geshem says it is true.’ The ‘reliable’ witness was an enemy of Nehemiah.
- If Nehemiah wanted to become king, why build the wall? Why not revolt and get the kingship? Nehemiah knew more than the others that the king, Artaxerxes, had his army stationed all across his kingdom. He would not allow a rebellion. Besides, Nehemiah had king Artaxerxes’ trust. Nehemiah trusted God. God sent him to build the wall, not become king.
- ‘The report will go to the king. But to prevent it, let us confer together.’ Nehemiah had king Artaxerxes’ blessing on the project. What, after all is said and done, did Sanballat, Tobiah and the others have to do with the building project? They were and remained the enemies.
- Fake news has its origin in enemies. Nehemiah was right to flatly reject it. They represented the anti-God side and he the pro-God side. He was doing what God wanted done. The enemy never likes that.
- In the case of President Trump the same question might be asked: is he pro-God or anti-God? From all reports, he is pro-God and pro-Jew. No wonder all the fake news!