Bible: Nehemiah 1-6


A Prayer of Nehemiah


These are the words of Nehemiah 2  son of Hacaliah:

It so happened that in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year, 3  I was in Susa 4  the citadel. 1:2 Hanani, who was one of my relatives, 5  along with some of the men from Judah, came to me, 6  and I asked them about the Jews who had escaped and had survived the exile, and about Jerusalem. 7 

1:3 They said to me, “The remnant that remains from the exile there in the province are experiencing considerable 8  adversity and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem lies breached, and its gates have been burned down! 9 

1:4 When I heard these things I sat down abruptly, 10  crying and mourning for several days. I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 1:5 Then I said, “Please, O LORD God of heaven, great and awesome God, who keeps his loving covenant 11  with those who love him and obey 12  his commandments, 1:6 may your ear be attentive and your eyes be open to hear the prayer of your servant that I am praying to you today throughout both day and night on behalf of your servants the Israelites. I am confessing the sins of the Israelites that we have committed 13  against you – both I myself and my family 14  have sinned. 1:7 We have behaved corruptly against you, not obeying the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments that you commanded your servant Moses. 1:8 Please recall the word you commanded your servant Moses: ‘If you act unfaithfully, I will scatter you among the nations. 15  1:9 But if you repent 16  and obey 17  my commandments and do them, then even if your dispersed people are in the most remote location, 18  I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen for my name to reside.’ 1:10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your mighty strength and by your powerful hand. 1:11 Please, 19  O Lord, listen attentively 20  to the prayer of your servant and to the prayer of your servants who take pleasure in showing respect 21  to your name. Grant your servant success today and show compassion to me 22  in the presence of this man.”

Now 23  I was cupbearer for the king.

Nehemiah Is Permitted to Go to Jerusalem

2:1 Then in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought to me, 24  I took the wine and gave it to the king. Previously 25  I had not been depressed 26  in the king’s presence. 27  2:2 So the king said to me, “Why do you appear to be depressed when you aren’t sick? What can this be other than sadness of heart?” This made me very fearful.

2:3 I replied to the king, “O king, live forever! Why would I not appear dejected when the city with the graves of my ancestors 28  lies desolate and its gates destroyed 29  by fire? 2:4 The king responded, 30 What is it you are seeking?” Then I quickly prayed to the God of heaven 2:5 and said to the king, “If the king is so inclined 31  and if your servant has found favor in your sight, dispatch me to Judah, to the city with the graves of my ancestors, so that I can rebuild it.” 2:6 Then the king, with his consort 32  sitting beside him, replied, “How long would your trip take, and when would you return?” Since the king was amenable to dispatching me, 33  I gave him a time. 2:7 I said to the king, “If the king is so inclined, let him give me letters for the governors of Trans-Euphrates 34  that will enable me to travel safely until I reach Judah, 2:8 and a letter for Asaph the keeper of the king’s nature preserve, 35  so that he will give me timber for beams for the gates of the fortress adjacent to the temple and for the city wall 36  and for the house to which I go.” So the king granted me these requests, 37  for the good hand of my God was on me. 2:9 Then I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, and I presented to them the letters from the king. The king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 2:10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official 38  heard all this, they were very displeased that someone had come to seek benefit for the Israelites.

Nehemiah Arrives in Jerusalem

2:11 So I came to Jerusalem. 39  When I had been there for three days, 2:12 I got up during the night, along with a few men who were with me. But I did not tell anyone what my God was putting on my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no animals with me, except for the one 40  I was riding. 2:13 I proceeded through the Valley Gate by night, in the direction of the Well of the Dragons 41  and the Dung Gate, 42  inspecting 43  the walls of Jerusalem that had been breached and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 2:14 I passed on to the Gate of the Well and the King’s Pool, where there was not enough room for my animal to pass with me. 2:15 I continued up the valley during the night, inspecting the wall. Then I turned back and came to the Valley Gate, and so returned. 2:16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had been doing, for up to this point I had not told any of the Jews or the priests or the nobles or the officials or the rest of the workers. 2:17 Then I said to them, “You see the problem that we have: Jerusalem is desolate and its gates are burned. Come on! Let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that this reproach will not continue.” 2:18 Then I related to them how the good hand of my God was on me and what 44  the king had said to me. Then they replied, “Let’s begin rebuilding right away!” 45  So they readied themselves 46  for this good project. 2:19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard all this, 47  they derided us and expressed contempt toward us. They said, “What is this you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king? 2:20 I responded to them by saying, “The God of heaven will prosper us. We his servants will start the rebuilding. 48  But you have no just or ancient right in Jerusalem.” 49 

The Names of the Builders

3:1 Then Eliashib the high priest and his priestly colleagues 50  arose and built the Sheep Gate. They dedicated 51  it and erected its doors, working as far as the Tower of the Hundred 52  and 53  the Tower of Hananel. 3:2 The men of Jericho 54  built adjacent to it, and Zaccur son of Imri built adjacent to them. 55 

3:3 The sons of Hassenaah rebuilt the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 3:4 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakoz, worked on the section adjacent to them. Meshullam son of Berechiah the son of Meshezabel worked on the section next to them. And Zadok son of Baana worked on the section adjacent to them. 3:5 The men of Tekoa worked on the section adjacent to them, but their town leaders 56  would not assist 57  with the work of their master. 58 

3:6 Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah worked on the Jeshanah Gate. 59  They laid its beams and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 3:7 Adjacent to them worked Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, who were men of Gibeon and Mizpah. These towns were under the jurisdiction 60  of the governor of Trans-Euphrates. 3:8 Uzziel son of Harhaiah, a member of the goldsmithsguild, worked on the section adjacent to him. Hananiah, a member of the perfumersguild, worked on the section adjacent to him. They plastered 61  the city wall of Jerusalem 62  as far as the Broad Wall. 3:9 Rephaiah son of Hur, head of a half-district of Jerusalem, worked on the section adjacent to them. 3:10 Jedaiah son of Harumaph worked on the section adjacent to them opposite 63  his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah worked on the section adjacent to him. 3:11 Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab worked on another section and the Tower of the Fire Pots. 3:12 Shallum son of Hallohesh, head of a half-district of Jerusalem, worked on the section adjacent to him, assisted by his daughters. 64 

3:13 Hanun and the residents of Zanoah worked on the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars, in addition to working on fifteen hundred feet 65  of the wall as far as the Dung Gate.

3:14 Malkijah son of Recab, head of the district of Beth Hakkerem, worked on the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

3:15 Shallun son of Col-Hozeh, head of the district of Mizpah, worked on the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it, put on its roof, and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars. In addition, he rebuilt the wall of the Pool of Siloam, 66  by the royal garden, as far as the steps that go down from the City of David. 3:16 Nehemiah son of Azbuk, head of a half-district of Beth Zur, worked after him as far as the tombs of David and the artificial pool and the House of the Warriors.

3:17 After him the Levites worked – Rehum son of Bani and 67  after him Hashabiah, head of half the district of Keilah, for his district. 3:18 After him their relatives 68  worked – Binnui 69  son of Henadad, head of a half-district of Keilah. 3:19 Adjacent to him Ezer son of Jeshua, head of Mizpah, worked on another section, opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress. 3:20 After him Baruch son of Zabbai worked on another section, from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 3:21 After him Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, worked on another section from the door of Eliashib’s house to the end of it. 70 

3:22 After him the priests worked, men of the nearby district. 3:23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub worked opposite their house. After them Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, worked near his house. 3:24 After him Binnui son of Henadad worked on another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress and the corner. 3:25 After him Palal son of Uzai worked 71  opposite the buttress and the tower that protrudes from the upper palace 72  of the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah son of Parosh 3:26 and the temple servants who were living on Ophel worked 73  up to the area opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the protruding tower. 3:27 After them the men of Tekoa worked on another section, from opposite the great protruding tower to the wall of Ophel.

3:28 Above the Horse Gate the priests worked, each in front of his house. 3:29 After them Zadok son of Immer worked opposite his house, and after him Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, guard at the East Gate, worked. 3:30 After him 74  Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, worked on another section. After them Meshullam son of Berechiah worked opposite his quarters. 3:31 After him Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, worked as far as the house of the temple servants and the traders, opposite the Inspection Gate, 75  and up to the room above the corner. 3:32 And between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and traders worked.

Opposition to the Work Continues

4:1 76  Now when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall he became angry and was quite upset. He derided the Jews, 4:2 and in the presence of his colleagues 77  and the army of Samaria 78  he said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they be left to themselves? 79  Will they again offer sacrifice? Will they finish this in a day? Can they bring these burnt stones to life again from piles of dust?

4:3 Then Tobiah the Ammonite, who was close by, said, “If even a fox were to climb up on what they are building, it would break down their wall of stones!

4:4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised! Return their reproach on their own head! Reduce them to plunder in a land of exile! 4:5 Do not cover their iniquity, and do not wipe out their sin from before them. For they have bitterly offended 80  the builders! 81 

4:6 So we rebuilt the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height. 82  The people were enthusiastic in their work. 83 

4:7 84  When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the people of Ashdod heard that the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem 85  had moved ahead and that the breaches had begun to be closed, they were very angry. 4:8 All of them conspired together to move with armed forces 86  against Jerusalem and to create a disturbance in it. 4:9 So we prayed to our God and stationed a guard to protect against them 87  both day and night. 4:10 Then those in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers 88  has failed! The debris is so great that we are unable to rebuild the wall.”

4:11 Our adversaries also boasted, 89  “Before they are aware or anticipate 90  anything, we will come in among them and kill them, and we will bring this work to a halt!

4:12 So it happened that the Jews who were living near them came and warned us repeatedly 91  about all the schemes 92  they were plotting 93  against us.

4:13 So I stationed people at the lower places behind the wall in the exposed places. 94  I stationed the people by families, with their swords, spears, and bows. 4:14 When I had made an inspection, 95  I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the great and awesome Lord, 96  and fight on behalf of your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your families! 97 

4:15 It so happened that when our adversaries heard that we were aware of these matters, 98  God frustrated their intentions. Then all of us returned to the wall, each to his own work. 4:16 From that day forward, half of my men were doing the work and half of them were taking up spears, 99  shields, bows, and body armor. Now the officers were behind all the people 100  of Judah 4:17 who were rebuilding the wall. 101  Those who were carrying loads did so 102  by keeping one hand on the work and the other on their weapon. 4:18 The builders to a man had their swords strapped to their sides while they were building. But the trumpeter 103  remained with me.

4:19 I said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “The work is demanding 104  and extensive, and we are spread out on the wall, far removed from one another. 4:20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, gather there with us. Our God will fight for us!

4:21 So we worked on, 105  with half 106  holding spears, from dawn till dusk. 107  4:22 At that time I instructed 108  the people, “Let every man and his coworker spend the night in Jerusalem and let them be guards for us by night and workers by day. 4:23 We did not change clothes 109 not I, nor my relatives, nor my workers, nor the watchmen who were with me. Each had his weapon, even when getting a drink of water. 110 

Nehemiah Intervenes on behalf of the Oppressed

5:1 Then there was a great outcry from the people and their wives against their fellow Jews. 111  5:2 There were those who said, “With our sons and daughters, we are many. We must obtain 112  grain in order to eat and stay alive.” 5:3 There were others who said, “We are putting up our fields, our vineyards, and our houses as collateral in order to obtain grain during the famine.” 5:4 Then there were those who said, “We have borrowed money to pay our taxes to the king 113  on our fields and our vineyards. 5:5 And now, though we share the same flesh and blood as our fellow countrymen, 114  and our children are just like their children, 115  still we have found it necessary to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. 116  Some of our daughters have been subjected to slavery, while we are powerless to help, 117  since our fields and vineyards now belong to other people.” 118 

5:6 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints. 119  5:7 I considered these things carefully 120  and then registered a complaint with the wealthy 121  and the officials. I said to them, “Each one of you is seizing the collateral 122  from your own countrymen!” 123  Because of them I called for 124  a great public assembly. 5:8 I said to them, “To the extent possible we have bought back our fellow Jews 125  who had been sold to the Gentiles. But now you yourselves want to sell your own countrymen, 126  so that we can then buy them back!” They were utterly silent, and could find nothing to say.

5:9 Then I 127  said, “The thing that you are doing is wrong! 128  Should you not conduct yourselves 129  in the fear of our God in order to avoid the reproach of the Gentiles who are our enemies? 5:10 Even I and my relatives 130  and my associates 131  are lending them money and grain. But let us abandon this practice of seizing collateral! 132  5:11 This very day return to them their fields, their vineyards, their olive trees, and their houses, along with the interest 133  that you are exacting from them on the money, the grain, the new wine, and the olive oil.”

5:12 They replied, “We will return these things, 134  and we will no longer demand anything from them. We will do just as you say.” Then I called the priests and made the wealthy and the officials 135  swear to do what had been promised. 136  5:13 I also shook out my garment, 137  and I said, “In this way may God shake out from his house and his property every person who does not carry out 138  this matter. In this way may he be shaken out and emptied!” All the assembly replied, “So be it!” and they praised the LORD. Then the people did as they had promised. 139 

5:14 From the day that I was appointed 140  governor 141  in the land of Judah, that is, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes – twelve years in all – neither I nor my relatives 142  ate the food allotted to the governor. 143  5:15 But the former governors who preceded me had burdened the people and had taken food and wine from them, in addition to 144  forty shekels of silver. Their associates were also domineering over the people. But I did not behave in this way, due to my fear of God. 5:16 I gave myself to the work on this wall, without even purchasing 145  a field. All my associates were gathered there for the work.

5:17 There were 150 Jews and officials who dined with me routinely, 146  in addition to those who came to us from the nations 147  all around us. 5:18 Every day one ox, six select sheep, and some birds were prepared for me, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Despite all this I did not require the food allotted to the governor, for the work was demanding on this people.

5:19 Please remember me for good, O my God, for all that I have done for this people.

Opposition to the Rebuilding Efforts Continues

6:1 When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and no breach remained in it (even though up to that time I had not positioned doors in the gates), 6:2 Sanballat and Geshem sent word to me saying, “Come on! Let’s set up a time to meet together at Kephirim 148  in the plain of Ono.” Now they intended to do me harm.

6:3 So I sent messengers to them saying, “I am engaged in 149  an important work, and I am unable to come down. Why should the work come to a halt when I leave it to come down to you? 6:4 They contacted 150  me four times in this way, and I responded the same way each time. 151 

6:5 The fifth time that Sanballat sent his assistant to me in this way, he had an open letter in his hand. 6:6 Written in it were the following words:

“Among the nations it is rumored 152  (and Geshem 153  has substantiated 154  this) that you and the Jews have intentions of revolting, and for this reason you are building the wall. Furthermore, according to these rumors 155  you are going to become their king. 6:7 You have also established prophets to announce 156  in Jerusalem 157  on your behalf, ‘We have a king in Judah!’ Now the king is going to hear about these rumors. So come on! Let’s talk about this.” 158 

6:8 I sent word back to him, “We are not engaged in these activities you are describing. 159  All of this is a figment of your imagination.” 160 

6:9 All of them were wanting 161  to scare us, supposing, “Their hands will grow slack from the work, and it won’t get done.”

So now, strengthen my hands! 162 

6:10 Then I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel. He was confined to his home. 163  He said, “Let’s set up a time to meet in the house of God, within the temple. Let’s close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. It will surely be at night that they will come to kill you.”

6:11 But I replied, “Should a man like me run away? Would someone like me flee to the temple in order to save his life? 164  I will not go! 6:12 I recognized the fact that God had not sent him, for he had spoken the prophecy against me as a hired agent of Tobiah and Sanballat. 165  6:13 He had been hired to scare me so that I would do this and thereby sin. They would thus bring reproach on me and I 166  would be discredited. 167 

6:14 Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat in light of these actions of theirs – also Noadiah the prophetess and the other prophets who were trying to scare me!

The Rebuilding of the Wall Is Finally Completed

6:15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in just fifty-two days. 6:16 When all our enemies heard and all the nations who were around us saw 168  this, they were greatly disheartened. 169  They knew that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

6:17 In those days the aristocrats of Judah repeatedly sent letters to Tobiah, and responses from Tobiah were repeatedly coming to them. 6:18 For many in Judah had sworn allegiance to him, 170  because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah son of Arah. His son Jonathan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah. 6:19 They were telling me about his good deeds and then taking back to him the things I said. 171  Tobiah, on the other hand, sent letters in order to scare 172  me.

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