Bible Society of South Africa

Bible Reading Plan – Day 254

Bible text(s)

1This is the account of what Nehemiah son of Hacaliah accomplished.

Nehemiah's Concern for Jerusalem

In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year that Artaxerxes was emperor of Persia, I, Nehemiah, was in Susa, the capital city. 2Hanani, one of my brothers, arrived from Judah with another group, and I asked them about Jerusalem and about our fellow-Jews who had returned from exile in Babylonia. 3They told me that those who had survived and were back in the homeland were in great difficulty and that the foreigners who lived near by looked down on them. They also told me that the walls of Jerusalem were still broken down and that the gates had not been restored since the time they were burnt. 4When I heard all this, I sat down and wept.

For several days I mourned and did not eat. I prayed to God, 5LORD God of Heaven! You are great, and we stand in fear of you. You faithfully keep your covenant with those who love you and do what you command. 6Look at me, LORD, and hear my prayer, as I pray day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess that we, the people of Israel, have sinned. My ancestors and I have sinned. 7We have acted wickedly against you and have not done what you commanded. We have not kept the laws which you gave us through Moses, your servant. 8Remember now what you told Moses: ‘If you people of Israel are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the other nations. 9But then if you turn back to me and do what I have commanded you, I will bring you back to the place where I have chosen to be worshipped, even though you are scattered to the ends of the earth.’

10“Lord, these are your servants, your own people. You rescued them by your great power and strength. 11Listen now to my prayer and to the prayers of all your other servants who want to honour you. Give me success today and make the emperor merciful to me.”

In those days I was the emperor's wine steward.

Nehemiah Goes to Jerusalem

1One day four months later, when Emperor Artaxerxes was dining, I took the wine to him. He had never seen me look sad before, 2so he asked, “Why are you looking so sad? You aren't ill, so it must be that you're unhappy.”

I was startled 3and answered, “May Your Majesty live for ever! How can I help looking sad when the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

4The emperor asked, “What is it that you want?”

I prayed to the God of Heaven, 5and then I said to the emperor, “If Your Majesty is pleased with me and is willing to grant my request, let me go to the land of Judah, to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I can rebuild the city.”

6The emperor, with the empress sitting at his side, approved my request. He asked me how long I would be gone and when I would return, and I told him.

7Then I asked him to grant me the favour of giving me letters to the governors of West Euphrates Province, instructing them to let me travel to Judah. 8I asked also for a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests, instructing him to supply me with timber for the gates of the fort that guards the Temple, for the city walls, and for the house I was to live in. The emperor gave me all I asked for, because God was with me.

9The emperor sent some army officers and a troop of horsemen with me, and I made the journey to West Euphrates. There I gave the emperor's letters to the governors. 10But Sanballat, from the town of Beth Horon, and Tobiah, an official in the province of Ammon, heard that someone had come to work for the good of the people of Israel, and they were highly indignant.

11I went on to Jerusalem, and for three days 12I did not tell anyone what God had inspired me to do for Jerusalem. Then in the middle of the night I got up and went out, taking a few of my companions with me. The only animal we took was the donkey that I rode on. 13It was still night as I left the city through the Valley Gate on the west and went south past Dragon's Fountain to the Rubbish Gate. As I went, I inspected the broken walls of the city and the gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14Then on the east side of the city I went north to the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool. The donkey I was riding could not find any path through the rubble, 15so I went down into the valley of the Kidron and rode along, looking at the wall. Then I returned the way I had come and went back into the city through the Valley Gate.

16None of the local officials knew where I had been or what I had been doing. So far I had not said anything to any of my fellow-Jews — the priests, the leaders, the officials, or anyone else who would be taking part in the work. 17But now I said to them, “See what trouble we are in because Jerusalem is in ruins and its gates are destroyed! Let's rebuild the city walls and put an end to our disgrace.” 18And I told them how God had been with me and helped me, and what the emperor had said to me.

They responded, “Let's start rebuilding!” And they got ready to start the work.

19When Sanballat, Tobiah, and an Arab named Geshem heard what we were planning to do, they laughed at us and said, “What do you think you're doing? Are you going to rebel against the emperor?”

20I answered, “The God of Heaven will give us success. We are his servants, and we are going to start building. But you have no right to any property in Jerusalem, and you have no share in its traditions.”

Rebuilding the Wall of Jerusalem

1This is how the city wall was rebuilt. The High Priest Eliashib and his fellow-priests rebuilt the Sheep Gate, dedicated it, and put the gates in place. They dedicated the wall as far as the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel.

2The men of Jericho built the next section.

Zaccur son of Imri built the next section.

3The clan of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They put the beams and the gates in place, and put in the bolts and bars for locking the gate.

4Meremoth, the son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz, built the next section.

Meshullam, the son of Berechiah and grandson of Meshezabel, built the next section.

Zadok son of Baana built the next section.

5The men of Tekoa built the next section, but the leading men of the town refused to do the manual labour assigned to them by the supervisors.

6Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah rebuilt Jeshanah Gate. They put the beams and the gates in place, and put in the bolts and bars for locking the gate.

7Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth, and the men of Gibeon and Mizpah built the next section, as far as the residence of the governor of West Euphrates.

8Uzziel son of Harhaiah, a goldsmith, built the next section.

Hananiah, a maker of perfumes, built the next section, as far as Broad Wall.

9Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of half the Jerusalem District, built the next section.

10Jedaiah son of Harumaph built the next section, which was near his own house.

Hattush son of Hashabneiah built the next section.

11Malchijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath Moab built both the next section and the Tower of the Ovens.

12Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of the other half of the Jerusalem District, built the next section. (His daughters helped with the work.)

13Hanun and the inhabitants of the city of Zanoah rebuilt the Valley Gate. They put the gates in place, put in the bolts and the bars for locking the gate, and repaired the wall for 440 metres, as far as the Rubbish Gate.

14Malchijah son of Rechab, ruler of the Beth Haccherem District, rebuilt the Rubbish Gate. He put the gates in place, and put in the bolts and the bars for locking the gate.

15Shallum son of Colhozeh, ruler of the Mizpah District, rebuilt the Fountain Gate. He covered the gateway, put the gates in place, and put in the bolts and the bars. At the Pool of Shelah he built the wall next to the royal garden, as far as the steps leading down from David's City.

16Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of half the Bethzur District, built the next section, as far as David's tomb, the pool, and the barracks.

Levites who Worked on the Wall

17The following Levites rebuilt the next several sections of the wall:

Rehum son of Bani built the next section;

Hashabiah, ruler of half the Keilah District, built the next section on behalf of his district;

18Bavvai son of Henadad, ruler of the other half of the Keilah District, built the next section;

19Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, built the next section in front of the armoury, as far as the place where the wall turns;

20Baruch son of Zabbai built the next section, as far as the entrance to the house of the High Priest Eliashib;

21Meremoth, the son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz, built the next section, up to the far end of Eliashib's house.

Priests who Worked on the Wall

22The following priests rebuilt the next several sections of the wall:

Priests from the area around Jerusalem built the next section;

23Benjamin and Hasshub built the next section, which was in front of their houses;

Azariah, the son of Maaseiah and grandson of Ananiah, built the next section, which was in front of his house;

24Binnui son of Henadad built the next section, from Azariah's house to the corner of the wall;

25-26Palal son of Uzai built the next section, beginning at the corner of the wall and the tower of the upper palace near the court of the guard;

Pedaiah son of Parosh built the next section, to a point on the east near the Water Gate and the tower guarding the Temple. (This was near that part of the city called Ophel, where the temple workmen lived.)

Other Builders

27The men of Tekoa built the next section, their second one, from a point opposite the large tower guarding the Temple as far as the wall near Ophel.

28A group of priests built the next section, going north from the Horse Gate, each one building in front of his own house.

29Zadok son of Immer built the next section, which was in front of his house.

Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, keeper of the East Gate, built the next section.

30Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, built the next section, their second one.

Meshullam son of Berechiah built the next section, which was in front of his house.

31Malchijah, a goldsmith, built the next section, as far as the building used by the temple workmen and the merchants, which was by the Miphkad Gate, near the room on top of the north-east corner of the wall.

32The goldsmiths and the merchants built the last section, from the room at the corner as far as the Sheep Gate.

Nehemiah Overcomes Opposition to his Work

1When Sanballat heard that we Jews had begun rebuilding the wall, he was furious and began to ridicule us. 2In front of his companions and the Samaritan troops he said, “What do these miserable Jews think they're doing? Do they intend to rebuild the city? Do they think that by offering sacrifices they can finish the work in one day? Can they make building stones out of heaps of burnt rubble?”

3Tobiah was standing there beside him, and he added, “What kind of wall could they ever build? Even a fox could knock it down!”

4I prayed, “Listen to them mocking us, O God! Let their ridicule fall on their own heads. Let them be robbed of everything they have, and let them be taken as prisoners to a foreign land. 5Don't forgive the evil they do and don't forget their sins, for they have insulted us who are building.”

6So we went on rebuilding the wall, and soon it was half its full height, because the people were eager to work.

7Sanballat, Tobiah, and the people of Arabia, Ammon, and Ashdod heard that we were making progress in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and that the gaps in the wall were being closed, and they were very angry. 8So they all plotted together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion, 9but we prayed to our God and kept men on guard against them day and night.

10The people of Judah had a song they sang:

“We grow weak carrying burdens;

There's so much rubble to take away.

How can we build the wall today?”

11Our enemies thought we would not see them or know what was happening until they were already upon us, killing us and putting an end to our work. 12But time after time Jews who were living among our enemies came to warn us of the plans our enemies were making against us. 13So I armed the people with swords, spears, and bows, and stationed them by clans behind the wall, wherever it was still unfinished.

14I saw that the people were worried, so I said to them and to their leaders and officials, “Don't be afraid of our enemies. Remember how great and terrifying the Lord is, and fight for your fellow-countrymen, your children, your wives, and your homes.” 15Our enemies heard that we had found out what they were plotting, and they realized that God had defeated their plans. Then all of us went back to rebuilding the wall.

16From then on half my men worked and half stood guard, wearing coats of armour and armed with spears, shields, and bows. And our leaders gave their full support to the people 17who were rebuilding the wall. Even those who carried building materials worked with one hand and kept a weapon in the other, 18and everyone who was building kept a sword strapped to his waist. The man who was to sound the alarm on the bugle stayed with me. 19I told the people and their officials and leaders, “The work is spread out over such a distance that we are widely separated from one another on the wall. 20If you hear the bugle, gather round me. Our God will fight for us.” 21So every day, from dawn until the stars came out at night, half of us worked on the wall, while the other half stood guard with spears.

22During this time I told the men in charge that they and all their helpers had to stay in Jerusalem at night, so that we could guard the city at night as well as work in the daytime. 23I didn't take off my clothes even at night, neither did any of my companions nor my servants nor my bodyguard. And we all kept our weapons to hand.

Nehemiah 1:1-4:23GNBOpen in Bible reader
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