Bible Society of South Africa

Bible Reading Plan – Day 255

Bible text(s)

Oppression of the Poor

1Some time later many of the people, both men and women, began to complain against their fellow-Jews. 2Some said, “We have large families, we need corn to keep us alive.”

3Others said, “We have had to mortgage our fields and vineyards and houses to get enough corn to keep us from starving.”

4Still others said, “We had to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards. 5We are of the same race as our fellow-Jews. Aren't our children just as good as theirs? But we have to make slaves of our children. Some of our daughters have already been sold as slaves. We are helpless because our fields and vineyards have been taken away from us.”

6When I heard their complaints, I was angry 7and decided to act. I denounced the leaders and officials of the people and told them, “You are oppressing your fellow-Jews!”

I called a public assembly to deal with the problem 8and said, “As far as we have been able, we have been buying back our Jewish relatives who had to sell themselves to foreigners. Now you are forcing your own relatives to sell themselves to you, their own people!” The leaders were silent and could find nothing to say.

9Then I said, “What you are doing is wrong! You ought to obey God and do what's right. Then you would not give our enemies, the Gentiles, any reason to ridicule us. 10I have let the people borrow money and corn from me, and so have my companions and the people who work for me. Now let's give up all our claims to repayment. 11Cancel all the debts they owe you — money or corn or wine or olive oil. And give them back their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses at once!”

12The leaders replied, “We'll do as you say. We'll give the property back and not try to collect the debts.”

I called in the priests and made the leaders swear in front of them to keep the promise they had just made. 13Then I took off the sash I was wearing round my waist and shook it out. “This is how God will shake any of you who don't keep your promise,” I said. “God will take away your houses and everything you own, and will leave you with nothing.”

Everyone who was present said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. And the leaders kept their promise.

Nehemiah's Unselfishness

14During all the twelve years that I was governor of the land of Judah, from the twentieth year that Artaxerxes was emperor until his 32nd year, neither my relatives nor I ate the food I was entitled to have as governor. 15Every governor who had been in office before me had been a burden to the people and had demanded forty silver coins a day for food and wine. Even their servants had oppressed the people. But I acted differently, because I honoured God. 16I put all my energy into rebuilding the wall and did not acquire any property. Everyone who worked for me joined in the rebuilding. 17I regularly fed at my table 150 of the Jewish people and their leaders, besides all the people who came to me from the surrounding nations. 18Every day I served one ox, six of the best sheep, and many chickens, and every ten days I provided a fresh supply of wine. But I knew what heavy burdens the people had to bear, so I did not claim the allowance that the governor is entitled to.

19I pray you, O God, remember to my credit everything that I have done for this people.

Plots against Nehemiah

1Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and the rest of our enemies heard that we had finished building the wall and that there were no gaps left in it, although we still had not set up the gates in the gateways. 2So Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message, suggesting that I meet with them in one of the villages in the Plain of Ono. This was a trick of theirs to try to harm me. 3I sent messengers to say to them, “I am doing important work and can't go down there. I am not going to let the work stop just to go and see you.”

4They sent me the same message four times, and each time I sent them the same reply.

5Then Sanballat sent one of his servants to me with a fifth message, this one in the form of an unsealed letter. 6It read:

“Geshem tells me that a rumour is going round among the neighbouring peoples that you and the Jewish people intend to revolt and that this is why you are rebuilding the wall. He also says you plan to make yourself king 7and that you have arranged for some prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem that you are the king of Judah. His Majesty is certain to hear about this, so I suggest that you and I meet to talk the situation over.”

8I sent a reply to him: “Nothing of what you are saying is true. You have made it all up yourself.”

9They were trying to frighten us into stopping work. I prayed, “But now, God, make me strong!”

10About this time I went to visit Shemaiah, the son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was unable to leave his house. He said to me, “You and I must go and hide together in the Holy Place of the Temple and lock the doors, because they are coming to kill you. Any night now they will come to kill you.”

11I answered, “I'm not the kind of person that runs and hides. Do you think I would try to save my life by hiding in the Temple? I won't do it.”

12When I thought it over, I realized that God had not spoken to Shemaiah, but that Tobiah and Sanballat had bribed him to give me this warning. 13They hired him to frighten me into sinning, so that they could ruin my reputation and humiliate me.

14I prayed, “God, remember what Tobiah and Sanballat have done and punish them. Remember that woman Noadiah and all the other prophets who tried to frighten me.”

The Conclusion of the Work

15After 52 days of work the entire wall was finished on the 25th day of the month of Elul. 16When our enemies in the surrounding nations heard this, they realized that they had lost face, since everyone knew that the work had been done with God's help.

17During all this time the Jewish leaders had been in correspondence with Tobiah. 18Many people in Judah were on his side because of his Jewish father-in-law, Shecaniah son of Arah. In addition, his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah. 19People would talk in front of me about all the good deeds Tobiah had done and would tell him everything I said. And he kept sending me letters to try to frighten me.

1And now the wall had been rebuilt, the gates had all been put in place, and the temple guards, the members of the sacred choir, and the other Levites had been assigned their work. 2I put two men in charge of governing the city of Jerusalem: my brother Hanani and Hananiah, commanding officer of the fortress. Hananiah was a reliable and God-fearing man without an equal. 3I told them not to have the gates of Jerusalem opened in the morning until well after sunrise and to have them closed and barred before the guards went off duty at sunset. I also told them to appoint guards from among the people who lived in Jerusalem and to assign some of them to specific posts and others to patrol the area round their own houses.

The List of Those who Returned from Exile

(Ezra 2.1–70)

4Jerusalem was a large city, but not many people were living in it, and not many houses had been built yet. 5God inspired me to assemble the people and their leaders and officials and to check their family records. I located the records of those who had first returned from captivity, and this is the information I found:

6Many of the exiles left the province of Babylon and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own city. Their families had been living in exile in Babylonia ever since King Nebuchadnezzar had taken them there as prisoners. 7Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah.

8-25This is the list of the clans of Israel, with the number of those from each clan who returned from exile:

    Parosh — 2,172
    Shephatiah — 372
    Arah — 652
    Pahath Moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab) — 2,818
    Elam — 1,254
    Zattu — 845
    Zaccai — 760
    Binnui — 648
    Bebai — 628
    Azgad — 2,322
    Adonikam — 667
    Bigvai — 2,067
    Adin — 655
    Ater (also called Hezekiah) — 98
    Hashum — 328
    Bezai — 324
    Hariph — 112
    Gibeon — 95

26-38People whose ancestors had lived in the following towns also returned:

    Bethlehem and Netophah — 188
    Anathoth — 128
    Beth Azmaveth — 42
    Kiriath Jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth — 743
    Ramah and Geba — 621
    Michmash — 122
    Bethel and Ai — 123
    The other Nebo — 52
    The other Elam — 1,254
    Harim — 320
    Jericho — 345
    Lod, Hadid, and Ono — 721
    Senaah — 3,930

39-42This is the list of the priestly clans that returned from exile:

    Jedaiah (descendants of Jeshua) — 973
    Immer — 1,052
    Pashhur — 1,247
    Harim — 1,017

43-45Clans of Levites who returned from exile:

    Jeshua and Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah) — 74
    Temple musicians (descendants of Asaph) — 148
    Temple guards (descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai) — 138

46-56Clans of temple workmen who returned from exile:

    Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
    Keros, Sia, Padon,
    Lebana, Hagaba, Shalmai,
    Hanan, Giddel, Gahar,
    Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda,
    Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah,
    Besai, Meunim, Nephushesim,
    Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
    Bazlith, Mehida, Harsha,
    Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
    Neziah, and Hatipha.

57-59Clans of Solomon's servants who returned from exile:

    Sotai, Sophereth, Perida,
    Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,
    Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth Hazzebaim, and Amon.

60The total number of descendants of the temple workmen and of Solomon's servants who returned from exile was 392.

61-62There were 642 belonging to the clans of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda who returned from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer; but they could not prove that they were descendants of Israelites.

63-64The following priestly clans could find no record to prove their ancestry: Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai. (The ancestor of the priestly clan of Barzillai had married a woman from the clan of Barzillai of Gilead and taken the name of his father-in-law's clan.) Since they were unable to prove who their ancestors were, they were not accepted as priests. 65The Jewish governor told them that they could not eat the food offered to God until there was a priest who could use the Urim and Thummim.

    66-69Total number of exiles who returned — 42,360
    Their male and female servants — 7,337
    Male and female musicians — 245
    Horses — 736
    Mules — 245
    Camels — 435
    Donkeys — 6,720

70-72Many of the people contributed to help pay the cost of restoring the Temple:

The governor 8 kilogrammes of gold
50 ceremonial bowls
530 robes for priests
Heads of clans 168 kilogrammes of gold
1.25 tonnes of silver
The rest of the people 168 kilogrammes of gold
140 kilogrammes of silver
67 robes for priests

73The priests, the Levites, the temple guards, the musicians, many of the ordinary people, the temple workmen — all the people of Israel — settled in the towns and cities of Judah.

Ezra Reads the Law to the People

1By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. On the first day of that month they all assembled in Jerusalem, in the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law which the LORD had given Israel through Moses, to get the book of the Law. 2So Ezra brought it to the place where the people had gathered — men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. 3There in the square by the gate he read the Law to them from dawn until noon, and they all listened attentively.

4Ezra was standing on a wooden platform that had been built for the occasion. The following men stood at his right: Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and the following stood at his left: Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.

5As Ezra stood there on the platform high above the people, they all kept their eyes fixed on him. As soon as he opened the book, they all stood up. 6Ezra said, “Praise the LORD, the great God!”

All the people raised their arms in the air and answered, “Amen! Amen!” They knelt in worship, with their faces to the ground.

7Then they rose and stood in their places, and the following Levites explained the Law to them: Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah. 8They gave an oral translation of God's Law and explained it so that the people could understand it.

9When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry. So Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, and the Levites who were explaining the Law told all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God, so you are not to mourn or cry. 10Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who haven't enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don't be sad. The joy that the LORD gives you will make you strong.”

11The Levites went about calming the people and telling them not to be sad on such a holy day. 12So all the people went home and ate and drank joyfully and shared what they had with others, because they understood what had been read to them.

The Festival of Shelters

13The next day the heads of the clans, together with the priests and the Levites, went to Ezra to study the teachings of the Law. 14They discovered that the Law, which the LORD gave through Moses, ordered the people of Israel to live in temporary shelters during the Festival of Shelters. 15So they gave the following instructions and sent them all through Jerusalem and the other cities and towns: “Go out to the hills and get branches from pines, olives, myrtles, palms, and other trees to make shelters according to the instructions written in the Law.”

16So the people got branches and built shelters on the flat roofs of their houses, in their yards, in the temple courtyard, and in the public squares by the Water Gate and by the Ephraim Gate. 17All the people who had come back from captivity built shelters and lived in them. This was the first time it had been done since the days of Joshua son of Nun, and everybody was excited and happy. 18From the first day of the festival to the last they read a part of God's Law every day. They celebrated for seven days, and on the eighth day there was a closing ceremony, as required in the Law.

Nehemiah 5:1-8:18GNBOpen in Bible reader
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