Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 155

Nehemiah 1–7

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 1GNBOpen in Bible reader

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.”

Nehemiah 2GNBOpen in Bible reader

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 3GNBOpen in Bible reader

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 4GNBOpen in Bible reader

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.

Nehemiah 5GNBOpen in Bible reader

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.

Nehemiah 6GNBOpen in Bible reader

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.

Nehemiah 7GNBOpen in Bible reader
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