The *Jews build Jerusalem’s city wall again

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of Nehemiah

www.easyenglish.info

Robert Bryce and Robert Betts

This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

 

About the Book of Nehemiah

Explanation

There are many dates in this *introduction. These dates are the number of years before the time when Jesus Christ was born. Each date has the letters ‘BC’, which mean ‘before Christ’, after it. This *introduction also refers to places in the Bible where you can read about these things.

The history of the *Jews before their *exile

These are the events that happened in *Israel before the time of Nehemiah. This account will help us to understand the Book of Nehemiah better. We can read about these events in Nehemiah 9:5-37.

The people in *Israel do not obey God

God chose the nation called *Israel to be his special people (Leviticus 20:26). He wanted the people to love him and to *worship him. And he wanted them to obey him. In the city called Jerusalem, which was their capital, they built a great *temple. The people *worshipped God and gave *sacrifices to him in this *temple. *Israel became a powerful nation.

But the people in *Israel did not obey God (Nehemiah 9:16-18, 26). They *worshipped the gods of the other nations. So God caused the people in *Israel to suffer trouble and difficulties.

The *Israelites continued to *sin against God (Nehemiah 9:28). God sent many *prophets to warn them about this. But the *Israelites did not listen to these men. Instead, the *Israelites continued to do bad things (Nehemiah 9:29-30). So God allowed them to suffer terrible difficulties. God loved the *Israelites because they were his people. He only allowed them to suffer like this so that they would remember him. He wanted them to obey him. Then he could do good things for them again.

The nation divided into two parts. The northern part was called *Israel and people called the inhabitants *Israelites. The name of the southern part was *Judah and people called the inhabitants *Jews. Jerusalem was in the southern part. The book of Nehemiah is about the people in *Judah. However, sometimes Nehemiah calls them the people of *Israel. God gave Jacob the name *Israel when he promised to make Jacob’s *descendants God’s special people. By the time of Nehemiah, only the people in *Judah remained, but they were still God’s special people.

Assyria overcomes *Israel

In 722 BC, God allowed a powerful nation, the *Assyrians, to overcome *Israel (2 Kings 17:1-23). The *Assyrians forced many *Israelites to live in other countries (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:10-11). And they brought other people to live in *Israel (2 Kings 17:24). These other people *worshipped false gods. They also tried to *worship the real God, but they did not *worship him in the right manner (2 Kings 17:25-41). People called them Samaritans because their chief city was called Samaria (2 Kings 17:24). Samaria was only about two days walk from Jerusalem. The Samaritans became Nehemiah’s enemies. One of their leaders was Sanballat, who was Nehemiah’s chief enemy.

The beginning of the *exile of the people of *Judah

Many of the kings of *Judah did not obey God. But some of them loved God and they encouraged the people to obey him. But the *Jews usually refused to obey God (Nehemiah 9:28-30), as the *Israelites had done. So after many years, God had to punish them too.

In 701 BC, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, overcame some cities in *Judah (2 Kings 18:13). But he did not overcome Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:32-36). God saved the city on that occasion.

Many years later, the *Assyrians became weak and the *Babylonians took control of their country, Assyria. The *Babylonians were the *Jews’ enemies, as the *Assyrians had been. The king of the *Babylonians was Nebuchadnezzar. The *Babylonian army overcame *Judah. The soldiers took most of the *Jews to Babylonia and forced them to live there. This is called ‘the *Babylonian *exile’. It lasted for about 70 years.

God used a foreign king, Nebuchadnezzar, to punish the *Jews. Nebuchadnezzar took them away from the land that God had given to them. At that time, Nebuchadnezzar did not give honour to the real God. Instead, Nebuchadnezzar was serving false gods. But God still used Nebuchadnezzar to punish the *Jews. In Jeremiah 25:9, God said that Nebuchadnezzar was his servant. But Nebuchadnezzar did not know that. In Jeremiah 25:12, God also said that he would punish the *Babylonians 70 years later. God would punish them because they were wicked too (see Daniel chapter 5). God is in control. He can even use people who do not know him.

The *Babylonians overcame *Judah in three phases:

1.         In 605 BC they took king Jehoiakim’s family and the people who served the king (2 Chronicles 36:5-7; Daniel 1:1-7). They forced them to go to Babylonia and to live there. Daniel was one of these people and he became a very important official in Babylonia (Daniel 1:17-21; 5:29-6.3; 6:28). He wrote the Book of Daniel.

2.         Then, 8 years later, the *Babylonians took Jehoiachin, the next king of *Judah, to Babylonia. And they appointed his uncle, Zedekiah, to be king of *Judah. They also took all the leaders, soldiers and skilful workmen. The *Babylonians also stole the beautiful and valuable things in the *temple and they took them to Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-17).

3.         Later, in 586 BC, the *Babylonians came. They destroyed the *temple and the city of Jerusalem. They took king Zedekiah, and most of the people who remained in *Judah, to Babylonia. They allowed only the poorest people to live in *Judah (2 Kings 25:1-12).

God had warned his people before these things happened. He would allow these events to happen if the people refused to obey him (Leviticus 26:27-39; Deuteronomy 28:15 and 28:64-68; 2 Chronicles 36:15-16; Isaiah 39:6-7 and Micah 4:10). God gave his people a long time to ask him to forgive them. He gave them the opportunity to obey him. But the people did not listen to him. They did more and more evil things and they gave honour to false gods.

The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah

The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are two parts of the same story. They tell us about the time when the *Jews returned from Babylonia to their own country called *Judah. Babylonia was about 4 months’ walk east from *Judah. The *Babylonians had defeated the people in *Judah. The *Babylonians had forced most of the *Jews to go to Babylonia and to live there. After many years, the *Persians defeated the *Babylonians. Then Cyrus, the king of Persia, allowed the *Jews to return to *Judah.

The Book of Ezra is the first part. It tells us about the first two groups of *Jews who returned to *Judah. The first group returned about 70 years after the *Babylonians had taken the *Jews into *exile. The book also explains how the *Jews built their *temple again. Then, many years later, a man called Ezra helped the *Jews. He helped them to know God’s commands and to obey them.

The book of Nehemiah is the second part. It tells the story of a man whose name was Nehemiah. He was a very important official who worked for the king of Persia. God sent Nehemiah to *Judah in order to do a special task. Nehemiah would help the *Jews to build the walls round Jerusalem again. He arrived in *Judah about 13 years after Ezra went there. The king appointed Nehemiah to be the ruler of *Judah. Nehemiah, like Ezra, helped the *Jews to obey God’s commands.

About city walls

In ancient times, most cities had city walls. The wall was an important defence that surrounded the city.

The wall would be strong and high. Many such walls were several metres thick. And they would make the city like a large castle.

The top of the wall would be flat. The city's guards would walk on top of the wall. From there, they could watch for any criminals who were inside the city. Also, the guards would be able to see if an enemy army approached the city.

There would be some *towers along the wall. These were tall, strong buildings that the guards could use. And they would be very useful if there was a war.

The wall would have large gates. During the day, these gates were open. Traders and travellers could enter the city. And they could go to the market. But by night, the guards closed the gates. Then, nobody could enter. And the city would be safe.

Because the wall was so strong, people would use it for other purposes too. For example, people might build their houses against it. In some cities, these houses actually became part of the city wall. So, the wall became a row of houses.

Chapter 1

v1 This is the record of Nehemiah, who was the son of Hachaliah. It was the month called Kislev in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes’ rule. I was in Shushan, the king’s castle.

Verse 1

Nehemiah was a *Jew. He was an important servant of the king of Persia (Nehemiah 1:11). Many years earlier the *Persians had defeated the *Babylonians. Then the *Persian king had allowed the *Jews to return to *Judah from the *Babylonian *exile. Some of the *Jews had gone, but many of them still lived in Persia. Nehemiah was probably born in Persia. The book starts when Nehemiah was in Shushan. The *Persian kings had a palace there, which they used during the winter. The story of Esther in the Bible happened in Shushan (Esther 1:1-2).

v2 Hanani, one of my brothers, visited me. He had come from *Judah with some other men. I asked them about the *Jews who had escaped the *exile. Also, I asked Hanani and the other men about Jerusalem. v3 They told me about the *Jews who had escaped. ‘They are now living in *Judah. They suffer much trouble and shame. The walls of Jerusalem are now only heaps of stones. Fire has burned the gates of the city.’

Verses 2-3

Nehemiah’s brother and some other men came from *Judah to visit Nehemiah. He asked them for news about Jerusalem, which was the capital of *Judah.

Nehemiah was probably born in Persia. Probably he had never been to *Judah. But he cared about *Judah. It was the country that God had given to his people, called the *Jews. Nehemiah knew that the *Jews had not obeyed God. So God had punished them. God had made them live far away from *Judah in Babylon. But after 70 years, God had allowed them to return.

Nehemiah probably hoped to hear good news. God’s people were living back in the country that God had given to them. Nehemiah wanted to hear that they were happy there. He wanted to hear that they were serving God. But his brother gave him bad news. The people were not happy. Moreover, the walls of the city were just heaps of stones. We can read more about this in the book of Ezra. The people from other nations that lived near Jerusalem opposed the *Jews. They did not want the *Jews to build the city again (Ezra 4:7-23).

v4 I listened to this. Then I sat down and I wept. I was sad for many days and I ate no food. I prayed to the God of heaven.

Verse 4

This news made Nehemiah very sad. He was sad for many days and he did not eat.

Sometimes people do not eat for a short time if they are very sad. They may do this so that they have more time to pray to God.

Nehemiah prayed every night and every day. He prayed for 4 months. From the month called Kislev (Nehemiah 1:1) to the month called Nisan (Nehemiah 2:1) was 4 months.

v5 I said, ‘You are *Jehovah, God of heaven. You are great. Everyone should be afraid of you. You always do what you promise. You have made an agreement with those people who love you. Such people obey your commands. v6 I am your servant. Please take notice of me and listen to my prayer. I am praying to you day and night for the people of *Israel. They are your servants. I confess the *sins that the people of *Israel have done against you. My family and I also have done wrong things. v7 We have done very wicked things against you. You gave commands, orders and judgements to Moses your servant. But we have not obeyed them.

v8 You gave instructions to your servant Moses. You said, “If you are not loyal to me (God), I will make you scatter among the nations. v9 But if you turn back to me, I will bring you back. Obey my commands! Do what I say! Then even if I forced you to live in the most distant places, I will bring you back from there. I will bring you back to the country where I have chosen to live.”

v10 These people are your servants. They are your people. You are strong and powerful and you rescued them. v11 This is my request. I am your servant. Please hear my prayer and the prayer of all your servants. We love to respect your name. I am your servant. Please give me success today. And please cause the king to be favourable.’

I was the man who served wine to the king.

Verses 5-11

We read about several of Nehemiah’s prayers in this book. Some of his prayers were very short. But this one helps us to understand what Nehemiah’s prayers were like. When Nehemiah started his prayer, he *worshipped God. This is how Daniel started his prayers (Daniel 9:4). This is also how Jesus taught us to start our prayers (Luke 11:2).

Nehemiah was far away from *Judah. So he could not easily help the people there. But he knew that the God of heaven could do anything.

Nehemiah knew about God’s agreement with the *Jews. God promised to be kind to them if they obeyed him. He gave them the country called *Judah (which is part of *Israel) as their home. And this was a good place to live. But Nehemiah also knew that God had told Moses to warn the people. God would punish them if they did not obey him (Deuteronomy 28:62-67). And the people had not obeyed God. That was the reason for the *exile. And that was why most *Jews were still living as foreigners at the time of Nehemiah.

So now, Nehemiah prayed to God on behalf of all the *Jews. He confessed the *sins of all the people. Daniel and Ezra had done this too (Daniel 9:4-15; Ezra 9:6-7; Ezra 9:10).

Nehemiah also remembered God’s promises. If the people trusted God again, God would bring them back from *exile. If they obeyed God, he would bring them back to live in *Judah (Deuteronomy 30:1-5).

Nehemiah added that the *Jews were God’s special people. They had been slaves in a country called Egypt. But God is powerful. And God is kind. God had rescued them from Egypt. And Nehemiah was praying that God would rescue them again.

Nehemiah prayed to God for help. But he also wanted to do something himself, although he was far away from *Judah. He was working in the palace of the king of Persia. That king was very powerful. He ruled many countries, including *Judah. So, Nehemiah’s job gave him an opportunity to speak to this great king. Nehemiah was very careful and he was very wise. He asked God to help him so that he could say the right thing to the king. But Nehemiah had to wait for 4 months before he got his opportunity. There are 4 months between the month called Kislev (Nehemiah 1:1) and the month called Nisan (Nehemiah 2:1).

Chapter 2

v1 It was the month called Nisan in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes’ rule. I was serving the king with wine. I took the wine and I gave it to the king. I had never been sad before when I was with the king. v2 So the king said to me, ‘Your face is very sad. But you are not ill. This means that you are sad in your heart.’

Then I was very afraid. v3 And I said to the king, ‘I hope that the king will have a long life. I will tell you why I am sad. The city, where my *ancestors’ graves are, is a heap of stones. Fire has burned its gates.’

Verses 1-3

When Nehemiah heard the bad news from *Judah, he prayed. He asked God to help him so that he could say the right thing to the king. 4 months later he had his opportunity. He did not waste the 4 months. He continued to pray. In the end, he felt confident about what God wanted him to say.

Nehemiah’s face was sad when he served the wine to the king. He had not been sad before when he was with the king. In those days servants had to be happy when they were with the king (Esther 4:2). They must not make the king sad or angry. The king could kill servants who made him angry.

But Nehemiah was sad that day. And the king could see that Nehemiah was sad. The king might have been very angry and Nehemiah was afraid. But God was in control and so the king was kind to Nehemiah. The king asked Nehemiah why he was sad. So Nehemiah told the king the bad news about Jerusalem.

Nehemiah chose his words carefully. It seems that he did not actually name Jerusalem. In the past, the king had been worried about Jerusalem (Ezra 4:19). At that time, the king did not want the *Jews to rebuild the city. So Nehemiah simply spoke about the city where his *ancestors’ graves were. He mentioned the graves for another reason too. Often, people believe that they should take great care of graves, because of their religion. Nehemiah hoped that the king would feel sympathy for him.

v4 The king asked me, ‘What do you want?’

So I prayed to God in heaven. v5 Then I said to the king, ‘I am your servant. I shall do whatever you want. If your thoughts are favourable towards me, please send me to *Judah. Send me to the city where the graves of my *ancestors are. Then I can rebuild it.’

v6 The queen was sitting next to the king. And the king said to me, ‘How long will your journey take? And when will you return?’ So I told him when I would return. And my plan pleased the king, and he sent me.

Verses 4-6

The king asked Nehemiah what he wanted. This was Nehemiah’s opportunity, so he prayed. But he only had a moment to pray this prayer. Then Nehemiah told the king what he (Nehemiah) wanted to do. He asked the king to send him to *Judah so that he could build the city again. Nehemiah was very bold to say this. But he believed that God had heard his prayers. So he was confident.

Nehemiah was an important servant to the king. Now Nehemiah was asking the king to send him to *Judah. *Judah was 4 months’ walk from Persia. So he would be away from the king for a long time.

He also was asking the king to change the king’s decision about Jerusalem. Earlier the king had stopped the people who wanted to build the city again (Ezra 4:21).

He was also asking the king to send him away from his comfortable life in Persia. He would have to make a long hard journey. Then he would have to work hard to build Jerusalem again. So he asked the king to send him there.

The king knew that Nehemiah was a good and loyal servant. The king and queen would have liked Nehemiah to remain in the palace. But God wanted Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:8; 2:18). So the king asked Nehemiah how long he would be away from the palace. Nehemiah worked out how long the journey would take. And the king agreed to send Nehemiah to *Judah.

v7 And I said to the king, ‘If the king is willing, please give letters to me. These will be for the government officers of the district beyond the Euphrates river. In these letters, please tell them to let me go through their territory to *Judah. v8 Please also give me a letter to Asaph, who looks after the king’s forests. In this letter, please tell him to give me wood from the trees. I will use this wood to make beams for the gates of the castle that is by the *temple. And I will use it for the gates in the city wall. I will also use some beams to build a house for myself.’ The king did everything that I asked. He did that because God was looking after me.

Verses 7-8

Nehemiah was confident that God was arranging for him to go to *Judah. So Nehemiah became even bolder. He asked the king for more help. He wanted the king to protect him as he travelled to *Judah. He asked the king for wood for the city gates. Nehemiah already knew what he needed to do. So he was able to explain all the details to the king.

God was looking after Nehemiah. So the king gave to Nehemiah what he asked for.

v9 Then I went to the government officers of the district beyond the Euphrates river. I gave them the king’s letters. The king sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.

v10 But Sanballat from Horon and Tobiah, an official from Ammon, heard about what I was doing. They were very unhappy because I was coming to help the people in *Israel.

Verses 9-10

Now Nehemiah had letters from the king. This would show people that the king had changed his decision about Jerusalem. People would also see the soldiers that the king sent to protect Nehemiah. Then they would know that the king was helping Nehemiah. But some of the people who lived near *Judah heard about all this. They were angry. Because they were the *Jews’ enemies, they did not want anyone to help the people in *Israel.

v11-12 Then I came to Jerusalem. After three days, I got up during the night and I went out. Only a few men went with me. God had given me the desire to do something for Jerusalem. But I told nobody about this. I took no horses except the horse that I rode on. v13 And I went out at night through the Valley Gate to the Snake Fountain and the Rubbish Gate. I examined the walls of Jerusalem. They were just heaps of stones. And I saw that fire had burned the gates. v14 I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool. But I could not continue further because of the heaps of stones. The horse that I was riding could not pass through. v15 So I went up, during the night, by the stream. And I examined the wall. Then I turned back. I went through the Valley Gate. And so I returned. v16 The leaders did not know where I had gone. They did not know what I was doing. I did not tell the *Jews, or the priests, or the chief men. Nor did I tell the officials or the other people who would be doing the work.

Verses 11-16

Nehemiah wanted to build the city walls as quickly as possible. But there was much to do. He would have to work hard. So he rested for three days after his long journey. God had given him the desire to build Jerusalem again. So Nehemiah wanted to do a good job.

Nehemiah needed to find out the size of the task. But he did not want his enemies to know his plans. So, after three days, he went out at night. He took only a few people with him. Perhaps they were men who had come from Shushan with him. Or maybe they were men who knew Jerusalem well. Nehemiah did not tell anyone else what he was doing.

Nehemiah went all round the city. He saw that the city was a *ruin. He saw that fire had burned the gates. At one place there was so much rubbish that there was no room for his horse to pass. Now he knew that the task, to build the city again, was a big task.

Nehemiah saw that the whole city was in a bad state. And the people’s relationship with God was also in a bad state:

·     The most important building in Jerusalem was the *temple. The *Jews had rebuilt the *temple about 70 years before Nehemiah arrived. The first *temple, which Solomon built, was a splendid building. But this later *temple was much poorer.

·     Some priests were living in the area. But they were neglecting their special work for God. The people did not know God’s law. And the people were doing many things that the Bible told them not to do.

·     There were not many other buildings in the city. Most *Jews who returned to *Judah were living in the villages. Jerusalem was a dangerous place to live. The *Jews had many enemies and there was no security in the city. It had no defences.

·     Many *Jews had tried to make agreements with their enemies. Some *Jews had even allowed their children to marry people from other nations. The people from these nations were evil people, and they served false gods. But God wanted the *Jews to be his special people. He had chosen them, and he wanted them to remain separate from the other nations.

Nehemiah saw that the city needed strong walls. And this was the most important task. The walls would make the city a safe place to live. When the walls were complete, people would be able to move into the city. There, the *Jews could live in a place that was separate from the other nations. The priests could start their special work for God in the *temple again. And the people would learn God’s law.

But, without walls, the *Jews would become even weaker. Their enemies would become stronger. The priests would be unable to work for God. And nobody would maintain the *temple.

Jerusalem had been a very great city. Nehemiah realised that he could not rebuild the whole city. Instead, he selected an area to surround with walls. It was a smaller area than the city used to be. But it was the most important part of the city. It included the *temple and the most ancient parts of the city. The area included enough land for everyone who would live there. There were fountains and everything else that people needed. And soon there would be an important market in the city.

v17 Then I said to all the *Jews, ‘You know that we have much difficulty. Jerusalem is a *ruin and fire has burned its gates. Let us build the wall of Jerusalem. Then we will not still be ashamed.’ v18 Then I told them how God had looked after me. Also I told them what the king had said to me. And they replied, ‘Let us start to build!’ So they prepared themselves to do this good work.

v19 But Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem heard about our plan. Sanballat was from Horon. Tobiah was an officer from Ammon. Geshem was an *Arab. They laughed at us and they insulted us. They said, ‘You should not be doing such a thing. You are plotting against the king.’

v20 Then I replied, ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We are his servants and we will begin to build. But you are not citizens of Jerusalem. You have no legal authority here. You have no right to any part of Jerusalem.’

Verses 17-20

Then Nehemiah told the people in the city about his plan. First, he reminded them of the sad truth. Their city was a *ruin. And they could not be a strong nation while Jerusalem was in such a bad state. So he encouraged them to help him to rebuild the walls. Then he told them some good news. He told them that God wanted them to rebuild the city walls. This was not merely Nehemiah’s plan. Nehemiah was confident that God had sent him (Nehemiah) to lead the people in this task. Already, God was looking after Nehemiah. And even the king had sent him to do this task. This was really good news. So the people agreed that they should start to build the walls.

The people prepared to build the walls. But then their enemies heard about their plans. These enemies could not easily attack the *Jews because the king had sent Nehemiah. The king was very powerful. If Nehemiah’s enemies fought Nehemiah, the king would oppose them. So instead, the enemies laughed at the *Jews. They pretended that they would tell lies to the king about the *Jews. They would say that the *Jews were the enemies of the king.

But Nehemiah was confident. He knew that it was God’s plan to rebuild Jerusalem. So God would help them. The real God of heaven was on their side. God would not let their enemies stop the work. The *Jews would build Jerusalem again. Again, it would be a city for God’s people.

Chapter 3

In this chapter, there are many names. The Bible does not mention most of these people elsewhere. Many of them were the leaders of families, but only a few were important in the local region. They were not builders and they had no special skills to do the work. But they realised that Nehemiah was right. And they were willing to work hard. They lived many centuries ago, but they did an important job for God. God cares about all sorts of people. And he is pleased when they serve him well.

Nehemiah was a good leader, but he could not build the walls alone. He needed many people to help him. He was pleased with their work. So he recorded their names and the jobs that they did.

These people deserved honour. Their families had returned to *Judah from *exile. They were God’s own people. And they worked hard to do God’s work. Nehemiah organised the work carefully. He gave each person responsibility for one section of the wall. And Nehemiah chose the sections carefully. For example, often the men repaired the section of wall that was nearest to their own houses.

v1 Eliashib the chief priest and the priests who were with him built the Sheep Gate. They made it holy for God and they put the doors in the gate. They repaired the wall as far as the *Tower called Meah and the *Tower called Hananeel. Then they made the wall holy for God. v2 The men from Jericho built the next part of the wall. And Zaccur, the son of Imri, built the next section.

Verses 1-2

The first people that Nehemiah wrote about were the chief priest and the other priests. They did not think that they were too important to help. They were good models to the rest of the people. The Sheep Gate was probably near the *temple. Some people from other cities, like Jericho, also helped to build the walls.

v3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate and they put its beams in place. They put the doors in the gate. They fastened the locks and they put the bars into position. v4 Meremoth, the son of Urijah and grandson of Hakkoz, repaired the next part of the wall. Next to Meremoth, Meshullam made repairs. He was the son of Berekiah and was the grandson of Meshezabeel. Next to Meshullam, Zadok, son of Baana, made repairs. v5 Some men from Tekoa repaired the next section. But their leaders refused to do the work of God.

Verses 3-5

When Nehemiah records some of the names, he also mentions their families. He also does this often in the rest of his book. Families were very important to the *Jews. We can read about Meremoth in Ezra (Ezra 8:33).

Each person had his own special job to do.

The leaders from Tekoa were not like the priests. The leaders from Tekoa thought that they were too important. So they refused to do God’s work. But the other men from Tekoa did help to build the walls. In fact they did extra work (Nehemiah 3:27). Meshullam also did extra work (Nehemiah 3:30).

v6 Jehoiada, the son of Paseah, and Meshullam, the son of Besodeiah, repaired the Old Gate. They put its beams in place and they put the doors in the gate. They fastened the locks and they put the bars into position. v7 Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth and the men from Gibeon and Mizpah repaired the next section of the wall. The ruler of the district beyond the River Euphrates ruled Gibeon and Mizpah. v8 Uzziel, the son of Harhaiah, repaired the next section of the wall. Uzziel was a skilled workman who made objects out of gold. Hananiah repaired the next part of the wall. He was a skilled man who made *perfume. Uzziel and Hananiah repaired Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. v9 Rephaiah, the son of Hur, repaired the next section of the wall. Rephaiah was a ruler. He ruled half of the district of Jerusalem. v10 Jedaiah, the son of Harumaph, repaired the next part of the wall, which was near Jedaiah’s own house. Next to Jedaiah, Hattush, the son of Hashabniah, made repairs. v11 Malkijah, the son of Harim, and Hasshub, the son of Pahath-Moab, repaired another section of the wall. They also repaired the *Tower of the Ovens. v12 Shallum, the son of Hallohesh, repaired the next part of the wall. Shallum’s daughters helped him. Shallum was also a ruler. He ruled over the other half of the district of Jerusalem.

Verses 6-11

Most of the people who built the wall were not skilled builders. They were normal people who had other jobs. Men who usually made *perfume or things of gold helped to build the walls.

Some people worked on the walls near their own houses. This was a good idea. They did not have far to travel and they could have their meals easily. They could also protect their families. Afterwards, they would see their work every day. This fact would encourage them to do good work.

Important men who ruled over some of the districts helped also. They did not think that they were too important to help. So they behaved as the priests did. They were not like the leaders from Tekoa, who refused to help.

Malkijah, the son of Harim, had married a foreign wife (Ezra 10:31), but God had told the *Jews not to marry foreigners. So Ezra was very angry with Malkijah. But now Malkijah helped to build the walls of Jerusalem.

Some women helped too. Shallum was another one of the leaders of the people. But he worked on the walls too and his daughters helped him.

v13 Hanun and the residents of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it again and they put the doors in place. They fastened the locks and they put the bars into position. They also repaired about 450 metres of the wall as far as the Rubbish Gate. v14 Malkijah, the son of Rechab, repaired the Rubbish Gate. He built it again and he put the doors in place. He fastened the locks and he put the bars into position. Malkijah ruled the district called Beth Hakkerem. v15 Shallum, the son of Col-Hozeh, repaired the Fountain Gate. He built it again and he made a roof over it. He put the doors in place. He fastened the locks and he put the bars into position. Shallum also repaired the wall of the Pool called Siloam by the king’s garden. He repaired this wall as far as the steps that descended from David’s city. Shallum ruled the district called Mizpah. v16 Next to him, Nehemiah, the son of Azbuk, repaired the wall in front of the graves of king David’s family. He repaired the wall as far as the pool that some people had made. He repaired it as far as the House of the Heroes. Nehemiah ruled half of the district called Beth-Zur.

Verses 13-16

Hanun and the residents of Zanoah worked hard. They repaired a gate and a very long section of the wall.

Malkijah, Shallum and Nehemiah helped to build the walls. They also were rulers of the districts. This is not the Malkijah who married a foreign wife (Nehemiah 3:11). Also this Nehemiah is not the same as the man who wrote the book.

v17 Next to him, the *Levites repaired another section of the wall. Rehum, the son of Bani, was one of the *Levites. Next to Rehum, Hashabiah made repairs. Hashabiah ruled half of the district called Keilah, and he made the repairs on behalf of his district. v18 Next to him, Binnui, the son of Henadad, and some men from Keilah repaired another section of the wall. Binnui ruled the other half of the district called Keilah. v19 Next to him, Ezer, the son of Jeshua, repaired the wall. He repaired it from a point opposite the hill where the store for the *weapons was. He repaired as far as the bend in the wall. Ezer ruled Mizpah. v20 Next to him, Baruch, the son of Zabbai, repaired the wall. Baruch worked very hard. He repaired the wall from the bend to the door of the house of Eliashib, the chief priest. v21 Next to him, Meremoth, the son of Uriah and the grandson of Hakkoz, repaired another section. He repaired the wall from the door of Eliashib’s house as far as the end of this house. v22 Next to Meremoth, priests who lived near Jerusalem made repairs.

Verses 17-22

The *Levites also helped to build the wall. They and some priests worked on the wall near to the house of the chief priest.

Men from Keilah and their rulers worked together on part of the wall. And Ezer was another ruler who helped.

Clearly, all the people worked hard. They finished the work in 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15). But Nehemiah recorded that Baruch worked very hard. Meremoth probably worked very hard too, because he worked on two parts of the wall (Nehemiah 3:4).

v23 Beyond the priests, Benjamin and Hashub repaired the wall opposite their house. Next to them, Azariah, the son of Maaseiah and the grandson of Ananiah, repaired the wall near his own house. v24 Binnui, the son of Henadad, repaired the next section of the wall. He repaired it from Azariah’s house to the bend in the wall and the corner. v25-26 Palal, the son of Uzai, repaired from the bend and the *tower that stuck out from the king’s high palace. This house was near the guards’ yard. Next to Palal, Pedaiah, the son of Parosh, and the *temple servants who lived in Ophel repaired the wall. They repaired it as far as a point opposite the Water Gate on the east side. And they repaired it as far as the *tower that stuck out. v27 Next to Pedaiah, the men from Tekoa repaired another part of the wall. This section began at a place opposite the large *tower that stuck out. They repaired it as far as the wall of Ophel. v28 Some priests repaired the wall from a point above the Horse Gate. Each priest repaired the part of the wall in front of his own house. v29 Next to them, Zadok, the son of Immer, repaired the part of the wall in front of his house. Next to him, Shemaiah, the son of Shechaniah, repaired another part of the wall. Shemaiah was the guard of the East Gate.

Verses 23-29

In this part of the wall, some more people repaired the wall near their own houses. Also Binnui repaired a second section of the wall (Nehemiah 3:18).

The *temple servants also helped to build the wall.

The men from Tekoa repaired another part of the wall (Nehemiah 3:5).

Some more priests worked on this part of the wall.

v30 Next to him were Hananiah, the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the 6th son of Zalaph. They repaired another part of the wall. Next to Hananiah and Hanun, Meshullam, the son of Berechiah, repaired the wall. He repaired the part of it that was in front of his room. v31 Next to him, Malchiah repaired the wall. Malchiah was a skilled workman who made objects out of gold. He repaired the wall as far as the house that the servants of the *temple and the merchants used. This house was opposite the Miphkad Gate. Malchiah also repaired the wall as far as the room above the corner of the wall. v32 The skilled workmen who made objects out of gold worked with the merchants. They repaired the wall from the room above the corner to the Sheep Gate.

Verses 30-32

Meshullam repaired a second part of the wall (Nehemiah 3:4).

More of the skilled workmen who made things out of gold helped to build the wall. Some merchants also helped.

Nehemiah started his report at the Sheep Gate (Nehemiah 3:1). He divided the work between many people and each had their own part to repair. Nehemiah’s report goes all round the wall and back to the Sheep Gate.

Chapter 4

v1 Sanballat heard that we were building the wall again. So he became very angry. He laughed at the *Jews. v2 His companions and the army from the country called Samaria were with him. Sanballat said in front of all these people, ‘Those weak *Jews are stupid. They will not really repair their wall and offer *sacrifices. You cannot build a great city in a day. Fire has burned the stones and they are now just piles of rubbish. You cannot make stones live. And you cannot build a city wall out of rubbish.’ v3 Tobiah, from the country called Ammon, was with Sanballat. Tobiah said, ‘They intend to build a wall. But their wall is as weak as a pile of stones. It would fall down if a fox climbed on it!’

Verses 1-3

Sanballat and Tobiah were enemies of the *Jews. They did not want the *Jews to build the walls of Jerusalem again. They probably knew that Jerusalem would become an important city for trade again. So then, they would lose some of their trade. They knew that it was a big task to build the walls of the city again. But they saw that Nehemiah and the *Jews would work hard to build the walls.

These men were not just opposing the *Jews. In fact, these men were opposing God’s work. It was God’s plan that the *Jews should live in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was in the country that God promised to give to the *descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The *Jews had to leave that country because of *sin. But God promised by the *prophets that some *Jews would return. So it was God’s plan that the *Jews would rebuild Jerusalem.

But God’s plan did not only benefit the *Jews. God had decided, by means of the *Jews, to help people from every nation. He would send Jesus to be born a *Jew. God had promised this by the *prophets. And Jesus would die for the *sins of people from every nation. God will forgive all people who invite Jesus into their lives.

So we can see that Nehemiah was doing God’s work. And it was not just men who were opposing the work. In fact, the devil was using these men because the devil wanted to oppose God’s work.

Sanballat had the army from the country called Samaria with him. Perhaps the *Jews near Jerusalem could see this army close to the city. This might make them afraid. But Sanballat and Tobiah did not attack the *Jews. They could not do that because the king had allowed Nehemiah to build the walls. So Sanballat and Tobiah laughed at the *Jews and they insulted the *Jews. Sanballat and Tobiah hoped that they could upset the *Jews. Then, the *Jews might stop the construction of the wall. Sanballat and Tobiah said that the task was too great. They said that the builders were too weak. Tobiah said that the wall would fall down again easily. Clearly, Sanballat and Tobiah did not think that God would help the *Jews. But God did help them. When the *Jews finished the work, the walls were very strong. In fact, the people marched on top of the walls (Nehemiah 12:31-39).

v4 I prayed, ‘Listen to us, our God, because our enemies are insulting us. I pray that people will insult them in the same way. I pray that their enemies will take everything from them. I pray that their enemies will force them to live in *exile in a foreign country. v5 Do not forgive the evil things that they have done. Do not forget about their *sins. They have made you angry in front of the people who are building the wall.’

v6 So we continued the construction of the wall until all of it reached half of its final height. The people were eager to work.

Verses 4-6

So Nehemiah prayed. That is what we would expect him to do. Perhaps he called the people together to pray. (He says ‘us’ in his prayer.)

He knew that his enemies were not just insulting the *Jews. They were insulting God himself. So he knew that God was angry.

So the *Jews did not take notice of the insults of their enemies and they continued to build. They worked as hard as they could and the wall reached half of its final height.

Today, we do not pray that our enemies will suffer. Jesus taught us to forgive our enemies (Matthew 5:44). And we should pray that they will trust Jesus. But Nehemiah was in a different situation. Previously, God had told the *Jews to oppose their enemies (Deuteronomy 7:1-2). At that time, God was using the *Jews for his purposes. These enemies had become so evil that they could not avoid a terrible punishment (Genesis 15:16). And God gave their land to the *Jews.

Nehemiah lived long after these events. And his enemies were not the same enemies that God was punishing in the past. So Nehemiah did not actually try to fight his enemies. Instead, he trusted God. Nehemiah was confident that he was doing God’s work. So Nehemiah asked God to defend his (God’s) own work. And so Nehemiah asked God to oppose these enemies.

v7 But Sanballat, Tobiah, the *Arabs and the people from Ammon and Ashdod heard about our work. They heard that we were continuing to repair the walls of Jerusalem. They also heard that we were mending the gaps in the walls. So they were very angry. v8 They all plotted together to come and to fight against Jerusalem. They wanted to cause confusion in the city. v9 But we prayed to our God. We also placed guards round the city every day and every night in case our enemies came.

Verses 7-9

The enemies of the *Jews heard that their insults had not succeeded. The *Jews had not stopped the work, but, instead, they had worked very hard. And the wall had reached half of its final height.

So Sanballat and his friends were very angry. They needed another plan. These enemies lived all round Jerusalem. So they plotted to fight against the city. The city’s defences were not yet complete. So, Sanballat and his friends decided to carry out a sudden attack. Such an attack would frighten the *Jews. And it would confuse them. So they would be unable to continue the task.

Nehemiah and his people did the sensible thing again. They prayed to God. And they also guarded the city.

v10 But at that time the people in *Judah began to complain. They said, ‘The people who carry materials are getting very tired. There is so much rubbish in our way. We will never finish the construction of the wall.’

v11 Meanwhile, our enemies said, ‘We will go among the *Jews. They will not know what is happening. They will not even see us. We will kill them and stop the work.’

v12 Then the *Jews who lived near our enemies came to us. They spoke to us many times. They said, ‘Wherever we go, our enemies will attack us.’

v13 So I placed some men behind the lowest parts of the wall at the open places. I placed people in the same family together. They had swords, *spears and bows. v14 I looked round. Then I stood up and I spoke to the chief men, the officials and the rest of the people. I said, ‘Do not be afraid of our enemies. Remember that the *Lord is great and powerful. Fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters. Fight for your wives and your homes.’

Verses 10-12

Now some of the *Jews were feeling tired. The work was hard and their enemies were all round them. These problems upset them. So they began to complain.

The enemies of the *Jews still tried to stop the work. They plotted to surprise the *Jews with a sudden attack. Some of the *Jews heard about their plan. The *Jews who lived outside the city were anxious about their families. So these *Jews reported this news back to the people in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah made plans to protect the men as they worked. He placed men to guard the lowest parts of the walls. These were the most likely places where an attack might happen. And Nehemiah made sure that the people had *weapons to defend themselves and their families. He made sure that the families were together. He knew that the men would fight hard in order to protect their families.

Then Nehemiah reminded the leaders of the people that God was with them. God is much more powerful than any enemies can be. God wanted them to build the wall. So he would protect them and help them. They did not need to worry.

v15 Our enemies heard that we knew about their plot. They realised that God had caused their plot to be unsuccessful. So we all returned to the wall and each of us continued our work.

Verse 15

The enemies of the *Jews heard that Nehemiah and the people knew about their plan. So their plan could not succeed. They failed because God was helping the *Jews. He had stopped the plans of Sanballat and his friends.

The *Jews were able to continue with the work. But they still needed to be ready. Their enemies might come to attack them at any time.

v16-17 From that time, half of my men worked. But the other half were ready to fight with *spears, *shields, and bows. And those men were wearing special clothes that would protect them during a battle. The officers stood behind all the people of *Judah who were building the wall. The people who carried materials supported their loads with one hand. And they held a *weapon in their other hand. v18 Each of the builders wore his sword by his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the *trumpet stayed with me.

v19 Then I spoke to the chief men, the officials and the rest of the people. I said, ‘There is much work to do and the work spreads over a very large area. We are working a long way from each other along the wall. v20 Wherever you hear the sound of the *trumpet, come to us there. Our God will fight for us!’

Verses 16-20

Nehemiah decided to change the arrangements for the work. He wanted to make sure that everybody was ready for an attack.

Now, even the men who worked on the wall had their own *weapons. But only half of the men worked on the wall. The other men were ready to fight. They had many *weapons. Their job was to protect the builders.

Nehemiah would walk round the city in order to check the progress of the work. But now, a man with a *trumpet walked with Nehemiah. So, if the enemies came to attack them, the man would blow his *trumpet. If the people heard the sound of the *trumpet, they would all stop work immediately. They would rush to come together. Then they would be able to protect each other.

Nehemiah reminded the people again that God was supporting them. They were doing God’s work, and God would fight for them.

v21 So we continued to work, but now half of the men carried *spears. We worked from dawn until the stars appeared at nightfall. v22 At that time I also said to the people, ‘Each man and his servant should spend the night in Jerusalem. Then they will act as guards by night, and as workmen during the day.’ v23 I did not even undress at night. My companions, my servants and my guards all behaved in the same way. And each man kept his *weapon ready, even when he went for water.

Verses 22-23

So the people continued to work. Some repaired the walls and the rest protected them. They all worked even harder from dawn until nightfall. Even the people who lived outside Jerusalem stayed in the city at night.

Nehemiah was a good model for the people. He was the ruler. But he did not think that he was too important to work. In fact, he was very busy. He organised the workmen. He made sure that the quality of the work was satisfactory. He was watching in case the enemies tried to attack. And he was ready to fight. He kept his clothes on. He kept his *weapon ready.

Chapter 5

v1 At this time, some men and their wives became angry. They complained about some other *Jews. v2 They said, ‘We have many sons and daughters. We need grain so that we can eat. Otherwise we shall die.’

v3 Other men said, ‘We have to sell our fields, our *vineyards and our houses to buy grain during the *famine.’

v4 And other men said, ‘We have to ask people to lend us money. Otherwise we would be unable to pay the king’s tax on our fields and *vineyards. v5 We have to sell our sons and daughters to other *Jews as slaves. But we are *Jews, even as they are. Our sons and their sons are alike. But some of our daughters are already slaves. We can do nothing about this because our fields and our *vineyards already belong to other people.’

Verses 1-5

Nehemiah had organised the work well. He had selected guards to protect the people from their enemies. But there were other problems too. The wealthy *Jews thought that they saw an opportunity to make a good profit. But they were doing this in a way that was unfair to the poorer *Jews. In fact, the effect was often rather cruel.

So the poor people began to complain. There was a *famine in the country and some of the people were hungry. They could not afford to buy the food that they needed for their families. They could not afford to pay their taxes either. Also, because they were building the city wall, they were not able to do other work. So probably, they were not able to grow their own food. And they had no money to buy food. They had to ask the richer people to lend them money.

Some of the poor people even had to sell their property. If they still did not have enough money, they would have to sell their sons and daughters as slaves. They did not think that this was right. And they could see that the rich people were making profits from this situation. So the poor people became angry and they complained.

This was an opportunity for the rich people to become even richer. They knew that the poor people were desperate. So the rich people were forcing the poor people to pay too much money for their loans.

v6 I heard them complain about these things. Then I was very angry. v7 I thought deeply about what I should do. Then I accused the chief men and the officials. I told them, ‘These people are your own relatives. But you are making unfair profits from them.’ I arranged a big meeting to deal with them. v8 I said to them, ‘We have tried to buy back those *Jews who had to sell themselves as slaves. They were slaves to the people who were not *Jews. But now you are selling other *Jews, so that we will have to buy them back!’ They were silent, because they had no excuse. v9 I also said, ‘What you are doing is not right. You should always respect and obey God. Then our enemies in other countries will not make us ashamed.’

Verses 6-9

When Nehemiah heard about these troubles, he was very angry. He did not want to stop the work on the walls, but he did feel sorry for the poor people. He was very careful. He stopped and he thought about what to do. Then he arranged a big meeting to deal with the problem.

The rich people were the chief men and the officials. Nehemiah told them that they were doing the wrong thing. And the result was that their own people were suffering. So Nehemiah reminded the rich people that some *Jews had been slaves before. When Nehemiah had returned to *Judah, he and his companions had tried to buy these slaves back. Now their own people were making them slaves again. Nehemiah told the rich people that they had not obeyed God’s commands (Deuteronomy 23:19-20; 24:10-13; Leviticus 25:35-46). God had sent the *Jews into *exile because they did not obey his commands like this. If the rich leaders respected God, they would not do these things. But otherwise, the *Jews would be ashamed. And their enemies would laugh at them.

The rich people could not answer Nehemiah. They knew that their actions were wrong. They knew that they had no excuse.

This passage shows us an important fact about Nehemiah’s character. Nehemiah was a very sincere man. And he did the right things whether or not anyone noticed. He used his own money to free *Jews who had been slaves. But he has not mentioned this matter previously in this book. Nehemiah did not care whether he impressed other people. But he always wanted to please God.

v10 ‘I and my companions and my helpers are also lending money and grain to the people. But you should not charge them money for such loans! v11 Give back to them their fields, their *vineyards, their *orchards, and their houses immediately. Also, give back to them the money that you charged them. You charged them a certain per cent on the money, grain, wine and oil.’

v12 The chief men and officials replied, ‘We will give it all back. We will not continue to charge them for the loans. We will do as you say.’

Then I called the priests. I ordered the rich *Jews to make a promise. They must do all that they had said. v13 I also shook my coat that I was wearing. I said, ‘Every man must do what he has promised. Otherwise, I pray that God will shake that man. In other words, I pray that God will disturb that man. And I pray that God will separate that man from his house and his possessions. I pray that God will take everything away from that man. I pray that God will leave that man with nothing.’

Everyone said, ‘We agree!’ And they praised the *Lord. And the people did what they had promised to do.

Verses 10-13

Nehemiah and his companions had also lent money and grain to the poor people. But Nehemiah and his companions had not charged the people money for the loans. Nehemiah had obeyed God’s command and he was a good model to the other leaders of the people.

Nehemiah ordered the rich leaders to give back to the poor people their property. He also told the leaders to give back the money that they had charged the poor people for the loans. The leaders agreed to do what Nehemiah had ordered. They promised to give all the property and money back to the poor people.

Nehemiah called the priests. He wanted them to hear the leaders’ promise. Then the leaders would realise that God knew about these promises. And they would be afraid not to do the things that they promised.

But the leaders did do what they had promised to do. And all the people were happy with what their leaders had done.

v14 I was the ruler of the country called *Judah for 12 years. (This was between the 20th and the 32nd years of the rule of King Artaxerxes.) For all this time, my relatives and I refused to accept the special food that the king provided for the ruler. v15 But the previous rulers made heavy demands on the people. They took food and wine. They also took about half a kilo of silver from them. Even the rulers’ assistants made the people feel not important. But, because I respected God, I did not do this. v16 Instead, I continued to work hard on the wall. All my assistants gathered by the wall for the work as well. Neither my assistants nor I bought any fields. v17 In addition, 150 of the *Jews and their officers ate with me. Leaders from the nations round us also ate with me. v18 Each day, the cooks prepared one cow, 6 of the best sheep and some chickens for us to eat. Every 10 days, we received plenty of all kinds of wine. However, I never demanded the food that people usually had to give to the ruler. This was because the people already had to work very hard.

v19 I prayed, ‘Please, God, show your kindness. You know all that I have done for these people.’

Verses 14-19

Here we find out more about Nehemiah. He was a good leader and a good model to the people in different ways.

Nehemiah became the ruler, so he was an important man. But he still had a humble attitude. And he really cared about the people.

The king allowed the ruler to have special food. This probably means that the ruler could tax the people. But Nehemiah did not want to do this, because he respected God. Nehemiah knew that many of the people were poor. They had to pay tax to the king also. Nehemiah was probably already rich because the king had appointed him as the ruler. The previous rulers of *Judah had not been such good leaders. They had taken silver as well as food and wine from the people.

Nehemiah did not even want to obtain his own property. His job was to lead the people and to build the city walls. Also Nehemiah invited many people to eat with him every day. He paid for this food himself. He was ruler for 12 years and all that time he invited other people to eat his food. He did not ask the people to give him food.

Nehemiah wanted God to be pleased. And because Nehemiah respected God, Nehemiah was a good leader. He was generous to the people that he ruled.

Chapter 6

v1 Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the *Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had finished the wall. There were no gaps in it, but I had not yet put the doors in the gates.

v2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message, ‘Let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain called Ono.’

But they were plotting to hurt me. v3 So I sent some men to say to them, ‘I am doing an important task. I cannot go down there. The work should not stop, so that I can go down to meet you.’ v4 Sanballat and the men who were with him sent me the same message 4 times. Each time I gave them the same answer.

Verses 1-4

Nehemiah had solved the problem that caused the poor people to complain. The people had built the wall, but they had not finished the gates. But the enemies of the people did not give up. They still tried to stop the work.

Sanballat and his friends sent messages to Nehemiah. They invited him to meet them. They pretended that they wanted to make peace with the *Jews. If that had been the truth, then it would have been good news for the *Jews. But Sanballat and his friends did not really want to make peace with the *Jews. Instead, they wanted to attack Nehemiah. Perhaps if they hurt him, he would be unable to continue to lead the people. Although the people had built the wall, they still needed Nehemiah to lead them. He would help them to become a proper nation again.

Nehemiah knew that his enemies were telling lies. He found out that they wanted to hurt him. He also knew that it was not wise for him to go to the meeting with his enemies. Ono was near to the land of his enemies, so it was a dangerous place. He would have to walk for a day to get there. After the meeting, he would have to walk for another day to get back to Jerusalem. While he travelled, he would not be able to lead the people. And the work was too important to permit any delay. Nehemiah knew that it was essential to finish the work on the gates of the city. So Nehemiah told his enemies that he was too busy to meet them. They sent the same message 4 times and he gave them the same answer.

v5 Then Sanballat sent his servant to me again. This was the 5th time that he came with the same message. The servant was carrying a letter in his hand. Sanballat had not closed the letter. v6 The letter said, ‘There is a report that you and the *Jews are plotting a revolution. That is why you are building the wall. This report is well-known in the nations round you. And Geshem says that it is true. People are also saying that you want to become the *Jews’ king. v7 They say that you have appointed *prophets. And these *prophets will declare the news about you in Jerusalem. These *prophets intend to say, “There is a king in *Judah.” People will tell the king about this. So come and let us discuss this.’

v8 I sent this reply to Sanballat, ‘What you are saying is not true. You are making it all up.’

v9 Sanballat and the men with him were all trying to frighten us. They thought, ‘The *Jews will be so afraid that they will stop the work. Then they will be unable to complete their task.’

But I prayed to God, ‘Make me strong.’

Verses 5-9

Sanballat sent another message to Nehemiah. It was a letter, but Sanballat did not close it. It was open so that anyone could read it. Sanballat did not want this letter to be secret. He wanted all the people to know what he had written. In the letter, he pretended to be the friend of Nehemiah, but again Sanballat told lies. He said that some people had accused Nehemiah. They had said that the *Jews were plotting a revolution against the king. Sanballat probably invented this story. Nehemiah was always very loyal to the king. Nobody thought that Nehemiah would stop obeying the king. But Sanballat wanted the *Jews to be afraid. Perhaps Nehemiah himself might worry about the king’s reaction to such a report. The *Jews might delay in order to work out what to do. If there was a pause, Nehemiah’s workmen might have to return home. The wall was almost complete. But without gates, there would still be no security for the people who lived in the city.

Of course, Nehemiah knew that Sanballat’s words were lies. Nehemiah had no such plans. He knew that Sanballat was trying to frighten the people and to stop the work. Again Nehemiah prayed and he asked God to make him strong.

v10 One day I went to Shemaiah’s house. He was the son of Delaiah and was the grandson of Mehetabel. Shemaiah had shut his door and he would not go out of his house. He said, ‘Let us meet in God’s house, in the inner *temple. Let us close the *temple’s doors. Men are coming to kill you. They are coming by night to kill you.’

v11 But I said, ‘A man like me should not run away! I cannot go into the *temple to save my life. I will not go!’

v12 I realised that God had not sent Shemaiah. Shemaiah had pretended to give me a message from God because Tobiah and Sanballat had paid him. v13 They paid him in order to frighten me. They wanted to make me do what was wrong. Then Tobiah and Sanballat could make people think bad things about me. They could make me ashamed.

Verses 10-13

One day Nehemiah went to visit Shemaiah. Shemaiah may have been a priest (Ezra 2:60; Nehemiah 10:8). We do not know why Nehemiah visited him. Perhaps Nehemiah wanted Shemaiah to pray with him. Nehemiah thought that he could trust Shemaiah.

It seems that Shemaiah was a *prophet (see verses 12 and 14). Perhaps Nehemiah was hoping that Shemaiah would give him (Nehemiah) a message from God. And Shemaiah did pretend that he had a message from God. But in fact, this message really came from Nehemiah’s enemies.

Shemaiah would not go out of his house, but he offered to go to the *temple with Nehemiah. Shemaiah pretended that he wanted to protect Nehemiah. Shemaiah told Nehemiah that men were coming to kill Nehemiah. But the *temple was a strong building. If they closed the *temple doors, Nehemiah would be safe inside.

Nehemiah realised that Shemaiah had given him bad advice. God’s law said that only priests could enter the inner *temple. Nehemiah was not a priest, so he could not go there. Such an action would be a *sin.

Nehemiah realised that Shemaiah had received money from Tobiah and Sanballat. They wanted Nehemiah not to obey God’s commands. Then they would be able to accuse Nehemiah. And the people would not continue to respect him.

Nehemiah refused to do what Shemaiah advised. But Shemaiah was not the only *prophet who tried to frighten Nehemiah. The *prophets should have supported God’s work. But instead, like Balaam (Numbers chapter 22), they accepted money to oppose God’s work.

v14 I prayed, ‘God, you know the bad things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And you know about Noadiah, the female *prophet, and the other *prophets who have tried to frighten me.’

Again, Nehemiah prayed to God for help. We can see from his prayer that he had other enemies as well as Tobiah and Sanballat. Some of the *prophets were trying to frighten him also. But Nehemiah trusted God. Nehemiah could not stop what his enemies were doing. But God could stop them. Nehemiah’s enemies were also God’s enemies and the enemies of the *Jews. So Nehemiah asked God to deal with all the enemies.

v15 We finished the wall on the 25th day of the month called Elul. It took 52 days to rebuild the wall. v16 Our enemies heard that we had finished. All the nations round us became afraid, and they felt less important. They realised that God had done the work.

Verses 15-16

Although their enemies tried to stop the work, the people built the walls of Jerusalem in just 52 days. The people had worked very hard.

Nehemiah always knew that the *Jews were doing God’s work. Now even the enemies of the *Jews knew that God had helped the people to build the walls. So the nations round *Judah became afraid of the *Jews. The God of the *Jews is the only real God. But the other nations served false gods. False gods are not real gods, so they have no power. But God is powerful.

v17 During the time while we were working on the wall, the chief men of *Judah sent many letters to Tobiah. And Tobiah replied many times to them. v18 The chief men sent letters to Tobiah because many of them had promised to be loyal to him. This was because Tobiah was married to Shecaniah’s daughter. Shecaniah was the son of Arah. Also Jehohanan, Tobiah’s son, had married Meshullam’s daughter. Meshullam was the son of Berekiah. v19 Those chief men also told me about good things that Tobiah did. Also they told Tobiah what I replied to them. And Tobiah sent letters in order to scare me.

Verses 17-19

The *Jews had many enemies while they were building the wall. But even some of the chief men in *Judah were helping their enemies. Some of these chief men had promised to be loyal to Tobiah.

Tobiah and his son had both married women from *Judah. Tobiah was also a relative of Eliashib the priest (Nehemiah 13:4). God had told the *Jews not to marry foreigners, but many *Jews did not obey him.

In the past, when *Jews married foreign wives, these wives tempted them to *worship false gods. This even happened to King Solomon although he was a very wise man (1 Kings 11:1-8). God had sent the *Jews into *exile because they *worshipped false gods. Now God had brought the *Jews back from *exile to *Judah, but many *Jews were still not obeying his commands. When Ezra returned to *Judah, many leaders of the *Jews married foreign women (Ezra chapters 9 and 10). This made Ezra very sad and angry.

Now, while Nehemiah was the ruler, the leaders of the *Jews were again marrying foreign wives. Also, they were allowing their daughters to marry foreign men. These leaders were not loyal to Nehemiah and their own people. Instead, they were loyal to Tobiah, because of their foreign wives. They believed Tobiah’s lies. And they told Nehemiah about the good things that Tobiah did. They also told Tobiah what Nehemiah said to them. This probably helped Tobiah as he tried to frighten Nehemiah.

The devil always opposes God’s work. But God wanted the *Jews to become a nation again. He had a plan to save the world by means of a *Jew. That *Jew was Jesus Christ.

People were willing to work with the devil in order to oppose God’s work. That is very sad. The devil sent enemies like Sanballat and Tobiah to the *Jews from the nations near them. The devil also caused trouble among the *Jews themselves. And the devil used the *Jews who had become Tobiah’s relatives. Then those *Jews believed Tobiah’s lies. And they told him what Nehemiah was saying. But God helped Nehemiah and the *Jews who worked with him. And so they finished the construction of the wall.

Chapter 7

v1 So we had finished the construction of the wall. And I had put the doors in place. We had appointed guards for the gates. We had also appointed singers and *Levites for their work. v2 Then I appointed Hanani, my brother, and Hananiah to be in command of Jerusalem. Hananiah was the chief officer of the palace. He was a man whom people could trust. He respected God more than most men did. v3 I said to them, ‘The guards must not open the gates of Jerusalem until the sun is hot. Order the guards to shut and to lock the gates while they are still on duty. Also, appoint some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem as guards. Some guards must be at particular places. Other guards should be responsible for the area near their own houses.’

Verses 1-3

The people had built the walls of Jerusalem and they had put the doors in place. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem had security at last. But Nehemiah had not finished his work. For 52 days, the people had been anxious about the work on the walls. They had to protect themselves while they built the walls. But now the people needed leaders in the city to direct them. First, Nehemiah appointed singers and *Levites. They would lead the people when they *worshipped God.

Then Nehemiah appointed Hanani his brother and Hananiah to rule over the city. Nehemiah chose men whom people could trust. These men were responsible for local government. So they did not lead the people when they *worshipped God. But Nehemiah still chose men who respected God. He knew that this was important. Men like these would rule the people well and fairly. They would be good models for the people. Some of the other leaders had not been good models (Nehemiah 5:7; 6:17).

Nehemiah realised that it was still important to protect the city. He ordered the guards to shut the gates early and to lock the gates. The guards must not open the gates too early in the morning. They had to wait until the sun was hot. And they would remain on duty while the gates were open. They had to shut and to lock the gates again in the evening.

More people became guards. They protected important points along the wall of the city. Some of the people guarded the walls near their own houses. This was a good idea. They did not have far to travel and they could protect their families.

v4 Jerusalem was a large city. There was a lot of room for people to live in it. But only a few people lived there. The people had not repaired many of the houses.

Verse 4

Although the people had built the walls, they had not repaired many of the houses. So not many people lived in the city, although it was a big city. Nehemiah knew that a city could not be successful without inhabitants.

Nehemiah had to ask people to come and live in the city. This was a harder job for Nehemiah than when he asked them to build the walls. Many of the people had homes and farms outside the city. They had come to Jerusalem so that they could help to build the walls. But now they wanted to return to their homes and to their families.

v5 My God gave me the desire to gather the people together. I called together the chief men, the officials and the people to register them by their families. Then I found the register of the families of the first people who returned from *exile. This is the information in this register:

Verse 5

It seems that Nehemiah prayed about this problem. And God showed him what to do. Nehemiah recorded all the people in a list of their families. Then he found the list of the first people who returned from *exile. Nehemiah could remind the people about their brave *ancestors who returned from *exile. These *ancestors had left their homes in Persia. Then they had walked for many weeks to come back to *Judah. When they arrived in *Judah, they had to build new houses and to farm the land again. The people of Nehemiah’s time had houses and farms because of the work of their *ancestors. Now these people could help to make Jerusalem a great city again.

v6 These are the people in *Judah who returned from *exile. (Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had taken their families into *exile.) The people returned to Jerusalem and *Judah. Each person went back to the town where his family used to live. v7 The leaders were Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum and Baanah.

Verses 6-7

Nehemiah copied the register of the people who returned from *exile in Babylonia. These people came back to *Judah about 90 years before the time of Nehemiah. Zerubbabel and Jeshua led this group of people. Jeshua was the chief priest. The people went back to the towns that God had given to their *ancestors.

We can read about the return of the *Jews from *exile in Ezra chapter 2. Ezra also recorded the list of the people who returned. Ezra’s list is nearly the same as Nehemiah’s list. Perhaps some people did not actually return, although they planned to do so. Perhaps Nehemiah spelt some names in a different way. This might explain why the lists are slightly different.

Most families that went into *exile never returned to *Judah. But those *Jews who returned were part of God’s plan. God had promised by the *prophets that the *Jews would live again in *Judah after the *exile. God would use their *descendants to bless (show his kindness to) every nation. And Jesus, who would save people from the punishment for their *sins, would be among their *descendants. So it was important for *Jews to know about their *ancestors. Then they would know that they really were *Jews.

This is a list of the men of *Israel:

v8 The *descendants of Parosh, 2172.

v9 The *descendants of Shephatiah, 372.

v10 The *descendants of Arah, 652.

v11 The *descendants of Pahath-Moab (the *descendants of Jeshua’s and Joab’s parts of this family), 2818.

v12 The *descendants of Elam, 1254.

v13 The *descendants of Zattu, 845.

v14 The *descendants of Zaccai, 760.

v15 The *descendants of Binnui, 648.

v16 The *descendants of Bebai, 628.

v17 The *descendants of Azgad, 2322.

v18 The *descendants of Adonikam, 667.

v19 The *descendants of Bigvai, 2067.

v20 The *descendants of Adin, 655.

v21 The *descendants of Ater (the *descendants of Hezekiah’s part of this family), 98.

v22 The *descendants of Hashum, 328.

v23 The *descendants of Bezai, 324.

v24 The *descendants of Hariph, 112.

v25 The *descendants of Gibeon, 95.

v26 The men who lived in Bethlehem and Netophah, 188.

v27 The men who lived in Anathoth, 128.

v28 The men who lived in Beth Azmaveth, 42.

v29 The men who lived in Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah and Beeroth, 743.

v30 The men who lived in Ramah and Geba, 621.

v31 The men who lived in Michmash, 122.

v32 The men who lived in Bethel and Ai, 123.

v33 The men who lived in the other town called Nebo, 52.

v34 The *descendants of the other Elam, 1254.

v35 The *descendants of Harim, 320.

v36 The *descendants of Jericho, 345.

v37 The *descendants of Lod, Hadid and Ono, 721.

v38 The *descendants of Senaah, 3930.

v39 This is a list of the priests:

The *descendants of Jedaiah (the *descendants of Jeshua’s part of this family), 973.

v40 The *descendants of Immer, 1052.

v41 The *descendants of Pashhur, 1247.

v42 The *descendants of Harim, 1017.

v43 These are the *Levites:

The *descendants of Jeshua; in fact, the *descendants of Kadmiel (the *descendants of Hodaviah’s part of Kadmiel’s family), 74.

v44 These are the singers:

The *descendants of Asaph, 148.

v45 These are the men who guarded the gates:

The *descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita and Shobai, 138.

v46 These are the people who served in the *temple:

The *descendants of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,

v47 Keros, Sia, Padon,

v48 Lebana, Hagaba, Shalmai,

v49 Hanan, Giddel, Gahar,

v50 Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda,

v51 Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah,

v52 Besai, Meunim, Nephussim,

v53 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,

v54 Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,

v55 Barkos, Sisera, Temah,

v56 Neziah and Hatipha.

v57 These are the *descendants of Solomon’s servants:

The *descendants of Sotai, Sophereth, Perida,

v58 Jaala, Darkon, Giddel,

v59 Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-Hazzebaim and Amon.

v60 The total number of men who served in the *temple and those who were the *descendants of Solomon’s servants, 392.

Verses 7-60

The people who returned to *Judah had different jobs to do. Some were priests and *Levites and some were singers. They led the people when they *worshipped God. Some of the people guarded the *temple and the gates and some were servants in the *temple.

v61 These are the people from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon and Immer. But they could not prove that they really belonged to the families of *Israel:

v62 The *descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah and Nekoda, 642.

v63-64 And some priests searched for their family registers, but they could not find them. So they could not prove who their *ancestors were. These priests were the *descendants of Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai. (Barzillai had married a woman from the family of Barzillai from Gilead and he took her family’s name.) Because their family registers were missing, these men were unholy. So they were not able to do the priests’ work. v65 The chief officer therefore ordered these men not to eat the most sacred food. At that time, there was no priest who could use the Urim and Thummim to make a decision. These men would have to obey the chief officer until such a priest arrived.

Verses 61-65

Some of the people could not prove who their *ancestors were. Some of these people were priests. God appointed the *descendants of Aaron (who was the brother of Moses) to be priests. So the priests had to prove that they were *descendants of Aaron. Otherwise, they could not serve as priests.

God gave some priests the Urim and Thummim. (Urim and Thummim means ‘perfect lights’. These objects were probably precious stones.) Somehow, these priests used these objects to know what God was telling the people to do. The priest would wear these objects in his jacket, over his heart (Leviticus 8:8).

But at that time there was no priest who could use the Urim and Thummim to make a decision.

So the men who had no family records needed such a priest. That priest would use the Urim and Thummim in order to ask God for direction. Then God would show that priest what to do about these men. These men could not prove their *ancestors. But perhaps God would allow them to serve as priests in the end. But until that happened, these men could not work as priests. The work of the priests was sacred and important. So the chief officer would not allow anyone who might not be a priest to work in the *temple.

v66 The total number of all the people was 42 360.

v67 There were also 7337 male and female servants and 245 male and female singers.

v68 There were 736 horses and 245 mules (strong animals that could carry people).

v69 There were 435 camels and 6720 donkeys (small animals that could carry people).

v70 Some of the leaders of the families gave gifts to the work.

The chief officer of *Judah gave these things to the store of the *temple:

• 8.5 kilos of gold

• 50 bowls

• 530 sets of special clothes for the priests to wear.

v71 Some of the leaders of the families gave these things to the store of the *temple:

• 170 kilos of gold

• 1200 kilos of silver.

v72 The rest of the people gave a total of:

• 170 kilos of gold

• 1100 kilos of silver

• 67 sets of special clothes for the priests to wear.

Verses 66-72

The *Babylonians had destroyed the *temple when they took the *Jews into *exile.

When the people had returned to *Judah at the time of Zerubbabel, they started to build the *temple. They started the work on the *temple as soon as they could.

Some of the people had become rich when they lived in Babylon and Persia. They were able to give generous gifts for the work of the *temple. The chief officer was a good model for the people, because he was generous also.

Donkeys are animals like small horses. They have long ears. Mules are also like small horses. They are born after male donkeys mate with female horses. The *Jews brought these animals back with them. And they brought their servants too. The *Jews wanted to make their permanent homes in *Judah.

v73 By the 7th month, the people of *Israel had begun to live in their own towns.

This included the priests, the *Levites, the men who guarded the gates and the singers. It also included some of the other people and the servants in the *temple. And it included the rest of the nation of *Israel who began to live in their own towns.

Verse 73

In the past, God had promised to give the country called *Judah to the *Jews. God gave some land to each family (Numbers 34:13-15). When the *Jews returned from *exile, they lived in their own towns. These were the same towns that God had given to their *ancestors.

This register calls the people ‘the people of *Israel’ instead of ‘the people of *Judah’. God gave Jacob the name *Israel when he promised to make Jacob’s *descendants God’s special people. Many years later, the nation divided into two parts. The name of the northern part was *Israel, and people called the inhabitants *Israelites. The name of the southern part was *Judah, and people called the inhabitants *Jews. God allowed the *Assyrians to defeat the *Israelites and to take them into *exile. The *Israelites never returned from their *exile. (In the end, only a small number of their families would return to join the people in Judah.) So, at the time of this register, only the people in *Judah remained, but they were still God’s special people. And sometimes they called themselves ‘the people of *Israel’.

Chapter 8

In Nehemiah 7:6-73, Nehemiah copied the register of the first people who returned from *exile. This happened about 90 years before Nehemiah became the ruler of *Judah.

In chapter 8, Nehemiah continues to explain the events while he ruled *Judah. He had arranged a special meeting for all the *Jews (Nehemiah 8:1-4). In fact, there were several meetings. They happened on the sacred holidays that were in the 7th month of the year.

At the end of these meetings, the people would decide which *Jews would live in Jerusalem (chapter 11). But first, Nehemiah wanted the people to learn about God. They did not yet know about God’s law. And they did not know how to serve God.

So, Ezra and the *Levites taught the people. The people confessed their *sins. Then they made an important agreement (chapters 9 and 10). They promised that they would serve God. And they promised to provide everything that the priests needed for the *temple.

v1 Then all the people gathered together in the square that was in front of the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the teacher to bring the book of the Law of Moses. The *Lord had told *Israel to obey this Law. v2 So on the first day of the 7th month, Ezra the priest brought the book. He brought the book of the Law to all the people. Both men and women were there. Children who were old enough to understand the Law were there, too. v3 Ezra stood. And he looked towards the square that was in front of the Water Gate. He stood in front of the men, the women and the children who could understand. Ezra read the Law aloud from dawn until midday. Everybody listened carefully. They wanted to understand what Ezra was reading from the book of the Law.

v4 Ezra the teacher stood on a high wooden platform that people had made especially for this occasion. On Ezra’s right side stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah. On Ezra’s left side stood Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

Verses 1-4

The people had finished the work on the walls of Jerusalem in the 6th month of the year (Nehemiah 6:15). The people had worked hard for 52 days. But Nehemiah had not finished his work. His next task would take much more than 52 days. Nehemiah had to make the people into a proper nation of God’s people again. They needed to learn again about God’s commands. And the people wanted to hear God’s law and to understand it.

So on the first day of the 7th month they asked Ezra the priest to read God’s law to them. They even built a high wooden platform for Ezra. He stood on the platform while he read the law. Ezra read the law to all the men and women. The children who were old enough to understand were also present. He read for about 5 or 6 hours and the people listened.

Ezra had 13 companions with him on the high platform. Perhaps they also read the law so that Ezra did not have to read for the whole time.

v5 Ezra opened the book. Everyone could see him because he was standing on the platform above the people. And when he opened the book, everyone stood up. v6 Ezra praised the *Lord, the great God. All the people raised their hands and they replied, ‘Yes, we agree, we agree!’ Then they turned their faces to the ground and they *worshipped the *Lord.

Verses 5-7

When Ezra started to read the law, all the people stood up. They wanted to give honour to God. Then Ezra praised God and the people agreed with him. Then they turned their faces to the ground. This was to show how much they wanted to give honour to God.

v7 While the people were standing there, the *Levites went among them. The *Levites helped the people to understand the Law. The names of the *Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah. v8 They read from the book of the Law of God. They made it clear and they explained its meaning. So they helped the people to understand what Ezra was reading.

Verses 7-8

Some of the *Levites also helped Ezra. They moved among the people and they read the law to smaller groups. They explained the law. And they helped the people to understand its meaning. Some of the people probably did not understand the language of the book of the law. So the *Levites had to translate into the language of the people.

v9 All the people were crying when they heard the Law. So Nehemiah the ruler, Ezra the priest and teacher, and the *Levites, who were teaching the people, spoke. They said to everyone, ‘Today is a special day for the *Lord your God. Do not be sad or cry.’ v10 Then Nehemiah said to the people, ‘Go and enjoy special food and sweet drinks. Share some of the food and drink with those who do not have any. Today is a special day for our *Lord. Do not be sad. The joy that you have in the *Lord will make you strong.’

v11 The *Levites made all the people calm. They said, ‘Stop crying, because today is a special day. Do not be sad.’

v12 Then everyone went away to enjoy a meal. They shared food and drink with other people. They had a very happy time together, because they understood the Law. They understood what Ezra and the *Levites had read to them.

Verses 9-12

The people had not heard God’s law for a long time. Ezra read the law. Then the people realised that they had *sinned. God had sent his people into *exile because they had *sinned. This made the people cry. They were sorry because they had *sinned.

But Nehemiah, Ezra and the *Levites told them not to cry. Nobody had read God’s law for a long time. But now the people were hearing God’s word again. So it was a special holy day for God.

Soon the people would confess their *sins. At that time, it would be right for them to be sad. But that was the wrong attitude on this special day. Instead, the people should be happy. God loved them and he chose them to be his own people. He had brought their families back from *exile as he promised. And he had spoken to them by his law. God was very kind to them, so they should be happy.

Nehemiah told the people to be happy and not sad. He told them to go home and to enjoy good food. He told them to share food with those who did not have any. So the people did what Nehemiah told them to do.

v13 On the second day, the leaders of all the families came together to Ezra the teacher. The priests and the *Levites also gathered with them. They wanted to study God’s Law. v14 They discovered that God’s Law said this, ‘The people of *Israel should have a special holiday in the 7th month.’ (The *Lord gave this law to Moses to give to the people of *Israel.) God’s Law said that they must make shelters from branches of trees. They must live in these shelters during this special holiday. v15 They had to tell everyone in all their cities and in Jerusalem about these commands. They must say, ‘Go to the hills. Bring back branches from different types of trees. Cut branches from trees called pines, olives, myrtles and palms. And cut branches from other trees that give shade. From these branches make shelters, as God’s Law tells us to do.’

Verses 13-15

The people wanted to hear God’s law again the next day. This time the leaders of the families came to hear what was in the book of the law. Ezra and the priests and the *Levites helped the people to study God’s law. When they all studied God’s law, they found out about a special holiday. The holiday was in the 7th month of the year. It was called the holiday of the shelters.

Actually there should have been three special holidays during the 7th month of the year.

1.         The first holiday was the special day of the *trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25). God told his people to have a special day of rest on the first day of the month. He told them not to work. He told them to meet together when they heard the sound of the *trumpets.

2.         The second special day was on the 10th day of the month (Leviticus 23:26-32). That was a day for the people to be sad because they had *sinned. They should be humble and they should confess their *sins to God. Then God would forgive their *sins.

3.         The third special holiday was the holiday of the shelters (Leviticus 23:33-36). It started on the 15th day of the month and it lasted for 7 days. God wanted to remind the people about the time when he rescued their *ancestors from the country called Egypt. When the people left Egypt, they lived in shelters. God had looked after them until he led them into the country called *Israel. *Judah was the south part of the land that God had promised to give to his people. So, afterwards, God said that his people should make shelters during the 7th month of the year. The people must make the shelters from branches and they must live in the shelters for 7 days. On the 8th day, the people had to meet together. This 8th day was an extra holiday. On that day, people remembered how God gave them his law. God told the people to be happy during this whole holiday (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

When the leaders of the people studied God’s law, they discovered about the holiday of the shelters. This was a good holiday for them to hear about. God had rescued their *ancestors from Egypt many centuries earlier. Now he had rescued them from *exile in Babylon.

v16 So the people went out and brought back branches. They used these to build shelters for themselves. They built them in these places:

• on the roofs of their houses

• in their yards

• in the yard by the *temple

• in the square by the gate called Water Gate

• in the square by the gate called Ephraim Gate.

v17 All the families who had returned from *exile built shelters. Then they lived in the shelters. The people of *Israel had not done this since the time when Joshua the son of Nun lived. They had very great joy. v18 Every day of the holiday, Ezra read aloud from the book of God’s Law. The holiday lasted for 7 days. On the 8th day, the people gathered for the final meeting, as the Law ordered.

Verses 16-18

When the people learned about the holiday of the shelters they wanted to obey God. So they collected branches, which they used to build shelters. And they lived in the shelters as God had told them to do. All the people who had returned from *exile did this. They did all that God had ordered about the holiday of the shelters.

They were very happy because God had brought his people back to *Judah. God had helped them to build Jerusalem again. Now God’s people were obeying him again. And the people listened to Ezra as he read from the book of God’s law every day of the holiday.

Chapter 9

Nehemiah still had not finished his work for God. He could have returned to Persia. He had a successful career there. But he remained in *Judah for 12 years. He wanted to make the *Jews into a holy nation of God’s people again.

v1 On the 24th day of the same month, the *Israelite people gathered together. They did not eat anything. They wore rough clothes and they put dust on their heads. v2 The families of *Israel had separated themselves from all foreigners. The *Israelite people stood and they confessed their *sins. They also confessed the *sins that their *ancestors had done. v3 The people stood where they were. For three hours they read from the book of the Law of the *Lord their God. For three more hours they confessed and they *worshipped the *Lord their God.

Verses 1-3

So the people had the special holiday of the shelters in the 7th month of the year. It lasted from the 15th day of the month until the 22nd day (Nehemiah 8:14-18). It was a happy holiday.

Two days later, they gathered together again. This time they were sad. They did not eat any food. The people also wore rough clothes and they put dust on their heads. This was to show that they were sad and sorry for their *sins. They were ready to pray and to confess their *sins to God.

The people wanted to serve and to obey the real God. They said that they were sorry for their *sins. They even confessed the *sins that their *ancestors had done. They listened to the book of the law of God for another three hours. Then they *worshipped God and they confessed their *sins for another three hours.

The people also separated themselves from all foreigners. Most foreigners served other gods, which were not real gods. God had warned the *Jews that they must not follow the ways of the foreigners. And God’s people must not serve other gods instead of the real God. So God warned them to separate themselves from all foreigners. God had sent their *ancestors into *exile because they had served other gods.

At other times, some foreigners wanted to *worship the real God. God allowed them to join with his special people the *Jews. For example, Ruth was from Moab, but she became an *ancestor of Jesus (Ruth 1:16, 22; 4:13-17; Luke 3:23-32).

v4 Some *Levites stood on the steps and they called out with loud voices to the *Lord their God. Their names were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani.

v5 Some *Levites also spoke to the people. Their names were Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah. They said,

‘Stand up and praise the *Lord your God.

The *Lord has always lived and he will continue to live always.

          We praise you, *Lord. You are magnificent.

          You are much greater than we can ever say!

          v6 Only you alone are the *Lord.

          You made the sky.

          You made the highest heaven and all the stars.

          You made the earth and everything on it.

          You made the seas and everything in them.

          You make everything continue to live.

          All who live in heaven *worship you!’

Verses 4-6

Some *Levites led the people to pray to God. Other *Levites led the people to *worship and to praise God.

They remembered that God has always lived. He was not born and he will not die. He made everything. He is the real God. He is not like the false gods that the foreigners served. They were not real gods. They did not make anything, but people made them.

          v7 ‘You are the *Lord.

                      You are God.

                      You chose Abram.

                      You brought him out of Ur.

                      Ur was the city where the people called Chaldeans lived.

                      You gave him the name ‘Abraham’.

          v8 You found that he trusted you.

                      You made an agreement with him that nobody can change.

                      You promised to give to his *descendants a country where many nations lived.

                      The Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites and the Girgashites were all nations that lived in that country.

                      You did what you promised to do.

                      You always do what is right.’

Verses 7-8

In their prayers to God, the people remembered all the things that he had done for them and for their *ancestors.

The people remembered that God had chosen Abram. God had given him a new name, Abraham, and a new place to live. God had promised that Abraham would have many *descendants. God promised to give a special country to the *descendants of Abraham. God always does what is right. He always does what he promises to do. These people were Abraham’s *descendants. And they were now living in the country called *Judah. It was part of the land that God had promised to give to Abraham’s *descendants.

          v9 ‘You saw the troubles that our *ancestors suffered in Egypt.

                      You heard their cry for help by the Red Sea.

          v10 You performed wonderful acts of power against the king of Egypt.

                      You performed wonderful acts of power against all his officials and all the people in his country.

                      You knew how proudly the Egyptians (people from Egypt) dealt with our *ancestors.

                      Everyone saw how great you are.

                      And people today still remember this.

          v11 You made a path through the sea for our *ancestors.

                      They walked through the sea on dry ground!

          But you threw those who pursued them into the deep sea.

                      They sank like stones into the fierce currents of water.

          v12 You led our *ancestors during the day by a column of cloud.

                      You led them at night by a column of fire.

                      This fire lit their way and it showed them where to go.’

Verses 9-12

In their prayers to God, the people remembered that their *ancestors had lived in the country called Egypt. The king of Egypt and his people had made the *Jews suffer. So the *Jews called to God to help them. God heard their cries and he rescued them from the people of Egypt. The king of Egypt did not want the *Jews to leave his country, because they were slaves to his people. But God performed wonderful acts to prove that he was the powerful real God. He made the king and the people of Egypt suffer until they agreed to free the *Jews.

When the *Jews escaped from Egypt, God led his people through the desert. He used a cloud to lead them during the day. And at night, he used a column of fire to show them the way that they should go. When they reached the Red Sea, God made a special path. Then they could cross the sea. The army of Egypt tried to follow the *Jews. But God drowned the army of Egypt in the sea.

We can read all about this in Exodus chapters 3 to 14.

          v13 ‘You came down onto Sinai Mountain.

          From heaven you spoke to our *ancestors.

          You gave them fair judgements and right laws.

          You gave them good rules and commands.

          v14 You told them to respect your special weekly day of rest.

          You gave your servant Moses commands, rules and laws for our *ancestors to obey.

          v15 When our *ancestors were hungry,

                      you gave them bread from heaven.

          When they needed to drink,

                      you brought them water out of a rock.

          You told them to enter the country that you had promised to them.

          You told them to take possession of it.’

Verses 13-15

While they were in the desert, God called Moses up to Sinai Mountain. On Sinai Mountain, God gave Moses good and fair laws for his people. God told the people to rest on the 7th day of the week. That was a special holy day for God. Then the people knew how to obey God. They knew how God wanted them to live.

Also while the people were in the desert, God fed them. He sent them special bread from heaven. He even brought water for them out of a rock. He showed them that he cared about them. He showed them that he was the powerful real God. God reminded the people that he had promised to give to them their own special country. Other nations already lived in that country. But God told the *Jews to go into the country. He told them to take possession of it.

We can read all about this in Exodus chapters 16 to 20.

          v16 ‘But our *ancestors became proud.

          They did not want to do what you told them to do.

          They refused to obey your instructions.

          v17 They refused to obey you.

          They did not remember the wonderful acts

                      that you performed among them.

          They were not loyal to you.

          They appointed a leader to take them back

                      to the place where they had been slaves.

          But you are a God who forgives.

          You are very kind to people, although they do not deserve your kindness.

          You are slow to become angry,

                      and you always love very much.

          So you did not leave our *ancestors.

          v18 You did not leave them even when they made

                      a gold image of a young cow.

          They said, “This image is your god who brought you out of Egypt.”

          They did very evil things to insult you.

          v19 You show great kindness to your people.

          So you did not leave them in the desert.

          The column of cloud did not leave them.

          By day, it led them in the way that they should go.

          The column of fire by night did not leave them.

          It lit up their way and it showed them where to go.

          v20 You sent your good Spirit to teach our *ancestors.

          You did not stop feeding them with your bread from heaven.

          You gave them water when they needed to drink.

          v21 For 40 years you provided everything that they needed in the desert.

          They did not need anything else.

          Their clothes never wore out and their feet never became tired or sore.’

Verses 16-21

Although God looked after his people, they did not obey his law. He gave them food and water in the desert. But they did not remember all the good and wonderful things that God had done for them. Although God led them with the cloud and the fire, they asked Aaron, Moses’ brother, to make them another god. Aaron made a gold image of a young cow and the people *worshipped the image instead of the real God (Exodus 32:1-35).

This made God very angry. But he still loved his people. So he continued to look after them. He continued to lead them by the cloud and the fire. He continued to give them food and water. And he continued to teach them what they should do to please him.

Because the people would not believe God, they had to live in the desert for 40 years. They often did not obey God and they often made him angry. But he continued to look after them all the time (Exodus chapter 16; Numbers 9:15-23).

          v22 ‘You gave them countries where kings had ruled.

          You gave them nations.

          You made these countries the borders of *Israel.

          *Israel’s people took possession of the country of Sihon, king of Heshbon,

                      and the country of Og, king of Bashan.

          v23 You made their *descendants

                      as many as the stars in the sky.

          You brought them into the country

                      that you had told their *ancestors to enter and to possess.

          v24 So their *descendants went in and they possessed this country.

          The Canaanites were the people who lived in this country.

                      But you overcame the Canaanites for them.

          You handed over the kings of the Canaanites

                      and the people of the country to our *ancestors.

          They could do what they wanted to the Canaanites.

          v25 Our *ancestors took possession of strong cities.

          They took land that was good for their crops.

          They took possession of houses that were

                      full of all kinds of good things.

          They took wells that people had already dug.

          They took *vineyards, *orchards, and plenty of fruit trees.

          They ate until they were completely full.

          They became fat.

          They greatly enjoyed all the good things that you gave to them.’

Verses 22-25

The *Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years. During this time, almost all the adults who left Egypt died. Although the people often did not obey God, God was still looking after their families. He led them into the country that he had promised to give to them. And he made them into a great nation. God allowed the *Jews to defeat all the nations who lived in the country.

So the people entered the country to live in it. The people found that the land was good to produce crops. There were already good cities and houses in the country, which the *Jews did not have to build themselves. They did not have to dig wells because the previous people had already dug wells. The people enjoyed many good things for which they did not have to work. God gave all these good things to his people in their new country (Deuteronomy 6:10-12; Joshua 21:43-45).

          v26 ‘But they did not obey you.

                      They refused to do what you told them to do.

          They turned away from your Law.

          They killed your *prophets

                      who warned them to turn back to you.

          They did very evil things to insult you.

          v27 So you allowed their enemies to defeat our *ancestors.

          These enemies caused them much trouble.

          When this trouble happened,

                      our *ancestors cried to you for help.

          And from heaven, you heard them.

          And, because you are very kind,

                      you gave them leaders to save them.

          These leaders rescued them from their enemies.

          v28 But as soon as our *ancestors had peace,

                      they did wicked things again.

          So you let their enemies overcome them.

          You let their enemies rule over them.

          But our *ancestors turned and they cried to you again.

          And, from heaven, you heard them.

          You rescued them many times,

                      because you are very kind.

          v29 You warned them to obey your Law again.

          But they became proud

                      and they did not obey your commands.

          They did evil things that were against your rules.

          If a man obeys your rules,

                      he will live.

          But our *ancestors turned against you.

                      They became unwilling to obey you.

          They refused to listen to you.

          v30 For many years, you were patient with our *ancestors.

          By your Spirit, you warned them by your *prophets.

          But our *ancestors would not listen.

          So you let the people from other countries overcome them.

          v31 But because you are so kind,

                      you did not destroy our *ancestors.

          You did not leave them.

          You are a kind God, although people do not deserve your kindness.’

Verses 26-31

God was good to his people the *Jews. He looked after them and he gave them a good country to live in. But they did not obey him. God sent *prophets to warn them, but they killed the *prophets. So God punished the people. He allowed their enemies to defeat them. Then the people called out to God for help. God continued to love his people. So he heard their cries and he rescued them. But then they forgot God again and they did not obey his Law. So, again, God punished them. He allowed their enemies to defeat them and to rule over them again. Again, the people called out to God and he heard their cries. He rescued them and he warned them to obey his Law.

This happened many times during the history of the *Jews. The people did not obey God, so he punished them. He allowed their enemies to defeat them. Then the people were sorry and they asked God to rescue them. God did rescue them and he warned them to obey him. But the people soon forgot how good God was. Then they did wicked things again.

Although the people often forgot God’s kindness, God still loved them. They did not deserve his kindness. But he was still good to them and he did not destroy the nation.

          v32 ‘You are our God.

          You are great and powerful.

          You are magnificent.

          You always do what you promised.

                      And you are kind to us.

          So now, please consider all our troubles to be important to you.

          Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our *prophets

                      have suffered these troubles.

          Our *ancestors and all your people have suffered these troubles.

          We have suffered them from the time

                      of the kings of Assyria until now.

          v33 But you have been fair when you allowed all these things to happen to us.

                      You have done what is right.

                      But we have done wicked things.

          v34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our *ancestors

          did not obey your Law.

          They did not listen to your commands.

                      You warned them, but they did not listen.

          v35 You gave to our *ancestors many good things

                      when they lived in their own country.

          You gave to them this large country.

                      And it was a good country in which to produce crops.

          But they did not serve you there.

                      And they did not stop doing wicked things.

          v36 But now we are slaves.

          You gave to our *ancestors this land.

                      So then, they could eat the food that it yielded.

          You gave this land to them

                      so that they could enjoy all its good things.

          See, we are slaves in this country!

          v37 The harvest of this land is great.

          But we have done wicked things.

          So this harvest goes to the kings

                      that you have placed over us.

          They rule over our bodies

                      and over our animals.

          They do what they like with us.

          We suffer much trouble.’

Verses 32-37

So the people in Nehemiah’s time remembered their history. They remembered that God had been kind to their *ancestors. So they praised God. God always does everything that he has promised to do. They realised this fact. So they thanked God. And they asked God to help them in their present troubles. They knew that God was right and fair to punish his people. They knew that they too had behaved like their *ancestors. They and their leaders had not obeyed God’s laws. Although the people were living in *Judah again, they still had to serve the king of Persia. They felt like slaves in their own country because they had to give much of their harvest to a foreign king. So the people appealed to God to help them.

v38 ‘Because of all these things, we are making an agreement that nobody can change.

          We are writing down this agreement. Our leaders, our *Levites and our priests are signing it.’

Verse 38

So the people decided to make promises to God. They wrote down their agreement with God and their leaders signed it. Then everybody would know what they had promised to do.

We can read about this agreement in the next chapter.

Chapter 10

The people had listened to the law of God (Nehemiah chapter 8) and they had remembered their history (Nehemiah chapter 9). Then they made an agreement with God.

v1 This is a list of the people who signed this agreement:

Nehemiah the chief officer, who was the son of Hachaliah,

and Zedekiah,

v2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,

v3 Pashur, Amariah, Malkijah,

v4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch,

v5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,

v6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,

v7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,

v8 Maaziah, Bilgai and Shemaiah.

Those were the priests.

v9 These were the *Levites:

Jeshua, who was the son of Azaniah,

Binnui, who was one of the sons of Henadad,

Kadmiel.

v10 The other *Levites, who were their companions were:

Shebaniah, Hodijah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,

v11 Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah,

v12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,

v13 Hodiah, Bani and Beninu.

Verses 1-13

Nehemiah recorded this list of the men who signed the agreement with God. Nehemiah was the ruler of *Judah, so he signed the agreement. Zedekiah probably helped Nehemiah to rule, so he signed the agreement also. Some of the priests also signed the agreement. These priests were probably the heads of the families. Some of the *Levites also signed the agreement. The *Levites and the priests led the people when they *worshipped God.

v14 The leaders of the people were:

Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,

v15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,

v16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,

v17 Ater, Hizkijah, Azzur,

v18 Hodijah, Hashum, Bezai,

v19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,

v20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,

v21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,

v22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,

v23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hashub,

v24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,

v25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,

v26 Ahijah, Hanan, Anan,

v27 Malluch, Harim and Baanah.

Verses 14-27

The leaders of the people also signed the agreement.

v28-29 The rest of the people, together with the chief men, agreed to make a serious promise to obey God’s law. And they agreed that they would be responsible for their future behaviour. These people were:

·        the priests

·        the *Levites

·        the people who guarded the gates

·        the singers

·        the servants of the *temple

·        all the people who separated themselves from the people who lived in the nations near them. They did this because they wanted to obey God’s law.

·        their wives

·        all their sons and daughters who were old enough to understand.

God had given his law by his servant Moses. These people promised to obey all the commands, judgements and rules of the *LORD our *Lord.

Verses 28-29

After all the leaders of the people had signed the agreement, all the rest of the people agreed. They also made a serious promise to God. Even the children who were old enough to understand made promises to God. They all promised to obey all the laws of God.

The people in the nations near Jerusalem served other gods, which were not real gods. So the *Jews separated themselves from these other nations because they wanted to be loyal to the real God.

v30-31 ‘This is what we promise.

·      We will not allow our daughters to marry the people who belong to the nations near us.

·      We will not allow their daughters to marry our sons.

·      The 7th day of the week will be a special holy day for us. The people who live near us will bring goods or grain to sell to us. But we will not buy anything on that day, or on any other holy day.

·      Every 7th year we will not farm the land and we will cancel all debts.’

Verses 30-31

The people promised God that *Jews would not marry people from other nations. Most foreigners served other gods, which were not real gods. God knew that the *Jews would follow the ways of the foreigners. They would serve other gods and they would not serve him. So he warned them not to marry these foreigners (Nehemiah 13:1-3; 13:24-27). God had sent their *ancestors into *exile because they had served other gods.

The people also promised to keep the 7th day of the week special and holy for God. God had told them to rest on the 7th day. He told them to allow their animals and their foreign servants to rest also (Exodus 23:12). God himself had rested on the 7th day after he had made the world. So he made it a special day (Genesis 2:1-3).

It was a special day when the people *worshipped God. He told them not to work on that day. He also told them not to farm their land each 7th year. Then they would not be able to grow crops, because God wanted them to depend on him.

If the people rested on the 7th day, then the nations near them would notice. Then the other nations would know that the *Jews loved the real God.

Just before the people went into *exile, God warned them by his *prophet Jeremiah. God made a promise if the people obeyed his command about the 7th day. He promised that the people would be a great nation (Jeremiah 17:24-25). But they did not obey his command. So God sent them into *exile and he allowed enemies to destroy Jerusalem.

v32 ‘We will make a law for ourselves. That law will oblige us to pay the *temple tax each year. That money will pay for the work of God’s house, called the *temple.

v33 This money will pay for the special bread and for the grain and meat for the regular *sacrifices. It will also pay for the *sacrifices on holy days. These *sacrifices happen every 7th day of the week and at the start of every month. The money will also pay for the special meetings and the holy *sacrifices. The money will also pay for the *sacrifices when the *Israelite people ask God to forgive their *sins. And it will pay for all the work of God’s house, that is, the *temple.

v34 We all threw *lots. This included the priests, the *Levites and the rest of the people. By this method, we have decided which families will bring the gift of wood. They will bring the wood at certain times in the year. The priests will use this wood to burn the *sacrifices to the *Lord our God. This is what God’s law orders.

v35 We also promise that we will bring the first of our crops and the first of our fruit. We will bring these every year to the house of the *Lord.

v36 We will also bring the first of our sons to be born and the first of our cows and sheep. God’s law says that we should do this. We will bring them to the house of our God. We will bring them to the priests who serve there. v37 And we will bring the first of our grain and our gifts. We will bring the fruit of all our trees and wine and oil to the priests. We will bring these to the special rooms in the house of our God. We will bring one tenth (1/10th) of our crops to the *Levites. The *Levites will receive the *tithes in all the towns where we work.

v38 And a priest, who is a *descendant of Aaron will be with the *Levites. He will be with the *Levites when they receive the *tithes. Then the *Levites will bring a 10th part of the *tithes to the house of our God. They will bring it to the special rooms at the *temple.

v39 So the people of *Israel and the *Levites will bring the gifts of grain, wine and oil to the rooms. These special rooms contain the equipment for the *temple. The priests stay in these rooms when they are serving in the *temple. The singers and the people who guard the gates also stay there.

We promise that we will not neglect the house of our God.’

Verses 32-39

The people also promised to pay money each year. Each person would pay the same amount, as tax. They paid 4 grams (1/8 ounce) of silver. This money was to pay for all the work of the *temple. Then the people also promised to provide wood for the fire for the *sacrifices.

They also promised to bring the best of their crops, their fruit and their animals to God. They even promised to bring the first of their sons. But God’s law allowed them to pay a price instead (Exodus 13:11-16).

Also, the people promised to give one tenth (1/10th) of their crops. They gave all these things to the *Levites. Then the *Levites could serve God and take care of the *temple all the time. So they did not have to work in the fields. The *Levites also gave one 10th to the priests. Then the priests could serve God and they could lead the people to *worship God. So the priests also did not have to work in the fields.

The people promised that they would not neglect the house of God, in other words, the *temple.

Chapter 11

The people had built the city called Jerusalem again. Then they returned to the smaller towns and villages where they lived. Not many people lived in the city called Jerusalem. It was important for people to live in the city. Then it would become a great city again and the people could protect the *temple in the city.

v1 The leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. The rest of the people threw *lots to decide who else would live in Jerusalem. One person in every 10 people went to live in Jerusalem, the holy city. The other 9 stayed in the other towns. v2 The people thanked all the men who chose to live in Jerusalem.

Verses 1-2

The leaders of the people lived in the city. They would help Hanani and Hananiah to rule the people (Nehemiah 7:2). But a city can only be a great city if many people live there. The people who lived in the other towns and villages already had houses and land. If they moved to live in Jerusalem, they would have to build new houses and to find new work. The people used *lots to decide who would live in the city. They used *lots in order to find out what God wanted them to do (Proverbs 16:33). So they chose one tenth (1/10th) of the people to live in Jerusalem. All the people were grateful for those people who were willing to live in Jerusalem.

v3-4 In the other towns in *Judah, the people lived on their own land. This included the *Israelites, the priests, the *Levites and the people who served in the *temple. And the people who were *descendants of King Solomon’s servants also lived on their own land. Other people from the *descendants of *Judah and Benjamin lived in Jerusalem. The leaders of the district lived in Jerusalem. This is a list of their names.

Among the *descendants of Judah were:

·      Athaiah who was the son of Uzziah and was the grandson of Zechariah. (Zechariah was the son of Amariah and was the grandson of Shephatiah. Shephatiah was the son of Mahalalel and he was a *descendant of Perez.)

·      v5 Maaseiah who was the son of Baruch and was the grandson of Col-Hozeh. (Col-Hozeh was the son of Hazaiah and was the grandson of Adaiah. Adaiah was the son of Joiarib and was the grandson of Zechariah. And he was a *descendant of Shelah.)

·      v6 There were 486 *descendants of Perez who lived in Jerusalem. They were all strong men.

v7 Among the *descendants of Benjamin were:

·      Sallu who was the son of Meshullam and was the grandson of Joed. (Joed was the son of Pedaiah and was the grandson of Kolaiah. Kolaiah was the son of Maaseiah and was the grandson of Ithiel. And he was a *descendant of Jeshaiah.)

·      v8 And after Sallu there were Gabbai and Sallai.

·      The total number of men was 928.

v9 Joel, the son of Zicri, was their chief officer. And *Judah, the son of Hassenuah, was the second officer of the city.

Verses 3-9

Many of the people lived on their own land in the other towns and villages. Some of the rulers of the districts lived in Jerusalem. Nehemiah recorded their names.

Some of them were *descendants of Judah. Judah’s sons were Perez and Shelah. Perez was born after Judah *sinned with Tamar. Tamar was the widow of *Judah’s other son called Er (Genesis 38:11-30). Jesus was also one of the *descendants of Perez. Judah’s wrong action could not prevent God’s good plan.

v10 Among the priests who lived in Jerusalem were:

·      Jedaiah who was the son of Joiarib, Jakin,

·      v11 Seraiah, who was the ruler of the house of God. He was the son of Hilkiah and was the grandson of Meshullam. (Meshullam was the son of Zadok and was the grandson of Meraioth. Meraioth was the son of Ahitub.)

·      v12 Their companions who did the work in the *temple also lived in Jerusalem. The total number of them was 822.

·      There was also Adaiah. He was the son of Jeroham and was the grandson of Pelaliah. (Pelaliah was the son of Amzi and was the grandson of Zechariah. Zechariah was the son of Pashhur and was the grandson of Malkijah.)

·      v13 Their companions who were heads of families also lived in Jerusalem. The total number of them was 242.

·      There was also Amashsai. He was the son of Azarel and was the grandson of Ahzai. (Ahzai was the son of Meshillemoth and was the grandson of Immer.)

·      v14 There were also his companions, who were strong and brave men. The total number of them was 128. Their chief officer was Zabdiel who was the son of Haggedolim.

v15 Among the *Levites were:

·      Shemaiah who was the son of Hashub and was the grandson of Azrikam. (Azrikam was the son of Hashabiah and was the grandson of Bunni.)

·      v16 Shabbethai and Jozabad were two leaders of the *Levites. They were responsible for the outside work of the house of God.

·      v17 Mattaniah led the people in prayer and when they gave thanks to God. He was the son of Mica and was the grandson of Zabdi. (Zabdi was the son of Asaph.)

·      There was also Bakbukiah, who was his assistant. And there was Abda. He was the son of Shammua and was the grandson of Galal. (Galal was the son of Jeduthun.)

·      v18 The total number of *Levites in the holy city called Jerusalem was 284.

v19 Among the men who guarded the gates were:

·      Akkub, Talmon, and their companions. The total number of men who guarded the gates was 172.

Verses 10-18

Nehemiah recorded the names of the priests and the *Levites who lived in Jerusalem. The priests led the people when they *worshipped God. The *Levites helped the priests and they looked after the *sacrifices. Some of these men looked after the work of the *temple. Other men led the people in prayer and when they gave thanks to God. Nehemiah also recorded the names of the men of Jerusalem who guarded the gates. They also guarded the *temple and the rooms for the *tithes and *temple equipment (1 Chronicles 9:17-27).

v20 The other people of *Israel and the other priests and *Levites lived in the other towns and cities in *Judah. They all lived on the land which belonged to their families and their *ancestors. v21 The *temple servants lived in Ophel. Ziha and Gishpa were their managers.

Verses 20-21

God had given the country called *Judah to his special people the *Jews. He gave each family a share in the land. So when the people returned from the *exile, they returned to the country of their *ancestors.

v22 The leader of the *Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi. (He was the son of Bani and was the grandson of Hashabiah. Hashabiah was the son of Mattaniah and was the grandson of Mica.) Uzzi was one of the *descendants of Asaph. Asaph’s *descendants were the singers who were responsible for the work of the house of God. v23 The singers carried out their daily work by royal authority.

v24 Pethahiah was the king’s agent in all the affairs of the people. He was the son of Meshezabel and he was a *descendant of Zerah and Judah.

Verses 22-24

Asaph was a leader of the singers at the time of King David (1 Chronicles 6:39). He also wrote some of the Psalms in the Bible. His *descendants were the singers in the *temple.

Although the king lived far away in Persia, he wanted to know about the people in *Judah. He had a special interest in the work of the *temple. The king had given royal authority to Ezra about the *worship in the *temple (Ezra 7:11-26).

v25 Some of the *descendants of Judah lived on their land in the villages. Some lived in Kiriath Arba and the villages near it. Some lived in Dibon and the villages near it and some lived in Jekabzeel and the villages near it. v26 Some lived in Jeshua and some lived in Moladah. Some lived in Bethpelet. v27 Some lived in Hazarshual and some lived in Beersheba and the villages near it. v28 Some lived in Ziklag and some lived in Meconah and the villages near it. v29 Some lived in Enrimmon and some lived in Zorah. Some lived in Jarmuth. v30 Some lived in Zanoah and some lived in Adullam and the villages near these towns. Some lived in Lachish and the land there. Some lived in Azekah and the villages near it. So all these people lived in the area between Beersheba and the valley called Hinnom.

v31 The *descendants of Benjamin from Geba lived in Michmash, Aija, Bethel and the villages near Bethel. v32 Some lived in Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, v33 Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, v34 Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, v35 Lod and Ono. They also lived in the valley called ‘The valley of skilled men’.

v36 Some groups of the *Levites from *Judah lived among the *descendants of Benjamin.

Verses 25-36

Nehemiah also recorded the names of the towns and villages of *Judah.

We do not know much about the people in this chapter. They lived many years ago, but they did an important job for Nehemiah and for God. God cares about all sorts of people. And he is pleased when they serve him well.

Often Nehemiah also recorded the names of the families and the *ancestors of the people. The people in *Judah were part of God’s plan to save the world by Jesus Christ. (Jesus was a *Jew.) So it was important for *Jews to know about their *ancestors. Then they would know that they really were *Jews. The priests and *Levites could only do their special work if they were genuine *descendants of Levi (Nehemiah 7:63-65). (The priests were *descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Aaron was a *descendant of Levi.)

Chapter 12

v1 This is a list of the priests and *Levites who returned from *exile. They returned with Zerubbabel, who was the son of Shealtiel, and with Jeshua.

          Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,

          v2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush,

          v3 Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth,

          v4 Iddo, Ginnethon, Abijah,

          v5 Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah,

          v6 Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah,

          v7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah and Jedaiah.

These men were the leaders of the priests and their companions at the time of Jeshua.

v8 The *Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, *Judah and Mattaniah. Mattaniah and his companions were responsible for the songs to thank God.

v9 Bakbukiah and Unni and their companions stood opposite them when Mattaniah and his companions led the songs.

Verses 1-9

Nehemiah recorded the names of the first priests and *Levites to return from *exile. Zerubbabel led these people back to *Judah about 93 years before the time when Nehemiah and his companions returned. Jeshua was the name of the chief priest at the time of Zerubbabel.

v10 Jeshua was the father of Joiakim. Joiakim was the father of Eliashib and Eliashib was the father of Joiada.

v11 Joiada was the father of Jonathan and Jonathan was the father of Jaddua.

Verses 10-11

Nehemiah then recorded the family of the chief priest. It was important for *Jews to know about their *ancestors. But it was especially important for the priests to know about their *ancestors. They could only do their special work if they were genuine *descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses. The chief priests came from one family. When the people had had a king, they had counted their dates by the years of the king’s rule. But now they did not have a king, so they counted their dates by the names of the chief priests (1 Chronicles 6:3-15; Nehemiah 12:12).

v12 In the days of Joiakim, these were the heads of the families of the priests.

          Meraiah was from the family of Seraiah.

          Hananiah was from the family of Jeremiah.

          v13 Meshullam was from the family of Ezra.

          Jehohanan was from the family of Amariah.

          v14 Jonathan was from the family of Malluch.

          Joseph was from the family of Shecaniah.

          v15 Adna was from the family of Harim.

          Helkai was from the family of Meremoth.

          v16 Zechariah was from the family of Iddo.

          Meshullam was from the family of Ginnethon.

          v17 Zicri was from the family of Abijah.

          Piltai was from the family of Miniamin and Moadiah.

          v18 Shammua was from the family of Bilgah.

          Jehonathan was from the family of Shemaiah.

          v19 Mattenai was from the family of Joiarib.

          Uzzi was from the family of Jedaiah.

          v20 Kallai was from the family of Sallai.

          Eber was from the family of Amok.

          v21 Hashabiah was from the family of Hilkiah.

          Nethaneel was from the family of Jedaiah.

Verses 12-21

Then Nehemiah recorded the names of the most important priests at his own time. These men were the heads of the families of the priests when he was the ruler of *Judah. Joiakim was the chief priest. Most of the family names are the same as those of Zerubbabel’s time when Jeshua was the chief priest (Nehemiah 12:1-7). The priests clearly used the same family names. It was important for them to know to which family they belonged.

v22 The people made records of the heads of the *Levite families and the families of the priests. And they continued to make these records during the time of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua. These records ended when Darius was king of Persia. v23 And the people recorded the heads of the families of the *descendants of Levi until the time of Johanan. He was the grandson of Eliashib.

v24 The leaders of the *Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah and Jeshua who was the son of Kadmiel. They and their companions who stood opposite them praised God. And they thanked God. One side praised God and then the other side praised him. That was the command of David, the man of God.

v25 Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub guarded the gates. And they guarded the store rooms by the gates. v26 These people lived at the time of Joiakim. Joiakim was the son of Jeshua and was the grandson of Jozadak. At that time, Nehemiah was the chief officer and Ezra was the priest and teacher.

Verses 22-26

The people kept records for many years of the families of the priests and the *Levites. (Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua were the chief priests during these years.) These records were very important. Only the *descendants of Levi, the son of Jacob, could serve as *Levites. Only the *descendants of Aaron, who was a *Levite and the brother of Moses, could serve as priests (Nehemiah 7:63-65).

Some of the *Levites praised and thanked God. This was their special task at the *temple. Centuries before, King David had made rules about the *worship at the *temple. David also wrote many of the Psalms (songs) that these *Levites used to praise God.

Other *Levites took care of the *temple and the equipment for the *temple.

v27 The people had finished the construction of the wall of Jerusalem. So they had a happy occasion. They went to look for the *Levites who were living in the towns. And the people brought the *Levites to Jerusalem. The *Levites were very happy. They sang and they thanked God. They used different types of musical instruments. v28 The families of the singers gathered from the district round Jerusalem. They came from the villages round Netophah. v29 They also came from Beth Gilgal and from the land at Geba and Azmaveth. (The singers had built villages for themselves round Jerusalem.) v30 Then the priests and *Levites carried out a ceremony so that they would be ready to serve God. Then they carried out similar ceremonies on behalf of the people, for the gates, and for the wall.

Verses 27-30

The people were happy because they had built the walls of Jerusalem again. They knew that God had helped them. And they wanted to thank God for his help. The job of the *Levites was to lead the people when they praised God. So the people gathered the *Levites and the singers from all the other towns. And the *Levites sang and they thanked God with musical instruments. The priests carried out a special ceremony. Probably they made *sacrifices on behalf of themselves and the other people. By means of these *sacrifices, they asked God to forgive their *sins. Then they would be ready to serve God.

v31 Then I took the leaders of *Judah onto the top of the wall. I also appointed two large groups to thank God. One group went to the right and they walked along the wall to the Rubbish Gate. v32 Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of *Judah followed them. v33 Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, v34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah and Jeremiah followed too. v35 Some of the sons of the priests followed with *trumpets. One of the priests was Zechariah. He was the son of Jonathan and was the grandson of Shemaiah. (Shemaiah was the son of Mattaniah and was the grandson of Michaiah. Michaiah was the son of Zaccur and was a *descendant of Asaph.) v36 The other priests were the companions of Zechariah. They were Shemaiah, Azarael, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethaneel, *Judah and Hanani. They had the musical instruments that David, the man of God, chose. Ezra the teacher walked in front of them. v37 When they reached the Fountain Gate, they went up the steps of the area called ‘the city of David’. This was where the wall went up. The group walked along the wall above the house of David. They walked to the Water Gate. The Water Gate was on the east side.

Verses 31-37 Then Nehemiah took the leaders of the people onto the top of the wall. He divided them into two groups. One group marched one way round the walls. As they marched, they thanked God. And the priests played *trumpets and other musical instruments. Ezra was with this group.

Before the people had started to build, their enemies had laughed at them. The enemies of the *Jews did not want the people to build the walls again. Tobiah had even said that a fox would be able to knock the walls down. Now the walls were so wide and strong that the people could march on them.

v38 The other group who thanked God went in the opposite direction. I followed them with half of the people. We went along the wall, above the *Tower of the Ovens. We went to the Broad Wall. v39 We went above the Gate of Ephraim, past the Old Gate and the Fish Gate. We passed the *Tower of Hananel and the *Tower of the Hundred. We went by the Sheep Gate and then we stopped at the Gate of the Guards.

Verses 38-39

The other group also thanked God as they marched the other way round the walls. Nehemiah was with this group.

v40 So the two groups who thanked God stood in the house of God. I was there too with half of the officials. v41 The priests were with us with their *trumpets. They were Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah and Hananiah. v42 And Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malkijah, Elam and Ezer were also there. Jezrahiah led the singers as they sang.

v43 And they offered great *sacrifices that day. They were very happy because God had made them very happy. The women and the children were very happy too. People far away could hear the sound of happiness from Jerusalem.

Verses 40-43

The two groups met again at the *temple, which was the house of God. There they praised and they thanked God. The priests led with their *trumpets. But all the people praised and thanked God. They were all happy because God had helped them to build the walls. They made such a noise that people far away could hear the sound of happiness. Now the other people round *Judah would know that the *Jews served the real God. Everyone would know that God had helped his people to build the walls of Jerusalem again.

v44 At that time the people appointed men to look after the special rooms. They stored the gifts, the first of the fruit and grain and the *tithes in these rooms. The men had to go out to the fields round the cities. They went there to collect the share for the priests and the *Levites. That was what God’s law ordered. The people in *Judah were pleased with the priests and the *Levites who served. v45 The priests and the *Levites served God and they made things holy. The singers and those who guarded the gates did this too. This was the command of David and his son Solomon. v46 Many years earlier, in the days of David and Asaph, there was a chief of the singers. He led the people when they sang songs to praise and to thank God. v47 At the time of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, all the *Israelites gave daily gifts. They gave a share for the singers. And they gave a share for the people who guarded the gates. They also gave a share to the *Levites. And the *Levites gave a share to the *descendants of Aaron.

Verses 44-47

Only the *descendants of Aaron could serve as priests. So the phrase ‘the *descendants of Aaron’ means the priests.

Although the people were having a happy time they had to think about the future of the nation. They had promised to give one tenth (1/10th) of their crops for the priests and the *Levites. Then the priests and the *Levites could serve God and they could take care of the *temple all the time. The people had promised that they would not neglect the house of God (Nehemiah 10:32-39).

Now the people made arrangements for the *tithes. They appointed people to collect the *tithes and to put them in special rooms in the *temple. These men would look after these special rooms. The people gave their *tithes because God’s law ordered them to do so. But they also gave these gifts to the priests and to the *Levites. They did this because they were pleased with the work of the priests and the *Levites. They also gave gifts to the other men who served. They gave gifts to the singers and to those who guarded the gates of the city and the *temple.

Chapter 13

Twelve years after the people rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah returned to Persia. Some time later, he asked the king to allow him to return to *Judah (Nehemiah 13:6). There, Nehemiah discovered that the people were doing many wrong things. In this chapter, we can read what Nehemiah did about these serious problems.

v1 On that day, they read aloud the book of Moses. And the people were listening. The book said that God’s special people must never let the *Ammonite and *Moabite people join them. v2 This was because the *Ammonite and *Moabite people had not given the *Israelites food and water. They had paid Balaam to declare that evil things would happen to the *Israelites. But our God changed that. He did good things for them instead. v3 The people heard this law, so they separated themselves from all foreigners.

Verses 1-3

This seems to mean a particular day after Nehemiah returned to *Judah. It seems that, until then, the people had neglected to read the law of God. But on that particular day, they heard the law. Then they knew that they had not obeyed God’s commands. God’s law said that they must never allow the *Ammonite and *Moabite people to join the people of God. The *Ammonites and *Moabites were *descendants of Moab and Benammi, the sons of Lot. Moab and Benammi were born after Lot’s daughters made him *sin (Genesis 19:10-38). The *Ammonites and *Moabites were always the enemies of the *Jews. The *Moabites encouraged the *Jews to serve false gods at the time of Moses (Numbers 25:1-5).

So the people obeyed God and they separated themselves from all foreigners.

(God did not want the *Israelites to marry people from other nations. This was because the *Israelites were God’s special people. But God still cared about the people from other nations. In fact, God’s plan was to use the *Israelites so that he could do good things for people from every nation (Genesis 12:3). So people from other nations could still serve the real God. For example, Ruth was from Moab, but she became an *ancestor of Jesus. So God even allowed *Moabites to join his special people, the *Jews, if they really *worshipped him. See Ruth 1:16-22; 4:13-17; Luke 3:23-32.)

v4 Before this, Eliashib the priest was responsible for the rooms of the house of our God. He was a relative of Tobiah. v5 Eliashib allowed Tobiah to use a large room. This was a room where people used to store the gifts of grain, *perfume and the *temple equipment. They also stored there the *tithes of grain, new wine and oil. The law said that the people should give these things to the *Levites. And there were also gifts for the singers and the people who guarded the gates. People also stored the gifts for the priests in this room.

Verses 4-5

When Nehemiah was away in Persia, the priest Eliashib allowed Tobiah to use a large room in the *temple. Tobiah was one of the enemies of the *Jews. He had tried to stop the people building the walls of Jerusalem again (Nehemiah 2:10; 2:19; 4:3). Also he was an *Ammonite. God’s law said that the *Jews must not allow *Ammonites to join them (Nehemiah 13:1). Tobiah was also a relative of Eliashib the priest. It seems that someone from Eliashib’s family had married Tobiah or someone from his family. The *Jews had promised not to marry foreigners (Nehemiah 10:30). So they had done something that they promised not to do. And this was a very important matter, because they made this promise to God.

The room that Tobiah used was a special room. The people stored the equipment for the *temple there. They also stored their *tithes and gifts for the priests in this room. So, when Tobiah used the room, they did not have anywhere to store the *tithes. Also some *Levites and *temple servants lived outside Jerusalem. They probably stayed in this room when they came to Jerusalem to serve. So when it was their time to serve in Jerusalem they did not have anywhere to stay.

Eliashib was the chief priest (Nehemiah 13:28). He was responsible for the entire *temple. And he was very important. But he was allowing Tobiah to use this room. And Eliashib had also allowed members of his family to marry foreigners. Eliashib was the leader of the priests. But even he was not obeying God’s law. So even the chief priest was not doing the things that the *Israelites promised to do (chapter 10).

v6 When this happened, I was not in Jerusalem. In the 32nd year of the rule of Artaxerxes, king of Babylon, I had returned to the king. Some time later, I asked the king to allow me to go back. v7 So I went back to Jerusalem. Then I discovered the evil thing that Eliashib had done. He had provided Tobiah with a large room inside the walls of the house of God. v8 I was very angry about this. So I threw all Tobiah’s property out of the room. v9 I ordered people to clean the rooms. I told the priests to carry out a special ceremony so that the rooms would be holy again. Then I put back into the room the equipment for the house of God. I also put back the gifts of grain and the *perfume.

Verses 6-9

When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he discovered what Eliashib had done. So Nehemiah was very angry. This does not mean that Nehemiah could not control his temper. It means that he acted in a strict way. He wanted to show that he was very unhappy about the situation. Jesus showed a similar reaction in a similar situation (John 2:12-17).

Nehemiah said that Eliashib had done something evil. So Nehemiah threw all Tobiah’s property out of the room. The room was a special holy room. But it was not still holy because Tobiah the *Ammonite had used it. So Nehemiah ordered people to clean the rooms. Then the priests carried out a ceremony to make the rooms holy again. They probably carried out special *sacrifices to do this. Then Nehemiah put the equipment and the gifts of grain back into the room.

v10 I also discovered that the *Levites had not received their share of the gifts from the people. So the *Levites and the singers, who did the work, had to go back to work in their own fields. v11 So I was angry with the officials. I said, ‘You should not have neglected the house of God.’ I gathered the *Levites and the singers together. And I made them go back to work in the *temple.

Verses 10-11

Nehemiah also discovered that the people had not given their *tithes and gifts to the *Levites. They had promised to give one tenth (1/10th) of their crops for the priests and the *Levites (Nehemiah 10:35-39). Then the priests and the *Levites could serve God and they could take care of the *temple all the time. But this was another promise that the people had failed to do. Instead the *Levites and the singers had gone back to their own fields. They had to produce their own food so they were not doing their work in the *temple.

Perhaps the people did not bring the *tithes and gifts because there was nowhere to store them in the *temple. Tobiah was using the special room. But perhaps the room was already empty even before Tobiah began to use it. Perhaps it was empty because the people were not still bringing their gifts to put into the room.

Nehemiah blamed the officials who were the leaders of the people. The people had promised not to neglect the house of God (Nehemiah 10:39). But Nehemiah said that they had neglected the house of God. And he made the *Levites and the singers return to their work in the *temple.

The *prophet Malachi lived about that time. God spoke to the people by Malachi. He said that the people were cheating God. They did not bring their gifts and their *tithes to his house (Malachi 3:8-10).

v12 Then all the people of *Judah brought the *tithes of grain, new wine and oil. They brought them to the special rooms in the house of God. v13 Then I appointed men to look after the rooms where the people stored the *tithes. These men were Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the teacher and Pedaiah the *Levite. I appointed Hanan to help them. Hanan was the son of Zaccur and was the grandson of Mattaniah. Everybody knew that these men were honest. Their job was to give shares to all their companions.

Verses 12-13

So the people again started to bring their *tithes and gifts to the house of God. Nehemiah was wise and he appointed a team of good men to look after this work. The men whom Nehemiah chose were honest men. Everybody knew this. These men looked after the special holy rooms. These rooms were special because these rooms stored the *tithes and gifts only. The men that Nehemiah chose shared these things with the priests and the *Levites.

v14 ‘You know what I have done, my God. I have done these good things for the house of my God and its work. Do not allow anyone to stop these arrangements.’

Verse 14

Nehemiah was a man who prayed often. He always wanted to do the right thing for God and for God’s work. So he prayed that the gifts for the *temple would continue.

v15 In those days, I saw that men in *Judah were working on the 7th day of the week. (But the 7th day of the week should be a holy day for rest.) They were squeezing juice out of fruit to make wine. Also, some men were bringing grain and they were loading it on horses. They also brought wine, fruit and other loads into Jerusalem. And they were doing this work on the 7th day. I warned them, ‘Do not sell food on this day.’

v16 Some men from the city called Tyre lived in Jerusalem. They brought fish and all kinds of goods into Jerusalem. Then they sold these things in Jerusalem on the 7th day to the people of *Judah. v17 Then I told the important men in *Judah, ‘You should not be doing this wicked thing. You are spoiling the 7th day.’ v18 Your *ancestors did the same thing. That is why God allowed bad things to happen to us and to this city. Now you are making him angry with *Israel again, because you are spoiling the 7th day.

Verses 15-18

Nehemiah also discovered something else when he returned to *Judah. He saw that some of the people were working on the 7th day of the week. They were also loading grain on horses. Maybe some of this was grain that they should have given to the *Levites (Nehemiah 13:10). The *Jews were also buying goods from the people of other nations on the 7th day of the week.

God had ordered the people to rest on the 7th day. He told them to allow their animals and their foreign servants to rest also (Exodus 23:12). But they were working and they were making their horses work too. The 7th day was a special day when the people *worshipped God. The people had promised that the 7th day of the week would be special and holy for God (Nehemiah 10:31). Again, they had failed to do something that they promised. And this was an important matter, because they made this promise to God.

Again, Nehemiah blamed the important men of *Judah. He said that their behaviour was wicked. He reminded them about their history. God had punished their *ancestors because they did not rest on the 7th day of the week. That was why God had allowed foreign nations to destroy Jerusalem. Now the people were making God angry again. Nehemiah probably remembered the words of the *prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah had warned the people just before God had sent them into *exile. He told them not to carry loads on the 7th day of the week (Jeremiah 17:19-27).

v19 I gave an order. At nightfall before the 7th day, the guards must shut the gates of Jerusalem. They must not open the gates until the 7th day is over. I told some of my servants to guard the gates. They did not allow anyone to bring a load in on the 7th day. v20 Once or twice, the merchants and various traders spent the night outside Jerusalem, near the city wall. v21 But I warned them. I said, ‘You must not stay by the wall during the night. If you do this again, I will arrest you.’ After that, they did not come on the 7th day. v22 I told the *Levites to wash themselves and to make themselves holy. I told them to go and to guard the gates. Then they would keep the 7th day holy.

My God, you know about these things also. Be kind to me because of your great love.

Verses 19-22

Nehemiah gave orders that people must not trade on the 7th day of the week. He ordered the guards in Jerusalem to shut the gates of the city during the 7th day. He also spoke to the people from other nations who brought goods to sell. He warned them not to come on the 7th day of the week. He told the *Levites to make themselves clean and holy and to guard the gates of the city. Nehemiah believed that Jerusalem was a holy city (Nehemiah 11:1, 18). He wanted Jerusalem to remain a holy city that pleased God.

Nehemiah prayed again. He remembered God’s great love. And Nehemiah asked God to show his (God’s) kindness.

v23 In those days, I also saw men from *Judah who had married women from the nations called Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. v24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the languages of the other nations. They could not speak the language of *Judah. v25 So I told these men that their behaviour was wrong. I asked God to allow bad things to happen to them. I struck some of them and I pulled out their hair. I forced them to make a promise to God. I said, ‘You must not allow their daughters to marry your sons. You must not take their daughters to be wives for you or for your sons. v26 This was how Solomon the king of *Israel *sinned. There was no king as great as he was in any of the nations. God loved him very much and God made him king over all *Israel. But foreign women made him *sin. v27 And now, we hear that you also are doing the same wicked things. We must not *sin against our God. We must not marry foreign women.’

Verses 23-27

Nehemiah discovered something else when he returned to *Judah. Some of the men had married women from the nations called Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. God had ordered the people not to marry foreigners. He had also ordered the *Jews not to allow the *Ammonites and *Moabites to join them (Nehemiah 13:1-2). The people had promised God that they would not marry foreigners (Nehemiah 10:30). This was another promise to God that the people had failed to perform.

Although these people lived in *Judah, half of their children did not know the *Jews’ own language. They spoke the languages of other nations. They would not be able to read or to understand God’s law. It would be very easy for them to start to *worship the false gods of other nations.

Perhaps these men had married foreign women in order to make friends with people from other nations. Then these men could trade and they could make more money. But perhaps these men married the foreign women because these men had followed their emotions. Or perhaps there were not enough *Jewish women for all the men to marry. But whatever their reasons were, these men were not obeying God’s law.

Nehemiah was very angry. Again, his anger was not a mere emotion. He had full control over his behaviour. But he showed his disgust at what these men had done. He even pulled out their hair. Hair was very important to Jewish men. To lose their hair would cause them to be ashamed. Nehemiah was very strict with these men. But they respected his authority. And they accepted the punishment. Then Nehemiah forced these men to make a serious promise to God. Nehemiah ordered them not to marry foreign women. Also they must not allow their sons and daughters to marry foreigners.

Nehemiah reminded the people again about their history. God made King Solomon to be very wise. But even Solomon was not wise when he married foreign women. And they tempted him to *worship other false gods (1 Kings 11:1-13).

It seems that Nehemiah did not tell these men to send their foreign women away. That was how Ezra dealt with a similar problem many years earlier.

The *prophet Malachi lived about that time. God spoke to the people by Malachi about this matter too. He said that the people were not obeying God. When they married foreign women, they were not obeying God (Malachi 2:10-16).

v28 Joiada was the son of the chief priest Eliashib. The wife of one of Joiada’s sons was the daughter of Sanballat from Horon. So I chased Joiada’s son away from me.

Verses 28

Even the grandson of Eliashib the chief priest had married a daughter of Sanballat. Sanballat was one of the enemies of the *Jews. He had tried to stop the *Jews building the walls of Jerusalem again (Nehemiah 2:10; 2:19; 4:1-2). Nehemiah was very angry because Sanballat was now a relative of the chief priest. And Nehemiah showed complete disgust against Eliashib’s grandson. Nehemiah refused even to allow that man (Eliashib’s grandson) to remain in the same room. Nehemiah forced the man to go away.

v29 You know about these men, my God. They have made the priests unholy. They have spoiled the agreement that you made with the priests and the *Levites.

v30 So I removed everything that was foreign from the priests and the *Levites. I gave to them their tasks. Everyone had his own job to do. v31 I appointed people to bring the gifts of wood and the first of the grain and fruit at the right time.

You know about these matters, my God. Show your kindness to me.

Verses 29-31

Nehemiah prayed again. He knew that the priests had not obeyed God. They had not been good models for the people. Nehemiah tried to make the priests and the *Levites do the right things again. He removed everything foreign from them. He arranged for each of them to do his own proper tasks. He made sure that good people would collect the *tithes and the gifts at the right time.

Nehemiah recorded another of his prayers to end his book. He had always tried to do what was right. He only wanted to please God. And he asked God to show his kindness.

Word List

Ammonite ~ someone from the country called Ammon, or anything that has a relationship to the country called Ammon.

Arab ~ a member of a nation that opposed Nehemiah’s plans.

Assyrians ~ people from the country called Assyria.

ancestors ~ people from the same family in previous centuries.

Babylonian ~ a person from the country called Babylonia, or anything with a relationship to Babylonia. The capital city of Babylonia was called Babylon.

descendant ~ a future member of a family.

exile ~ a period when people cannot live in their own country. This period may be for many years.

famine ~ a time when there is not enough food, so people become hungry.

introduction ~ the first section of a book. The introduction contains information that explains the contents of the book.

Israel ~ the entire nation that belonged to the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. After the death of King Solomon, the nation split into two. The northern part became a separate country, called Israel. Then, the inhabitants were called *Israelites.

Israelites ~ the people from the country called *Israel. But the word is sometimes used to mean the people who came from the country called *Judah too.

Jehovah ~ a special name for God. This name means that God is always God. And it reminds us about the special relationship between God and his people.

Jews ~ all the people from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Or, just the people from the country called *Judah.

Judah ~ the south part of the nation that belonged to the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. After the death of King Solomon, the nation split into two, and Judah became a separate country. Then, the inhabitants were called *Jews. Judah was also the name of a son of Jacob. God gave the region called Judah to this man’s (Judah’s) descendants.

Levites ~ the people of one of the 12 families of *Israel; they acted as assistants to the priests in the *temple.

Lord ~ a title for God to show that he is over all. But sometimes we translate *Jehovah as ‘Lord’.

lots ~ a method that seems to choose something by chance. But people would pray about the decision. They asked God to control the lots. And they believed that the decision came from God.

Moabite ~ a person from the country called Moab; or anything with a relationship to Moab.

orchard ~ a place to grow fruit trees.

perfume ~ oil that smells sweet.

Persian ~ a person from the country called Persia, or anything with a relationship to the country called Persia.

prophet ~ someone who tells God’s messages; a person whom God sends to speak for him; someone who is able to tell the will of God to other people; someone who declares God’s words. However, some people were false prophets. These people pretended to speak God’s words. But really, their messages came from the devil, or from their own imagination.

ruin ~ buildings and walls that have fallen down.

sacrifice ~ a gift to God by the *Jews. They gave such a gift when they asked God to forgive their *sins. The gift was often an animal or a bird. Sometimes people offered sacrifices to thank God for something.

shield ~ soldiers use these strong boards to keep themselves safe from attack.

sin ~ when people do bad things against God or other people; when people do not obey the commands of God.

spear ~ a long and thin *weapon of war which has a point. Soldiers throw them.

temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews *worshipped God.

tithe ~ one tenth (1/10th or 10%). The law said that the people must give a 10th of the harvest of oil, grain and wine to God. This 10th part was called a ‘tithe’.

tower ~ a tall, strong building.

trumpet ~ an instrument to make music or to sound an alarm.

vineyard ~ a place where fruit bushes grow. People use the fruit to make wine.

weapon ~ a tool of war that a soldier uses in attack or defence.

worship ~ to praise God and to give thanks to him; to show honour to God and to say that we love him very much. But some people worship false gods instead of the real God.

Book List

Bibles ~ AV, NIV, RSV & TEV

Stan K. Evers ~ ‘Doing a great work’ ~ Evangelical Press ~ Welwyn Commentary series

Derek Kidner ~ ‘Ezra and Nehemiah’ ~ IVP Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries

Raymond Brown ~ ‘The Message of Nehemiah’ ~ IVP The Bible Speaks Today

Dave Cave ~ ‘Ezra and Nehemiah’ ~ Crossway Bible Guides

Warren W. Wiersbe ~ ‘Be Determined’ ~ Victor

Strong’s Lexicon

 

© 2006, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

November 2006

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