God’s People Build Jerusalem’s City Wall Again

About this book

The Book of Nehemiah is part of the Old Testament. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon had destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. Later, Artaxerxes became king of Babylon. The Jews are God’s people. They had to live in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had sent the Jews to live there. Later the Jews returned to Jerusalem. This is a careful report of what happened. They found that soldiers had destroyed the city wall. This was very important. In Deuteronomy 7:3-4, God tells the Jews that they must not marry people who were not Jews. This is because people from other countries worshipped other gods. Nehemiah reports what the Jews’ enemies did. The Jews were building the city wall again. Then Jerusalem would become a powerful city. So their enemies tried to stop them. The Jews knew that God would keep them safe. He did this while they built the city wall again.

Chapter 1

1 These are the words of Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah. It was the month Kislev. This was when King Artaxerxes had ruled for 20 years. I was in the king’s house in the city called Susa. 2 Hanani, my brother and some men arrived. They came from Judah. I asked them for news of the Jews who had earlier returned from Babylon. I asked them about Jerusalem city. 3 They told me, ‘The Jews who returned to Judah are in much trouble. And they are ashamed. Their enemies have broken down the city walls and have burnt the gates.’

4 After they told me this, I sat down. And I cried. During many days, I was very sad. I did not eat or drink. I prayed to God.

5 I prayed, ‘Oh Lord, God of heaven, you are great and powerful. You are so great that I cannot come near to you. You always keep your promises to the people that you have chosen. You do this because you love them. But they must love and obey you. 6 Listen to my words. I am your servant. I am praying to you. I pray in the day and in the night. I am praying on behalf of the people of Israel. They are your servants. We have all done wrong things. I and my family have not obeyed you. The people of Israel have not obeyed your laws. 7 We have all gone against you. We have not obeyed the laws that you gave to your servant Moses.

8 Remember what you told Moses. You told him, “If you do not obey my laws and love me, I will make you live in foreign lands. I will cause you to become separate. You will not be together. 9 But my people must return to me and obey my laws. Then I will let them live in the place that I have chosen. Even if they live far away, I will find them. They can live in the place that I have chosen for my name.” That is what you told Moses.’

The people of Israel are the Jews. Exodus 20 tells us the laws that God gave to Moses. ‘My name’ here means the place where people should worship God.

10 ‘Your people are your servants. You saved them from their enemies with your great power. They cost you much. 11 Please listen to my prayer. I am your servant. The people of Israel are your servants. We worship your name. Let the king be happy with me. Let Artaxerxes give me what I ask.’

I was the king’s cupbearer.

A cupbearer looked after the king’s wine. Wine is a drink made from grapes. Nehemiah would have to taste the wine. He would make sure that it was safe for the king to drink. As cupbearer, Nehemiah would have authority in the king’s house. The king would believe what Nehemiah told him.

Chapter 2

1 It was the month of Nisan. King Artaxerxes had ruled Babylon for 20 years. I brought the king’s wine. I gave the wine to the king. I was sad. I had not been sad in front of the king before. 2 The king asked me, ‘Why are you sad? You are not ill. This must mean that you are not happy.’ I was afraid.

Servants had to be happy in front of the king. Nehemiah was afraid because the king might be angry with him.

3 I replied, ‘Let the king live always! I am sad because they have destroyed my ancestors’ city. Our enemies have burned the city’s gates.’ 4 The king asked me, ‘What do you want?’ So I prayed to God. 5 Then I replied to the king, ‘If it gives the king pleasure, might he send me there? Then if he is happy with his servant Nehemiah, I can build the city again. They buried my ancestors there.’ 6 The king sat with the queen next to him. The king asked me, ‘How long will you be away? When will you return?’ The king was happy to let me go to Judah. I told him when I would leave. 7 I said to the king, ‘If the king likes the idea, give me some letters. The letters are for your government officers of Trans-Euphrates. The officers will keep me safe on the journey to Judah. 8 Let me have a letter to give to Asaph. He has authority for the king’s forest. He will give me wood from the trees to make beams. The beams are for the gates of the city, near the temple. They are also for the city wall and for the house that I will live in.’ God was with me. So the king gave me what I asked for.

9 I went to Trans-Euphrates. I gave the government officers the letter. The king sent soldiers with me. Some rode horses and some walked. 10 Sanballat and Tobiah were not happy because I came to help the Jews. Sanballat was from Horon and Tobiah was an Ammonite officer.

Sanballat and Tobiah had authority. They thought that they might not have authority over Jerusalem any longer. They knew that the Jews might build the city wall again. Then Jerusalem would be a powerful city.

11 I went to Jerusalem. I was in Jerusalem for three days. After three days 12 I went out at night. A few men came with me. I did not tell anyone the idea that God had put in my mind. I rode on a horse. We did not take any other horses. 13 I went through the Valley Gate to the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate. I looked at Jerusalem’s wall. It was broken. Enemies had broken the wall and they had burnt the gates.

A jackal is an animal.

14 I went to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool. The horse that I was riding could not get through. 15 So I went to the valley to look at the wall. It was dark. I returned past the Valley Gate. 16 The officers did not know what I had done. I had not said anything to the officers or priests. I did not tell the Jews that I wanted them to build the city wall again.

17 I spoke to the priests, Jews and officers. I said, ‘We have much trouble. Enemies have broken down the city wall. Fire has burned the gates. We must build the city again. Then Jerusalem will no longer be ashamed.’ 18 I told the people how God had helped me. God had put the idea in the king’s mind to let me come to Jerusalem. I told them what the king had said to me. The people said, ‘We will start to build!’ And they began the good work. 19 But Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem tried to make us seem like fools. They said, ‘What are you doing? Are you going against the king?’

Enemies of the Jews had sent a letter to King Artaxerxes. The king had stopped the Jews when they were building the city. That was some time before Nehemiah went to Judah. (See Ezra 4:8-24.)

20 I replied, ‘God will make us strong to finish this work. We are God’s servants. We will start to build. But you have no place in Jerusalem.’

Chapter 3

1 Eliashib, the priest, and other priests built the Sheep Gate. They dedicated (gave) it to God and they put on the doors of the gate. Eliashib and the other priests built the wall as far as the Tower of the Hundred. They dedicated this part of the wall. Then they built the wall as far as the Tower of Hananel.

To dedicate something to God means that you give him something. Then it belongs to him for him to use. The Jews were telling God that they had built these parts of the wall on his behalf. They knew that it was God’s city.

2 The men from Jericho built the next part of the city wall. Zaccur, the son of Imri, built the next part of the wall.

3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They put up the beams and they put on the doors of the gate. They made the doors so that they could lock the gate. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, mended the next part of the wall. Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, repaired the wall next to Meremoth. Zadok, son of Baana, repaired the next part of the wall. 5 The men from Tekoa repaired the next part. But their important men did not work hard.

6 Joiada son of Paseah, and Meshullam son of Besodeiah, repaired the Old Gate. They put up the beams of the gate and they put on the doors. They made the doors of the gate so that they could lock them. 7 Men from Gibeon and Mizpah called Melatiah and Jadon repaired the wall next to the Old Gate. Melatiah is from Gibeon. Jadon came from Meronoth that is under the authority of Trans-Euphrates. 8 Uzziel, son of Harhaiah, repaired the next part of the wall. Uzziel is a man who works with gold. Hananiah repaired the wall next to Uzziel. Hananiah makes perfume. Hananiah and Uzziel repaired the wall as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Rephaiah, son of Hur, repaired the next part of the wall. Rephaiah rules over part of Jerusalem.

Even rulers worked to repair the wall. Those who worked with gold also did this work. So did those who made perfume. (Perfume is something with a nice smell. You put it on your skin.) There was work for everybody. Nearly all the men helped to build the wall of Jerusalem again. Some women helped, too (verse 12).

10 Next to Rephaiah, Jedaiah, son of Harumaph, repaired the wall on the other side of Jedaiah’s house. Hattush, son of Hashabneiah, repaired the wall next to Jedaiah. 11 Malkijah son of Harim, and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab, repaired a part of the wall. They also repaired the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Shallum, son of Hallohesh, repaired the next part of the wall. Shallum’s daughters helped him. Shallum ruled over part of Jerusalem.

13 Hanun and the people who lived in Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it and they put doors on the gate. They made the doors so that they could be locked. The people from Zanoah also repaired 450 metres of the city wall. They repaired the wall as far as the Dung Gate.

14 Malkijah, son of Recab, repaired the Dung Gate. Malkijah put the doors on the gate. He made the doors. Malkijah rules Beth Hakkerem.

15 Shallun, son of Col-Hozeh, repaired the Fountain Gate. Shallun is the ruler of Mizpah and the places round it. Shallun made a roof for the Fountain Gate. He put on the door. He made the doors so that they could lock the gate. Shallun also repaired the wall of the Pool of Siloam near the King’s Garden. Shallun repaired the wall as far as the steps from the City of David. 16 Nehemiah, son of Azbuk, repaired another part of the wall. He repaired as far as the pool that people had made and the House of the Brave Men. Nehemiah is a ruler of Beth Zur. 17 Next to Nehemiah, Levites repaired the wall. Rehum son of Bani had authority over the Levites. Next to the Levites, Hashabiah repaired the wall. He ruled over part of Keilah. 18 Binnui son of Henadad repaired the wall. Binnui also rules over part of Keilah. Men from Keilah helped him. 19 Ezer son of Jeshua repaired part of the wall. It was in front of the place where the soldiers kept their arms. He repaired as far as the corner. Ezer rules over Mizpah. 20 Next, Baruch son of Zabbai repaired part of the wall. It was from the corner to the door of Eliashib’s house. Baruch worked very well. Eliashib is the leader of the priests. 21 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next part. It was from the door to the end of Eliashib’s house. 22 Next to Meremoth, priests from near Jerusalem repaired the wall. 23 Benjamin and Hasshub repaired the wall in front of their house. Next, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, repaired the wall by his house. 24 Binnui son of Henadad, repaired from Azariah’s house to the corner. He also repaired the corner of the wall. 25 Palal son of Uzai, worked in front of the tower of the Upper Palace near the guards’ yard. Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants repaired the wall towards the east. And they repaired the tower as far as the Water Gate. The temple servants live on the hill of Ophel. 27 The men from Tekoa repaired from the tower to the wall of Ophel.

28 The priests repaired the wall above the Horse Gate. Each priest repaired the wall in front of his house. 29 Zadok, son of Immer, repaired the city wall in front of his house. Next to him, Shemaiah son of Shecaniah repaired the wall. Shemaiah is the guard at the East Gate.

30 Next to Shemaiah, Hananiah, son of Shelemiah, repaired the wall. Hanun, the 6th son of Zalaph, also repaired the wall. Next, Meshullam, son of Berekiah, repaired the wall in front of the place where he lived. 31 Malkijah works with gold. He repaired the wall as far as the temple servants’ house. And he repaired as far as the merchants’ houses in front of the Meeting Gate. He repaired as far as the room above the corner.

32 Between there and the Sheep Gate the merchants and men who worked with gold repaired the wall.

A merchant buys things and sells them to other people. Nehemiah is writing a record of everyone who helped to repair the city wall. He knows that to build the wall was a very important job. God was helping the Jews to repair the wall.

Chapter 4

1 Sanballat knew that the Jews were building the wall. He was very angry. He wanted people to think that the Jews were fools. 2 Sanballat’s officers and Samaria’s army were with him. He said, ‘Those Jews have great ideas! They are weak. They are trying to repair the wall! They want to give sacrifices to their God. They will take a long time because fire has burned the stones. They cannot use them to build the wall.’ 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was with him. Tobiah said, ‘The wall that the Jews have built is very weak. If a small animal climbs on it, their wall will fall.’ 4 I prayed, ‘Hear us, our God. Our enemies are against us. Make them seem like fools. Let their enemies take them as slaves. And let their enemies take their land. 5 Do not forget their sins. They are saying bad things about you. And the Jews who are building the city wall are hearing their words.’

6 The Jews worked well because they really wanted to build the wall. So they continued to build the city wall. It soon became half as high as the old wall.

7 But Sanballat and Tobiah were very angry. They had heard that the Jews had nearly mended the walls. The holes in them were now small. The people who came from Arabia, the Ammonites and the men from Ashdod were also very angry. 8 They met together. They decided how to fight against the Jews. They wanted to cause trouble for them. 9 But we, the Jews, prayed to God. We made guards watch over the land outside the wall. They watched day and night.

10 While this was happening, the people in Judah said, ‘The workers are becoming weak. There are too many small pieces of stone. We cannot build the city. The stones are in the places where we want to build.’ 11 Our enemies said, ‘Before the Jews see us, we will go among them. Then we will kill them. While they are building the wall, we will stop them.’ 12 The Jews who lived near them said, ‘Anywhere that you go, our enemies will attack us.’ They said this to us many times.

13 So I (Nehemiah) put some men behind the lowest part of the wall. They had swords, spears and bows. They stayed near the families who repaired the wall. 14 I looked at everything. I said to the officers and the people, ‘Do not be afraid of our enemies. Remember that God is great and powerful. Fight on behalf of your brothers. Fight on behalf of your sons and daughters. Fight on behalf of your wives. Fight on behalf of your homes.’

The Jews were ready if any of their enemies attacked. They would use their swords, spears and bows to kill their enemies. A sword is like a long knife. Spears are long and thin with a sharp point at the end.

15 We knew what our enemies had decided to do. They discovered this. Then they knew that God had stopped them. So each of us went back to our work on the wall.

16 After that day, half of my men carried spears, bows and swords. The officers stood behind the people while they built the wall. 17 Those who carried building materials kept one hand on their sword. Everyone who was making repairs to the wall carried a sword. They did their work with one hand and they carried their sword with the other hand. 18 Every man who built the wall carried his sword. And the man with the trumpet stayed near me.

19 I said to all the people, ‘Because the wall is long, we are not near each other. 20 When you hear the sound of the trumpet, come to me. Our God will fight on our behalf.’

21 We continued to work on the wall. Half of the men carried spears. They looked for our enemies. We worked from morning until it was dark. 22 I spoke to the Jews and to those who helped them, ‘Everyone must stay in Jerusalem at night. You can look for our enemies at night and work in the day.’ (I said this to the Jews who did not live in Jerusalem.) 23 Neither I nor my brothers took our clothes off. Nor did my men or the guards take off their clothes. Everyone carried his sword. We were ready always to fight our enemies. Even when we went to get water, we carried our swords.

Chapter 5

1 Some men and their wives were not happy with some other Jews. 2 They said, ‘We have many sons and daughters. But we have no food.’ 3 Other people said, ‘We have no money for food. We have to sell our fields, vineyards and homes for food to stay alive.’

Vineyards are pieces of land where the fruit called grapes grow. People make the drink called wine from grapes.

4 Other people said, ‘We have no money to pay our debts to the king. 5 We have had to sell our sons and daughters as slaves. Other people buy them because we have no money. Our sons and daughters are Jews like them. But some of our daughters are already slaves. They make us pay for the money that they lent to us. We should not have to do this because we are all Jews. We have no power because we have sold our land to other people.’

6 When I knew about this, I was very angry. 7 I thought about what these Jews had said. Then I said to the rich Jews and their officers, ‘You are using other Jews to get more money.’ I asked many Jews to meet together. 8 I said, ‘We have bought back those Jews who were slaves. They were slaves to people who were not Jews. Now you are making poor Jews become slaves. They are like your brothers. We will have to buy them back again.’ The rich Jews did not say anything. They had nothing to say. 9 I said, ‘You are doing a very wrong thing. You should be afraid that our enemies will have no respect for our God.’

10 ‘My brothers and I, together with other men, are lending the people money and food. But we are not getting extra money from them. 11 Please give the fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses back to the poor Jews now. And do not ask them to give back more money than you lend. You have asked for 1/100th part more than you lent! Give that money back to them, too.’

Olive groves are pieces of land where people grow olive trees. People used olives, their fruit, to make oil. They used olive oil in food. And they burnt it to give light.

12 The rich Jews said, ‘We will give everything back to them. We will not ask them to give back more money than we lent to them. We will do as you say.’ I asked the priests to come and join us. I made the rich Jews make a promise. They promised to do as I said. 13 I moved my clothes while I was still wearing them. While I did this, I said, ‘Like this, God should move every man out of his house if he does not obey this promise. God should move him away from everything that is his. People should take him away and destroy all his things.’ Everyone said, ‘Amen’. Everyone worshipped God. All the people obeyed this promise.

14 During all the time that I had authority in Judah, I did not eat the food of those in authority. I did this from the 20th to the 32nd year of King Artaxerxes. For 12 years I did not eat this food. Nor did my brothers. 15 Those in authority before I came took 40 pieces of silver, food and wine from the people. Those who helped them thought of them as more important than other people. I did not do this, because I worship God. 16 I worked together with my men when we built the wall. I did not take any land. 17 150 Jews and officers ate at my table. Also, men from lands near Jerusalem ate with me. 18 Every day, my servants cooked one ox, 6 sheep and some birds for us to eat. Every 10 days I bought much wine. I did not ask for all the things that usually they gave to people in authority. The Jews were poor. They could not give me the food that people in authority could ask for. 19 ‘Please God, remember me. And do good things to me because of what I have done on behalf of the Jews.’

An ox is a large animal, like a cow.

Chapter 6

1 We had finished building the wall. There were no holes in it, but the doors were not in the gates. Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and all our enemies knew that we had finished building the wall. (Geshem came from Arabia.) 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent this message to me, ‘Let us meet together in a village on the Ono flat land.’ I knew that they wanted to hurt me. 3 I sent a man with my reply, ‘I am too busy to meet you. I will not stop this important work to meet you.’ 4 They sent me the same message 4 times. My reply to each was the same. 5 Then Sanballat sent his officer to me. He carried a letter that was open. Any person could read this letter. 6 This is what the letter said, ‘They are telling the people that you (Nehemiah) and the Jews will cause trouble for the king. Geshem also says that this is true. This is why you are building the city wall. They say that you want to be King of Jerusalem. 7 You have told prophets that they must say, “There is a king in Judah.” This report will go to King Artaxerxes. So we must meet together.’

8 I sent this reply, ‘What you say is not true. You are saying things that are your own ideas.’

9 Our enemies wanted to frighten us. They thought, ‘The Jews will be so afraid that their hands will be weak. They will not finish building the wall.’ I prayed to God, ‘Make my hands strong.’

10 One day I went to Shemaiah’s house. He is the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel. He would not go out of his house. He said to me, ‘Meet me in the temple of God. We will close the temple doors. Our enemies are coming to kill you. At night, they will come to kill you.’

Shemaiah was a friend of Tobiah. Tobiah was Nehemiah’s enemy. Even when they had finished the wall, Nehemiah’s enemies wanted to cause trouble for him.

11 But I said, ‘I will not run away. I will not go into the temple to save my life.’ 12 Then I knew that my enemies had sent Shemaiah. Tobiah and Sanballat had paid him to say this to me. 13 They wanted to frighten me so that I would hide in the temple. My enemies knew that this would be a sin. If I sinned, they would tell the people about it. Then people would not have respect for me after that. 14 ‘Please God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat. Remember what they have done. Remember Noadiah the prophetess and the other prophets who want to frighten me.’

Nehemiah was not a priest. Only the priests could go into the temple. So it would be a sin if Nehemiah went into the temple.

15 We finished the wall on the 25th of Elul. It had taken 52 days to build the city wall again. 16 When our enemies knew this, they were afraid. All the people who lived near Jerusalem were afraid. They knew that God had helped the Jews to build the city wall again.

17 The rich men of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah. Tobiah also sent many replies. 18 Many people in Judah had promised to obey Tobiah. That was because his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam. He had helped to repair the city wall. And his wife was Shecaniah’s daughter. Shecaniah was Arah’s son. 19 The men of Judah told me often about the good things that Tobiah had done. Then they told Tobiah everything that I said. And Tobiah sent letters to people to cause trouble for me.

Chapter 7

1 When we had built the wall I put the doors in their place. We chose men to watch at the gates (these men are called gatekeepers), singers and Levites. 2 I gave my brother Hanani authority over Jerusalem. I also gave authority over the strongest building to Hananiah. He was a good man. He gave God more respect than many men. 3 I said to them, ‘Do not open the city gates until the sun is high in the sky. Lock the gates while the gatekeepers are still there. Choose people who live in Jerusalem to watch for enemies. Some people must stand by the gates; other people must stand by their houses.’

4 Jerusalem city was large, but not many people lived in it. We had not yet built the houses completely.

5 God put an idea in my mind. All the people who returned to Jerusalem must write down their family names. I found the family records of the first people to return to Jerusalem.

6 These families returned to Jerusalem and Judah after King Nebuchadnezzar took the Jews away in the exile. 7 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum and Baanah. This is a list of the men of Israel:

8 from the descendants of Parosh, 2172;

9 of Shephatiah, 372;

10 of Arah, 652;

11 of Pahath-Moab (by Jeshua and Joab), 2818;

12 of Elam, 1254;

13 of Zattu, 845;

14 of Zaccai, 760;

15 of Binnui, 648;

16 of Bebai, 628;

17 of Azgad, 2322;

18 of Adonikam, 667;

19 of Bigvai, 2067;

20 of Adin, 655;

21 of Ater (by Hezekiah), 98;

22 of Hashum, 328;

23 of Bezai, 324;

24 of Hariph, 112;

25 of Gibeon, 95;

26 the men of Bethlehem and Netophah, 188;

27 of Anathoth, 128;

28 of Beth Azmaveth, 42;

29 of Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah and Beeroth, 743;

30 of Ramah and Geba, 621;

31 of Michmash, 122;

32 of Bethel and Ai, 123;

33 of the different Nebo, 52;

34 of the different Elam, 1254;

35 of Harim, 320;

36 of Jericho, 345;

37 of Lod, Hadid and Ono, 721;

38 of Senaah, 3930;

39 the priests who were descendants of Jedaiah (by Jeshua), 973;

40 of Immer, 1052;

41 of Pashhur, 1247;

42 of Harim, 1017.

43 the Levites who were descendants of Jeshua (by Kadmiel, by Hodaviah), 74.

44 the singers who were descendants of Asaph, 148.

45 the gatekeepers of the descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita and Shobai, 138.

46 the temple servants who were descendants of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,

47 Keros, Sia, Padon,

48 Lebana, Hagaba, Shalmai,

49 Hanan, Giddel, Gahar,

50 Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda,

51 Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah,

52 Besai, Meunim, Nephussim,

53 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,

54 Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,

55 Barkos, Sisera, Temah,

56 Neziah and Hatipha.

57 the descendants of the servants of Solomon who were descendants of Sotai, Sophereth, Perida,

58 Jaala, Darkon, Giddel,

59 Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-Hazzebaim and Amon.

60 The temple servants and descendants of the servants of Solomon were 392 men.

61 There were some people who came from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon and Immer. But they did not have family records. They could not be sure that they were Jewish:

62 the descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah and Nekoda, 642.

63 Among the priests there were the descendants of Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai. (Barzillai was a man who married a daughter of Barzillai. He came from Gilead and he took that name.) 64 These people could not find family records. Because of this, they could not be priests. They were not clean. 65 The officer in Judah said that they could not eat the priests’ special food. They had to wait for a priest to use the Urim and Thummim.

It was very important that the Jews had family records. These showed that they were true Jews. The Urim and Thummim are special things. God used them to show the priests what he wanted. Priests had to be descendants of Aaron.

66 The number of all the people was 42 360. 67 There were also 7337 men servants and women servants and 245 men and women singers. 68 There were 736 horses and 245 mules, 69 435 camels and 6720 donkeys.

70 Some of the family leaders gave money to help build the wall. The man with authority in that place gave 8.5 kilos of gold, 50 bowls and 530 sets of special clothes for the priests. 71 Some family leaders gave 170 kilos of gold and 1.3 metric tons of silver. 72 The rest of the people gave 170 kilos of gold and 1.3 metric tons of silver. They also gave 67 sets of special clothes for the priests.

Gold and silver are valuable metals. A metric ton is a weight.

Horses, mules, camels and donkeys are animals that carry things and people.

73 The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers and the temple servants now lived in their towns. Other people and the rest of the Jewish people also lived in their own towns. All the people were living in their own towns when the 7th month came.

Chapter 8

Ezra reads the Law to the people

1 All the Jews met together in the wide place by the Water Gate. The people asked Ezra to bring the Book of the Law of Moses. The laws that God gave to Israel are in the Book of the Law. 2 On the first day of the 7th month, Ezra brought the Book of the Law to the people. All the men and women who were able to understand were there. 3 Ezra read aloud while he stood there. He read to all those people from morning to noon. Everyone watched him while he read. He read to them while he stood by the Water Gate. Everyone there listened carefully to Ezra while he read the Book of the Law. 4 Ezra stood up above the people on a high floor made out of wood. They made this so that they could see and hear him. Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah stood at his right side. Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam stood at his left side. 5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see Ezra because he was high above them. When he opened the book, the crowd stood up. 6 Ezra praised God. All the people lifted their hands and they praised God. The people shouted, ‘Amen! Amen!’ They went on their knees and they worshipped God. 7 The Levites taught the people the law. The names of the Levites were: Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah. 8 The Levites taught the Law to the people who stood there. They helped the people to understand what Ezra read to them.

9 Then Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites said to the people, ‘Do not be sad today. Do not cry. Today is holy to God.’ They said this because the people were crying. The words of the Law had made them sad. 10 Nehemiah told the people to eat special food and to drink sweet drinks. Nehemiah also told the people to give food and drink to those who had none. He told the people that they should not be sad. They should not be sad because they were giving pleasure to God. This would make them strong. 11 The Levites said, ‘Do not be sad. Today is a holy day.’ 12 The people went away. They ate and they were very happy. They understood that that day was separate (holy) for God.

13 On the 2nd day of the 7th month, the family leaders met together. They met with the priests, Levites and with Ezra. They wanted to know God’s laws. 14 They had heard the Book of the Law. And it said that Jews must live in huts made from tree branches. They must do this in the feast of the 7th month.

God brought the Jews out of Egypt in the 7th month. So they must remember this with a special feast. A feast is a time to eat and drink. We read about this in Leviticus 23:33-43.

15 In the Book of the Law, it says that they must tell everyone in the country to go into the hills. They should bring back branches from olive trees, myrtle trees and from palm trees. They must use these to build their huts. 16 The people went to the hills and they picked branches. They made huts on their roofs and near their houses. They made them outside the temple and by the Water Gate. They made them by the Gate of Ephraim. 17 Everyone who had returned from exile built a hut. The Jews had not remembered a feast with such pleasure since the time of Joshua son of Nun. 18 Every day of the feast, Ezra read aloud from the Book of the Law. The feast went on for 7 days. On the 8th day, the Jews met together, as the law said.

Chapter 9

The people tell God that they are sorry about the bad things that they have done

1 On the 24th day of the same month, the Jews met together. They did not eat or drink. They wore sackcloth and they put dust on their heads.

Sackcloth is hard. It is not nice to wear. Jews wore sackcloth to show that they were sorry. Jews put dust on their heads to show that they were sad or in trouble.

2 The people from Jewish families had kept themselves separate from foreign people. The Jewish people stood up because they were sorry for their sins. They said that they and their ancestors had done many bad things. 3 The Jews read from the Book of the Law during a quarter of the day. During a quarter of the day they told God their sins and they worshipped him. 4 The Levites stood above the other people on steps made from wood. They cried aloud to God. The Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. 5 The Levites Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah said, ‘Stand up and praise your God. He lives from the beginning for always and always.’ They said, ‘Your name is great and beautiful. It is above all praising and good words. 6 Only you are the Lord. You made the sky. You made even the highest sky and everything in it and the stars. You made the earth and everything on it. You made the sea and everything in it. You gave life to everything. All things in heaven worship you. 7 You are the Lord God who chose Abram. You brought him out of Ur, the country where the people called Chaldeans live. You called him Abraham. 8 Abraham was faithful. He believed you and he obeyed you. You made a promise to him. You promised to give to his descendants the country where the people called Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites lived. You have always kept your promises because you are good. You do only good things.

9 You saw that our ancestors were not happy in Egypt. You heard them cry aloud to you at the Red Sea. 10 You made great things happen against Pharaoh (the king of Egypt) and all his people and soldiers. You knew their thoughts. They thought that your people had no value. And they did bad things to your people. You showed everyone that you are a powerful God. And people believe this still. 11 You made a path in the sea between two walls. The Jews walked through on a dry path. When Pharaoh and his soldiers followed, you threw the sea over them. You closed the path through the sea. And so Pharaoh’s soldiers drowned. 12 During the day, you led the Jews with a tall cloud. At night, you led them with a cloud of fire to give them light. You showed them the way to go.

13 You came to the mountain called Sinai. You spoke to Moses there. You gave him your laws and rules. Your laws are good and true. All that you told them was right. 14 You told the Jews about the Sabbath. And by your servant Moses you gave them your laws. 15 You gave the Jews bread from heaven when they were hungry. You gave them water from a rock to drink. You told them to go and take the land. You had promised to give it to them.

16 But our ancestors did not obey you. They thought that their way was better. 17 They did not listen to you. They forgot all the good things that you had done on their behalf. They chose a leader to take them back to Egypt. They chose to return to where they had been slaves. But you forgave them. You are God who loves his people very much. You do not become angry quickly. So you did not leave your people. 18 The Jewish people made a gold calf to worship. They said that this was a god. They said that the gold calf had brought them out of Egypt. But even then you did not leave your people. 19 You did not leave them in the desert, because you loved your people. In the day, the beam of cloud did not stop showing them the way. The beam of fire did not stop showing them the way at night.’

A calf is a young cow. The Jews used gold to make something in the shape of a calf. Then they worshipped it.

A desert is a large piece of land made of sand and stone. It is empty because there is not much water there.

20 ‘You gave them your good Spirit to tell them what to do. You continued to give them bread from heaven. You gave them water from a rock to drink. 21 During 40 years you gave them everything that they needed. Their clothes did not become thin. Their feet did not get big and hurt. 22 You gave the Jews countries that other kings had ruled. You gave them the country Heshbon, of King Sihon and the country Bashan, of King Og. 23 The Jewish people had many sons. You brought their sons into the country. You had told their fathers to take it and to live there. 24 The sons of the Jewish people took the land. You gave them power over the Canaanites who lived there. You gave the Canaanites’ kings and people to the Jewish people’s sons. They did with the Canaanites as they wanted to do. 25 They took their cities and land. The houses that they took were full of good things. Your people did not have to dig wells. The country was full of fruit and olive trees. They had plenty of food to eat. Everyone said how good God was.

26 But the Jews did not obey you. They stopped obeying your laws. They killed the prophets that you sent. Those prophets had told them that they should return to your ways. Your people had said very bad things about you. 27 So you gave the Jews to their enemies. Their enemies ruled over them. Then the Jews cried aloud to you. From heaven you heard them cry. You loved them very much. So you sent people to save them from their enemies.

28 But when they were safe from their enemies, they did bad things again. So you gave them back to their enemies. Their enemies ruled over them. Your people cried aloud to you again, and again you heard them. You saved them many, many times because you loved them. 29 You told them that they must obey your laws. But they would not listen to you. They thought that their ways were better than yours. They sinned against you. They would not obey your laws. But those laws help people to live. 30 You helped the Jews during many years. You sent your Spirit to them by your prophets. They told them that they should remember your laws. And they told them that they should return to you. But they would not listen to you. So you gave them to enemies from the countries round Israel. 31 You are a God who loves your people. And you are kind to them. So you did not let your people die nor did you leave them alone.

32 Oh God, you are great and powerful and you keep your promises. You continue to love us. Remember how many troubles we have had. They are not small troubles. Our kings, priests, prophets and our ancestors have all had great troubles. We have had trouble since the time of the kings of Assyria. 33 But in all our troubles, you have always been fair to us. When we did wrong things, you were always fair to us. 34 Our kings, leaders, priests and our fathers did not obey your laws. They did not listen to your rules. They would not do as your prophets told them to do. 35 You gave them good land and food. They enjoyed these, but they would not obey you. They did not stop doing things that were wrong. 36 So now we are slaves. We are slaves in the country that you gave to our ancestors. You wanted them to enjoy its food and good things. 37 But we have sinned. So their kings take the food that grows in our fields. You put these kings to rule over us. They use us and our animals as they like. We have many troubles.

38 Because of this we are all making a promise. We are writing our promise. Our leaders, Levites and priests are putting their mark of authority on it.’

Chapter 10

1 These people put their mark of authority on the promise that they had written:

Nehemiah son of Hacaliah (King Artaxerxes gave him authority in Judah) and Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malkijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8 Maaziah, Bilgai and Shemaiah. These were the priests.

9 The Levites: Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel, 10 and their friends: Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11 Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13 Hodiah, Bani and Beninu.

14 The leaders of the people: Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, 15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, 18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, 19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,

23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, 24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, 25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim and Baanah.

28 The other people, the priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers and temple servants made a promise. The people who had kept themselves separate from foreign people because of God’s law also made a promise. They and their wives, sons and daughters agreed to join their leaders. 29 All these people promised to obey everything that was in the Law. That was the Law that God gave to his servant Moses. They asked God to do bad things to them if they did not obey his Laws and rules. They agreed to obey these rules carefully.

30 They said, ‘We promise not to let our daughters marry foreign people. We will not let daughters of foreign people marry our sons. 31 We will not buy or sell anything on the Sabbath or any special day. If foreign merchants come to us on a Sabbath, we will not buy their things. Every 7th year we will not work on the land. Every 7th year we will tell people that they do not need to pay their debts. And we will return their land.

32 We will obey the law to give 1/3rd of a shekel each year to the house of God. 33 We will use this for God’s special loaves of bread, for grain offerings and for burnt offerings. We will use this for the offerings on the Sabbath, new moon parties and feasts. And we will use it for the sin offerings to take away Israel’s sin. And we will use it for all the work in God’s house.’

The Jews gave God grain from their fields. People kill animals and burn them with fire on an altar in the temple. Those are burnt offerings. A shekel is a piece of silver with a weight of 11.5 grams. A gram is a weight. There are 1000 grams in a kilo.

34 The priests and the Levites threw lots. In that way, they told families when they should bring wood for fires. Each family must bring wood to the house of God at a different time of the year. The wood will burn on God’s altar. This is what Moses wrote in the Book of the Law. 35 They said, ‘We will also bring the first fruit from our trees and the first of our grain. We will bring these to the priests who work in God’s house. 36 We will bring our first son to the house of God. We will bring to God’s house the first of our young animals that are born. We will bring them to the priests. We read this in God’s Law. 37 We will bring the first dough, fruit, wine and oil and other special offerings to the house of God. The priests will store them in its rooms. We will bring our tithes to the Levites. They will take them from our towns to God’s house. They will store them there. 38 A priest from the family of Aaron will go with the Levites to get the tithes. The Levites will bring 1/10th part of the tithes to store in God’s house. 39 The people of Israel will bring grain, wine and oil to the temple rooms. They will store them with the things that they use for worship. The priests who are working there, the gatekeepers and the singers stay there. We will keep the house of God ready to worship him.’

Chapter 11

1 The leaders of the Jews lived in Jerusalem. The other people threw lots. In that way, they chose which families would live there. From every group of 10 families they chose one family. Then that family would live in Jerusalem, the holy city. The other families could stay in their own towns. 2 The people said that this was good. The families in Jerusalem gave them pleasure.

3 These are the leaders from other towns that came to live in Jerusalem. Some Jews, priests, Levites, and temple servants lived in Judah’s towns. Descendants of Solomon’s servants also lived in towns in Judah. Each lived in his own house. 4 Other people from Judah and Benjamin lived in Jerusalem. From the descendants of Judah: Athaiah son of Uzziah, Zechariah’s son. Zechariah was the son of Amariah, Shephatiah’s son. He was the son of Mahalalel, a descendant of Perez. 5 Also Maaseiah son of Baruch, Col-Hozeh’s son. Col-Hozeh was the son of Hazaiah, Adaiah’s son. Adaiah was the son of Joiarib, son of Zechariah. He was a descendant of Shelah. 6 The descendants of Perez were 468 brave men. They all lived in Jerusalem.

7 From the descendants of Benjamin: Sallu son of Meshullam, Joed’s son. Joed was Pedaiah’s son, son of Kolaiah, Maaseiah’s son. Maaseiah was the son of Ithiel, Jeshaiah’s son. 8 Gabbai and Sallai, the people who followed Sallu, were also with him. There were 928 men. 9 Joel son of Zicri was their officer with authority. Judah son of Hassenuah had authority after him.

10 From the priests: Jedaiah son of Joiarib, and Jakin. 11 Also Seraiah son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, Zadok’s son. Zadok was Meraioth’s son, son of Ahitub. Ahitub had authority in the house of God. 12 Their friends worked with them in God’s house. There were 822 men; and Adaiah son of Jeroham, Pelaliah’s son. Pelaliah was the son of Amzi. Amzi was the son of Zechariah, son of Pashhur, Malkijah’s son. 13 They and those with them were leaders of families. There were 242 men; and Amashsai son of Azarel, Ahzai’s son. Ahzai was the son of Meshillemoth, son of Immer. 14 And their friends came with them. They were 128 strong brave men. Their officer with authority was Zabdiel, son of Haggedolim.

15 From the Levites: Shemaiah son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam. Azrikam was the son of Hashabiah, Bunni’s son. 16 Also Shabbethai and Jozabad who had authority over the outside work of God’s house. 17 Also Mattaniah son of Mica, son of Zabdi, Asaph’s son. He led the people when they prayed and thanked God. Also Bakbukiah and Abda son of Shammua. He was the son of Galal, Jeduthun’s son. 18 The number of Levites in Jerusalem city was 284.

19 The gatekeepers were: Akkub, Talmon and their friends, who watched at the city gates. The number of men was 172. 20 The other Jews and the priests and Levites were in the towns of Judah. They lived at the homes of their ancestors. 21 The temple servants lived on the hill of Ophel. Ziha and Gishpa had authority over them.

22 Uzzi was the Levites’ leader. He was the son of Bani, Hashabiah’s son and Hashabiah was the son of Mattaniah, Mica’s son. Uzzi was one of Asaph’s descendants. He had authority over the singers in God’s house. 23 The singers had to obey the king. He told them each day what they should do. 24 Pethahiah son of Meshezabel, a descendant of Zerah, Judah’s son, spoke for the king. He told the people everything that the king wanted.

25 Many people lived in villages with fields. Some people of Judah lived in Kiriath Arba, Dibon and Jekabzeel and the land round them. 26 Other people lived in Jeshua, Moladah and Beth Pelet. 27 More people lived in Hazar Shual, and in Beersheba and the villages round it. 28 Some people lived in Ziklag, Meconah and 29 En Rimmon. Other people were in Zorah and Jarmuth. 30 Other people lived in Zanoah and Adullam and their villages. Some people were in Lachish and its fields and in Azekah and its villages. They were living from Beersheba to the Hinnom Valley.

31 The descendants of Benjamin from Geba lived in Michmash, Aija, Bethel and its villages. 32 And they lived in Anathoth, Nob and Ananiah. 33 Also they lived in Hazor, Ramah and Gittaim. 34 And they lived in Hadid, Zeboim and Neballat. 35 Also they lived in Lod and Ono and in the Valley of the clever workers. 36 Some of the Levites from Judah lived in Benjamin’s land.

Chapter 12

1 This is a list of the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and with Jeshua:

Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3 Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4 Iddo, Ginnethon, Abijah, 5 Mijamin, Moadiah, Bilgah, 6 Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah and Jedaiah. These were the leaders of the priests and the people who helped them in the time of Jeshua. 8 The Levites were: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah and Mattaniah. Mattaniah and the people led the songs that thanked God. And other people helped him. 9 Bakbukiah and Unni and other people stood across from them when they sang. And other people helped them. 10 Jeshua was the father of Joiakim. Joiakim was the father of Eliashib. Eliashib was the father of Joiada, 11 Joiada was the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan was the father of Jaddua.

12 This is a list of the priestsfamily leaders in the time of Joiakim: Meraiah was leader of the family of Seraiah. Hananiah was leader of the family of Jeremiah.

13 Meshullam was leader of the family of Ezra. Jehohanan was leader of the family of Amariah.

14 Jonathan was leader of the family of Malluch. Joseph was leader of the family of Shecaniah.

15 Adna was leader of the family of Harim. Helkai was leader of the family of Meremoth.

16 Zechariah was leader of the family of Iddo. Meshullam was leader of the family of Ginnethon.

17 Zicri was leader of the family of Abijah. Piltai was leader of the families of Miniamin and Moadiah.

18 Shammua was leader of the family of Bilgah. Jehonathan was leader of the family of Shemaiah.

19 Mattenai was leader of the family of Joiarib. Uzzi was leader of the family of Jedaiah.

20 Kallai was leader of the family of Sallu. Eber was leader of the family of Amok.

21 Hashabiah was leader of the family of Hilkiah. Nethanel was leader of the family of Jedaiah.

22 They recorded the names of the leaders of the Levitesfamilies. That was in the time of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua. They lived when King Darius ruled Persia. I also recorded the names of the family leaders of the priests. 23 I wrote the names of the family leaders who were descendants of Levi, the Levites, in the special book. It was the book where we recorded names. These were their descendants to the time of Johanan son of Eliashib. 24 The leaders of the Levites were: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel, and the people who helped them. The people who helped them stood across from them to sing and praise and thank God. The Levites sang first. And then the people who helped them replied. They did this as David, God’s man, had told the Jews. 25 Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers. They watched for enemies from the store-rooms by the gates. 26 They were gatekeepers in the time of Joiakim son of Jeshua, son of Jozadak. This was also in the time of Nehemiah, who had authority over Judah. And it was in the time of Ezra, who was a priest and teacher of the law.

27 The Jews brought the Levites to Jerusalem from their homes. The Levites were happy that they could help to dedicate the wall to God. They made music with cymbals, harps and lyres. They sang songs to thank God.

To dedicate something to God means that you are giving it to God. The Jews knew that God helped them to build the wall. People use cymbals, harps and lyres to make music.

28 The temple singers came together from places round Jerusalem. They came from the villages round Netophah 29 and from Beth Gilgal, Geba and Azmaveth. The singers had built these villages near to Jerusalem. 30 The priests and Levites purified themselves. Then they purified the people. Then they purified the gates and the city wall.

Purify means to make something clean. The Jews had special ways to make themselves clean. Sometimes they killed an animal for a sacrifice. When they had made themselves clean, God would accept them.

31 I told the leaders of Judah that they should stand on top of the wall. I told two large groups of singers that they should sing songs. They would thank God. I told the first group that they should walk in the direction of the Dung Gate.

32 Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah followed this group. 33 Azariah, Ezra and Meshullam followed. 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah and Jeremiah followed them also. 35 Some priests with trumpets followed them also. And Zechariah son of Jonathan, Shemaiah’s son followed them. Shemaiah was the son of Mattaniah, Micaiah’s son. Micaiah was the son of Zaccur, Asaph’s son. 36 Other people helped them: Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah and Hanani. They all had things to make music. They did this as David, God’s man, had told the Jews. Ezra the teacher of the law led this group of people. They walked towards the Dung Gate. 37 When they came to the Fountain Gate they all went up the steps of the City of David. While they went up the steps, they passed above the house of David. Then they went to the Water Gate on the east.

38 The second group of singers went the opposite way. I followed them along the top of the wall with half of the people. We went past the Tower of the Ovens. We went to the Broad Wall. 39 We went over the Gate of Ephraim. We went over the Jeshanah Gate. We went over the Fish Gate. We went past the Tower of Hananel. We went past the Tower of the Hundred to the Sheep Gate. We stopped at the Gate of the Guards.

40 The two groups of singers went into God’s house. I (Nehemiah) went with them. Half of the officers also went into the house of God. 41 The priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah and Hananiah went in also. They had trumpets. 42 Also Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malkijah, Elam and Ezer went into the house of God. Jezrahiah told the groups of singers how to sing. 43 The Jews gave big sacrifices to God. Men, women and children were very happy. They sang and shouted. People heard them far away from Jerusalem.

44 The people chose men to look after the rooms where they kept the first fruits and tithes. They had to bring the tithes and the first fruits from the fields near the town. They read this in the law. These were for the Levites and priests. The work of the priests and Levites gave pleasure to the people of Judah.

45 The priests and Levites worked on God’s behalf. The singers and gatekeepers also worked on God’s behalf. They made themselves clean as David and his son Solomon had written. 46 In the time of David and Asaph, special Levites sang the songs to praise and thank God. 47 In the time of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, all the Jews gave food for the singers and gatekeepers every day. They put on one side what was for the Levites. And the Levites put on one side what was for the priests, the descendants of Aaron.

Chapter 13

1 On that day, we read the book of Moses to the people. The people listened to what Moses had written in the book. One of the laws said that no descendant of Ammon or Moab should be among the people of God. 2 This was because they had not given the Jews food and water. But they had paid Balaam to ask God to do bad things to the Jews. But God did good things for the Jews instead. 3 When the Jews heard this law, they made all the foreign people leave.

4 Before this happened, I had given to Eliashib the priest authority over the store-rooms. They used these rooms to keep the offerings. These rooms were in the house of God. Eliashib was a friend of Tobiah. 5 He let Tobiah use a large room in the house of God. The purpose of the room was to store the temple’s grain offerings and incense. They also kept there tithes of grain, wine and oil. These were for the Levites, singers and gatekeepers and for the priests.

6 But when this happened, I (Nehemiah) was not in Jerusalem. In the 32nd year of Artaxerxes, King of Babylon, I had returned to the king. After some time had passed, I asked the king 7 to let me return to Jerusalem. There I heard about the bad thing that Eliashib had done. He had given Tobiah, who was not a Jew, a large room in the house of God. 8 I was very angry. I threw Tobiah’s things out of the room. 9 I told people that they must purify the rooms. Then I put God’s things back into the room. I put back the things that they used in God’s house and the grain offerings and incense.

10 People told me that the Levites did not have any food. The people had not given them anything. So all the Levites and singers had returned to their fields. They were not doing their work in the Lord’s temple. 11 I was angry with the officers. I said, ‘I am angry because you have forgotten the house of God.’ Then I called them all back. I told them that they should stand in their special places in the temple.

12 All the people in Judah brought tithes of grain and wine and oil. They put them into the store-rooms. 13 I gave Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the writer and Pedaiah a Levite, authority. They watched over the things that they kept in these special rooms. Hanan son of Zaccur, Mattaniah’s son, helped them. People knew that these men were good. They gave out the grain, oil and wine. They gave it to the people who worked on God’s behalf. 14 ‘Remember what I have done, my God. Do not forget what I have done on behalf of the house of God and its work. I have been faithful.’

15 In those days, I saw men in Judah working on the Sabbath day. They were making wine and they were putting wine, grapes and other fruit on their donkeys. And they brought them into Jerusalem. I told them that they should not work on the Sabbath day. And I told them that they should not sell things on the Sabbath day.

God had told Moses that the Jews must not work on the Sabbath day. The Jews must keep that day to rest and worship God (Exodus 20:8-11). A donkey is an animal that can carry things and people.

16 Men from Tyre, who lived in Jerusalem, sold fish and other things on the Sabbath day. The Jews then bought things from them. 17 I was angry with the leaders of Judah. I said, ‘You are doing a thing that is wrong. It is the Sabbath day. 18 Your ancestors did the same thing. God brought trouble on Jerusalem city because of this. You are making God angry with the Jews by doing wrong things on the Sabbath day.’

19 I said to the gatekeepers, ‘You must close the city’s gates in the evening before the Sabbath begins.’ I did not let them open until the Sabbath was finished. I told my men that they should stand at the gates. They did not let anyone bring things into Jerusalem until after the end of the Sabbath. 20 Once or twice some people who wanted to sell things stayed outside Jerusalem all night. 21 I said to them, ‘You should not stay outside the wall all night. If you do this again, I will hurt you.’ After this, they did not come to Jerusalem on the Sabbath. 22 Then I told the Levites that they must purify themselves. I told them that they must stand at the gates. This went on during the whole of the Sabbath day. They kept the day holy on God’s behalf. ‘Remember this, oh my God. Because of your love, be kind to me.’

23 Also at that time, men from Judah had married foreign women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of another country. They did not know how to speak the language of Judah. 25 I was angry and I said angry words to them. I hit some of them. I pulled out the hair of some of these men. I made them make a promise in God’s name. I said, ‘You must not let your daughters marry the sons of foreign people. You must not let your sons marry the daughters of foreign people.

26 Solomon, king of Israel sinned against God because he married foreign women. There was no greater king in any other country. God loved him and made him king over all Israel. But foreign women made even Solomon sin.

27 Now we hear that you are doing this bad thing. You are marrying foreign women. You are not faithful to God.’

28 Joiada was the son of Eliashib, the leader of the priests. One of Joiada’s sons married a daughter of Sanballat, who came from Horonaim. I sent him away.

29 ‘Remember them, my God. They were priests, but they sinned. They did not do what you told them to do. They took away people’s respect for the priest’s work.’ 30 So I purified the priests and Levites. I made them clean from anything foreign. I told them what they should do. I gave to each man a special job. 31 I also made sure that people brought wood for the altar. I made them bring their first fruits. ‘Remember me, my God. And please be good to me.’

God is not against foreign people. But he does not want his people to worship other gods. He tells them that they must not mix with foreign people. That is because they worshipped other gods.

Word List

altar
a table on which they burned animals and other gifts as a sacrifice to God.
amen
‘we agree’.
Ammonites
a nation who fought against the Jews.
ancestors
parents, and their parents; people from the same family years ago.
Canaanites
the people who had lived in Canaan before the Jews lived there.
clean
when something is right to use because God is happy about it.
descendants
a person’s children or grandchildren and any future person born from any of those people.
dough
bread before you cook it.
dung
human dirt or animal dirt that comes from their bodies.
dust
the dry top part of the ground. Many very small pieces of this make ‘dust’.
exile
to have to leave your own country, often for a long time.
faithful
faithful people always do what they should do.
family
family includes father, mother and children. It includes ancestors and descendants.
feast
a special time to eat and drink.
forgive, forgiveness
to show love and not remember bad things against someone; when God does not remember the wrong things that we do.
fountain
a fountain has water that pushes up through a small hole.
gatekeeper
a man who watches or is a guard at the gates.
grain
part of a plant. You can use it to make bread.
grape
a fruit.
guard
a guard keeps things or places or people safe.
heaven
the place where God and Christ are. It is the future home of the people who know God.
holy
what God is like; different and better than all other things; all good with nothing bad in it; a thing that God has; separate from sin, clean.
incense
something that gives a nice smell when it burns; the Jews used it to show love to God in the temple in Jerusalem.
Jew
a person who is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
Jewish
a word that describes a Jew or anything that belongs to a Jew.
keep a promise
do what you promised to do.
law
rules that tell us how to live. The Book of the Law had the rules that God gave to Moses.
Levites
men that God chose to work in his temple.
Lord
a special name for God that his people use. He will do what he has promised them. That is what this name means.
lots
people used them to know what people or things God had chosen.
merchant
someone who buys things and sells them to other people.
offering
something that people gave to God. It could be food or drink as well as an animal. Some offerings were to give thanks to God. People also made offerings when they had sinned.
Old Testament
the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.
olive
a tree with small fruits (or the fruits themselves) that people use to make oil. They burned the oil to give them light. They used it in other ways too.
oven
a place to cook things, like a cooker.
palace
a building where the king lives.
perfume
something with a nice smell. You put it on your skin.
praise
to tell God how great he is.
prayer
when people talk to God.
priest
a man that gives gifts and sacrifices to God.
prophet
a man that tells other people what God wants.
prophetess
a woman prophet.
purify
make something clean.
respect
when you think that someone or something is very good and important.
Sabbath
a day to rest in which the people should not work. In the Old Testament it was Saturday (from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday); day seven of the week for the Jews. It is a special day for the Jews.
sacrifice
an animal that people killed and gave to God; sometimes they did it to ask God for forgiveness.
silver
a white metal that shines and is very valuable.
sin, sinned
when people do things against God or other people; when we do not obey the rules that God gives us.
spear
people used a spear to kill their enemies; it is long and thin with a sharp point at the end.
sword
people used a sword to kill their enemies; it is like a long knife.
temple
the place in Jerusalem to pray and sing to God.
tithes
gifts to God, one tenth of the whole.
tower
a tall part of a wall.
trumpet
a thing that makes a loud noise when you blow into it.
upper
above something else.
vineyard
a piece of land where the fruit called grapes grow.
wine
a drink made from grapes.
worship
to sing, praise and pray to God or to a false God.

Book List

Lion Electronic Library ~ The IVP Study Bible

M. Henry ~ Commentary on the Whole Bible ~ Marshall Pickering

Info

© Wycliffe Associates (UK), 1997-2006

This version published August 2006

The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.