Nehemiah's Prayer for Jerusalem
1 1 The memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah. 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, had just arrived from Judah with some fellow Jews. I asked them about the conditions among the Jews there who had survived the exile, and about Jerusalem. 3 They told me, "The exile survivors who are left there in the province are in bad shape. Conditions are appalling. The wall of Jerusalem is still rubble; the city gates are still cinders." 4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-Heaven.
5 I said, "God, God-of-Heaven, the great and awesome God, loyal to his covenant and faithful to those who love him and obey his commands: 6 Look at me, listen to me. Pay attention to this prayer of your servant that I'm praying day and night in intercession for your servants, the People of Israel, confessing the sins of the People of Israel. And I'm including myself, I and my ancestors, among those who have sinned against you. 7 "We've treated you like dirt: We haven't done what you told us, haven't followed your commands, and haven't respected the decisions you gave to Moses your servant. 8 All the same, remember the warning you posted to your servant Moses: 'If you betray me, I'll scatter you to the four winds, 9 but if you come back to me and do what I tell you, I'll gather up all these scattered peoples from wherever they ended up and put them back in the place I chose to mark with my Name.' 10 "Well, there they are - your servants, your people whom you so powerfully and impressively redeemed. 11 O Master, listen to me, listen to your servant's prayer - and yes, to all your servants who delight in honoring you - and make me successful today so that I get what I want from the king." I was cupbearer to the king.
Nehemiah Sent to Jerusalem
2 1 It was the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king. At the hour for serving wine I brought it in and gave it to the king. I had never been hangdog in his presence before, 2 so he asked me, "Why the long face? You're not sick are you? Or are you depressed?" 3 I said, "Long live the king! And why shouldn't I be depressed when the city, the city where all my family is buried, is in ruins and the city gates have been reduced to cinders?" 4 The king then asked me, "So what do you want?" 5 I said, "If it please the king, and if the king thinks well of me, send me to Judah, to the city where my family is buried, so that I can rebuild it." 6 The king, with the queen sitting alongside him, said, "How long will your work take and when would you expect to return?" I gave him a time, and the king gave his approval to send me. 7 Then I said, "If it please the king, provide me with letters to the governors across the Euphrates that authorize my travel through to Judah; 8 and also an order to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, to supply me with timber for the beams of The Temple fortress, the wall of the city, and the house where I'll be living."
9 When I met the governors across The River (the Euphrates) I showed them the king's letters. The king even sent along a cavalry escort. 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very upset, angry that anyone would come to look after the interests of the People of Israel. "Come - Let's Build the Wall of Jerusalem"
Nehemiah Encourages the People to Rebuild the Walls
11 And so I arrived in Jerusalem. After I had been there three days, 12 I got up in the middle of the night, I and a few men who were with me. I hadn't told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. The only animal with us was the one I was riding. 13 Under cover of night I went past the Valley Gate toward the Dragon's Fountain to the Dung Gate looking over the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken through and whose gates had been burned up. 14 I then crossed to the Fountain Gate and headed for the King's Pool but there wasn't enough room for the donkey I was riding to get through. 15 So I went up the valley in the dark continuing my inspection of the wall. I came back in through the Valley Gate. 16 The local officials had no idea where I'd gone or what I was doing - I hadn't breathed a word to the Jews, priests, nobles, local officials, or anyone else who would be working on the job. 17 Then I gave them my report: "Face it: we're in a bad way here. Jerusalem is a wreck; its gates are burned up. Come - let's build the wall of Jerusalem and not live with this disgrace any longer." 18 I told them how God was supporting me and how the king was backing me up. They said, "We're with you. Let's get started." They rolled up their sleeves, ready for the good work. 19 When Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they laughed at us, mocking, "Ha! What do you think you're doing? Do you think you can cross the king?" 20 I shot back, "The God-of-Heaven will make sure we succeed. We're his servants and we're going to work, rebuilding. You can keep your nose out of it. You get no say in this - Jerusalem's none of your business!"
The Sections Assigned for Repair
3 1 The high priest Eliashib and his fellow priests were up and at it: They went to work on the Sheep Gate; they repaired it and hung its doors, continuing on as far as the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel. 2 The men of Jericho worked alongside them; and next to them, Zaccur son of Imri. 3 The Fish Gate was built by the Hassenaah brothers; they repaired it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, worked; next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel; next to him Zadok son of Baana; 5 and next to him the Tekoites (except for their nobles, who wouldn't work with their master and refused to get their hands dirty with such work). 6 The Jeshanah Gate was rebuilt by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah; they repaired it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. 7 Melatiah the Gibeonite, Jadon the Meronothite, and the men of Gibeon and Mizpah, which was under the rule of the governor from across the Euphrates, worked alongside them. 8 Uzziel son of Harhaiah of the goldsmiths' guild worked next to him, and next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers. They rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 The next section was worked on by Rephaiah son of Hur, mayor of a half-district of Jerusalem. 10 Next to him Jedaiah son of Harumaph rebuilt the front of his house; Hattush son of Hashabneiah worked next to him. 11 Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab rebuilt another section that included the Tower of Furnaces. 12 Working next to him was Shallum son of Hallohesh, mayor of the other half-district of Jerusalem, along with his daughters. 13 The Valley Gate was rebuilt by Hanun and villagers of Zanoah; they repaired it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. They went on to repair 1,500 feet of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate. 14 The Dung Gate itself was rebuilt by Malkijah son of Recab, the mayor of the district of Beth Hakkerem; he repaired it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. 15 The Fountain Gate was rebuilt by Shallun son of Col-Hozeh, mayor of the Mizpah district; he repaired it, roofed it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. He also rebuilt the wall of the Pool of Siloam at the King's Garden as far as the steps that go down from the City of David. 16 After him came Nehemiah son of Azbuk, mayor of half the district of Beth Zur. He worked from just in front of the Tomb of David as far as the Pool and the House of Heroes. 17 Levites under Rehum son of Bani were next in line. Alongside them, Hashabiah, mayor of half the district of Keilah, represented his district in the rebuilding. 18 Next to him their brothers continued the rebuilding under Binnui son of Henadad, mayor of the other half-district of Keilah. 19 The section from in front of the Ascent to the Armory as far as the Angle was rebuilt by Ezer son of Jeshua, the mayor of Mizpah. 20 From the Angle to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest was done by Baruch son of Zabbai. 21 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, took it from the door of Eliashib's house to the end of Eliashib's house. 22 Priests from the neighborhood went on from there. 23 Benjamin and Hasshub worked on the wall in front of their house, and Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, did the work alongside his house. 24 The section from the house of Azariah to the Angle at the Corner was rebuilt by Binnui son of Henadad. 25 Palal son of Uzai worked opposite the Angle and the tower that projects from the Upper Palace of the king near the Court of the Guard. Next to him Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and The Temple support staff who lived on the hill of Ophel worked up to the point opposite the Water Gate eastward and the projecting tower. 27 The men of Tekoa did the section from the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel. 28 Above the Horse Gate the priests worked, each priest repairing the wall in front of his own house. 29 After them Zadok son of Immer rebuilt in front of his house and after him Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate; 30 then Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph; then Meshullam son of Berekiah rebuilt the wall in front of his storage shed. 31 Malkijah the goldsmith repaired the wall as far as the house of The Temple support staff and merchants, up to the Inspection Gate, and the Upper Room at the Corner. 32 The goldsmiths and the merchants made the repairs between the Upper Room at the Corner and the Sheep Gate.
The Workmen Guard against the Adversaries
4 1 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall he exploded in anger, vilifying the Jews. 2 In the company of his Samaritan cronies and military he let loose: "What are these miserable Jews doing? Do they think they can get everything back to normal overnight? Make building stones out of make-believe?" 3 At his side, Tobiah the Ammonite jumped in and said, "That's right! What do they think they're building? Why, if a fox climbed that wall, it would fall to pieces under his weight." 4 Nehemiah prayed, "Oh listen to us, dear God. We're so despised: Boomerang their ridicule on their heads; have their enemies cart them off as war trophies to a land of no return; 5 don't forgive their iniquity, don't wipe away their sin - they've insulted the builders!" 6 We kept at it, repairing and rebuilding the wall. The whole wall was soon joined together and halfway to its intended height because the people had a heart for the work.
7 When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the repairs of the walls of Jerusalem were going so well - that the breaks in the wall were being fixed - they were absolutely furious. 8 They put their heads together and decided to fight against Jerusalem and create as much trouble as they could. 9 We countered with prayer to our God and set a round-the-clock guard against them. 10 But soon word was going around in Judah, The builders are pooped, the rubbish piles up; We're in over our heads, we can't build this wall. 11 And all this time our enemies were saying, "They won't know what hit them. Before they know it we'll be at their throats, killing them right and left. That will put a stop to the work!" 12 The Jews who were their neighbors kept reporting, "They have us surrounded; they're going to attack!" If we heard it once, we heard it ten times. 13 So I stationed armed guards at the most vulnerable places of the wall and assigned people by families with their swords, lances, and bows. 14 After looking things over I stood up and spoke to the nobles, officials, and everyone else: "Don't be afraid of them. Put your minds on the Master, great and awesome, and then fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes." 15 Our enemies learned that we knew all about their plan and that God had frustrated it. And we went back to the wall and went to work.
16 From then on half of my young men worked while the other half stood guard with lances, shields, bows, and mail armor. Military officers served as backup for everyone in Judah who was at work rebuilding the wall. 17 The common laborers held a tool in one hand and a spear in the other. 18 Each of the builders had a sword strapped to his side as he worked. I kept the trumpeter at my side to sound the alert. 19 Then I spoke to the nobles and officials and everyone else: "There's a lot of work going on and we are spread out all along the wall, separated from each other. 20 When you hear the trumpet call, join us there; our God will fight for us." 21 And so we kept working, from first light until the stars came out, half of us holding lances. 22 I also instructed the people, "Each person and his helper is to stay inside Jerusalem - guards by night and workmen by day." 23 We all slept in our clothes - I, my brothers, my workmen, and the guards backing me up. And each one kept his spear in his hand, even when getting water.
The Payment of Interest Abolished
5 1 A great protest was mounted by the people, including the wives, against their fellow Jews. 2 Some said, "We have big families, and we need food just to survive." 3 Others said, "We're having to mortgage our fields and vineyards and homes to get enough grain to keep from starving." 4 And others said, "We're having to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Look: We're the same flesh and blood as our brothers here; our children are just as good as theirs. Yet here we are having to sell our children off as slaves - some of our daughters have already been sold - and we can't do anything about it because our fields and vineyards are owned by somebody else."
6 I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints. 7 After thinking it over, I called the nobles and officials on the carpet. I said, "Each one of you is gouging his brother." 8 I told them, "We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners. And now you're selling these same brothers back into debt slavery! Does that mean that we have to buy them back again?" They said nothing. What could they say? 9 "What you're doing is wrong. Is there no fear of God left in you? Don't you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you? 10 "I and my brothers and the people working for me have also loaned them money. But this gouging them with interest has to stop. 11 Give them back their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now. And forgive your claims on their money, grain, new wine, and olive oil." 12 They said, "We'll give it all back. We won't make any more demands on them. We'll do everything you say." 13 Then I emptied my pockets, turning them inside out, and said, "So may God empty the pockets and house of everyone who doesn't keep this promise - turned inside out and emptied." Everyone gave a wholehearted "Yes, we'll do it!" and praised God. And the people did what they promised. "Remember in My Favor, O My God"
14 From the time King Artaxerxes appointed me as their governor in the land of Judah - from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of his reign, twelve years - neither I nor my brothers used the governor's food allowance. 15 Governors who had preceded me had oppressed the people by taxing them forty shekels of silver (about a pound) a day for food and wine while their underlings bullied the people unmercifully. But out of fear of God I did none of that. 16 I had work to do; I worked on this wall. All my men were on the job to do the work. We didn't have time to line our own pockets. 17 I fed one hundred and fifty Jews and officials at my table in addition to those who showed up from the surrounding nations. 18 One ox, six choice sheep, and some chickens were prepared for me daily, and every ten days a large supply of wine was delivered. Even so, I didn't use the food allowance provided for the governor - the people had it hard enough as it was. 19 Remember in my favor, O my God, Everything I've done for these people.