Old Testament in a year – Day 351

Nehemiah 4: 1 - 6: 19

Nehemiah Overcomes Opposition to his Work
1When Sanballat heard that we Jews had begun rebuilding the wall, he was furious and began to ridicule us.2In front of his companions and the Samaritan troops he said, “What do these miserable Jews think they're doing? Do they intend to rebuild the city? Do they think that by offering sacrifices they can finish the work in one day? Can they make building stones out of heaps of burnt rubble?”
3Tobiah was standing there beside him, and he added, “What kind of wall could they ever build? Even a fox could knock it down!”
4I prayed, “Listen to them mocking us, O God! Let their ridicule fall on their own heads. Let them be robbed of everything they have, and let them be taken as prisoners to a foreign land.5Don't forgive the evil they do and don't forget their sins, for they have insulted us who are building.”
6So we went on rebuilding the wall, and soon it was half its full height, because the people were eager to work.
7Sanballat, Tobiah, and the people of Arabia, Ammon, and Ashdod heard that we were making progress in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and that the gaps in the wall were being closed, and they were very angry.8So they all plotted together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion,9but we prayed to our God and kept men on guard against them day and night.
10The people of Judah had a song they sang:
“We grow weak carrying burdens;
There's so much rubble to take away.
How can we build the wall today?”
11Our enemies thought we would not see them or know what was happening until they were already upon us, killing us and putting an end to our work.12But time after time Jews who were living among our enemies came to warn us of the plans our enemies were making against us.13So I armed the people with swords, spears, and bows, and stationed them by clans behind the wall, wherever it was still unfinished.
14I saw that the people were worried, so I said to them and to their leaders and officials, “Don't be afraid of our enemies. Remember how great and terrifying the Lord is, and fight for your fellow-countrymen, your children, your wives, and your homes.”15Our enemies heard that we had found out what they were plotting, and they realized that God had defeated their plans. Then all of us went back to rebuilding the wall.
16From then on half my men worked and half stood guard, wearing coats of armour and armed with spears, shields, and bows. And our leaders gave their full support to the people17who were rebuilding the wall. Even those who carried building materials worked with one hand and kept a weapon in the other,18and everyone who was building kept a sword strapped to his waist. The man who was to sound the alarm on the bugle stayed with me.19I told the people and their officials and leaders, “The work is spread out over such a distance that we are widely separated from one another on the wall.20If you hear the bugle, gather round me. Our God will fight for us.”21So every day, from dawn until the stars came out at night, half of us worked on the wall, while the other half stood guard with spears.
22During this time I told the men in charge that they and all their helpers had to stay in Jerusalem at night, so that we could guard the city at night as well as work in the daytime.23I didn't take off my clothes even at night, neither did any of my companions nor my servants nor my bodyguard. And we all kept our weapons to hand.
Oppression of the Poor
1Some time later many of the people, both men and women, began to complain against their fellow-Jews.2Some said, “We have large families, we need corn to keep us alive.”
3Others said, “We have had to mortgage our fields and vineyards and houses to get enough corn to keep us from starving.”
4Still others said, “We had to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards.5We are of the same race as our fellow-Jews. Aren't our children just as good as theirs? But we have to make slaves of our children. Some of our daughters have already been sold as slaves. We are helpless because our fields and vineyards have been taken away from us.”
6When I heard their complaints, I was angry7 and decided to act. I denounced the leaders and officials of the people and told them, “You are oppressing your fellow-Jews!”
I called a public assembly to deal with the problem8and said, “As far as we have been able, we have been buying back our Jewish relatives who had to sell themselves to foreigners. Now you are forcing your own relatives to sell themselves to you, their own people!” The leaders were silent and could find nothing to say.
9Then I said, “What you are doing is wrong! You ought to obey God and do what's right. Then you would not give our enemies, the Gentiles, any reason to ridicule us.10I have let the people borrow money and corn from me, and so have my companions and the people who work for me. Now let's give up all our claims to repayment.11Cancel all the debts they owe you — money or corn or wine or olive oil. And give them back their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses at once!”
12The leaders replied, “We'll do as you say. We'll give the property back and not try to collect the debts.”
I called in the priests and made the leaders swear in front of them to keep the promise they had just made.13Then I took off the sash I was wearing round my waist and shook it out. “This is how God will shake any of you who don't keep your promise,” I said. “God will take away your houses and everything you own, and will leave you with nothing.”
Everyone who was present said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. And the leaders kept their promise.
Nehemiah's Unselfishness
14During all the twelve years that I was governor of the land of Judah, from the twentieth year that Artaxerxes was emperor until his 32nd year, neither my relatives nor I ate the food I was entitled to have as governor.15Every governor who had been in office before me had been a burden to the people and had demanded forty silver coins a day for food and wine. Even their servants had oppressed the people. But I acted differently, because I honoured God.16I put all my energy into rebuilding the wall and did not acquire any property. Everyone who worked for me joined in the rebuilding.17I regularly fed at my table 150 of the Jewish people and their leaders, besides all the people who came to me from the surrounding nations.18Every day I served one ox, six of the best sheep, and many chickens, and every ten days I provided a fresh supply of wine. But I knew what heavy burdens the people had to bear, so I did not claim the allowance that the governor is entitled to.
19I pray you, O God, remember to my credit everything that I have done for this people.
Plots against Nehemiah
1Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and the rest of our enemies heard that we had finished building the wall and that there were no gaps left in it, although we still had not set up the gates in the gateways.2So Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message, suggesting that I meet with them in one of the villages in the Plain of Ono. This was a trick of theirs to try to harm me.3I sent messengers to say to them, “I am doing important work and can't go down there. I am not going to let the work stop just to go and see you.”
4They sent me the same message four times, and each time I sent them the same reply.
5Then Sanballat sent one of his servants to me with a fifth message, this one in the form of an unsealed letter.6It read:
“Geshem tells me that a rumour is going round among the neighbouring peoples that you and the Jewish people intend to revolt and that this is why you are rebuilding the wall. He also says you plan to make yourself king7and that you have arranged for some prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem that you are the king of Judah. His Majesty is certain to hear about this, so I suggest that you and I meet to talk the situation over.”
8I sent a reply to him: “Nothing of what you are saying is true. You have made it all up yourself.”
9They were trying to frighten us into stopping work. I prayed, “But now, God, make me strong!”
10About this time I went to visit Shemaiah, the son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was unable to leave his house. He said to me, “You and I must go and hide together in the Holy Place of the Temple and lock the doors, because they are coming to kill you. Any night now they will come to kill you.”
11I answered, “I'm not the kind of person that runs and hides. Do you think I would try to save my life by hiding in the Temple? I won't do it.”
12When I thought it over, I realized that God had not spoken to Shemaiah, but that Tobiah and Sanballat had bribed him to give me this warning.13They hired him to frighten me into sinning, so that they could ruin my reputation and humiliate me.
14I prayed, “God, remember what Tobiah and Sanballat have done and punish them. Remember that woman Noadiah and all the other prophets who tried to frighten me.”
The Conclusion of the Work
15After 52 days of work the entire wall was finished on the 25th day of the month of Elul.16When our enemies in the surrounding nations heard this, they realized that they had lost face, since everyone knew that the work had been done with God's help.
17During all this time the Jewish leaders had been in correspondence with Tobiah.18Many people in Judah were on his side because of his Jewish father-in-law, Shecaniah son of Arah. In addition, his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah.19People would talk in front of me about all the good deeds Tobiah had done and would tell him everything I said. And he kept sending me letters to try to frighten me.

Good News Translation® with Deuterocanonicals/Apocrypha (Today’s English Version, Second Edition) © 1992 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.