This is part of a series of selections of Bible passages, mainly about how the Bible says the Jewish race developed and settled in ancient Israel, how they were given laws, and how they were severely punished by God because of the sinfulness of their society.
This is part 2 of 3 in section 14, 'The return of the Jews from exile in Babylon, and the rebuilding of their temple and Jerusalem'.
Go to the beginning of the section
Contents of the sections
Bible topics page
Nehemiah chapter 1 (NLT)
1 These are the memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah.
In late autumn of the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes' reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had survived the captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah chapter 1 (NIV)
3 They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire."
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said:
"O LORD , God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.
8 "Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.'
10 "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man."
I was cupbearer to the king.
Nehemiah chapter 2 (NLT)
1 Early the following spring, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes' reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never appeared sad in his presence before this time.
Nehemiah chapter 2 (CEV)
2 So the king said, " Why do you look so sad? You're not sick. Something must be bothering you."
Even though I was frightened, 3 I answered, " Your Majesty, I hope you live forever! I feel sad because the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and its gates have been burned down."
4 The king asked, " What do you want me to do?"
I prayed to the God who rules from heaven. 5 Then I told the king, " Sir, if it's all right with you, please send me back to Judah, so that I can rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried."
6 The queen was sitting beside the king when he asked me, " How long will it take, and when will you be back?"
The king agreed to let me go, and I told him when I would return. 7 Then I asked, " Your Majesty, would you be willing to give me letters to the governors of the provinces west of the Euphrates River, so that I can travel safely to Judah? 8 I will need timber to rebuild the gates of the fortress near the temple and more timber to construct the city wall and to build a place for me to live. And so, I would appreciate a letter to Asaph, who is in charge of the royal forest."
God was good to me, and the king did everything I asked.
9 The king sent some army officers and cavalry troops along with me, and as I traveled through the Western Provinces, I gave the letters to the governors. 10 But when Sanballat from Horon and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about what had happened, they became very angry, because they didn't want anyone to help the people of Israel.
11Three days after arriving in Jerusalem, 12 I got up during the night and left my house. I took some men with me, without telling anyone what I thought God wanted me to do for the city. The only animal I took was the donkey I rode on. 13 I went through Valley Gate on the west, then south past Dragon Spring, before coming to Garbage Gate. As I rode along, I took a good look at the crumbled walls of the city and the gates that had been torn down and burned. 14 On the east side of the city, I headed north to Fountain Gate and King's Pool, but then the trail became too narrow for my donkey. 15 So I went down to Kidron Valley and looked at the wall from there. Then before daylight I returned to the city through Valley Gate. 16 None of the city officials knew what I had in mind. And I had not even told any of the Jews--not the priests, the leaders, the officials, or any other Jews who would be helping in the work.
17 But when I got back, I said to them, " Jerusalem is truly in a mess! The gates have been torn down and burned, and everything is in ruins. We must rebuild the city wall so that we can again take pride in our city." 18 Then I told them how kind God had been and what the king had said.
Immediately, they replied, " Let's start building now!" So they got everything ready.
19 When Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard about our plans, they started insulting us and saying, " Just look at you! Do you plan to rebuild the walls of the city and rebel against the king?"
20 I answered, " We are servants of the God who rules from heaven, and he will make our work succeed. So we will start rebuilding Jerusalem, but you have no right to any of its property, because you have had no part in its history."
Nehemiah chapter 4 (TEV)
1 When Sanballat heard that we Jews had begun rebuilding the wall, he became furious and began to ridicule us. 2 In 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?"
3 Tobiah was standing there beside him, and he added, "What kind of wall could they ever build? Even a fox could knock it down!"
4 I prayed, "Hear how they make fun of us, O God! Let their ridicule fall on their own heads. …
6 So we went on rebuilding the wall, and soon it was half its full height, because the people were eager to work.
7 Sanballat, 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 became very angry. 8 So they all plotted together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion, 9 but we prayed to our God and kept men on guard against them day and night. 10 The 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?"
11 Our 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. 12 But time after time Jews who were living among our enemies came to warn us of the plans our enemies were making against us. 13 So I armed the people with swords, spears, and bows, and stationed them by clans behind the wall, wherever it was still unfinished. 14 I 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 relatives, your children, your wives, and your homes."
15 Our 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.
16 From then on half of my men worked and half stood guard, wearing coats of armor and armed with spears, shields, and bows. And our leaders gave their full support to the people 17 who were rebuilding the wall. Even those who carried building materials worked with one hand and kept a weapon in the other, 18 and everyone who was building kept a sword strapped to their waist. The man who was to sound the alarm on the bugle stayed with me. 19 I 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. 20 If you hear the bugle, gather around me. Our God will fight for us."
21 So 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. 22 During 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. 23 I didn't take off my clothes even at night, neither did any of my companions nor my servants nor my bodyguards. And we all kept our weapons at hand.
Nehemiah chapter 5 (NLT)
1 About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews. 2 They were saying, "We have such large families. We need more money just so we can buy the food we need to survive." 3 Others said, "We have mortgaged our fields, vineyards, and homes to get food during the famine." 4 And others said, "We have already borrowed to the limit on our fields and vineyards to pay our taxes. 5 We belong to the same family, and our children are just like theirs. Yet we must sell our children into slavery just to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters, and we are helpless to do anything about it, for our fields and vineyards are already mortgaged to others."
6 When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. 7 After thinking about the situation, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. I told them, "You are oppressing your own relatives by charging them interest when they borrow money!" Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem. 8 At the meeting I said to them, "The rest of us are doing all we can to redeem our Jewish relatives who have had to sell themselves to pagan foreigners, but you are selling them back into slavery again. How often must we redeem them?" And they had nothing to say in their defense.
9 Then I pressed further, "What you are doing is not right! Should you not walk in the fear of our God in order to avoid being mocked by enemy nations? 10 I myself, as well as my brothers and my workers, have been lending the people money and grain, but now let us stop this business of loans. 11 You must restore their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes to them this very day. Repay the interest you charged on their money, grain, wine, and olive oil."
12 Then they replied, "We will give back everything and demand nothing more from the people. We will do as you say."
Then I called the priests and made the nobles and officials formally vow to do what they had promised. 13 I shook out the fold of my robe and said, "If you fail to keep your promise, may God shake you from your homes and from your property!"
The whole assembly responded, "Amen," and they praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.
14 I would like to mention that for the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah - from the twentieth until the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes - neither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance. 15 This was quite a contrast to the former governors who had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides a pound of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because of my fear of God, I did not act that way. 16 I devoted myself to working on the wall and refused to acquire any land. And I required all my officials to spend time working on the wall. 17 I asked for nothing, even though I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides all the visitors from other lands! 18 The provisions required at my expense for each day were one ox, six fat sheep, and a large number of domestic fowl. And every ten days we needed a large supply of all kinds of wine. Yet I refused to claim the governor's food allowance because the people were already having a difficult time. 19 Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.
Nehemiah chapter 6 (NLT)
1 When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained - though we had not yet hung the doors in the gates - 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But I realized they were plotting to harm me, 3 so I replied by sending this message to them: "I am doing a great work! I cannot stop to come and meet with you." 4 Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply. 5 The fifth time, Sanballat's servant came with an open letter in his hand, 6 and this is what it said:
"Geshem tells me that everywhere he goes he hears that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king. 7 He also reports that you have appointed prophets to prophesy about you in Jerusalem, saying, 'Look! There is a king in Judah!' "You can be very sure that this report will get back to the king, so I suggest that you come and talk it over with me."
8 My reply was, "You know you are lying. There is no truth in any part of your story." 9 They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could break our resolve and stop the work. So I prayed for strength to continue the work.
10 Later I went to visit Shemaiah son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home. He said, "Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight." 11 But I replied, "Should someone in my position run away from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won't do it!" 12 I realized that God had not spoken to him, but that he had uttered this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin by following his suggestion. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me. 14 Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me.
15 So on October 2 the wall was finally finished - just fifty-two days after we had begun. 16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
Nehemiah chapter 8 (TEV)
1 By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. On the first day of that month they all assembled in Jerusalem, in the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law which the Lord had given Israel through Moses, to get the book of the Law. 2 So Ezra brought it to the place where the people had gathered-men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. 3 There in the square by the gate he read the Law to them from dawn until noon, and they all listened attentively. 4 Ezra was standing on a wooden platform that had been built for the occasion. ... 5 As Ezra stood there on the platform high above the people, they all kept their eyes fixed on him. As soon as he opened the book, they all stood up. 6 Ezra said, "Praise the Lord, the great God!"
All the people raised their arms in the air and answered, "Amen! Amen!"
They knelt in worship, with their faces to the ground. 7 Then they rose and stood in their places, and the following Levites explained the Law to them: Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah. 8 They gave an oral translation of God's Law and explained it so that the people could understand it.
9 When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry. So Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, and the Levites who were explaining the Law told all the people, "This day is holy to the Lord your God, so you are not to mourn or cry. 10 Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who don't have enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don't be sad. The joy that the Lord gives you will make you strong."
11 The Levites went around calming the people and telling them not to be sad on such a holy day. 12 So all the people went home and ate and drank joyfully and shared what they had with others, because they understood what had been read to them.
Nehemiah chapter 9 (TEV)
1 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month the people of Israel gathered to fast in order to show sorrow for their sins. They had already separated themselves from all foreigners. They wore sackcloth and put dust on their heads as signs of grief. Then they stood and began to confess the sins that they and their ancestors had committed. 3 For about three hours the Law of the Lord their God was read to them, and for the next three hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord their God.
4 There was a platform for the Levites, and on it stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani. They prayed aloud to the Lord their God.
5 The following Levites gave a call to worship: Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah. They said: "Stand up and praise the Lord your God; praise him forever and ever! Let everyone praise his glorious name, although no human praise is great enough."
6 And then the people of Israel prayed this prayer:
"You, Lord, you alone are Lord;
you made the heavens and the stars of the sky.
You made land and sea and everything in them; you gave life to all.
The heavenly powers bow down and worship you.
7 You, Lord God, chose Abram and led him out of Ur in Babylonia; you changed his name to Abraham.
8 You found that he was faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him.
You promised to give him the land of the Canaanites, the land of the Hittites and the Amorites, the land of the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Girgashites, to be a land where his descendants would live.
You kept your promise, because you are faithful.
9 "You saw how our ancestors suffered in Egypt; you heard their call for help at the Red Sea.
10 You worked amazing miracles against the king, against his officials and the people of his land, because you knew how they oppressed your people.
You won then the fame you still have today.
11 Through the sea you made a path for your people and led them through on dry ground.
Those who pursued them drowned in deep water, as a stone sinks in the raging sea.
12 With a cloud you led them in daytime, and at night you lighted their way with fire.
13 At Mount Sinai you came down from heaven; you spoke to your people and gave them good laws and sound teachings.
14 You taught them to keep your Sabbaths holy, and through your servant Moses you gave them your laws.
15 "When they were hungry, you gave them bread from heaven, and water from a rock when they were thirsty.
You told them to take control of the land which you had promised to give them.
16 But our ancestors grew proud and stubborn and refused to obey your commands.
17 They refused to obey; they forgot all you did; they forgot the miracles you had performed.
In their pride they chose a leader to take them back to slavery in Egypt.
But you are a God who forgives; you are gracious and loving, slow to be angry.
Your mercy is great; you did not forsake them.
24 They conquered the land of Canaan; you overcame the people living there.
You gave your people the power to do as they pleased with the people and kings of Canaan.
25 Your people captured fortified cities, fertile land, houses full of wealth, cisterns already dug, olive trees, fruit trees, and vineyards.
They ate all they wanted and grew fat; they enjoyed all the good things you gave them.
26 "But your people rebelled and disobeyed you; they turned their backs on your Law.
They killed the prophets who warned them, who told them to turn back to you.
They insulted you time after time, 27 so you let their enemies conquer and rule them.
In their trouble they called to you for help, and you answered them from heaven.
In your great mercy you sent them leaders who rescued them from their foes.
28 When peace returned, they sinned again, and again you let their enemies conquer them.
Yet when they repented and asked you to save them, in heaven you heard, and time after time you rescued them in your great mercy.
29 You warned them to obey your teachings, but in pride they rejected your laws, although keeping your Law is the way to life.
Hard-headed and stubborn, they refused to obey.
30 Year after year you patiently warned them.
You inspired your prophets to speak, but your people were deaf, so you let them be conquered by other nations.
31 And yet, because your mercy is great, you did not forsake or destroy them.
You are a gracious and merciful God!
32 "O God, our God, how great you are! How terrifying, how powerful!
You faithfully keep your covenant promises.
>From the time when Assyrian kings oppressed us, even till now, how much we have suffered!
Our kings, our leaders, our priests and prophets, our ancestors, and all our people have suffered.
Remember how much we have suffered!
33 You have done right to punish us; you have been faithful, even though we have sinned.
34 Our ancestors, our kings, leaders, and priests have not kept your Law.
They did not listen to your commands and warnings.
35 With your blessing, kings ruled your people when they lived in the broad, fertile land you gave them; but they failed to turn from sin and serve you.
36 And now we are slaves in the land that you gave us, this fertile land which gives us food.
37 What the land produces goes to the kings that you put over us because we sinned.
They do as they please with us and our livestock, and we are in deep distress!"
38 Because of all that has happened, we, the people of Israel, hereby make a solemn written agreement, and our leaders, our Levites, and our priests put their seals to it.
Nehemiah chapter 10 (NLT)
... 29 now all heartily bound themselves with an oath. They vowed to accept the curse of God if they failed to obey the law of God as issued by his servant Moses. They solemnly promised to carefully follow all the commands, laws, and regulations of the LORD their Lord.
Nehemiah chapter 12 (CEV)
27 When the city wall was dedicated, Levites from everywhere in Judah were invited to join in the celebration with songs of praise and with the music of cymbals, small harps, and other stringed instruments. 28-29 The Levite singers lived in villages around Jerusalem, and so they came from there, as well as from the villages around Netophah, Beth-Gilgal, Geba, and Azmaveth. 30 The priests and Levites held special ceremonies to make themselves holy, and then they did the same for the rest of the people and for the gates and walls of the city.
31 I brought the leaders of Judah to the top of the city wall and put them in charge of the two groups that were to march around on top of the wall, singing praises to God. One group marched to the right in the direction of Garbage Gate. 32 Hoshaiah and half of the leaders followed them. 33 Then came the priests Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, 35 all of them blowing trumpets. Next, there was Zechariah of the Asaph clan 36 and his relatives, … They played musical instruments like those that had been played by David, the man of God. And they marched behind Ezra, the teacher of the Law. 37 When they reached Fountain Gate, they climbed the steps to David's City and went past his palace, before stopping at the Water Gate near the eastern wall of the city.
38 The second group of singers marched along the wall in the opposite direction, and I followed them, together with the other half of the leaders of Judah. We went past Oven Tower, Broad Wall, 39 Ephraim Gate, Old Gate, Fish Gate, Hananel Tower, Hundred Tower, and on to Sheep Gate. Finally, we stopped at Gate of the Guard, 40 where we stood in front of the temple with the other group, praising God. In the group with me were half of the leaders, 41 as well as … priests … who were blowing trumpets. 42 … Jezrahiah led the singers.
43 God had made the people very happy, and so on that day they celebrated and offered many sacrifices. The women and children joined in the festivities, and joyful shouts could be heard far from the city of Jerusalem.
|Back to the Bible Topics Page|
The selections of Bible quotations have been put together by Diana Holbourn.
Throughout this series, wherever the initials TEV appear, they stand for Today's English Version (The Good News Bible).Other initials: