1 These are the memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah.
Nehemiah’s Concern for Jerusalem
In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign,[a] 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 returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. 5 Then I said,
“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! 7 We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.
8 “Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. 9 But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth,[b] I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’
10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me.[c] Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”
In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer.
Nehemiah Goes to Jerusalem
2 Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan,[d] during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. 2 So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”
Then I was terrified, 3 but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4 The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”
With a prayer to the God of heaven, 5 I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”
6 The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request.
7 I also said to the king, “If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River,[e] instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah. 8 And please give me a letter addressed to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber. I will need it to make beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself.” And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.
9 When I came to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, I delivered the king’s letters to them. The king, I should add, had sent along army officers and horsemen[f] to protect me. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of my arrival, they were very displeased that someone had come to help the people of Israel.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Wall
11 So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, 12 I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem. We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding. 13 After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well,[g] and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. 14 Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. 15 So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley[h] instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.
16 The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. 17 But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” 18 Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.
They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.
19 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” they asked.
20 I replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.”
Rebuilding the Wall of Jerusalem
3 Then Eliashib the high priest and the other priests started to rebuild at the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set up its doors, building the wall as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and the Tower of Hananel. 2 People from the town of Jericho worked next to them, and beyond them was Zaccur son of Imri.
3 The Fish Gate was built by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid the beams, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz repaired the next section of wall. Beside him were Meshullam son of Berekiah and grandson of Meshezabel, and then Zadok son of Baana. 5 Next were the people from Tekoa, though their leaders refused to work with the construction supervisors.
6 The Old City Gate[i] was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid the beams, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. 7 Next to them were Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth, people from Gibeon, and people from Mizpah, the headquarters of the governor of the province west of the Euphrates River.[j] 8 Next was Uzziel son of Harhaiah, a goldsmith by trade, who also worked on the wall. Beyond him was Hananiah, a manufacturer of perfumes. They left out a section of Jerusalem as they built the Broad Wall.[k]
9 Rephaiah son of Hur, the leader of half the district of Jerusalem, was next to them on the wall. 10 Next Jedaiah son of Harumaph repaired the wall across from his own house, and next to him was Hattush son of Hashabneiah. 11 Then came Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-moab, who repaired another section of the wall and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Shallum son of Hallohesh and his daughters repaired the next section. He was the leader of the other half of the district of Jerusalem.
13 The Valley Gate was repaired by the people from Zanoah, led by Hanun. They set up its doors and installed its bolts and bars. They also repaired the 1,500 feet[l] of wall to the Dung Gate.
14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Recab, the leader of the Beth-hakkerem district. He rebuilt it, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars.
15 The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallum[m] son of Col-hozeh, the leader of the Mizpah district. He rebuilt it, roofed it, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. Then he repaired the wall of the pool of Siloam[n] near the king’s garden, and he rebuilt the wall as far as the stairs that descend from the City of David. 16 Next to him was Nehemiah son of Azbuk, the leader of half the district of Beth-zur. He rebuilt the wall from a place across from the tombs of David’s family as far as the water reservoir and the House of the Warriors.
17 Next to him, repairs were made by a group of Levites working under the supervision of Rehum son of Bani. Then came Hashabiah, the leader of half the district of Keilah, who supervised the building of the wall on behalf of his own district. 18 Next down the line were his countrymen led by Binnui[o] son of Henadad, the leader of the other half of the district of Keilah.
19 Next to them, Ezer son of Jeshua, the leader of Mizpah, repaired another section of wall across from the ascent to the armory near the angle in the wall. 20 Next to him was Baruch son of Zabbai, who zealously repaired an additional section from the angle to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 Meremoth son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz rebuilt another section of the wall extending from the door of Eliashib’s house to the end of the house.
22 The next repairs were made by the priests from the surrounding region. 23 After them, Benjamin and Hasshub repaired the section across from their house, and Azariah son of Maaseiah and grandson of Ananiah repaired the section across from his house. 24 Next was Binnui son of Henadad, who rebuilt another section of the wall from Azariah’s house to the angle and the corner. 25 Palal son of Uzai carried on the work from a point opposite the angle and the tower that projects up from the king’s upper house beside the court of the guard. Next to him were Pedaiah son of Parosh, 26 with the Temple servants living on the hill of Ophel, who repaired the wall as far as a point across from the Water Gate to the east and the projecting tower. 27 Then came the people of Tekoa, who repaired another section across from the great projecting tower and over to the wall of Ophel.
28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests repaired the wall. Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house. 29 Next Zadok son of Immer also rebuilt the wall across from his own house, and beyond him was Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the gatekeeper of the East Gate. 30 Next Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section, while Meshullam son of Berekiah rebuilt the wall across from where he lived. 31 Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the wall as far as the housing for the Temple servants and merchants, across from the Inspection Gate. Then he continued as far as the upper room at the corner. 32 The other goldsmiths and merchants repaired the wall from that corner to the Sheep Gate.
1:1 Hebrew In the month of Kislev of the twentieth year. A number of dates in the book of Nehemiah can be cross-checked with dates in surviving Persian records and related accurately to our modern calendar. This month of the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar occurred within the months of November and December 446 B.c. The twentieth year probably refers to the reign of King Artaxerxes I; compare 2:1; 5:14.
1:9 Hebrew of the heavens.
1:11 Hebrew today in the sight of this man.
2:1 Hebrew In the month of Nisan. This month of the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar occurred within the months of April and May 445 B.c.
2:7 Hebrew the province beyond the river; also in 2:9.
2:9 Or charioteers.
2:13 Or Serpent’s Well.
2:15 Hebrew the valley.
3:6 Or The Mishneh Gate, or The Jeshanah Gate.
3:7 Hebrew the province beyond the river.
3:8 Or They fortified Jerusalem up to the Broad Wall.
3:13 Hebrew 1,000 cubits [460 meters].
3:15a As in Syriac version; Hebrew reads Shallun.
3:15b Hebrew pool of Shelah, another name for the pool of Siloam.
3:18 As in a few Hebrew manuscripts, some Greek manuscripts, and Syriac version (see also 3:24; 10:9); most Hebrew manuscripts read Bavvai.
129 Your laws are wonderful.
No wonder I obey them!
130 The teaching of your word gives light,
so even the simple can understand.
131 I pant with expectation,
longing for your commands.
132 Come and show me your mercy,
as you do for all who love your name.
133 Guide my steps by your word,
so I will not be overcome by evil.
134 Ransom me from the oppression of evil people;
then I can obey your commandments.
135 Look upon me with love;
teach me your decrees.
136 Rivers of tears gush from my eyes
because people disobey your instructions.
137 O Lord, you are righteous,
and your regulations are fair.
138 Your laws are perfect
and completely trustworthy.
139 I am overwhelmed with indignation,
for my enemies have disregarded your words.
140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested;
that is why I love them so much.
141 I am insignificant and despised,
but I don’t forget your commandments.
142 Your justice is eternal,
and your instructions are perfectly true.
143 As pressure and stress bear down on me,
I find joy in your commands.
144 Your laws are always right;
help me to understand them so I may live.
Lessons from Israel’s Idolatry
10 I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters,[a] about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. 2 In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. 3 All of them ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, 7 or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.”[b] 8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.
9 Nor should we put Christ[c] to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
14 So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. 15 You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am saying is true. 16 When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17 And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. 18 Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar?
19 What am I trying to say? Am I saying that food offered to idols has some significance, or that idols are real gods? 20 No, not at all. I am saying that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don’t want you to participate with demons. 21 You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too. 22 What? Do we dare to rouse the Lord’s jealousy? Do you think we are stronger than he is?
23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”[d]—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.
25 So you may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace without raising questions of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”[e]
27 If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. 28 (But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. 29 It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 30 If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?
31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles[f] or the church of God. 33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.
10:1 Greek brothers.
10:7 Exod 32:6.
10:9 Some manuscripts read the Lord.
10:23 Greek All things are lawful; also in 10:23b.
10:26 Ps 24:1.
10:32 Greek or Greeks.
For the choir director: A psalm[a] of David, regarding the time the Philistines seized him in Gath. To be sung to the tune “Dove on Distant Oaks.”
1 O God, have mercy on me,
for people are hounding me.
My foes attack me all day long.
2 I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
and many are boldly attacking me.
3 But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in you.
4 I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
5 They are always twisting what I say;
they spend their days plotting to harm me.
6 They come together to spy on me—
watching my every step, eager to kill me.
7 Don’t let them get away with their wickedness;
in your anger, O God, bring them down.
8 You keep track of all my sorrows.[b]
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
10 I praise God for what he has promised;
yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.
11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God,
and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.
13 For you have rescued me from death;
you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God,
in your life-giving light.
56:Title Hebrew miktam. This may be a literary or musical term.
56:8 Or my wanderings.