Nehemiah , Leader of the People of Israel
(Taken from The Holy Bible in the Old Testament)
Compiled by Melineze Logan Hite
Narrator: In the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, in Shushan the palace, we see Nehemiah, the son of Hachaliah, diligently working as the king's cupbearer alone in the wine cellar. In comes Hanani, one of his brethren with a few men from Judah.
Nehemiah: How goes it, my friends? Is all well? Have you heard anything about Jerusalem, and the Jews that escaped which were left of the captivity?
Hanani and his men: The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. ( Nehemiah is in utter disbelief as he weeps. The men cannot comfort Nehemiah, so they quickly leave.)
Narrator: ( Stage right ) Nehemiah is a man of God, so he prays and goes without food for days. Let's listen as he speaks to God.
Nehemiah: ( In the great dining hall of the king) I have mourned for days, fasted, and prayed before ye, God of Heaven, and I beseech thee, O LORD God of Heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned.
We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter ye abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of ye cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather ye from thence, and will bring ye unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. ( The king and his company are preparing to enter into the great room. Nehemiah quietly whispers. )
O LORD, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.
Narrator: It is now the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, the king.
Nehemiah: ( sadly looking down and mumbling ) Here is thine wine, O King Artaxerxes.
King Artaxerxes: Never before has thou been sad in my presence! Why is thy countenance sad? Are you sick? No! This is nothing else but sorrow of heart.
Nehemiah: (very afraid ) Let the king live for ever! Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
King Artaxerxes: For what dost thou make request? ( Nehemiah quietly prays to the God of Heaven for the right words to speak further to the king.)
Nehemiah: ( happily speaking through tears ) If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that.... thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.
King Artaxerxes: ( with the queen sitting by him ) For how long shall thy journey be? When wilt thou return? It pleases me to send you. However, you must set me a time for your return.
Nehemiah: This I will do. If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah. And please give me a letter for Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into.
King Artaxerxes: So be it this day, letters will be delivered unto you with my seal!
Narrator: Yes, the king granted Nehemiah, the cupbearer, all that he had asked. The good hand of God was certainly upon his servant, Nehemiah, who came to the governors beyond the river and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with Nehemiah. When Sanballat, the Horonite, and Tobiah, the servant, an Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
First, Nehemiah went to Jerusalem for three days. He told no one what his God had put in his heart to do at Jerusalem. He had only one horse.
Second, one night he and a few trusted men, went quietly out by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof which were consumed with fire. They went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king's pool, then by the brook; later they viewed the wall, turned back, entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.
Third, he kept quiet about his plans. The rulers knew not whither he went, or what he did. He had not yet shared his plans with the Jews, nor with the priests, nor with the nobles, nor with the rulers, nor with the rest that would eventually do the work.
Nehemiah: Do you see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire? Come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach! The hand of my God is good upon me; as also are the king's words that he had spoken unto me!
Nehemiah's trusted men: Let us rise up and build! ( So they strengthened their hands for the good work. )
Narrator: When Sanballat, the Horonite, and Tobiah, the servant who was an Ammonite, and Geshem, the Arabian, heard about this, they laughed and dispised Nehemiah, his men, and their plan.
Sanballat and Tobiah: ( to Nehemiah ) What is this thing that ye do? Will ye rebel against the king?
Nehemiah: The God of Heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.
Narrator: But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that Nehemiah builded the wall, he was wroth, took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.
Sanballat: ( speaking confidently to his brethren and to the army of Samaria ) What do these feeble Jews? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?
Tobiah : ( laughing ) Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.
Nehemiah: ( frantically to the Lord ) Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: and cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee. They have provoked thee to anger before the builders.
Narrator: So built Nehemiah and his men the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work. But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.
Nevertheless, Nehemiah and his followers made their prayer unto their God, and because of their enemies, the people of God set a watch against their enemies day and night.
Judah : ( lacking confidence and afraid ) The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.
Enemies of God: ( in hiding, waiting to attack ) They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, slay them, and cause the work to cease.
Narrator: And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by their enemies came, they warned Nehemiah and his company of workers ten times that their adversaries would be upon them to slay them.
Nehemiah: ( speaking softly to himself after having set the people on the higher places after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows and then after having set himself in the lower places behind the wall ) I shall rise up against the enemies of the Lord, but first I must speak to the people. ( Loudly proclaiming ) To ye nobles, to ye rulers, and to the rest of the people, be ye not afraid of them: remember the LORD, which is great and terrible. Fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses!
Narrator: And it came to pass, when their enemies heard that their own ruthless plan of attack was known unto Nehemiah's camp, God brought their counsel to nought. The people of God returned all of them to the wall, every one unto his work.
And it came to pass from that time forth, that half of Nehemiah's servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows. The rulers were behind all the house of Judah. Soon every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. He that sounded the trumpet was by Nehemiah.
Nehemiah: ( unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people ) The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us. Our God shall fight for us!
Narrator: So the people of God laboured in the work, and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.
Nehemiah: ( unto the people ) Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem. In the night be a guard unto us, and then work in the day.
Narrator: So neither Nehemiah, nor his brethren, nor his servants, nor the men of the guard which followed him, none of them put off their clothes, saving that they put them off for washing.
Later Nehemiah becomes very angry with these Jews because of their cry and their words against their fellow Jews who are now returning to reclaim their lost lands due to the former destruction of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah: Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against you.
We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? ( Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer. )
It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?
I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.
Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.
The people: We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest.
Narrator: Then Nehemiah called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.
Nehemiah ( shaking his lap ): So may God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied.
All of the congregation: Amen! ( praising the LORD )
Narrator: And many years have passed, and the people did according to this promise.
Nehemiah: ( unto the Lord ) ) Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be the governor in this land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes, the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor.
But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver. Yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God.
Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work. Moreover there were at my table an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that are about us. Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine.
Yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people.
Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
Narrator: Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of their enemies, heard that Nehemiah had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein (although at that time Nehemiah had not set up the doors upon the gates ) messengers were sent to Nehemiah to come and speak from the enemies' camp.
Messengers from Sanballat and Geshem: ( unto Nehemiah ) Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. ( However, they thought to do Nehemiah mischief. )
Nehemiah: ( sending the message while on the ladder working hard ) I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?
Narrator: Yet the evil men sent unto Nehemiah four times after this sort; and Nehemiah answered them after the same manner. Then sent Sanballat's servant unto Nehemiah in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand.
Gashmu: ( an enemy ) It is reported among the heathens that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be king. And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.
Nehemiah: ( angrily ) There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart! ( knowing this was done to make him and his brethren afraid )
Narrator: The enemy said that their hands will be weakened from the work, and that the work will not be completed. Yet Nehemiah prayed....
Nehemiah: Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
Shemaiah: ( pretending to be Nehemiah's friend ) Welcome to my home, Nehemiah. I, Shemaiah, the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabeel, urge you. Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee. Yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.
Nehemiah : Should such a man as I flee? Who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life?( emphatically ) I will not go in.
Narrator: Yes, Nehemiah had correctly perceived that God had not sent Shemaiah as a friend. Shemaiah had pronounced this prophecy against Nehemiah's forces of God, because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. They wanted Nehemiah to be in fear and to sin so that they could use this against them later.
Nehemiah: My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.
Narrator: So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.
And it came to pass, that when all the enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes. They perceived that this work was truly wrought of God.
Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto Nehemiah.
For there were many in Judah sworn unto this villain, because he was the son- in- law of Shechaniah, the son of Arah; and his son, Johanan, had taken the daughter of Meshullam, the son of Berechiah.
Many reported his good deeds before Nehemiah, and they uttered Nehemiah's words to Tobiah. Still Tobiah sent letters to Nehemiah to put him in fear.
Narrator: Now it came to pass, the wall was built. Nehemiah set up the doors, and the porters, the singers, and the Levites were appointed. Nehemiah gave Hanani, his brother, and Hananiah, the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem. Hananiah was a faithful man and feared God above many.
Nehemiah: ( saying unto his men ) Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them. Appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house.
Narrator: Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded.
And God put into Nehemiah's heart to gather together the nobles, the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. He found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first.
They were the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city.
The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore.
So the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, some of the people, the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities. When the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.
The people:( gathering together in the street before the water gate ) Ezra, the scribe, bring ye the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel!
Narrator: And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchiah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
Ezra: ( holding the book of the law ) Bless the LORD, the great God!
All of the people: Amen! Amen! ( lifting up their hands and worshipping the LORD )
Narrator: So Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.
So they read in the book of the law of God distinctly and caused the multitudes to understand the reading.
Nehemiah, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites: ( unto the weeping people when they heard the words of the law ) This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep.
Ezra: Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared. This day is holy unto our Lord. Neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Levites : ( quieting all of the people ) Hold your peace! The day is holy; neither be ye grieved.
Narrator: And all the people went their way to eat, to drink, to send portions,and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.
And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.
They found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month. and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying,
Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
So the people went forth, brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, in their courts, in the courts of the house of God, in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. All the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths and sat under the booths for since the days of Jeshua, the son of Nun, unto that day had not the children of Israel done so.
There was very great gladness.
Day by day, from the first day unto the last day, Ezra read from the book of the law of God.
The people of God kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly.
Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. The seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. They stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed and worshipped the LORD their God.
The Levites ( Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah ): ( to the congregation ) Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.
Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham; and foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous: and didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red Sea; and shewedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them. So didst thou get thee a name, as it is this day.
And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters.
Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go.
Thou camest down also upon Mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: and madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant: and gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.
But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments, and refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.
Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.
Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.
Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.
Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan.
Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it.
So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would.
And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness.
Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.
Therefore, thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.
But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the land of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies; and testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.
Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.
Nevertheless for thy great mercies' sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.
Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day.
Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly: Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them.
For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works.
Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it: And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.
And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.
Narrator: Now some that sealed were, Nehemiah, ( the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah ) Obadiah, the priests, the Levites ( the teachers ), the chiefs of the people, and Hanan, Hananiah, and numerous others.
And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses, the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD, our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes.
The people: ( swearing before God ) And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, not take their daughters for our sons: And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the Sabbath Day, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.
Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God; For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the Sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.
And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law: And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD: Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God: And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.
And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.
For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God. Amen.
Narrator: And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem. The rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities.
The people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.
And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps. And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall.
Also that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced for God had made them rejoice with great joy. The wives also and the children rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.
On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever; Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them. Then our God turned the curse into a blessing.
Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.
And before this, Eliashib, the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah. The priest had prepared for this enemy of God a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests.
Nehemiah: ( remembering aloud to the people ) I was not in Jerusalem during this time. For in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes, king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king. I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense. Then I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field. ( to the rulers ) Why is the house of God forsaken? ( gathering them together, and setting them in their place )
Narrator: Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.
And Nehemiah made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah, the priest, and Zadok , the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them was Hanan, the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office was to distribute unto their brethren.
Nehemiah: Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.
Narrator: Nehemiah sees in Judah Jews treading wine presses on the Sabbath, bringing in sheaves, and lading donkeys; he also sees wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, being brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath Day. Nehemiah testified against them selling victuals. From Tyre, men brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah: ( angrily to the nobles of Judah ) What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath Day?
Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath.
Narrator: And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath, Nehemiah commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the Sabbath. He set some of his servants at the gates, so that there should no burden be brought in on the Sabbath Day. Nehemiah wanted no selling or buying on this most holy day. However, the merchants and sellers of all kinds of ware lodged outside of Jerusalem once or twice.
Nehemiah: ( merchants and sellers ) I testify against you. Why lodge ye about the wall? If ye do so again, I will lay hands on you.
Narrator: From that time forth came they no more on the Sabbath. Nehemiah commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, should come and keep the gates to sanctify the Sabbath Day.
Nehemiah: ( praying) Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.
Narrator: In those days also Nehemiah saw Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab.
And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people. Nehemiah contended with them, cursed them, smote certain of them, and even plucked off their hair.
Nehemiah: (making the people swear by God ) Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. Swear it! Did not Solomon, king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives? ( While speaking Nehemiah sees one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib, the high priest, who was son-in-law to Sanballat, the Horonite, and Nehemiah chased him from him. ) Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites.
Congregation of God: We swear to obey the teachings of God this day! (Thus cleansed Nehemiah them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business; and for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits.)
Nehemiah: Remember me, O my God, for good. Amen.
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