Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
That must have been a special day after all you’d been through. Or was feasting more common for those of you in charge of the great restoration projects in Judah?
It was a very special day for all of us, and an unusual occurrence for us as well. Feasting was not common; on the contrary, I foreswore my governor’s allotment of food from the public treasury, and other privileges as well, and devoted myself to the work.
So, it couldn’t be said that you took advantage of this opportunity for your own benefit?
Well, I wish that couldn’t have been said of me, but unfortunately it was. Not true, of course, but my enemies spread all kinds of stories about me. If I had stopped working to refute every libelous accusation thrown up in the wind, we never would have finished the job—which was obviously my opponents’ intention. When the pagans tried to get me to engage in “dialogue” with them about the accusations, I simply sent the message that I was too busy to stop and debate.
How did you get the community of Judeans to trust you, then, if you didn’t refute the libelous accusations point by point?
I rolled up my sleeves and worked alongside them. I didn’t sit on a platform in the shade and direct the activities from afar. For the 52 days that we raised the wall, I didn’t even so much as change my clothes. None of us did. We worked with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other, ready to defend ourselves at any moment if it came to that.
How did you and your company finish the project so quickly?
The first week after I arrived I set out to do a complete survey of the site. The whole wall lay in piles of charred ruins and dusty rubble. The people didn’t know where to start. But when I told them how God had moved the king to be generous and favorable to me, and of our plan to restore the city, they perked up. Each man and his family worked diligently on the section of the wall that was closest to their own residence. They really put their hearts into it. It wasn’t necessary for me to micromanage the construction process.
So you functioned as both architect and building supervisor, governor and military leader?
Yes, we experienced so many obstacles along the way that to bring this project to completion I had to literally keep my hands in it, just as God’s hand was upon me.
Read Nehemiah’s Story:
Find out more by reading Nehemiah 1—6, 8 and 13.