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A Prayer of Nehemiah

[a] These are the words of Nehemiah[b] son of Hacaliah:

It so happened that in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year,[c] I was in Susa[d] the citadel. Hanani, who was one of my relatives,[e] along with some of the men from Judah, came to me,[f] and I asked them about the Jews who had escaped and had survived the exile, and about Jerusalem.

They said to me, “The remnant that remains from the exile there in the province are experiencing considerable[g] adversity and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem lies breached, and its gates have been burned down!”[h]

When I heard these things I sat down abruptly,[i] crying and mourning for several days. I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Then I said, “Please, O Lord God of heaven, great and awesome God, who keeps his loving covenant[j] with those who love him and obey[k] his commandments, may your ear be attentive and your eyes be open to hear the prayer of your servant that I am praying to you today throughout both day and night on behalf of your servants the Israelites. I am confessing the sins of the Israelites that we have committed[l] against you—both I myself and my family[m] have sinned. We have behaved corruptly against you, not obeying the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments that you commanded your servant Moses. Please recall the word you commanded your servant Moses: ‘If you act unfaithfully, I will scatter you among the nations.[n] But if you repent[o] and obey[p] my commandments and do them, then even if your dispersed people are in the most remote location,[q] I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen for my name to reside.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your mighty strength and by your powerful hand. 11 Please,[r] Lord, listen attentively[s] to the prayer of your servant and to the prayer of your servants who take pleasure in showing respect to[t] your name. Grant your servant success today and show compassion to me[u] in the presence of this man.”

Now[v] I was cupbearer for the king.

Nehemiah Is Permitted to Go to Jerusalem

Then in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought to me,[w] I took the wine and gave it to the king. Previously[x] I had not been depressed[y] in the king’s presence.[z] So the king said to me, “Why do you appear to be depressed when you aren’t sick? What can this be other than sadness of heart?” This made me very fearful.

I replied to the king, “O king, live forever! Why would I not appear dejected when the city with the graves of my ancestors[aa] lies desolate and its gates destroyed[ab] by fire?” The king responded,[ac] “What is it you are seeking?” Then I quickly prayed to the God of heaven and said to the king, “If the king is so inclined[ad] and if your servant has found favor in your sight, dispatch me to Judah, to the city with the graves of my ancestors, so that I can rebuild it.” Then the king, with his consort[ae] sitting beside him, replied, “How long would your trip take, and when would you return?” Since the king was pleased to send me,[af] I gave him a time. I said to the king, “If the king is so inclined, let him give me letters for the governors of Trans-Euphrates[ag] that will enable me to travel safely until I reach Judah, and a letter for Asaph the keeper of the king’s nature preserve,[ah] so that he will give me timber for beams for the gates of the fortress adjacent to the temple and for the city wall[ai] and for the house to which I go.” So the king granted me these requests,[aj] for the good hand of my God was on me. Then I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, and I presented to them the letters from the king. The king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official[ak] heard all this, they were very displeased that someone had come to seek benefit for the Israelites.

Nehemiah Arrives in Jerusalem

11 So I came to Jerusalem. When I had been there for three days, 12 I got up during the night, along with a few men who were with me. But I did not tell anyone what my God was putting on my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no animals with me, except for the one[al] I was riding. 13 I proceeded through the Valley Gate by night, in the direction of the Well of the Dragons[am] and the Dung Gate,[an] inspecting[ao] the walls of Jerusalem that had been breached and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14 I passed on to the Gate of the Well and the King’s Pool, where there was not enough room for my animal to pass with me. 15 I continued up the valley during the night, inspecting the wall. Then I turned back and came to the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had been doing, for up to this point I had not told any of the Jews or the priests or the nobles or the officials or the rest of the workers. 17 Then I said to them, “You see the problem that we have—Jerusalem is desolate and its gates are burned. Come on! Let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that this reproach will not continue.” 18 Then I related to them how the good hand of my God was on me and what[ap] the king had said to me. Then they replied, “Let’s begin rebuilding right away!”[aq] So they readied themselves[ar] for this good project. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard all this,[as] they derided us and expressed contempt toward us. They said, “What is this you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I responded to them by saying, “The God of heaven will prosper us. We his servants will start the rebuilding.[at] But you have no just or ancient right in Jerusalem.”[au]

The Names of the Builders

Then Eliashib the high priest and his priestly colleagues[av] arose and built the Sheep Gate. They dedicated[aw] it and erected its doors, working as far as the Tower of the Hundred[ax] and[ay] the Tower of Hananel. The men of Jericho built adjacent to it, and Zaccur son of Imri built adjacent to them.[az]

The sons of Hassenaah rebuilt the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars. Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakoz, worked on the section adjacent to them. Meshullam son of Berechiah the son of Meshezabel worked on the section next to them. And Zadok son of Baana worked on the section adjacent to them. The men of Tekoa worked on the section adjacent to them, but their town leaders[ba] would not assist[bb] with the work of their master.[bc]

Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah worked on the Jeshanah Gate.[bd] They laid its beams and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars. Adjacent to them worked Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, who were men of Gibeon and Mizpah. These towns were under the jurisdiction[be] of the governor of Trans-Euphrates. Uzziel son of Harhaiah, a member of the goldsmiths’ guild, worked on the section adjacent to him. Hananiah, a member of the perfumers’ guild, worked on the section adjacent to him. They plastered[bf] the city wall of Jerusalem[bg] as far as the Broad Wall. Rephaiah son of Hur, head of a half-district of Jerusalem, worked on the section adjacent to them. 10 Jedaiah son of Harumaph worked on the section adjacent to them opposite[bh] his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah worked on the section adjacent to him. 11 Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath Moab worked on another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Shallum son of Hallohesh, head of a half-district of Jerusalem, worked on the section adjacent to him, assisted by his daughters.[bi]

13 Hanun and the residents of Zanoah worked on the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars, in addition to working on 1,500 feet[bj] of the wall as far as the Dung Gate.

14 Malkijah son of Recab, head of the district of Beth Hakkerem, worked on the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

15 Shallun son of Col-Hozeh, head of the district of Mizpah, worked on the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it, put on its roof, and positioned its doors, its bolts, and its bars. In addition, he rebuilt the wall of the Pool of Siloam,[bk] by the royal garden, as far as the steps that go down from the City of David. 16 Nehemiah son of Azbuk, head of a half-district of Beth Zur, worked after him as far as the tombs of David and the artificial pool and the House of the Warriors.

17 After him the Levites worked—Rehum son of Bani and[bl] after him Hashabiah, head of half the district of Keilah, for his district. 18 After him their relatives[bm] worked—Binnui[bn] son of Henadad, head of a half-district of Keilah. 19 Adjacent to him Ezer son of Jeshua, head of Mizpah, worked on another section, opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress. 20 After him Baruch son of Zabbai worked on another section, from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, worked on another section from the door of Eliashib’s house to the end of it.[bo]

22 After him the priests worked, men of the nearby district. 23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub worked opposite their house. After them Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, worked near his house. 24 After him Binnui son of Henadad worked on another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress and the corner. 25 After him Palal son of Uzai worked[bp] opposite the buttress and the tower that protrudes from the upper palace[bq] of the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants who were living on Ophel worked[br] up to the area opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the protruding tower. 27 After them the men of Tekoa worked on another section, from opposite the great protruding tower to the wall of Ophel.

28 Above the Horse Gate the priests worked, each in front of his house. 29 After them Zadok son of Immer worked opposite his house, and after him Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, guard at the East Gate, worked. 30 After him[bs] Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, worked on another section. After them Meshullam son of Berechiah worked opposite his quarters. 31 After him Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, worked as far as the house of the temple servants and the traders, opposite the Inspection Gate,[bt] and up to the room above the corner. 32 And between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and traders worked.


  1. Nehemiah 1:1 sn In ancient Judaism Ezra and Nehemiah were regarded as a single book with dual authorship. According to the Talmud, “Ezra wrote his book” (b. Bava Batra 15a). The Gemara then asks and answers, “And who finished it? Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.” Accordingly, the two are joined in the Leningrad Codex (ca. a.d. 1008), the manuscript upon which modern printed editions of the Hebrew Bible (e.g., BHK and BHS) are based.
  2. Nehemiah 1:1 sn The name Nehemiah in Hebrew (נְחֶמְיָה, nekhemyah) means “the Lord comforts.”
  3. Nehemiah 1:1 tn That is, the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign (cf. 2:1).
  4. Nehemiah 1:1 tn Heb “Shushan.”
  5. Nehemiah 1:2 tn Heb “brothers.”
  6. Nehemiah 1:2 tn The Hebrew text does not include the words “to me”; these words were supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.
  7. Nehemiah 1:3 tn Heb “great.”
  8. Nehemiah 1:3 tn Heb “have been burned with fire” (so also in Neh 2:17). The expression “burned with fire” is redundant in contemporary English; the translation uses “burned down” for stylistic reasons.
  9. Nehemiah 1:4 tn Heb “sat down.” Context suggests that this was a rather sudden action, resulting from the emotional shock of the unpleasant news, so “abruptly” has been supplied in the present translation.
  10. Nehemiah 1:5 tn Heb “the covenant and loyal love.” The phrase is a hendiadys: the first noun retains its full nominal sense, while the second noun functions adjectivally (“loyal love” = loving). Alternately, the first might function adjectivally and the second noun function as the noun: “covenant and loyal love” = covenant fidelity (see Neh 9:32).
  11. Nehemiah 1:5 tn Heb “keep.” The Hebrew verb שָׁמַר (shamar, “to observe; to keep”) is often used as an idiom that means “to obey” the commandments of God (e.g., Exod 20:6; Deut 5:16; 23:24; 29:8; Judg 2:22; 1 Kgs 2:43; 11:11; Ps 119:8, 17, 34; Jer 35:18; Ezek 17:14; Amos 2:4). See BDB 1036 s.v. 3.c.
  12. Nehemiah 1:6 tn Heb “have sinned.” For stylistic reasons—to avoid redundancy in English—this was translated as “committed.”
  13. Nehemiah 1:6 tn Heb “the house of my father.”
  14. Nehemiah 1:8 tn Heb “peoples.”
  15. Nehemiah 1:9 tn Heb “turn to me.”
  16. Nehemiah 1:9 tn Heb “keep.” See the note on the word “obey” in Neh 1:5.
  17. Nehemiah 1:9 tn Heb “at the end of the heavens.”
  18. Nehemiah 1:11 tn The interjection אָנָּא (ʾannaʾ) is an emphatic term of entreaty: “please!” (BDB 58 s.v.; HALOT 69-70 s.v.). This term is normally reserved for pleas for mercy from God in life-and-death situations (2 Kgs 20:3 = Isa 38:3; Pss 116:4; 118:25; Jonah 1:14; 4:2) and for forgiveness of heinous sins that would result or have resulted in severe judgment from God (Exod 32:31; Dan 9:4; Neh 1:5, 11).
  19. Nehemiah 1:11 tn Heb “let your ear be attentive.”
  20. Nehemiah 1:11 tn Heb “fear.”
  21. Nehemiah 1:11 tn Heb “grant compassion.” The words “to me” are supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness and style in English.
  22. Nehemiah 1:11 tn The vav (ו) on וַאֲנִי (vaʾani, “Now, I”) introduces a disjunctive parenthetical clause that provides background information to the reader.
  23. Nehemiah 2:1 tc The translation reads with the LXX וְיַיִן לְפָנַי (veyayin lefanay, “and wine before me”) rather than יַיִן לְפָנָיו (yayin lefanayv, “wine before him”) of the MT. The initial vav (ו) of the original וְיַיִן probably dropped out due to haplograpy or orthographic confusion with the two yods (י) which follow. The final vav on לְפָנָיו in the MT was probably added due to dittography with the vav on the immediately following word.
  24. Nehemiah 2:1 tc The translation reads לְפָנִים (lefanim, “formerly”) rather than לְפָנָיו (lefanayv, “to his face”) of the MT. The MT seems to suggest that Nehemiah was not sad before the king, which is contrary to what follows.
  25. Nehemiah 2:1 tn Or “showed him a sullen face.” See HALOT 1251 s.v. רַע, רָע 9.
  26. Nehemiah 2:1 tn This expression is either to be inferred from the context, or perhaps one should read לְפָנָיו (lefanayv, “before him”; cf. the MT) in addition to לְפָנִים (lefanim, “formerly”). See preceding note on the word “previously.”
  27. Nehemiah 2:3 tn Heb “fathers” (also in v. 5).
  28. Nehemiah 2:3 tn Heb “devoured” or “eaten” (so also in Neh 2:13).
  29. Nehemiah 2:4 tn Heb “said to me.”
  30. Nehemiah 2:5 tn Heb “If upon the king it is good.” So also in v. 7.
  31. Nehemiah 2:6 tn Or “queen,” so most English versions (cf. HALOT 1415 s.v. שֵׁגַל); TEV “empress.”
  32. Nehemiah 2:6 tn Heb “It was good before the king and he sent me.”
  33. Nehemiah 2:7 tn Heb “beyond the river,” here and often elsewhere in the Book of Nehemiah.
  34. Nehemiah 2:8 tn Or “forest.” So HALOT 963 s.v. פַּרְדֵּס 2.
  35. Nehemiah 2:8 tc One medieval Hebrew ms, the Syriac Peshitta, Vulgate, and the Arabic read here the plural וּלְחוֹמוֹת (ulekhomot, “walls”) against the singular וּלְחוֹמַת (ulekhomat) in the MT. The plural holem vav (וֹ) might have dropped out due to dittography or the plural form might have been written defectively.
  36. Nehemiah 2:8 tn The Hebrew text does not include the expression “these requests,” but it is implied.
  37. Nehemiah 2:10 tn Heb “servant” (so KJV, ASV; NAB “slave”; NCV “officer.” This phrase also occurs in v. 19.
  38. Nehemiah 2:12 tn Heb “the animal.”
  39. Nehemiah 2:13 tn Or “Well of the Serpents”; or “Well of the Jackals” (cf. ASV, NIV, NLT).
  40. Nehemiah 2:13 tn Or “Rubbish Gate” (so TEV); NASB “Refuse Gate”; NCV “Trash Gate”; CEV “Garbage Gate.”
  41. Nehemiah 2:13 tc For the MT reading שֹׂבֵר (sover, “inspecting”) the LXX erroneously has שֹׁבֵר (shover, “breaking”). However, further destruction of Jerusalem’s walls was obviously not a part of Nehemiah’s purpose.
  42. Nehemiah 2:18 tn Heb “the words of the king which he had spoken to me.”
  43. Nehemiah 2:18 tn Heb “Arise! Let us rebuild!”
  44. Nehemiah 2:18 tn Heb “strengthened their hands.”
  45. Nehemiah 2:19 tn The Hebrew text does not include the words “all this,” but they have been added in the translation for clarity.
  46. Nehemiah 2:20 tn Heb “will arise and build.” The idiom “arise and…” means to begin the action described by the second verb.
  47. Nehemiah 2:20 tn Heb “portion or right or remembrance.” The expression is probably a hendiatris: The first two nouns retain their full nominal function, while the third noun functions adjectivally (“right or remembrance” = “ancient right”).
  48. Nehemiah 3:1 tn Heb “his brothers the priests.”
  49. Nehemiah 3:1 tn Or “consecrated” (so NASB, NRSV); KJV, ASV “sanctified”; NCV “gave it to the Lord’s service.”
  50. Nehemiah 3:1 tc The MT adds קִדְּשׁוּהוּ (qiddeshuhu, “they sanctified it”). This term is repeated from the first part of the verse, probably as an intentional scribal addition to harmonize this statement with the preceding parallel statement.
  51. Nehemiah 3:1 tc The translation reads וְעַד (veʿad, “and unto”) rather than the MT reading עַד (ʿad, “unto”). The original vav (ו) was probably dropped accidentally due to haplography with the final vav on the immediately preceding word in the MT.
  52. Nehemiah 3:2 tn Heb “it.”
  53. Nehemiah 3:5 tn Heb “their nobles.”
  54. Nehemiah 3:5 tn Heb “bring their neck.”
  55. Nehemiah 3:5 tn The plural form אֲדֹנֵיהֶם (ʾadonehem, “lords”) is probably a plural of majesty referring to Nehemiah (e.g., Isa 19:4; see GKC 399 §124.i). However, some English versions take the plural to refer to the “supervisors” (NIV, NCV, TEV) and others to “their Lord” (KJV, NRSV).
  56. Nehemiah 3:6 tn Or “the Old Gate” (cf. KJV, ASV, NASB, NCV, NRSV, NLT).
  57. Nehemiah 3:7 tn Heb “to the seat.”
  58. Nehemiah 3:8 tc Assuming that the MT reading וַיַּעַזְבוּ (vayyaʿazevu) is related to the root עָזַב I (“to abandon”)—which makes little sense contextually—some interpreters emend the MT to וַיַּעַזְרוּ (vayyaʿazeru, “they aided”), as suggested by the editors of BHS. However, it is better to relate this term to the root II עָזַב meaning “to restore; to repair” (BDB 738 s.v. II עָזַב) or “to plaster” (HALOT 807 s.v. II עזב qal.1). This homonymic root is rare, appearing elsewhere only in Exod 23:5 and Job 9:27, where it means “to restore; to put in order” (HALOT 807-8 s.v. II עזב qal.2). The related Mishnaic Hebrew noun מעזיבה refers to a “plastered floor.” This Hebrew root is probably related to the cognate Ugaritic, Old South Arabic and Sabean verbs that mean “to restore” and “to prepare; to lay” (see BDB 738 s.v.; HALOT 807 s.v.). Some scholars in the nineteenth century suggested that this term be nuanced “paved.” However, most modern English versions have “restored” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV) or “rebuilt” (so NCV, CEV).
  59. Nehemiah 3:8 tn Heb “[the city wall of] Jerusalem.” The term “Jerusalem” probably functions as a metonymy of association for the city wall of Jerusalem. Accordingly, the phrase “the city wall of” has been supplied in the translation to clarify this figurative expression.
  60. Nehemiah 3:10 tc The translation reads נֶגֶד (neged, “before”) with a few medieval Hebrew mss, some mss of the LXX, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Vulgate, rather than וְנֶגֶד (veneged, “and before”) of the MT.
  61. Nehemiah 3:12 tc The reference to daughters, while not impossible, is odd in light of the cultural improbability that young women would participate in the strenuous labor of rebuilding city walls. All other such references in the Book of Nehemiah presuppose male laborers. Not surprisingly, some scholars suspect a textual problem. One medieval Hebrew ms and the Syriac Peshitta read וּבָנָיו (uvanayv, “and his sons”) rather than the MT reading וּבְנוֹתָיו (uvenotayv, “and his daughters”). Some scholars emend the MT to וּבֹנָיו (uvonayv, “and his builders”). On the other hand, the MT is clearly the more difficult reading, and so it is preferred.
  62. Nehemiah 3:13 tn Heb “1,000 cubits.” The standard cubit in the OT is assumed by most authorities to be about 18 inches (45 cm) long, so this section of the wall would be about 1,500 feet (450 m).
  63. Nehemiah 3:15 tn The Hebrew word translated “Siloam” is הַשֶּׁלַח (hashelakh, “water-channel”; cf. ASV, NASB, NRSV, TEV, CEV “Shelah”). It apparently refers to the Pool of Siloam whose water supply came from the Gihon Spring via Hezekiah’s Tunnel built in 701 b.c. (cf. Isa 8:6). See BDB 1019 s.v. שִׁלֹחַ; W. L. Holladay, Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 372. On the etymology of the word, which is a disputed matter, see HALOT 1517 s.v. III שֶׁלַח.
  64. Nehemiah 3:17 tc The translation reads וְעַל (veʿal, “and unto”) with several medieval Hebrew mss and some mss of LXX, rather than the MT reading עַל (ʿal, “unto”).
  65. Nehemiah 3:18 tn Heb “brothers.”
  66. Nehemiah 3:18 tc The translation reads with a few medieval Hebrew mss and the Syriac Peshitta בִּנֻּי (binnuy) rather than the MT reading בַּוַּי (bavvay).
  67. Nehemiah 3:21 tn Heb “the house of Eliashib.” This has not been repeated in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  68. Nehemiah 3:25 tc The MT lacks the phrase אַחֲרָיו הֶחֱזִיק (ʾakharayv hekheziq, “after him worked”). This phrase is used repeatedly in Neh 3:16-31 to introduce each worker and his location. It probably dropped out accidentally through haplography.
  69. Nehemiah 3:25 tn Heb “house of the king.”
  70. Nehemiah 3:26 tc The Hebrew text lacks the verb “worked.” It is implied, however, and has been supplied in the translation.
  71. Nehemiah 3:30 tc The translation reads אַחֲרָיו (ʾakharayv, “after him”) with the Qere and many medieval Hebrew mss, rather than the reading אַחֲרֵי (ʾakhare, “after me”) of the MT. So also in v. 31.
  72. Nehemiah 3:31 tn Heb “Miphkad Gate” (so TEV; KJV similar); NRSV “Muster Gate.”