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Loss of Jerusalem

These are the words of Nehemiah, Hacaliah’s son.

In the month of Kislev,[a] in the twentieth year,[b] while I was in the fortress city of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came with some other men from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had escaped and survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem.

They told me, “Those in the province who survived the captivity are in great trouble and shame! The wall around Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire!”


When I heard this news, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said:

Lord God of heaven, great and awesome God, you are the one who keeps covenant and is truly faithful to those who love you and keep your commandments. Let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant, which I now pray before you night and day for your servants, the people of Israel.

“I confess the sins of the people of Israel, which we have committed against you. Both I and my family have sinned. We have wronged you greatly. We haven’t kept the commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances that you commanded your servant Moses.

“Remember the word that you gave to your servant Moses when you said, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. But if you return to me and keep my commandments by really doing them, then, even though your outcasts live[c] under distant skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place that I have chosen as a dwelling for my name.’ 10 They are your servants and your people. They are the ones whom you have redeemed by your great power and your strong hand.

11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in honoring your name. Please give success to your servant today and grant him favor in the presence of this man!”

Cupbearer’s plea

At that time, I was a cupbearer to the king. In the month of Nisan,[d] in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, the king was about to be served wine. I took the wine and gave it to the king. Since I had never seemed sad in his presence, the king asked me, “Why do you seem sad? Since you aren’t sick, you must have a broken heart!”

I was very afraid and replied, “May the king live forever! Why shouldn’t I seem sad when the city, the place of my family’s graves, is in ruins and its gates destroyed by fire?”

The king asked, “What is it that you need?”

I prayed to the God of heaven and replied, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, please send me to Judah, to the city of my family’s graves so that I may rebuild it.”

With the queen sitting beside him, the king asked me, “How long will you be away and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I told him how long I would be gone.

I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may letters be given me addressed to the governors of the province Beyond the River to allow me to travel to Judah. May the king also issue a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, directing him to supply me with timber for the beams of the temple fortress gates, for the city wall, and for the house in which I will live.”

The king gave me what I asked, for the gracious power of my God was with me.

Inspecting Jerusalem

So I went to the governors of the province[e] Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. The king had sent officers of the army and cavalry with me.

10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard this, they were very angry that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.

11 When I reached Jerusalem and had been there for three days, 12 I set out at night, taking only a few people with me. I didn’t tell anyone what my God was prompting me to do for Jerusalem, and the only animal I took was the one I rode. 13 I went out by night through the Valley Gate past the Dragon’s Spring to the Dung Gate so that I could inspect the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down, as well as its gates, which had been destroyed by fire.

14 Then I went on to the Spring Gate and to the King’s Pool. Since there was no room for the animal on which I was riding to pass, 15 I went up by way of the valley by night and inspected the wall. Then I turned back and returned by entering through the Valley Gate.

Let’s rebuild

16 The officials didn’t know where I had gone or what I was doing. I hadn’t yet told the Jews, the priests, the officials, the officers, or the rest who were to do the work. 17 So I said to them, “You see the trouble that we’re in: Jerusalem is in ruins, and its gates are destroyed by fire! Come, let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we won’t continue to be in disgrace.” 18 I told them that my God had taken care of me, and also told them what the king had said to me.

“Let’s start rebuilding!” they said, and they eagerly began the work.[f]

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and made fun of us. “What are you doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”

20 “The God of heaven will give us success!” I replied. “As God’s servants, we will start building. But you will have no share, right, or claim in Jerusalem.”

Rebuilding the gates and walls

Then Eliashib the high priest set to work with his fellow priests and built[g] the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set up its doors, then dedicated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred and as far as the Tower of Hananel.

The people of Jericho built next to them, and Zaccur, Imri’s son, built next to them. The children of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and set up its doors, bolts, and bars. Next to them Meremoth, Uriah’s son and Hakkoz’s grandson, made repairs. Meshullam, Berechiah’s son and Meshezabel’s grandson, made repairs next to them, and Zadok, Baana’s son, made repairs next to them. Next to them the people from Tekoa made repairs, but their officials wouldn’t help with the work[h] of their supervisors.[i]

Joiada, Paseah’s son, and Meshullam, Besodeiah’s son, repaired the Mishneh Gate;[j] they laid its beams and set up its doors, bolts, and bars. Next to them repairs were made by Melatiah the Gibeonite, Jadon the Meronothite, and[k] the people of Gibeon and of Mizpah, who were ruled by the governor of the province Beyond the River.

Uzziel, Harhaiah’s son, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs next to them; and Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs next to him. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. Next to them Rephaiah, Hur’s son, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10 Next to them Jedaiah, Harumaph’s son, made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush, Hashabneiah’s son, made repairs next to him.

11 Malchijah, Harim’s son, and Hasshub, Pahath-moab’s son, repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Next to them Shallum, Hallohesh’s son, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, along with his daughters.

13 Hanun and the people of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate; they built it and set up its doors, bolts, and bars. They also repaired fifteen hundred feet of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.

14 Malchiah, Rechab’s son, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set up its doors, bolts, and bars.

15 And Shallum, Col-hozeh’s son, ruler of the Mizpah district, repaired the Spring Gate. He rebuilt and covered it, and set up its doors, bolts, and bars. He also built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the King’s Garden, as far as the stairs that go down from David’s City.

16 After him, Nehemiah, Azbuk’s son, ruler of half the Beth-zur district, repaired from the point opposite David’s tombs as far as the artificial pool and the Warriors’ House. 17 After him, the Levites made repairs: Rehum, Bani’s son, and next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, made repairs for his district. 18 After him, their relatives made repairs: Binnui,[l] Henadad’s son, ruler of half the district of Keilah.

19 Next to him, Ezer, Jeshua’s son, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the Angle. 20 After him, Baruch, Zabbai’s son, thoroughly repaired another section from the Angle to the door of the house of the high priest Eliashib. 21 After him, Meremoth, Uriah’s son and Hakkoz’s grandson, repaired another section from the door to the back of Eliashib’s house.

22 After him, the priests from the surrounding area made repairs. 23 After them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs opposite their house. After them, Azariah, Maaseiah’s son and Ananiah’s grandson, repaired beside his house. 24 After him, Binnui, Henadad’s son, repaired another section from the house of Azariah to the Angle and to the corner. 25 Palal, Uzai’s son, repaired[m] from the point opposite the Angle and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him, Pedaiah, Parosh’s son, 26 and the temple servants living on Ophel made repairs[n] up to the point opposite the Water Gate to the east and the projecting tower. 27 After them, the people of Tekoa repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel. 28 From the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each one opposite his own house.

29 After them, Zadok, Immer’s son, made repairs opposite his own house. After him, Shemaiah, Shecaniah’s son, the keeper of the East Gate, made repairs. 30 After him, Hananiah, Shelemiah’s son, and Hanun, Zalaph’s sixth son, repaired another section. After them, Meshullam, Berechiah’s son, made repairs opposite his own room.

31 After him, Malchiah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Parade Gate,[o] and as far as the upper room at the corner. 32 And between the upper room of the corner and the Sheep Gate, the goldsmiths and the merchants made repairs.

Opposition mounts

[p] When Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he became angry and raged. He mocked the Jews, saying in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria: “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore things themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the piles of rubble, even though they are burned?”

Tobiah the Ammonite, who was beside him, added: “If even a fox climbs on whatever they build, their wall of stones will crumble.”

Listen, God; we are despised! Turn their insults to us[q] back on their heads and make them like plunder in a captive land. Don’t forgive their iniquity or blot out their sins from your sight. They have thrown insults at the builders!

We continued to build the wall. All of it was joined together, and it reached half of its intended height because the people were eager to work. [r] But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the people of Ashdod heard that the work on the walls was progressing and the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to create a disturbance in it.

So we prayed to our God and set a guard as protection against them day and night.

10 But in Judah it was said,
        “The carrier’s strength is failing,
        for there is too much rubble.
            We are unable to rebuild the wall!”

11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying: “Before they know or see anything, we can be in their midst and start to kill them. We’ll stop the work!”

12 Now the Jews who were living near them came and said to us again and again,[s] “You must return to us!”[t]

Armed guards protect the builders

13 So I took up a position in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall in an open area.[u] Then I stationed the people by families, and they had their swords, spears, and bows. 14 After reviewing this, I stood up and said to the officials, the officers, and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them! Remember that the Lord is great and awesome! Fight for your families, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses!”

15 Then our enemies heard that we had found out and that God had spoiled their plans. So we all returned to doing our own work on the wall. 16 But from that day on, only half of my workers continued in the construction, while the other half held the spears, shields, bows, and body armor. Meanwhile, the leaders positioned themselves[v] behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building the wall. The carriers did their work with a load in one hand and a weapon in the other. 18 The builders built with swords fastened in their belts, and the trumpeter stayed by my side.

19 Then I said to the officials, the officers, and the rest of the people, “The work is very spread out, and we are far apart from each other along the wall. 20 When you hear the trumpet sound, come and gather where we are. Our God will fight for us!” 21 So we continued the work, with half of them holding spears from dawn until dusk.

22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant spend the night in Jerusalem so that we can guard during the night and work during the day.” 23 Neither I nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor my bodyguards took off our clothes, even when they sent for water.[w]


  1. Nehemiah 1:1 November–December
  2. Nehemiah 1:1 Of Artaxerxes
  3. Nehemiah 1:9 Heb lacks live.
  4. Nehemiah 2:1 March–April
  5. Nehemiah 2:9 Heb lacks of the province.
  6. Nehemiah 2:18 Or they strengthened their hands for the good.
  7. Nehemiah 3:1 Or rebuilt
  8. Nehemiah 3:5 Or didn’t bring their neck into the service of
  9. Nehemiah 3:5 Or lords
  10. Nehemiah 3:6 Or Old Gate
  11. Nehemiah 3:7 Syr; Heb lacks and.
  12. Nehemiah 3:18 LXX, Syr; Heb Bvvai
  13. Nehemiah 3:25 Heb lacks repaired.
  14. Nehemiah 3:26 Heb lacks made repairs.
  15. Nehemiah 3:31 Or Hammiphkad Gate
  16. Nehemiah 4:1 3:33 in Heb
  17. Nehemiah 4:4 Heb lacks to us.
  18. Nehemiah 4:7 4:1 in Heb
  19. Nehemiah 4:12 Or ten times from all sides
  20. Nehemiah 4:12 Heb uncertain
  21. Nehemiah 4:13 Heb uncertain
  22. Nehemiah 4:16 Heb lacks positioned themselves.
  23. Nehemiah 4:23 Heb uncertain