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Nehemiah 5-9 Common English Bible (CEB)

Internal unrest

Then there was a great protest of the people and their wives against their fellow Jews. Some said, “With our sons and daughters we are many, and we all need grain to eat and stay alive.”

Others said, “We have to mortgage our fields, our vineyards, and our houses in order to get grain during the famine.”

Still others said, “We have had to borrow money against our fields and vineyards in order to pay the king’s tax.”

“We are of the same flesh and blood as our kin, and our children are the same as theirs. Yet we are just about to force our sons and daughters into slavery, and some of our daughters are already slaves! There is nothing we can do since our fields and vineyards now belong to others.”

I was very angry when I heard their protest and these complaints. After thinking it over, I brought charges against the officials and the officers. I told them, “You are all taking interest from your own people!” I also called for a large assembly in order to deal with them. “To the best of our ability,” I said to them, “we have bought back our Jewish kin who had been sold to other nations. But now you are selling your own kin, who must then be bought back by us!” At this they were silent, unable to offer a response.

So I continued, “What you are doing isn’t good! Why don’t you walk in the fear of our God? This will prevent the taunts of the nations that are our enemies! 10 I myself, along with my family and my servants, am lending them money and grain. But let’s stop charging this interest! 11 Give it back to them, right now. Return their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses. And give back the interest on money, grain, wine, and oil that you are charging them.”

12 They replied, “We’ll return everything, and we won’t charge anything else.[a] We’ll do what you’ve asked.”

So I called the priests and made them swear to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the fold of my robe, saying, “So may God shake out everyone from their house and property if they don’t keep this promise. So may they be shaken out and emptied!”

The whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.

Generous Governor Nehemiah

14 In addition, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah (that is, from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes for a total of twelve years), neither I nor my family ate from the governor’s food allowance. 15 The earlier governors who had come before me laid heavy burdens on the people. They took food and wine from them as well as[b] forty shekels of silver. Even their servants oppressed the people. But because I was God-fearing, I didn’t behave in this way.

16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. We acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 One hundred fifty Jews and officials, along with those who came to us from the surrounding nations, gathered around my table. 18 One ox, six choice sheep, and birds were prepared each day. Every ten days there was a large amount of wine. Yet even with this I didn’t ask for the governor’s food allowance because of the heavy burden the people had to carry.

19 Remember in my favor, my God, all that I’ve done for this people!

Nehemiah avoids his enemies

Now when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that there were no gaps left in it (although I hadn’t yet hung the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let’s meet together in one of the villages[c] in the plain of Ono.”

But they wanted to harm me, so I sent messengers to tell them, “I’m doing important work, so I can’t come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?”

They sent me a message like this four times, and every time I gave them a similar reply. But the fifth time, Sanballat sent his servant to me in the same way, except that now he carried an open letter. It stated:

It is reported among the nations and confirmed by Geshem[d] that you and the Jews intend to rebel. This is why you are rebuilding the wall. According to these reports, you intend to become their king. You have also appointed prophets to make this announcement about you in Jerusalem: There is a king in Judah! Now, the king will hear of these reports, so come; let’s talk together.

So I sent him this reply: “Nothing that you say has happened. You are simply inventing this.”

All of them were trying to make us afraid, saying, “They will be discouraged, and the work won’t get finished.” But now, God, strengthen me!

10 Later I went to see Shemaiah, Delaiah’s son and Mehetabel’s grandson, who was confined to his house, and he said:

“Let’s meet together in God’s house,
    inside the temple itself.
Let’s shut the doors of the temple,
    for they are coming to kill you;
        they are coming to kill you tonight!”

11 But I replied, “Should someone like me run away? Who like me would go into the temple to save his life? I won’t go in!” 12 Then I realized that God hadn’t sent him at all but that he spoke this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He was hired to frighten me and to make me sin by acting in this way. Then they could give me a bad name and discredit me. 14 My God, remember these deeds of Tobiah and Sanballat! Also remember Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who have been trying to frighten me.

15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul.[e] It took fifty-two days. 16 When our enemies heard about this, all of the nations around us were afraid and their confidence was greatly shaken. They knew that this work was completed with the help of our God.

17 In addition, in those days the officials of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters were coming to them. 18 Many in Judah were bound to him by solemn pledge because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah, Arah’s son, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam, Berechiah’s son. 19 They also kept talking about his good deeds in my presence and then reported back to him what I said. In addition, Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.

The wall is complete

When the wall had been built and I had hung the doors, the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites were appointed. Then I put my brother Hanani and Hananiah the commander of the fortress in charge of Jerusalem. Hananiah was a faithful man who revered God more than many.

I[f] said to them, “The gates of Jerusalem aren’t to be opened during the hottest time of the day. While the gatekeepers[g] are still on duty, have them shut and bar the doors. Also, appoint guards from among those who live in Jerusalem. Station some at their watch posts and some in front of their own houses.”

Nehemiah registers the families

Now although the city was wide and large, only a few people were living within it, and no[h] houses had been rebuilt. My God then prompted me to assemble the officials, the officers, and the people so that they could be registered by families. I found the record of the families who were the first to return, and I found the following written in it:

These are the people of the province who returned from the captivity of those exiles whom Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile. They all returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to their own town.

They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah.

The number of the people of Israel:

The family of Parosh2,172
of Shephatiah372
10 of Arah652
11 of Pahath-moab, that is, of the descendants of Jeshua and Joab2,818
12 of Elam1,254
13 of Zattu845
14 of Zaccai760
15 of Binnui648
16 of Bebai628
17 of Azgad2,322
18 of Adonikam667
19 of Bigvai2,067
20 of Adin655
21 of Ater, that is, of the descendants of Hezekiah98
22 of Hashum328
23 of Bezai324
24 of Hariph112
25 of Gibeon95
26 The people of Bethlehem and Netophah188
27 of Anathoth128
28 of Beth-azmaveth42
29 of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth743
30 of Ramah and Geba621
31 of Michmas122
32 of Bethel and Ai123
33 of the other Nebo52
34 the inhabitants of the other Elam1,254
35 of Harim320
36 of Jericho345
37 of Lod, Hadid, and Ono721
38 of Senaah3,930
39 The priests: the descendants of Jedaiah, that is, of the house of Jeshua973
40 of Immer1,052
41 of Pashhur1,247
42 of Harim1,017
43 The Levites: the descendants of Jeshua, that is, of Kadmiel, of the descendants of Hodaviah74
44 The singers: the descendants of Asaph148
45 The descendants of gatekeepers: of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai138

46 The temple servants: the descendants of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,

47 Keros, Sia, Padon,
48 Lebanah, Hagabah, Shalmai,
49 Hanan, Giddel, Gahar,
50 Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda,
51 Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah,
52 Besai, Meunim, Nephushesim,
53 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
54 Bazlith, Mehida, Harsha,
55 Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
56 Neziah, and Hatipha.

57 The descendants of Solomon’s servants: Sotai, Sophereth, Perida,

58 Jaala, Darkon, Giddel, 59 Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth-hazzebaim, and Amon.

60 All of the temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants totaled 392.

61 The following came up from Tel-Melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but were unable to prove that their family or their descent was from Israel:

62 the descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda, 642.

63 And of the priests: the descendants of Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai (who had married one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by his[i] name) 64 looked for their entries in the genealogical records, but they weren’t found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean.

65 The governor ordered that they shouldn’t eat of the most holy food until a priest arose who could consult Urim and Thummim.

66 The whole assembly together totaled 42,360. 67 This number doesn’t include their 7,337 male and female servants; they also had 245 male and female singers, 68 736 horses, 245 mules,[j] 69 [k] 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.

70 [l] Some of the heads of families made a donation for the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 bowls, and 530 priestly robes. 71 Some of the heads of families gave 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 manehs of silver to the treasury for the work. 72 The rest of the people gave 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 manehs of silver, and 67 priestly robes.

73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel settled in their towns.

Ezra reads the Instruction aloud

When the seventh month[m] came and the people of Israel were settled in their towns, all the people gathered together in the area in front of the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Instruction[n] scroll from Moses, according to which the Lord had instructed Israel.

So on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the Instruction before the assembly. This assembly was made up of both men and women and anyone who could understand what they heard. Facing the area in front of the Water Gate, he read it aloud, from early morning until the middle of the day. He read it in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand, and everyone listened attentively to the Instruction scroll.

Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for this purpose. And standing beside him were Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his righthand side; while Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam stood on his lefthand side.

Standing above all of the people, Ezra the scribe opened the scroll in the sight of all of the people. And as he opened it, all of the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all of the people answered, “Amen! Amen!” while raising their hands. Then they bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah[o]—helped the people to understand the Instruction while the people remained in their places. They read aloud from the scroll, the Instruction from God, explaining and interpreting it so the people could understand what they heard.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all of the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Don’t mourn or weep.” They said this[p] because all the people wept when they heard the words of the Instruction.

10 “Go, eat rich food, and drink something sweet,” he said to them, “and send portions of this to any who have nothing ready! This day is holy to our Lord. Don’t be sad, because the joy from the Lord is your strength!”

11 The Levites also calmed all of the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy. Don’t be sad!” 12 Then all of the people went to eat and to drink, to send portions, and to have a great celebration, because they understood what had been said to them.

The people celebrate the Festival of Booths

13 On the second day, the heads of the families of all the people, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered together around Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Instruction. 14 And they found written in the Instruction that the Lord had commanded through Moses that the Israelites should live in booths during the festival of the seventh month.[q]

15 They also found that they should make the following proclamation and announce it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.”

16 So the people went out and brought them, and made booths for themselves, each on the roofs of their houses or[r] their courtyards, in the courtyards of God’s house, in the area by the Water Gate, or in the area by the Gate of Ephraim.

17 The whole assembly of those who had returned from captivity made booths and lived in them. This was something that the people of Israel hadn’t done since the days of Joshua,[s] Nun’s son, and there was very great rejoicing.

18 He read from God’s Instruction scroll every day, from the first until the last day of the festival.[t] They kept the festival for seven days and held a solemn assembly on the eighth day, just as the Instruction required.

Remembering the Lord’s mighty deeds

On the twenty-fourth day of this month, the people of Israel were assembled. They fasted, wore funeral clothing,[u] and had dirt on their heads.[v] After the Israelites separated themselves from all of the foreigners, they stood to confess their sins and the terrible behavior of their ancestors. They stood in their place and read the Instruction scroll from the Lord their God for a quarter of the day. For another quarter of the day, they confessed and worshipped the Lord their God.

On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani. They cried out with a loud voice to the Lord their God. Then the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah—said:

Stand up and bless the Lord your God.
    From everlasting to everlasting bless your glorious name,
        which is high above all blessing and praise.
You alone are the Lord.
        You alone made heaven, even the heaven of heavens, with all their forces.
        You made the earth and all that is on it, and the seas and all that is in them.
            You preserve them all, and the heavenly forces worship you.
Lord God, you are the one who chose Abram.
        You brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham.
        You found him to be faithful before you,
            and you made a covenant with him.
You promised to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites,
        the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the Girgashites.
And you have kept your promise because you are righteous.

You saw the affliction of our ancestors in Egypt
        and heard their cry at the Reed Sea.[w]
10 You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh,
        all his servants, and the people of his land.
    You knew that they had acted arrogantly against our ancestors.
        You made a name for yourself, a name that is famous even today.
11 You divided the sea before them so that they went through it on dry land.
        But you cast their pursuers into the depths,
            as a stone into the mighty waters.
12 With a pillar of cloud you led them by day
        and with a column of lightning by night;
            they lit the way in which the people should go.
13 You came down upon Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven.
        You gave them proper judgments and true Instruction,
            good statutes and commandments.
14         You made known to them your holy Sabbath,
            and gave them commandments, statutes, and Instruction through your servant Moses.
15 When they were hungry, you gave them bread from heaven;
        when they were thirsty, you brought water out of the rock for them.
You told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

16 But our ancestors acted arrogantly.
        They were stubborn and wouldn’t obey your commandments.
17         They refused to obey,
            and didn’t remember the wonders that you accomplished in their midst.
        They acted arrogantly and decided to return to their slavery in Egypt.
But you are a God ready to forgive, merciful and compassionate,
        very patient, and truly faithful.
        You didn’t forsake them.
18 Even when they had cast an image of a calf for themselves,
        saying, “This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,”
            and holding you in great contempt,
19     you, in your great mercy, didn’t abandon them in the wilderness.
        The column of cloud continued to guide them on their journey during the day,
            and the column of lightning lit their path during the night.
20 You gave your good spirit to teach them.
        You didn’t withhold your manna from them,
        and you gave them water for their thirst.
21 You kept them alive for forty years—
        they lacked nothing in the wilderness!
        Their clothes didn’t wear out,
            and their feet didn’t swell.

22 You gave them kingdoms and peoples,
            and assigned to them every side.[x]
        They took possession of the land of King Sihon of Heshbon
            and the land of King Og of Bashan.
23 You multiplied their descendants as the stars of heaven.
        You brought them into the land that you had told their ancestors to enter and possess.
24 So the descendants went in and possessed the land.
        Before them, you subdued the Canaanites who inhabited the land.
        You also handed over to them their kings and the neighboring peoples,
            to do with as they wished.
25 They captured fortified cities and productive land,
        and took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things:
            Excavated cisterns, vineyards, olive orchards, and a great many fruit trees.
They ate until they were satisfied and grew fat,
        and delighted themselves in your great goodness.

26 But they were disobedient, rebelled against you,
        and turned their back on your Instruction.
They killed your prophets who had warned them so that they might return to you.
        They held you in great contempt.
27 Therefore, you handed them over to the power of their enemies who made them suffer.
But when they cried out to you in their suffering,
        you heard them from heaven.
Because you are merciful,
        you gave them saviors who saved them from the power of their enemies.
28 But after they had rest from this, they again started doing evil against you.
        So you gave them over to the power of their enemies who ruled over them.
Yet when they turned and cried to you,
        you heard from heaven and rescued them many times because of your great mercy.
29         You also warned them to return to your Instruction,
but they acted arrogantly and didn’t obey your commands.
        They sinned against your judgments,
            even though life comes by keeping them.[y]
        They turned a stubborn shoulder, became headstrong, and wouldn’t obey.
30 You were patient with them for many years
        and warned them by your spirit through the prophets.
But they wouldn’t listen,
        so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples.
31 In your great mercy, however, you didn’t make an end of them.
        Neither did you forsake them, because you are a merciful and compassionate God.

32 Now, our God, great and mighty and awesome God,
        you are the one who faithfully keeps the covenant.
Don’t treat lightly all of the hardship that has come upon us,
        upon our kings, our officials, our priests, our prophets, our ancestors, and all your people,
        from the time of the kings of Assyria until today.
33 You have been just in all that has happened to us;
        you have acted faithfully, and we have done wrong.
34 Our kings, our officials, our priests, and our ancestors haven’t kept your Instruction.
        They haven’t heeded your commandments and the warnings that you gave them.
35 Even in their own kingdom, surrounded by the great goodness that you gave to them,
        even in the wide and rich land that you gave them,
        they didn’t serve you or turn from their wicked works.
36 So now today we are slaves,
        slaves in the land that you gave to our ancestors
            to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts.
37 Its produce profits the kings whom you have placed over us because of our sins.
        They have power over our bodies and do as they please with our livestock.
        We are in great distress.

Commitment to follow the Instruction

38 [z] Because of all this,[aa] we are making a firm agreement in writing, with the names of our officials, our Levites, and our priests on the seal.


  1. Nehemiah 5:12 Heb lacks everything…anything else.
  2. Nehemiah 5:15 Heb uncertain
  3. Nehemiah 6:2 LXX, Vulg; MT at Hakkephirim
  4. Nehemiah 6:6 Or Gashmu
  5. Nehemiah 6:15 August–September
  6. Nehemiah 7:3 Or He
  7. Nehemiah 7:3 Or while they
  8. Nehemiah 7:4 Or not enough
  9. Nehemiah 7:63 Or their
  10. Nehemiah 7:68 Ezra 2:66; MT lacks they also…mules.
  11. Nehemiah 7:69 7:68 in Heb
  12. Nehemiah 7:70 7:69 in Heb
  13. Nehemiah 8:1 September–October, Tishrei
  14. Nehemiah 8:1 Heb Torah
  15. Nehemiah 8:7 Vulg 1 Esdr 9:48; MT and the Levites
  16. Nehemiah 8:9 Heb lacks They said this.
  17. Nehemiah 8:14 September–October, Tishrei
  18. Nehemiah 8:16 Or and
  19. Nehemiah 8:17 Heb Jeshua
  20. Nehemiah 8:18 Heb lacks of the festival.
  21. Nehemiah 9:1 Or sackcloth
  22. Nehemiah 9:1 Or on them
  23. Nehemiah 9:9 Or Red Sea
  24. Nehemiah 9:22 Heb uncertain
  25. Nehemiah 9:29 Them refers to judgments.
  26. Nehemiah 9:38 10:1 in Heb
  27. Nehemiah 9:38 This refers to great distress in 9:37.
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible


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