27 Finally, the time came to dedicate the wall of Jerusalem. Levites were tracked down from all over to perform the dedication ceremonies in Jerusalem. They celebrated joyously and led the people in songs of thanksgiving, worshiping with abandon. They played cymbals and harps and other stringed instruments they could carry. 28 Singers from all around Jerusalem also came—from the villages of the Netophathites, 29 from Beth-gilgal and the farms at Geba and Azmaveth. The singers had built themselves villages all around Jerusalem where they lived. 30 The priests and the Levites ended the ceremonies by purifying themselves and then the people, the wall, and the gates.
Two very important characteristics of Jewish belief and behavior that set them apart from other peoples are endogamy and Sabbath: The Jewish people can only marry within and among their various tribes. After the exile the choices are limited to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, but there is still opportunity for marriage and family. However, the Jews are forbidden to practice exogamy, which is marriage outside their ethnic group. The Eternal does not want the ideas and activities of other nations to influence His special people. Second, as with many of God’s instructions to Israel, the Sabbath observance reflects God’s activities in “creation week” in Genesis 1–2. The Sabbath or seventh-day rest is unique in the ancient world; and it signifies that Israel’s Eternal One is over all aspects of creation, work, play, and rest. Nehemiah understands this, and he is direct in his instructions to this new Judean community.
31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall. I had organized two large choirs to lead us in thanksgiving. One of the choirs walked south along the wall to the right, toward the potsherd gate. 32 Behind that choir marched Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah. 33 This group included Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah. 35-36 Some of the young priests played trumpets. Others played the same instruments David, the man of God, played. They came next: Zechariah, Jonathan’s son—the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph—and his brothers Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani. This group was led by Ezra the scribe. 37 At the fountain gate, they went up the steps of the city of David, climbing the city wall, passing the house of David on their way to the water gate to the east.[a]
38 The other choir went to the left. Along with the remaining people up on the wall, I followed them north from the oven tower to the broad wall. 39 We went over the Ephraim gate, the old gate, the fish gate, the tower of Hananel, and all the way to the tower of the hundred. We went through the sheep gate and stopped when we arrived at the guard’s gate. 40 As they arrived at the temple of God, both choirs took their places, all the while giving thanks. Those of us leaders in the second group joined them. 41 We followed the priests; Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah played their trumpets 42 while Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer sang. The musicians were playing loudly and the singers were singing. Jezrahiah led them, 43 and together the sounds filled the city. Everyone was rejoicing and making sacrifices to God in their great joy—even the women and children got involved. Far outside Jerusalem the noise from our celebration could be heard.
44 That same day, we appointed men to be in charge of the storerooms that held everyone’s offerings—all their contributions, best offerings, and monetary tithes. These administrators were in charge of collecting from all of the villages the offerings set aside by the law for the priests and the Levites. Everyone was grateful to the priests and the Levites and were happy to contribute for all that they did. 45 Just as David and his son Solomon instructed them to do, they served God and purified the people with the help of the singers and gatekeepers. 46 It was during the united monarchy long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, that it became customary to have choir directors lead the singers in songs of worship and thanksgiving to God. 47 In these times of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, the people of Israel also contributed a daily supply of food so that the singers and the gatekeepers had enough to eat. They also designated consecrated portions for the Levites’ share, who set aside food for the priests—who are Aaron’s descendants.
13 Later that day, when the book of Moses was being read to the people, we discovered a passage that said no Ammonite or Moabite should be allowed to enter the sacred gatherings of God’s people.[b]
2 This prohibition went back to the time when our ancestors wandered in the desert—when the Ammonites and the Moabites refused to welcome the Israelites with food and drink. In fact, they hired Balaam to curse them. But it didn’t work. God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 As soon as people heard what God’s law said, they excluded anyone with any non-Israelite descent from Israel.
4-5 Before that happened, the priest named Eliashib took a large storeroom in the temple of God and gave it to Tobiah the Ammonite for his use. Eliashib was in charge of the storerooms, and Tobiah was a relative of his. Before he gave it to Tobiah, it had been used to store many different things for use in the temple: the grain offerings, the incense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil for the Levites, the singers, and the gatekeepers—also the offerings for the priests. 6 I was not in Jerusalem when Eliashib did this. It was the 32nd year of the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia,[c] and I had returned to make a report to him. Later on I asked his permission to return 7 to Jerusalem. When I arrived, I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done by giving Tobiah a room in the courts of the temple of the True God, a place he wasn’t even allowed to enter because of his heritage. 8 I was livid. In my anger, I threw all of Tobiah’s property out of the room. 9 Then I had them purify the rooms and restore what was supposed to be there—the sacred vessels, the grain offerings, and the incense.
10 I also learned that the portion of the offering that belonged to the Levites had not been given to them. As a result, the Levites and singers who were responsible for leading God’s people in worship returned to work on their farms instead. 11 I went straight to the leaders responsible for this and confronted them, asking, “Why are you neglecting God’s temple?” I reassembled the leaders who had returned home and placed them back at their posts. 12 This allowed the people of Judah to bring their tithes of grain, wine, and olive oil into the storehouses again. 13 I placed trustworthy men in charge of the storerooms: Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah. I brought Hanan (Zaccur’s son and Mattaniah’s grandson) on as their assistant. It was their responsibility to make sure the daily rations were distributed to their relatives.
Nehemiah: 14 O God—my God—remember this good thing I have done. Do not forget the way I have served Your temple and its servants.
15 At that same time, I looked around Judah and saw men working the winepresses on the Sabbath. Others I found bringing large loads of grain to be loaded on donkeys. Wine, grapes, figs—they brought every kind of load into Jerusalem on the Sabbath no matter the season. I warned them about selling food on the Sabbath, just as they were doing it. 16 There were men from Tyre living in Jerusalem. They also brought fish and all kinds of merchandise into Jerusalem and sold it to the people of Judah on the Sabbath, even in Jerusalem. 17 I confronted the leaders of Judah, whom I held responsible for the public’s actions.
Nehemiah: Why are you doing what you know is wicked? You are desecrating the Sabbath! 18 Tell me how this is different from what we just confessed about our ancestors and their sin. This is the thing that provoked God’s judgment and the destruction of this very city. You are fueling the fire of judgment for Israel by desecrating the Sabbath!
19 As the sun was setting before the Sabbath and darkness fell over Jerusalem’s gates, I ordered the doors to be closed. I required them to remain closed until the Sabbath ended. I placed some of my own guards by the gates to ensure no load of merchandise could be brought into the city during the Sabbath, but Jerusalem’s citizens could still come and go. 20 On a couple of different occasions, some traders and merchants of a great variety of goods slept by the gates outside the wall. 21 They also received a warning from me.
Nehemiah: What are you up to, sleeping here outside the wall? If I find you here again, you will be removed by force!
They never came back on the Sabbath again. 22 I ordered the Levites to go through the purifying rituals and then to come back and guard the gates so that the Sabbath would be kept holy.
Nehemiah: O God—my God—remember my actions. Because of Your great love, show me mercy.
23 During that same time, I witnessed men from Judah marrying women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah or understand our laws but only the languages of their peoples. 25 I rebuked and cursed them. Some of them I beat, and I tore out their hair. I made them take an oath in the name of God.
Nehemiah: You will not let your daughters marry their sons, nor will you accept their daughters as wives for yourselves or your sons! 26 This is the very thing that caused King Solomon’s downfall. In all the world, there was no king like him. God loved him dearly and made him king over all Israel. Yet these foreign wives led Solomon into sin. 27 Now we discover that you have embraced the same wicked ways, betraying our God by marrying these foreign women.
28 Even the family of High Priest Eliashib was guilty. One of his grandsons, a son of Joiada, married one of the daughters of Sanballat the Horonite. I drove him away from me.
Nehemiah: 29 O God—my God—remember how these men polluted the priesthood and the sacred vows of the priests and Levites.
30 Once more we went through the rituals of purification, removing every foreign object. I reassigned the priests and the Levites to their tasks; everyone had a specific job to do. 31 I made sure the altar was supplied with the offering of wood and the offerings of firstfruits, too—each at the right time.
Nehemiah: O God—my God—remember me with favor.
11 So imitate me, watch my ways, follow my example, just as I, too, always seek to imitate the Anointed One.
2 I must say how pleased I am to hear that you remember me in everything and continue to hold on to the traditions I have passed on to you. 3 But it is important that you understand this about headship: the Anointed One is the head of every man, the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of the Anointed. 4 Knowing this, any man wearing a covering over his head while praying or prophesying in your gathering disgraces his head, Jesus. 5-6 On the other hand, any woman—I mean, of course, a married woman—not wearing a veil over her head while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, her husband. It wouldn’t be much different than if she walked into worship with her head shaved. For if a woman isn’t going to be veiled properly, she ought to go ahead and cut off her hair; but if it brings shame to the woman and her husband to have all her hair cut off or her head shaved clean, then by all means let her wear a veil.
7 Here’s the distinction: man is created in God’s image and for His glory, so he should not cover his head. But a wife is the glory of her husband. She ought to be covered. 8 Man, you remember, was not fashioned from the body of a woman. But woman, though she was sculpted by the hands of God, was fashioned from the bones and flesh of man.[a] 9 Furthermore, don’t forget that man was not created for woman; woman was created for man to be his helper in everything. 10 This means that a wife should wear a veil on her head as a sign she is under authority, especially when gathering in the company of heavenly messengers. 11 Regardless of how it all began, husbands and wives should recognize they are not independent; 12 for just as woman was pulled from the side of man, man is pulled from the womb of woman. In a similar way, all things and all people share the same ultimate source, God.
13 Judge for yourselves: when you gather to worship, is it appropriate for a woman to pray to God without covering her head? 14 Consider the ways of nature: doesn’t nature itself teach you that a man who wears his hair long invites shame and dishonor to cover him? 15 But doesn’t nature also teach that when a woman has long hair, it is her glory? It radiates her beauty and acts as a natural veil. 16 If you feel like debating more on this, just know that we, along with all other churches of God, have adopted the same custom.
1 Make a case against those who struggle with me, Eternal One.
Battle against those who battle against me.
2 Be my shield and protection;
stand with me and rescue me!
3 Draw the spear and javelin
to meet my pursuers.
Reassure my soul and say,
“I will deliver you.”
4 Shame and dishonor those ruthless enemies
who wish to end my life.
Turn back those who conspire against me,
defeated and humiliated!
5 Let them be separated from the righteous as chaff is separated from the grain,
blown by the wind,
driven far, far away by the Eternal’s messenger.
6 Make their way unsure and dangerously dark,
a gauntlet of gloom
chased through the darkness by the Eternal’s messenger.
7 For no reason at all, they set a trap for me—a net, a snare—
then, without cause, they disguised a pit to capture my soul—another cowardly snare.
8 May they be surprised by their own destruction.
May they become tangled in their own net
and fall into the pit which they, themselves, dug.
9 When that day comes, my soul will celebrate the Eternal
and be glad in His salvation.
10 Every fiber of my being[a] will shout,
“Eternal One, there is none like You!
You save the poor
from those who try to overpower them
and rescue the weak and the needy from those who steal from them.”
11 False witnesses step forward;
they ask me strange questions for which I have no answers.
12 When I do good to them, they do evil to me,
bringing misery to my soul.
13 When they were sick,
I mourned for them and wore sackcloth;
I chose to humble myself by fasting.
But my prayers came back unanswered.
14 So I mourned more deeply as if I grieved for my brother or friend;
I went around bowed down by sorrow, dressed in black,
as if I were weeping for my mother.
15 But when I stumbled, they gathered together
and celebrated my fall with joy;
People attacked me when I wasn’t expecting it;
they slandered me with no end.
16 Like godless mockers at a festival,[b]
their words tore at me.
17 Those who live to party, who pursue pleasure, will end up penniless;
those who enjoy lots of wine and rich food will never have money.
18 The wicked become a ransom for those who live right,
and the faithless pay the penalty for their treachery against the upright.