Nehemiah Chapter 4 to 5 : Easy-to-Read Version  | SearchSearch | Next Version | Previous Page | Next Page |

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Sanballat and Tobiah

4 Sanballat heard that we were building the wall of Jerusalem. He became very angry and upset. He started making fun of the Jews. 2Sanballat talked with his friends and the army at Samaria. He said, “What are these weak Jews doing? Do they think we will leave them alone? Do they think they will offer sacrifices?* Maybe they think they can finish building in only one day. They can’t bring stones back to life from these piles of trash and dirt. These are just piles of ashes and dirt!” 3Tobiah the Ammonite was with Sanballat. Tobiah said, “What do these Jews think they are building? If even a small fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” 4{Nehemiah prayed to God. He said,} “Our God, listen to our prayer. Those men hate us. Sanballat and Tobiah are insulting us. Make those bad things happen to them. Make them ashamed, like people taken away as prisoners. 5Don’t take away their guilt or forgive the sins they have done in your sight. They have insulted and discouraged the builders.” 6We built the wall of Jerusalem. We built the wall all the way around the city. But it was only half as tall as it should be. We did this much because the people worked with all their heart. 7But Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the men from Ashdod were very angry. They heard that the people continued working on the walls of Jerusalem. They heard the people were fixing the holes in the wall. 8So all those men got together and made plans against Jerusalem. They planned to stir up trouble against Jerusalem. They planned to come and fight against the city. 9But we prayed to our God. And we put guards on the walls to watch day and night so we could be ready to meet those men. 10And so at that time, the people of Judah said, “The workers are becoming tired. There is too much dirt and trash in the way. We can’t continue to build the wall. 11And our enemies are saying, ‘Before the Jews know it or see us, we will be right there among them. We will kill them and that will stop the work.’” 12Then the Jews living among our enemies came and said this to us ten times, ‘Our enemies are all around us. They are everywhere we turn.’” 13So I put some of the people behind the lowest places along the wall. And I put them by the holes in the wall. I put families together, with their swords, spears, and bows. 14I looked the whole situation over. Then I stood up and spoke to the important families, the officials, and the rest of the people. I said, “Don’t be afraid of our enemies. Remember our Master. The Lord is great and powerful! You must fight for your brothers, your sons, and your daughters! You must fight for your wives and your homes!” 15Then our enemies heard that we knew about their plans. They knew that God ruined their plans. So we all went back to work on the wall. Each person went back to his own place and did his part. 16From that day on, half of my men worked on the wall. The other half of my men were on guard, ready with spears, shields, bows, and armor. The army officers stood behind all the people of Judah that were building the wall. 17The builders and their helpers had their tools in one hand and a weapon in the other hand. 18Each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. The man that blew the trumpet to warn the people stayed next to me. 19Then I spoke to the leading families, the officials, and the rest of the people. I said, “This is a very big job and we are spread out along the wall. We are far from one another. 20So, if you hear the trumpet, run to that place. We will all meet together there, and God will fight for us!” 21So we continued to work on the wall of Jerusalem, and half the men held spears. We worked from the first light of the morning till the stars came out at night. 22At that time I also said this to the people: “Every builder and his helper must stay inside Jerusalem at night. Then they can be guards at night and workers during the day.” 23So none of us took off our clothes—not me, not my brothers, not my men, and not the guards. Each of us had our weapon ready at all times, even when we went to get water.

sacrifice(s) A gift to God. Usually, it was a special animal that was killed and burned on an altar.

Nehemiah Helps the Poor People

5 Many of the {poor} people began to complain against their Jewish brothers. 2Some of them were saying, “We have many children. We must get some grain if we are going to eat and stay alive!” 3Other people were saying, “This is a time of famine.* We are having to mortgage* our fields, vineyards, and homes to get grain. 4And still other people were saying, “We have to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. But we can’t afford to pay, so we are having to borrow money to pay the tax. 5{Look at those rich people!} We are as good as they are. Our sons are as good as their sons. But we will have to sell our sons and daughters as slaves. Some of us have already had to sell our daughters as slaves! There is nothing we can do! We already lost our fields and vineyards! Other people own them now!” 6When I heard their complaints, I became very angry. 7I calmed myself down and then I went to the rich families and the officials. I told them, “You are forcing your own people to pay interest on the money you loan them! {You must stop doing that!} Then I called for all the people to meet together. 8And I said to those people, “Our Jewish brothers were sold as slaves to people in other countries. We did our best to buy them back and make them free. And now, you are selling them like slaves again!” Those rich people and officials kept quiet. They could not find anything to say. 9So I continued speaking. I said, “What you people are doing is not right! You know that you should fear and respect God. You should not do the shameful things other people do! 10My men, my brothers, and I are also lending money and grain to the people. But let’s stop forcing them to pay interest on those loans! 11You must give their fields, vineyards, olive fields, and houses back to them, right now! And you must give back the interest you charged them! You charged them one per cent for the money, grain, new wine, and oil that you loaned them. {You must give that back to them!} 12Then the rich people and the officials said, “We will give it back. And we won’t demand anything more from them. Nehemiah, we will do as you say.” Then I called the priests. I made the rich people and the officials promise to God that they would do what they said. 13Then I shook out the folds of my clothes. I said, “God will do the same thing to every person that doesn’t keep his promise. God will shake them out of their houses and they will lose everything they worked for! That person will lose everything!” I finished saying these things and all those people agreed. They all said, “Amen!” And they praised the Lord. And so the people did as they had promised. 14And also, during the whole time that I was appointed to be governor in the land of Judah, neither I nor my brothers ate the food that was allowed for the governor. {I never forced the people to pay those taxes to buy my food.} I was governor from the 20th year until the 32nd year that Artaxerxes was king.* I was governor of Judah for twelve years. 15But the governors that ruled before me made life hard for the people. Those governors forced every person to pay 1 pound* of silver. They also made those people give them food and wine. The leaders under those governors also ruled over the people {and made life even harder}. But I respected and feared God, so I didn’t do things like that. 16I worked hard at building the wall of Jerusalem. All my men gathered there to work on the wall. We didn’t take any land from anyone! 17Also, I regularly fed 150 Jews that were always welcome at my table. And I fed the people that came to us from the nations around us. 18Every day I fixed this much food for the people that ate at my table: one cow, six good sheep, and different kinds of birds. And every ten days all kinds of wine were brought to my table. Yet, I never demanded the food that was allowed for the governor. {I never forced the people to pay those taxes to pay for my food.} I knew that the work the people were doing was very hard. 19God, remember all the good I have done for these people.

famine A time when there is not enough rain for crops to grow. People and animals die without enough food or water. mortgage A way to borrow money. People use things, land, or houses as a promise to pay their loan. If they fail to pay the loan, then the lender can take their property. 20th year king This was from 444–432 B.C. 1 pound Literally, “40 shekels.”

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