0 I cursed them, and smote them, and plucked off their hair (Nehemiah 1-13)

Episode 160: I cursed them, and smote them, and plucked off their hair

Nehemiah 1-13

Nehemiah's prayer

1 1-2 These are the words of Nehemiah. I was in the Shushan palace when some men of Judah came by to visit. 2 I asked them about the Jews that had escaped from Babylon.

3 They said to me,

The Jews are in big trouble. The wall of Jerusalem has fallen, and its gate has burned.

4 When I heard this, I sat down for several days, while I wept, fasted, and prayed.

5 I said to God,

Oh great and terrible God, 6 Open your eyes and ears so you can see and hear me.

7 You told us to obey you and threatened to punish us if we didn't.

11 So listen to my prayer, because I was the king's cupbearer.

Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem

2 1 One day when I was feeling sad, I gave some wine to the king. He'd never seen me sad before. 2 He said to me,

Why are you so sad? You're not sick, are you? Something must be bothering you.

3 I said to him, “I’m sad because Jerusalem is in ruins.”

4 He said, “What would you like me to do about it?”

5 I answered, “Let me return to Jerusalem so that I can rebuild it.”

6 The king allowed me to go to Jerusalem, wrote letters to the governors, and provided wood to rebuild the wall of the city.

11 So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days.

13 One night, I passed by the dragon well and the dung port and looked at the walls of Jerusalem which had fallen and the burned gates.

17 I said to the Jews,

Look at Jerusalem. Its wall has fallen, and its gate has burned. Let's rebuild the wall.

3 1-32 Repairing the sheep, fish, and dung gates, and other important matters

Opposition to the wall

4 1 When Sanballat heard that we were building a wall, he was angry and mocked us, saying,

What are these feeble Jews up to?

3 Tobiah, who was with him, said, “Heck, even a fox could knock down their wall.”

4 But I said, “Oh God, they hate us. Let's hate them back.”

6 So we built the wall.

7 When Sanballat and Tobiah heard about the wall, they were angry. 8 And they conspired to fight against Jerusalem.

14 I said to the rulers and people,

Don't be afraid of them. Remember that God is great and terrible.

15 So half of the people returned to work. The other half held spears, shields, and bows.

17 Those who built the wall, used one hand for work, the other held a weapon.

23 We all were so busy, we slept in our clothes.

Administrative difficulties

5 1 While we were building the wall, the people complained about the Jews who were in power.

2 They said,

We have many children that we need to feed.

3 We've mortgaged our land and houses to pay for food.

4 We've had to borrow money to pay taxes to the king.

5 And our children have been forced to work for others.

6 I [Nehemiah] was very angry when I heard this.

7 So I rebuked the leaders for their usury, saying,

8 Why have you sold our people to others?

11 Give the people back the land, houses, and money that you took from them.

12And the leaders said, "Okay. We promise to do that."

13 Then I shook my lap and said,

If you don't keep your promise, God will shake out all of your money from your pockets.

All the people said, "Amen" and the leaders did what they said they'd do.

19 May God reward me for all the good that I have done for the people.

6 1-19 The wall is finished

7 1-73 A list of people returning from Babylon

Ezra reads the Torah to the people for seven days

8 1 Everyone in Israel listened to Ezra as he read the Torah to them. 6 He blessed God, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen", while they lifted up their hands, bowed their heads, and touched their faces to the ground.

9 Nehemiah and Ezra said to all the people, “This is a holy day. Don't mourn or weep.”

(Everyone was weeping when they heard the words of the law.) 10 Then they said, “Go and eat the fat, drink the sweet, and don't be sorry.” 12 So all the people ate, drank, and were happy.

16 The people made booths and sat under the booths. And there was a very great gladness.

18 And Ezra read the book of the law for seven days.

The Levites' prayer

9 1 Everyone in Israel fasted, wore sackcloth, and put dirt on themselves.

2 They separated themselves from foreigners and confessed their sins. 3 For three hours, they stood and read God's book of the law. Then they confessed and worshiped God for another three hours.

4 After they were done with that, the Levites cried out with a loud voice, and said a long prayer.

10 1-39 A list of the people who agreed not to intermarry with non-Israelites.

11 1-36 The people cast lots to determine who will live in Jerusalem

12 1-26 A list of priests and Levites

27-47 The wall is dedicated

Nehemiah rebukes those who intermarry

13 1 That day they read in the book of Moses that they should not allow any Ammonites and Moabites to enter their congregation forever. 2 Because they didn't give the Israelites food and water but hired Balaam to curse them. (Even though God turned the curse into a blessing.)

23 But still some men married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And their children were speaking foreign languages.

25 So I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote some of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, and said to them,

You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.

26 Didn't Solomon sin by doing these things?

God loved him, but outlandish women made him sin.

27 It's a great evil to marry strange wives!

29 Remember them, Oh God, because they have defiled the priesthood.

31 Remember me, Oh God, for all the good things I've done.

A few more words about this episode

A list of people returning from Babylon (7:1-71)
Here we find the same long, boring list that is given in the second chapter of Ezra. The only interesting thing about these two lists is that they directly contradict one another. For instance, Nehemiah 7:10 says that 652 children of Arah returned from captivity in Babylon, while Ezra 2:5 says that 775 of them returned. There are 15 similar contradictions between the two accounts.
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