Good News Translation (GNB)
5

Oppression of the Poor

51Some time later many of the people, both men and women, began to complain against their fellow-Jews. 2Some said, “We have large families, we need corn to keep us alive.”

3Others said, “We have had to mortgage our fields and vineyards and houses to get enough corn to keep us from starving.”

4Still others said, “We had to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards. 5We are of the same race as our fellow-Jews. Aren't our children just as good as theirs? But we have to make slaves of our children. Some of our daughters have already been sold as slaves. We are helpless because our fields and vineyards have been taken away from us.”

6When I heard their complaints, I was angry 7

5.7:
Ex 22.25
Lev 25.35–37
Deut 23.19–20
and decided to act. I denounced the leaders and officials of the people and told them, “You are oppressing your fellow-Jews!”

I called a public assembly to deal with the problem 8and said, “As far as we have been able, we have been buying back our Jewish relatives who had to sell themselves to foreigners. Now you are forcing your own relatives to sell themselves to you, their own people!” The leaders were silent and could find nothing to say.

9Then I said, “What you are doing is wrong! You ought to obey God and do what's right. Then you would not give our enemies, the Gentiles, any reason to ridicule us. 10I have let the people borrow money and corn from me, and so have my companions and the people who work for me. Now let's give up all our claims to repayment. 11Cancel all the debts5.11 One ancient translation debts; Hebrew unclear. they owe you — money or corn or wine or olive oil. And give them back their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses at once!”

12The leaders replied, “We'll do as you say. We'll give the property back and not try to collect the debts.”

I called in the priests and made the leaders swear in front of them to keep the promise they had just made. 13Then I took off the sash5.13 sash: Clothing in those days had no pockets, so small items were tucked into the sash that was worn like a belt around the waist. Shaking it out was a symbol of losing everything. I was wearing round my waist and shook it out. “This is how God will shake any of you who don't keep your promise,” I said. “God will take away your houses and everything you own, and will leave you with nothing.”

Everyone who was present said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. And the leaders kept their promise.

Nehemiah's Unselfishness

14During all the twelve years that I was governor of the land of Judah, from the twentieth year that Artaxerxes was emperor until his 32nd year, neither my relatives nor I ate the food I was entitled to have as governor. 15Every governor who had been in office before me had been a burden to the people and had demanded forty silver coins a day5.15 One ancient translation a day; Hebrew unclear. for food and wine. Even their servants had oppressed the people. But I acted differently, because I honoured God. 16I put all my energy into rebuilding the wall and did not acquire any property. Everyone who worked for me joined in the rebuilding. 17I regularly fed at my table 150 of the Jewish people and their leaders, besides all the people who came to me from the surrounding nations. 18Every day I served one ox, six of the best sheep, and many chickens, and every ten days I provided a fresh supply of wine. But I knew what heavy burdens the people had to bear, so I did not claim the allowance that the governor is entitled to.

19I pray you, O God, remember to my credit everything that I have done for this people.

6

Plots against Nehemiah

61Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and the rest of our enemies heard that we had finished building the wall and that there were no gaps left in it, although we still had not set up the gates in the gateways. 2So Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message, suggesting that I meet with them in one of the villages in the Plain of Ono. This was a trick of theirs to try to harm me. 3I sent messengers to say to them, “I am doing important work and can't go down there. I am not going to let the work stop just to go and see you.”

4They sent me the same message four times, and each time I sent them the same reply.

5Then Sanballat sent one of his servants to me with a fifth message, this one in the form of an unsealed letter.6.5 unsealed letter: Leaving a letter unsealed was a deliberate way of making certain that its contents would become widely known. 6It read:

“Geshem tells me that a rumour is going round among the neighbouring peoples that you and the Jewish people intend to revolt and that this is why you are rebuilding the wall. He also says you plan to make yourself king 7and that you have arranged for some prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem that you are the king of Judah. His Majesty is certain to hear about this, so I suggest that you and I meet to talk the situation over.”

8I sent a reply to him: “Nothing of what you are saying is true. You have made it all up yourself.”

9They were trying to frighten us into stopping work. I prayed, “But now, God, make me strong!”

10About this time I went to visit Shemaiah, the son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was unable to leave his house. He said to me, “You and I must go and hide together in the Holy Place of the Temple and lock the doors, because they are coming to kill you. Any night now they will come to kill you.”

11I answered, “I'm not the kind of person that runs and hides. Do you think I would try to save my life by hiding in the Temple? I won't do it.”

12When I thought it over, I realized that God had not spoken to Shemaiah, but that Tobiah and Sanballat had bribed him to give me this warning. 13They hired him to frighten me into sinning, so that they could ruin my reputation and humiliate me.

14I prayed, “God, remember what Tobiah and Sanballat have done and punish them. Remember that woman Noadiah and all the other prophets who tried to frighten me.”

The Conclusion of the Work

15After 52 days of work the entire wall was finished on the 25th day of the month of Elul. 16When our enemies in the surrounding nations heard this, they realized that they had lost face, since everyone knew that the work had been done with God's help.

17During all this time the Jewish leaders had been in correspondence with Tobiah. 18Many people in Judah were on his side because of his Jewish father-in-law, Shecaniah son of Arah. In addition, his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah. 19People would talk in front of me about all the good deeds Tobiah had done and would tell him everything I said. And he kept sending me letters to try to frighten me.

7

71And now the wall had been rebuilt, the gates had all been put in place, and the temple guards, the members of the sacred choir, and the other Levites had been assigned their work. 2I put two men in charge of governing the city of Jerusalem: my brother Hanani and Hananiah, commanding officer of the fortress. Hananiah was a reliable and God-fearing man without an equal. 3I told them not to have the gates of Jerusalem opened in the morning until well after sunrise and to have them closed and barred before the guards went off duty at sunset. I also told them to appoint guards from among the people who lived in Jerusalem and to assign some of them to specific posts and others to patrol the area round their own houses.

The List of Those who Returned from Exile

(Ezra 2.1–70)

4Jerusalem was a large city, but not many people were living in it, and not many houses had been built yet. 5God inspired me to assemble the people and their leaders and officials and to check their family records. I located the records of those who had first returned from captivity, and this is the information I found:

6Many of the exiles left the province of Babylon and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own city. Their families had been living in exile in Babylonia ever since King Nebuchadnezzar had taken them there as prisoners. 7Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah.

8-25This is the list of the clans of Israel, with the number of those from each clan who returned from exile:

Parosh — 2,172

Shephatiah — 372

Arah — 652

Pahath Moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab) — 2,818

Elam — 1,254

Zattu — 845

Zaccai — 760

Binnui — 648

Bebai — 628

Azgad — 2,322

Adonikam — 667

Bigvai — 2,067

Adin — 655

Ater (also called Hezekiah) — 98

Hashum — 328

Bezai — 324

Hariph — 112

Gibeon — 95

26-38People whose ancestors had lived in the following towns also returned:

Bethlehem and Netophah — 188

Anathoth — 128

Beth Azmaveth — 42

Kiriath Jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth — 743

Ramah and Geba — 621

Michmash — 122

Bethel and Ai — 123

The other Nebo — 52

The other Elam — 1,254

Harim — 320

Jericho — 345

Lod, Hadid, and Ono — 721

Senaah — 3,930

39-42This is the list of the priestly clans that returned from exile:

Jedaiah (descendants of Jeshua) — 973

Immer — 1,052

Pashhur — 1,247

Harim — 1,017

43-45Clans of Levites who returned from exile:

Jeshua and Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah) — 74

Temple musicians (descendants of Asaph) — 148

Temple guards (descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai) — 138

46-56Clans of temple workmen who returned from exile:

Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,

Keros, Sia, Padon,

Lebana, Hagaba, Shalmai,

Hanan, Giddel, Gahar,

Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda,

Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah,

Besai, Meunim, Nephushesim,

Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,

Bazlith, Mehida, Harsha,

Barkos, Sisera, Temah,

Neziah, and Hatipha.

57-59Clans of Solomon's servants who returned from exile:

Sotai, Sophereth, Perida,

Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,

Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth Hazzebaim, and Amon.

60The total number of descendants of the temple workmen and of Solomon's servants who returned from exile was 392.

61-62There were 642 belonging to the clans of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda who returned from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer; but they could not prove that they were descendants of Israelites.

63-64The following priestly clans could find no record to prove their ancestry: Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai. (The ancestor of the priestly clan of Barzillai had married a woman from the clan of Barzillai of Gilead and taken the name of his father-in-law's clan.) Since they were unable to prove who their ancestors were, they were not accepted as priests. 65

7.65:
Ex 28.30
Deut 33.8
The Jewish governor told them that they could not eat the food offered to God until there was a priest who could use the Urim and Thummim.7.65 Urim and Thummim: Two objects used by the priest to determine God's will; it is not known precisely how they were used.

66-69Total number of exiles who returned — 42,360

Their male and female servants — 7,337

Male and female musicians — 245

Horses — 736

Mules — 245

Camels — 435

Donkeys — 6,720

70-72Many of the people contributed to help pay the cost of restoring the Temple:

The governor 8 kilogrammes of gold
50 ceremonial bowls
530 robes for priests
Heads of clans 168 kilogrammes of gold
1.25 tonnes of silver
The rest of the people 168 kilogrammes of gold
140 kilogrammes of silver
67 robes for priests

73

7.73:
1 Chr 9.2
Neh 11.3
The priests, the Levites, the temple guards, the musicians, many of the ordinary people, the temple workmen — all the people of Israel — settled in the towns and cities of Judah.