... we are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure. — Samuel Johnson

Heroes of Israel - Lawton Evans

Nehemiah Rebuilds the Walls of Jerusalem

Ninety years passed since Zerubbabel had led the people of Israel back to Jerusalem. The temple had been rebuilt, the people were living in houses, and were planting their vineyards just as they had done in the olden days. Still the walls had not been rebuilt, but were left in ruins, so that the city was open to attack from its enemies.

Artaxerxes was the name of the king of Persia. He had a cupbearer named Nehemiah, who attended him in his palace at Shushan. One day some men came from Jerusalem and Nehemiah asked them: "How fare the Jews who were led out of captivity?" The men replied: "The Jews are in great affliction and reproach. The walls of Jerusalem are broken down and the gates are burned with fire."

Then Nehemiah wept and prayed, and made up his mind to ask the king to allow him to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city of his fathers. Nehemiah was very sad and his face showed his grief. One day as he handed wine to the king, Artaxerxes asked him: "Why are you so sad, seeing you are not sick? You have some sorrow in your heart."

Nehemiah then told the king he was sorrowing on account of the walls of Jerusalem not being built and said: "If it please the king let me be sent to the city of my fathers that I may rebuild the walls."

"How long will your journey take you?" inquired Artaxerxes. "And how soon will you return?" Nehemiah told him and the king consented for him to go.

Nehemiah came to Jerusalem but told no one why he had come. At the end of three days, he arose at night secretly and took a few men with him, and examined the walls of the city. He rode around the ruins and saw the broken places and the gates that had been burned and wept again to think how easily the city could be captured by its enemies.

Then Nehemiah called all the Jews together and said to them: "You see the condition you are in, and how much danger there is to you. Come, let us rebuild the walls that our enemies do not overcome us." After he had talked to the people a long time he persuaded them to set to work. The priests and Levites, all the people, even some of the women, began to build its walls.

Now there arose the enemies of the Jews and began to make fun of them. "What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they trying to fortify themselves? Can they build a wall out of the rubbish of the streets?" asked one of their leaders.

"If they build a wall," said another, "even a fox if he should climb over it would break it down." And with that all the enemies laughed at what the Jews were doing. But the workmen paid no attention to the scoffers and kept straight on building the walls as Nehemiah directed them. After a while the wall was built half way up all around the city, for the people had worked with a will. The gates were put in and strengthened, and it looked as if the Jews were building a defence that could not be taken down.

When the heathen enemies of the Jews saw that the walls were being built and the broken places mended they were very angry, and conspired together to fight the Jews and stop them from their work. The heathen planned to come secretly and not to be known until they were in the midst of the workmen, when they would draw their weapons and slay all the Jews. But Nehemiah was told of their purpose and set men behind the wall with swords and spears to protect the workmen. When the heathen heard that the Jews were prepared to defend themselves they did not come to fight them.

From that time on half the workmen were kept laboring on the walls, while the other half were armed with spears and swords to defend those who worked. Nehemiah seeing that the walls were long and that the workmen were separated from one another set a trumpeter on the walls, whose duty it was to sound his trumpet to call all the workmen together at one point as well as to call those who carried the spears and swords in case an enemy appeared anywhere.

The people labored day after day and the walls rose higher and higher. Stones were brought from a distance to take the place of the broken ones, and those that were not broken were put back in place. Thousands of the people worked on the walls, while thousands stood guard day and night to protect them. The women and children brought food and water to the laborers and did what else they could to hasten the work. So eagerly did the people labor that neither Nehemiah nor any of the men took off their clothes day and night except to have them washed.

While the work was going on, two of the enemies of Israel, named Sanballat and Tobiah, sent word to Nehemiah: "Come down into some one of the villages that we may meet and talk together." But Nehemiah knew they intended him harm and he sent word to them: "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should my work stop just to come down to talk to you?"

Four times did Sanballat send word to Nehemiah to come down to see him in one of the villages, and four times did Nehemiah return him the same answer.

Then Sanballat and Tobiah sent Nehemiah a letter telling him they would report to the king of Persia that he was building the walls in order to set up the city for himself, and to rebel against the king. But Nehemiah paid no attention to the letter and kept on building the wall.

Again Sanballat and Tobiah hired a man named Shemaiah to deceive Nehemiah and frighten him. Shemaiah went to him and said: "Come down into the temple with me and shut the doors, for there are those who also seek to slay you. This very night they seek your life."

"Should a man flee at such a time as this?" replied Nehemiah. "Why should I go into the temple to save my life? I am not afraid, and I will not go in and shut the door for fear that some one will slay me."

Then Nehemiah knew that Shemaiah had been hired to frighten him, and that what he said was not true.

Fifty-two days had all the people labored, and at last the great walls were finished. When the time came to dedicate the walls, the people with the priests and Levites walked around the top singing and blowing trumpets and playing harps. They marched down into the temple and offered sacrifice to God for taking care of them, for bringing them back into their own city, for defending them from their enemies, and for allowing them to build again the walls around Jerusalem.



Front Matter

The Garden of Eden
The First Great Crime
The Flood
The Tower of Babel
Abraham Moves into Canaan
Sodom and Gomorrah
The Trial of Abraham's Faith
Searching for a Wife for Isaac
Isaac and Rebekah
Esau Sells his Birthright
Jacob Serves for Rachel
Jacob Returns to Canaan
Joseph is Sold into Egypt
Pharaoh's Dream
Joseph's Brethren Buy Corn
Jacob Moves into Egypt
The Early Life of Moses
Egyptians Smitten with Plagues
Egyptians Drowned in Red Sea
The Lord Provides for Israel
Plan to Build the Tabernacle
The Golden Calf
Wanderings of the Israelites
Spying Out the Land of Canaan
Punishing the Israelites
Balaam is Made to Prophesy
Border of the Promised Land
Last Days of Moses
Rahab Saves the Spies
The Destruction of Jericho
The Capture of Ai
Joshua Conquers Canaan
Gideon is Given a Sign
Gideon Overcomes Midianites
The Punishment of Abimelech
Jephthah's Daughter
The Young Samson
Samson and the Philistines
The Death of Samson
Naomi and Ruth
Ruth and Boaz
The Young Samuel
Philistines Capture the Ark
Philistines Return the Ark
Saul in Anointed King
Jonathan and the Philistines
The Disobedience of Saul
Samuel Anoints David
David and Goliath
Saul is Jealous of David
David and Jonathan
The Madness of Saul
David Spares the Life of Saul
The Last Days of King Saul
David Becomes King
The Rebellion of Absalom
The Death of Absalom
Solomon Becomes King
The Wisdom of Solomon
Solomon Builds the Temple
Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon
Revolt of the Ten Tribes
The Wickedness of Jeroboam
Elijah Begins His Ministry
Elijah Destroys the Prophets
Elisha is Made a Prophet
Death of Ahab
Sickness of Ahaziah
Last Days of Elijah
Miracles of Elisha
Naaman is Cured of Leprosy
Flight of the Syrians
Jehu is Appointed King
The Story of Joash
Last days of Elisha
Destruction of Sennacherib
Judah Led into Captivity
Destruction of Jerusalem
Daniel Interprets the Dream
The Fiery Furnace
Madness of Nebuchadnezzer
Handwriting on the Wall
Daniel in the Lion's Den
Jonah Swallowed by a Fish
Jonah Warns Nineveh
Esther Becomes Queen
The Vengeance of Haman
Esther Saves Her People
The Return from Captivity
Nehemiah Rebuilds Jerusalem