Nehemiah 4:1-23

The Jews' enemies try to stop the work

1 Sanballat heard that we were building the wall. He was very angry and upset. He laughed at the Jews. 2 His officers and Samaria's army were with him. He said to them, ‘Those Jews have great ideas, but they are weak. How will they ever repair the wall? Will they give sacrifices to their God? Will that help them to repair the wall in one day? They will never build anything from this heap of stones that fire has destroyed!’

3 Tobiah the Ammonite was with him. Tobiah said, ‘The wall that the Jews are trying to build is very weak. Even if a little fox climbs on to it, the stones would all fall down again!’

4 So I prayed, ‘Hear us, our God. Our enemies think that we are fools. Make them seem like fools themselves! Let their enemies take them away as slaves. 5 Do not forgive their sins. Do not say that they are not guilty. They have insulted us when we are trying to build.’

6 The people worked hard because they wanted to build the wall. As a result, the wall all round the city soon became half as high as the old wall.

7 Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arab people, the Ammonites and the people who came from Ashdod all heard that the work was continuing. They could see that we were repairing the holes in the wall. So they were very angry. 8 They met together to decide what they should do. They decided to attack Jerusalem so that there would be trouble. 9 So we continued to pray to our God. We also put guards on the walls in the day and the night, to keep the city safe.

10 Then the people in Judah complained, ‘Our workers are becoming weak. There are so many stones and rubbish! We cannot finish the work on the wall!’

11 At the same time, our enemies were boasting, ‘Before the Jews even see us, we will attack them. We will kill them before they know what is happening. That will be the end of their work on the wall!’

12 The Jews who lived near our enemies warned us many times. They told us that our enemies would attack us wherever we went.

13 So I put some men behind the lowest part of the wall where there were holes. Each of the families had guards with swords, spears, bows and arrows. 14 I went round the city and I looked at everything. I said to the leaders, the officers and the people, ‘Do not be afraid of our enemies. Remember that our Lord God is great and powerful. Fight on behalf of your brothers, your sons, your daughters and your wives. Fight to keep your homes safe.’

15 Our enemies realized that we knew what they had decided to do. God had stopped them from doing what they wanted. So each of us went back to our work on the wall.

16 After that day, half of my men continued to do the work on the wall. The other half carried spears, shields, and bows. They also wore armour. The officers stood behind the people while they built the wall. 17 The men who were carrying materials held them with one hand. They held a weapon in their other hand. 18 All of the builders had swords tied on their belts while they were building. There was a man who would make a sound with his trumpet if there was danger. He stayed near me.

19 I said to the leaders, the officers and all the people, ‘It is hard work and the wall is very long. So we are not working near to each other. 20 When you hear the sound of the trumpet, come to join us here. Our God will fight on our behalf.’

21 We continued to work on the wall every day, from dawn until it became dark. Half of the men held spears to be our guards. 22 I said to the people, ‘Everybody must stay in Jerusalem each night, together with those who are helping them. Then they can be our guards to keep us safe at night. During each day they can do the work.’

23 Neither I nor any of my friends took our clothes off at night time. The workers and the guards who were with me kept their clothes on all the time. Everyone carried his own weapon whatever he was doing.