24 Sep

Scroll to the bottom for thoughts/discussion questions!

One-sentence summary: Israel celebrates the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, and Nehemiah works to cleanse the people and the city. 

The leaders of Israel dwell in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots for a tenth of them to dwell in Jerusalem and nine tenths to dwell in other cities. And the people bless the men who offer themselves willingly to dwell in Jerusalem. Also, some of Judah and Benjamin dwell in Jerusalem. The names of the families are listed. There are 822 men who do the work of the house of the Lord.

The priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel and Jeshu are listed. There is also a record of the Levites and priests who were heads of their fathers houses during the reign of Darius, King of Persia. At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites are sought out in all their places to come to Jerusalem to celebrate "with gladness, thanksgiving, singing, cymbals, and stringed instruments and harps," and the singers gather from the villages and countryside as well, because they had built themselves villages all around Jerusalem. Then, the priests and Levites purify themselves and the people, the gates, and the wall. Nehemiah brings the leaders of Judah up on the wall and appoints two large thanksgiving choirs. They go up the stairs of the city of David with the instruments he prescribed. The two thanksgiving choirs stand in the house of God along with Nehemiah and half of the rulers, and the priests carry trumpets. The singers sing loudly, and the people offer great sacrifices and rejoice, "for God had made them rejoice with great joy." And the joy of Jerusalem is heard afar off. Some are appointed over the rooms of the storehouse for the offerings, first, fruits, and tithes- to gather into them the portion prescribed by the law for the priests and the Levites. And Judah rejoices over the priests and Levites who minister. Both the singers and gatekeepers keep the charge of their God and the charge of the purification according to the command of David and Solomon. In the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, all Israel gives portions for the singers and the gatekeepers for each day. They consecrate holy things for the Levites, who consecrate them for the children of Aaron.

On that day, the book of the law of Moses is read in the hearing of the people. In it is found that no Amonite or Moabite is to ever come into the assembly of God, because they did not meet Israel with bread and water when they came up out of Egypt, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, the Lord turned the curse into a blessing. When the people hear the law, they separate the mixed multitude from Israel. Nehemiah recounts how the priest with authority over the storehouse had been allied with Tobiah, one of the officials who had been Israel's enemy, and he had prepared for him a large room where they had stored the grain offerings, frankincense, articles, tithes of grain, and new wine and oil- which were to be given to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers- and the offerings for the priests. But during all this, Nehemiah is not in Jerusalem, because in the 32nd year of King Artaxerxes of Babylon, he had returned to the king as his cupbearer. After some days, he obtains leave again and returns to Jerusalem and discovers the evil this man had done by allying with Tobiah and giving him the storehouse room in the courts of the house of the Lord. He is grieved bitterly, so he throws all Tobiah's possessions out of the room and commands that it be cleansed, and he brings back the offerings and articles. He also realizes the portion for the Levites had not been given to them, so he contends with the rulers and asks why the house of God has been forsaken. Then, all Judah brings the tithes of the grain and new wine and oil to the storehouse. Nehemiah appoints treasurers over it and asks the Lord to remember him and not wipe out the good deeds he has done for the house of the Lord and its services. He also sees people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath and bringing in sheaves and loading donkeys with wine grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens which they bring into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, and he warns them of selling on that day. Also, men of Tyre sell fish and goods to Israel and Judah in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, so he contends with the nobles of Judah and asks why they do evil and profane the Sabbath. He says their fathers did the same, and the Lord brought disaster on the city for it, and they are bringing added wrath on Israel. So at the gates of Jerusalem, as night falls before the Sabbath, Nehemiah commands the gates be shut and charges they only be open after the Sabbath. He puts his servants at the gates to keep watch. The merchants and sellers lodge outside Jerusalem once or twice, but Nehemiah warns them and tells them if they spend the night around the wall again, he will lay hands on them. He commands the Levites to cleanse themselves and tells them to guard the gates to sanctify the Sabbath day. He asks the Lord to remember him for this and to spare him according to the greatness of His mercy. He also sees Jews who had intermarried with the people, and some of their children cannot speak the language of Judah. So he contends with them and curses them. He strikes some and pulls out some of their hair and makes them swear to stop intermarrying. He tells them that Solomon sinned because of these things. He says the Lord made him great, but pagan women caused even him to sin and tells them they are sinning against the Lord. One of the grandsons of the high priest was a son-in-law of Sanballat, the official who had been Israel's enemy, so Nehemiah drives them away. He asks the Lord to remember them for defiling the priesthood and the Levites. In this way, Nehemiah cleanses Israel of everything pagan. He assigns duties to the priests and the Levites for the service of the Lord and for bringing the offerings and first fruits at the appointed times. Nehemiah asks the Lord to remember him for good.

Thoughts/discussion questions:

The Lord created us for joy! When we walk in His ways and abide in His presence, we will have "fullness of joy" and bring Him glory! God is good!

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