Now I returned to the king in Susa when all was finished.
A few years later, I sought permission to return to Jerusalem to see how all carried on. When I got there, I was appalled! Always Tobiah’s creature, the high priest Eliashib allowed that evil wretch to live inside the Temple! Moreover, the Levites were not receiving their tithes and no one kept the Sabbath! The gates were always open from dawn til dusk and traders plied a brisk trade as the errant children of Abraham bought and sold!
I quickly worked to set all to right, evicted Tobiah, restored the Temple furnishings, appointed new treasurers over the storehouses, and commanded that all commerce and work on the Sabbath cease thenceforth.
Then I went among the people and saw mongrel half-breed “Jews” who couldn’t even speak Hebrew. Horror washed over me. I beat the godless urchins! Then I, again, forbade the practice of miscegenation. I ordered Ezra to make sure that all heathen whores and their unholy brats were promptly divorced, disowned, and cast out.
Remember me, oh God, for all the good I have wrought in your name!
And so ends the book of Nehemiah, the account of a minor Persian functionary whose petty, self-aggrandizing memoir somehow has been elevated to the word of a supernatural being that supposedly created the universe. Next time, Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia.
The wall dedication ceremony featured a massive outdoor concert–Jerusapalooza if you will.
The leaders and priests were chosen for Jerusalem and its surrounding villages.
All the people vowed to keep the covenant–to keep the Sabbath holy, to stop intermarriage with non-believing peoples, and to pay the titles and offer the proper sacrifices.
Later that month, we celebrated the Day of Atonement, and the priests gave a long sermon on our proud heritage, from Abraham to Moses, and Joshua to David. Yet they did not forget to mention all our many sins that caused God to turn Its face away from Its people. The priests enjoined all the people to renew the covenant with God, as had their fathers before them.
At the wall dedication ceremony, the scribe Ezra read the laws of Moses before the assembled multitude. The people were appalled to hear the laws because they became aware of what horrible sinners they were. They lamented loudly, so I assured them that this was a holy feast day on which they should rejoice! And I sent the priests out among them to console and soothe them.
Later we celebrated the Feast of Booths for the first time since Joshua’s day, and all swore to follow God’s laws from then on.
It also behooved me to conduct a census of the returned exiles to ascertain lineages and to make sure no unclean or mongrel upstarts ate of the sacrificial repasts. Many were found to be unworthy. I also noted the donations many had made to the Temple and city wall funds. I myself had donated 15 pounds of gold, 625 pounds of silver, as well as basins and vestments for the Temple priests. The nobles donated over 300 pounds of gold and over a ton of silver, while the commoners donated over 300 pounds of gold and over a ton of silver and many Temple vestments.
When the walls were completed and the gates hung, I appointed all of the gate keepers, singers, and other factotums. I appointed my brother to be in charge of the gate and defense when I would leave to return to serve my king in Susa. I proclaimed that the gates should never be open before morning and always shut before dusk and that they were never ever to be opened on the Sabbath.
When the wall was finished, but the gates not yet hung, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshun renewed their conspiring against me. They tried many times to lure me into the fields to murder me even. Eventually Sanballat sent me an open letter accusing me of setting myself up as king in Judah! Of rebelling against my most noble sovereign, Artaxerxes!
Of course I vehemently denied such baseless accusations and resisted the machinations of Sanballat’s secret ally, the priest Shemaiah, who tried to convince me to hide in the Temple like a coward.
Despite Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s puerile attempts to discredit me, despite the deviousness of their many spies, work on the wall was completed. Hear me God, and remember the stumbling blocks these sinners threw down to hinder your great work!
Soon after work on the wall commenced, many poor families came to me as their new governor, lamenting that they had been forced to mortgage their fields and homes during a famine at interest, and now their creditors were demanding that they sell their children into slavery to pay on the debts.
When I learned these creditors were Jewish, I waxed wroth. Does not the holy writ say no interest shall be laid upon loans between sons of Israel? So I called together all the nobles and officials and sorely I chided them for their ungodly usury until they hid their faces in shame. They vowed to return all that had been mortgage forthwith.
My generosity as governor was so great that during the 12 years I ruled, not once did I demand the food allowance with which other governors had taxed the people. Moreover, I held a feast each day, prepared at mine own expense, to which I invited no less than 150 men.
Sanballat was so angry and jealous of my great endeavor that he went back to Samaria and roused all his countrymen to attack us!
This disheartened everyone in Judah immensely. Workmen blanched at undertaking the repairs. But I reassured them that God smiled upon us and set guards to protect the workers.
News of our willingness to defend ourselves discouraged our would-be attackers.