THE NOBLEMAN WHO BUILT THE WALL OF JERUSALEM
Nehemiah i: 1, to vii: 73.
HILE the good scribe Ezra was at work finding the books of
the Bible, and copying them, and teaching them, another
great man was helping God's people in another way. This
man was Nehemiah. He was a nobleman of high rank at the
court of the great King Artaxerxes. Artaxerxes reigned
after Ahasuerus, of whom we read in the story of the
beautiful Queen Esther (Story 106).
Nehemiah was "the cup-bearer" to the king of Persia at
Shushan. It was his office to take charge of all the
wine that was used at the king's table, to pour it out
and hand the cup to the king. This was an important
office, for he saw the king every day at his meals, and
could speak with him, as very few of even the highest
princes could speak. Then, too, the life of the king
was in his hands, for if he were an enemy he could have
allowed poison to be put into the wine to kill the
king. So the cup-bearer was always a man whom the king
could trust as his friend.
Nehemiah was a Jew, and, like all the Jews, felt a
great love for Jerusalem. At one time a Jew named
Hanani, and certain of his friends who had come from
Jerusalem, visited Nehemiah. Nehemiah asked them, "How
are the Jews in Jerusalem doing? How does the city
And they answered, "The people who are living in the
land of Judea are very poor, and are looked down upon
by all around them. The wall of Jerusalem is broken
down, and its gates have been burned with fire."
When Nehemiah heard this he was filled with sorrow for
his city and his people. After the Jews left him he sat
down for days, and would eat nothing. He fasted, and
wept, and prayed. He
 said, "O Lord God of heaven, the great God, who keeps
his promises to those who love him and do his will;
hear, O Lord, my prayer for the people of Israel, thy
servants. We have done very wickedly, O Lord, and
because of our sins thou hast scattered us among the
nations. Now, O Lord, give me grace this day in the
sight of this man, the king of Persia, and may the king
help me to do good and to help my people in the land of
A few days after this Nehemiah was standing beside the
king's table, while the king and queen were seated at
their meal. As he poured out the wine the king saw that
his face was sad, which was not usual, for Nehemiah was
of cheerful spirit, and generally showed a happy face.
The king said to him, "Nehemiah, why do you look so
sad? You do not seem to be sick. I am sure that there
is something that gives you trouble. What is it? Tell
Then Nehemiah was afraid that the king might be
displeased with him, but he said, "Let the king live
for ever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city
where my fathers are buried lies waste, with its walls
broken down, and its gates burned with fire?"
The king said, "Do you wish to ask of me any favor?
Tell me what I can do to help you."
Then Nehemiah lifted up a silent prayer to God, and
said, "May it please the king, I would be glad if you
would send me to Jerusalem, in the land of Judah, with
an order to build the walls."
The king said, "How long will the journey be? And when
will you come back?"
Nehemiah fixed upon a time, and told the king how long
it would be, and he asked also that he might have
letters to the men who ruled the different provinces
through which he would pass, for them to give him a
safe journey; and also a letter to the keeper of the
king's forest, to give him wood for the beams of a
house which he wished to build, and for repairing the
Temple, and for building the wall. The king was kind to
Nehemiah, and he gave him all that he asked.
NEHEMIAH THE CUP-BEARER BEFORE THE KING AND QUEEN
Nehemiah, with a company of horsemen and many friends,
made the long journey of almost a thousand miles to
Jerusalem. All the people were glad to have a visit
from a man of such high rank, and the whole city
rejoiced at his coming. But Nehemiah was distressed as
he saw how poor and mean and helpless the city lay.
One night, without telling any of the men in the city
 purpose, he rose up with a few of his friends, and by
the light of the moon rode on his horse around the
city. There he saw in how many places the walls were
mere heaps of ruins, and gates were broken down and
burned. He found great heaps of ashes, and piles of
stone, so that in some places his horse could not walk
over them. The next day he called together the rulers
of the city and the chief priests, and he said to them,
"You see how poor and helpless this city lies, without
walls, or gates, and open to all its enemies. Come, let
us build the wall of Jerusalem, so that no longer other
people may look upon us with contempt." Then he told
them how God had heard his prayer, and had made the
king friendly, and had sent gifts to help them. Then
the people and the rulers said, "Let us rise up
 and build the wall!" So at once they began the work.
Each family in Jerusalem agreed to build a part of the
wall. The high-priest said that he would build one of
the gates, and the wall beside it to a certain tower.
Some of the rich men built a long space, and others did
very little, and some would do nothing. One man built
just as much of the wall as would stand in front of his
house, and no more, and another man only as much as
fronted upon his own room. One man and his daughters
hired workers to build; the goldsmiths built some, and
so did the apothecaries, the men who sold medicines;
and the merchants built a part. Almost all the men of
the city, and some of the women, took part in the
building, for the people had a mind to work.
Soon the news went abroad through Judea and the lands
around, that the walls of Jerusalem were rising from
their ruins. There were many who were far from pleased
as they heard this, for they hated the Jews and their
God, and they did not wish to see Jerusalem strong, as
it had been of old. The leader of these enemies was a
man named Sanballat, who came from Samaria, where all
the people were jealous of the Jews.
"What are these feeble Jews doing?" said Sanballat. "Do
they intend to make their city strong? Will they pile
up stones out of the rubbish of the burned city?"
And his servant Tobiah was with him, saying, "Why, if a
fox should go up, he could break down their little
The Arabians from the desert, and the Philistines from
Ashdod on the plain, and the Ammonites from the east of
Jordan, saw that if the wall should be built they could
no more rob and plunder the city. They tried to form an
army to come against the city and stop building. But
Nehemiah prayed to God for help, and he chose watchmen
who should go around the wall, and look out for the
coming of the enemies. Half of Nehemiah's men worked on
the wall, and the other half held the bows, and spears,
and armor of the workers. And in some places a man
would hold a spear in one hand while he spread mortar
with the other. At other places men worked with their
swords hanging at one side, ready for the fight any
Nehemiah rode on his horse around the wall, and his
servant walked beside him with a trumpet. He said, "The
work is large, and you are apart from each other.
Whenever you hear the sound
 of the trumpet, leave your work, take your arms, and go
to the place where it sounds; and there the Lord will
fight for us."
But their enemies were not strong enough to fight the
Jews; so Sanballat, and Tobiah, and another of their
leaders named Geshem, sent a letter to Nehemiah,
saying, "Come and meet us in one of the villages on the
plain near the Great Sea, and let us talk over this
Now Nehemiah knew that to go to this place and then
come back again to Jerusalem would take more than a
week; and he sent answer thus, "I am doing a great
work, and I cannot come down; why should the work stop,
while I leave it, to come down and talk with you?"
Over and over again they sent for Nehemiah, but he
refused to come. Finally, Sanballat sent a letter, with
"It is told among all the people, and Geshem says it is
a fact, that you are building this city to rebel
against the king of Persia, and to set up a kingdom of
your own. Come now, and let us talk with you, or
trouble may come to you."
Nehemiah wrote back, "You know very well, that there is
no truth in all these stories. You have made them up
Some of the Jews in the city were friendly to these
enemies outside, and these men tried to frighten
Nehemiah. One of them made believe that he was a
prophet, and said to Nehemiah, "Go into the Temple and
hide, for in the night your enemies will come to kill
"Should such a man as I am run away and hide himself?"
said Nehemiah. "No; I will not go."
So earnestly did the men of Judah work that in
fifty-two days after the work was begun it was
finished, and the gates were hung, and guards were
placed within, so that no enemies might enter. Thus
Jerusalem began to rise from its weakness and
helplessness, and once more to be a strong city.