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Bible 2015: 12 August Daily Bible Reading

Context and Comment:

In the 20th year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, (445/444 b.C.), Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king. Learning that the remnant in Judah were in distress and that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild the city. Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild, letters explaining his support for the venture, and provision for timber from the king’s forest. Once there, Nehemiah defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies on all sides—Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines—and rebuilt the walls within 52 days, from the Sheep Gate in the North, the Hananel Tower at the North West corner, the Fish Gate in the West, the Furnaces Tower at the Temple Mount’s South West corner, the Dung Gate in the South, the East Gate and the gate beneath the Golden Gate in the East.

He then took measures to repopulate the city and purify the Jewish community, enforcing the cancellation of debt, assisting Ezra to promulgate the law of Moses, and enforcing the divorce of Jewish men from their non-Jewish wives.

Gustave Doré, Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem’s Walls, 1866.

After 12 years as governor, during which he ruled with justice and righteousness, he returned to the king in Susa. After some time in Susa he returned to Jerusalem, only to find that the people had fallen back into their evil ways. Non-Jews were permitted to conduct business inside Jerusalem on the Sabbath and to keep rooms in the Temple. Greatly angered, he purified the Temple and the priests and Levites and enforced the observance of the law of Moses.

Nehemiah 3:15-5:13
15 Shallun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of the district of Mizpah repaired the spring gate. He built it, and covered it, and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and the wall of the pool of Shelah by the king’s garden, even to the stairs that go down from David’s city. 16 After him, Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of half the district of Beth Zur, made repairs to the place opposite the tombs of David, and to the pool that was made, and to the house of the mighty men. 17 After him, the Levites, Rehum the son of Bani made repairs. Next to him, Hashabiah, the ruler of half the district of Keilah, made repairs for his district. 18 After him, their brothers, Bavvai the son of Henadad, the ruler of half the district of Keilah made repairs. 19 Next to him, Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, repaired another portion, across from the ascent to the armory at the turning of the wall. 20 After him, Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired another portion, from the turning of the wall to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him, Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz repaired another portion, from the door of the house of Eliashib even to the end of the house of Eliashib. 22 After him, the priests, the men of the Plain made repairs. 23 After them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs across from their house. After them, Azariah the son of Maaseiah the son of Ananiah made repairs beside his own house. 24 After him, Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another portion, from the house of Azariah to the turning of the wall, and to the corner. 25 Palal the son of Uzai made repairs opposite the turning of the wall, and the tower that stands out from the upper house of the king, which is by the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh made repairs. 26 (Now the Nethinim lived in Ophel, to the place over against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that stands out.) 27 After him the Tekoites repaired another portion, over against the great tower that stands out, and to the wall of Ophel. 28 Above the horse gate, the priests made repairs, everyone across from his own house. 29 After them, Zadok the son of Immer made repairs across from his own house. After him, Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the east gate made repairs. 30 After him, Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another portion. After him, Meshullam the son of Berechiah made repairs across from his room. 31 After him, Malchijah one of the goldsmiths to the house of the Nethinim, and of the merchants, made repairs over against the gate of Hammiphkad, and to the ascent of the corner. 32 Between the ascent of the corner and the sheep gate, the goldsmiths and the merchants made repairs.
4 But when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. 2 He spoke before his brothers and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, since they are burned?” 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, “What they are building, if a fox climbed up it, he would break down their stone wall.”
4 “Hear, our God; for we are despised; and turn back their reproach on their own head, give them up for a plunder in a land of captivity; 5 don’t cover their iniquity, and don’t let their sin be blotted out from before you; for they have insulted the builders.”
6 So we built the wall; and all the wall was joined together to half its height: for the people had a mind to work. 7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabians, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem went forward, and that the breaches began to be filled, then they were very angry; 8 and they conspired all of them together to come and fight against Jerusalem, and to cause confusion therein. 9 But we made our prayer to our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. 10 Judah said, “The strength of the bearers of burdens is fading, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.” 11 Our adversaries said, “They shall not know, neither see, until we come in among them, and kill them, and cause the work to cease.”
12 When the Jews who lived by them came, they said to us ten times from all places, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” 13 Therefore set I in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in the open places, I set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 I looked, and rose up, and said to the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them! Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and God had brought their counsel to nothing, all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. 16 From that time forth, half of my servants worked in the work, and half of them held the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the coats of mail; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. 17 They all built the wall and those who bore burdens loaded themselves; everyone with one of his hands worked in the work, and with the other held his weapon; 18 and the builders, everyone wore his sword at his side, and so built. He who sounded the trumpet was by me. 19 I said to the nobles, and to the rulers and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and large, and we are separated on the wall, one far from another. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally there to us. Our God will fight for us.”
21 So we worked in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning until the stars appeared. 22 Likewise at the same time said I to the people, “Let everyone with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and may labor in the day.” 23 So neither I, nor my brothers, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes. Everyone took his weapon to the water.
5 Then there arose a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brothers the Jews. 2 For there were that said, “We, our sons and our daughters, are many. Let us get grain, that we may eat and live.” 3 Some also there were that said, “We are mortgaging our fields, and our vineyards, and our houses. Let us get grain, because of the famine.” 4 There were also some who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute using our fields and our vineyards as collateral. 5 Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children as their children. Behold, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters have been brought into bondage. Neither is it in our power to help it; for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”
6 I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. 7 Then I consulted with myself, and contended with the nobles and the rulers, and said to them, “You exact usury, everyone of his brother.” I held a great assembly against them. 8 I said to them, “We, after our ability, have redeemed our brothers the Jews that were sold to the nations; and would you even sell your brothers, and should they be sold to us?” Then they held their peace, and found never a word. 9 Also I said, “The thing that you do is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the nations our enemies? 10 I likewise, my brothers and my servants, lend them money and grain. Please let us stop this usury. 11 Please restore to them, even today, their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, that you are charging them.”
12 Then they said, “We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do, even as you say.”
Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they would do according to this promise. 13 Also I shook out my lap, and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house, and from his labor, that doesn’t perform this promise; even thus be he shaken out, and emptied.”
All the assembly said, “Amen,” and praised Yahweh. The people did according to this promise.

1 Corinthians 7:25-40
25 Now concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who has obtained mercy from the Lord to be trustworthy. 26 I think that it is good therefore, because of the distress that is on us, that it is good for a man to be as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Don’t seek to be freed. Are you free from a wife? Don’t seek a wife. 28 But if you marry, you have not sinned. If a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have oppression in the flesh, and I want to spare you. 29 But I say this, brothers: the time is short, that from now on, both those who have wives may be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they didn’t weep; and those who rejoice, as though they didn’t rejoice; and those who buy, as though they didn’t possess; 31 and those who use the world, as not using it to the fullest. For the mode of this world passes away. 32 But I desire to have you to be free from cares. He who is unmarried is concerned for the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but he who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife. 34 There is also a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world—how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own profit; not that I may ensnare you, but for that which is appropriate, and that you may attend to the Lord without distraction. 36 But if any man thinks that he is behaving inappropriately toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of her age, and if need so requires, let him do what he desires. He doesn’t sin. Let them marry. 37 But he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own heart, to keep his own virgin, does well. 38 So then both he who gives his own virgin in marriage does well, and he who doesn’t give her in marriage does better. 39 A wife is bound by law for as long as her husband lives; but if the husband is dead, she is free to be married to whomever she desires, only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she stays as she is, in my judgment, and I think that I also have God’s Spirit.

Psalm 32:1-11
By David. A contemplative psalm.
32 Blessed is he whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh doesn’t impute iniquity,
in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 When I kept silence, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me.
My strength was sapped in the heat of summer.
Selah.
5 I acknowledged my sin to you.
I didn’t hide my iniquity.
I said, I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Selah.
6 For this, let everyone who is godly pray to you in a time when you may be found.
Surely when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach to him.
7 You are my hiding place.
You will preserve me from trouble.
You will surround me with songs of deliverance.
Selah.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go.
I will counsel you with my eye on you.
9 Don’t be like the horse, or like the mule, which have no understanding,
who are controlled by bit and bridle, or else they will not come near to you.
10 Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but loving kindness shall surround him who trusts in Yahweh.
11 Be glad in Yahweh, and rejoice, you righteous!
Shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart!

Proverbs 21:5-7
5 The plans of the diligent surely lead to profit;
and everyone who is hasty surely rushes to poverty.
6 Getting treasures by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapor for those who seek death.
7 The violence of the wicked will drive them away,
because they refuse to do what is right.

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