Some time later many of the people, both men and women, began to complain against the other Jews.
Some said, "We have large families, we need grain to keep us alive."
Others said, "We have had to mortgage our fields and vineyards and houses to get enough grain to keep us from starving."
Still others said, "We had to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards.
We are of the same race as the other Jews. Aren't our children just as good as theirs? But we have to make slaves of our children. Some of our daughters have already been sold as slaves. We are helpless because our fields and vineyards have been taken away from us."
When I heard their complaints, I grew angry
and decided to act. I denounced the leaders and officials of the people and told them, "You are oppressing your own relatives!" I called a public assembly to deal with the problem
and said, "As far as we have been able, we have been buying back our Jewish relatives who had to sell themselves to foreigners. Now you are forcing your own relatives to sell themselves to you, their own people!" The leaders were silent and could find nothing to say.
Then I said, "What you are doing is wrong! You ought to obey God and do what's right. Then you would not give our enemies, the Gentiles, any reason to ridicule us.
I have let the people borrow money and grain from me, and so have my companions and those who work for me. Now let's give up all our claims to repayment.
Cancel all the debts they owe you---money or grain or wine or olive oil. And give them back their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses right now!"
The leaders replied, "We'll do as you say. We'll give the property back and not try to collect the debts." I called in the priests and made the leaders swear in front of them to keep the promise they had just made.
Then I took off the sash I was wearing around my waist and shook it out. "This is how God will shake any of you who don't keep your promise," I said. "God will take away your houses and everything you own, and will leave you with nothing." Everyone who was present said, "Amen!" and praised the LORD. And the leaders kept their promise.
During all the twelve years that I was governor of the land of Judah, from the twentieth year that Artaxerxes was emperor until his thirty-second year, neither my relatives nor I ate the food I was entitled to have as governor.
Every governor who had been in office before me had been a burden to the people and had demanded forty silver coins a day for food and wine. Even their servants had oppressed the people. But I acted differently, because I honored God.
I put all my energy into rebuilding the wall and did not acquire any property. Everyone who worked for me joined in the rebuilding.
I regularly fed at my table a hundred and fifty of the Jewish people and their leaders, besides all the people who came to me from the surrounding nations.
Every day I served one beef, six of the best sheep, and many chickens, and every ten days I provided a fresh supply of wine. But I knew what heavy burdens the people had to bear, and so I did not claim the allowance that the governor is entitled to.
I pray you, O God, remember to my credit everything that I have done for this people.
Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and the rest of our enemies heard that we had finished building the wall and that there were no gaps left in it, although we still had not set up the gates in the gateways.
So Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message, suggesting that I meet with them in one of the villages in the Plain of Ono. This was a trick of theirs to try to harm me.
I sent messengers to say to them, "I am doing important work and can't go down there. I am not going to let the work stop just to go and see you."
They sent me the same message four times, and each time I sent them the same reply.
Then Sanballat sent one of his servants to me with a fifth message, this one in the form of an unsealed letter.
It read: "Geshem tells me that a rumor is going around among the neighboring peoples that you and the Jewish people intend to revolt and that this is why you are rebuilding the wall. He also says you plan to make yourself king
and that you have arranged for some prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem that you are the king of Judah. His Majesty is certain to hear about this, so I suggest that you and I meet to talk the situation over."
I sent a reply to him: "Nothing of what you are saying is true. You have made it all up yourself."
They were trying to frighten us into stopping work. I prayed, "But now, God, make me strong!"
About this time I went to visit Shemaiah, the son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was unable to leave his house. He said to me, "You and I must go and hide together in the Holy Place of the Temple and lock the doors, because they are coming to kill you. Any night now they will come to kill you."
I answered, "I'm not the kind of person that runs and hides. Do you think I would try to save my life by hiding in the Temple? I won't do it."
When I thought it over, I realized that God had not spoken to Shemaiah, but that Tobiah and Sanballat had bribed him to give me this warning.
They hired him to frighten me into sinning, so that they could ruin my reputation and humiliate me.
I prayed, "God, remember what Tobiah and Sanballat have done and punish them. Remember that woman Noadiah and all the other prophets who tried to frighten me."
After fifty-two days of work the entire wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul.
When our enemies in the surrounding nations heard this, they realized that they had lost face, since everyone knew that the work had been done with God's help.
During all this time the Jewish leaders had been in correspondence with Tobiah.
Many people in Judah were on his side because of his Jewish father-in-law, Shecaniah son of Arah. In addition, his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah.
People would talk in front of me about all the good deeds Tobiah had done and would tell him everything I said. And he kept sending me letters to try to frighten me.
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, my soul!
I will praise him as long as I live; I will sing to my God all my life.
Don't put your trust in human leaders; no human being can save you.
When they die, they return to the dust; on that day all their plans come to an end.
Happy are those who have the God of Jacob to help them and who depend on the LORD their God,
the Creator of heaven, earth, and sea, and all that is in them. He always keeps his promises;
he judges in favor of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free
and gives sight to the blind. He lifts those who have fallen; he loves his righteous people.
He protects the strangers who live in our land; he helps widows and orphans, but takes the wicked to their ruin.
The LORD is king forever. Your God, O Zion, will reign for all time. Praise the LORD!
Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices they had prepared.
They found the stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb,
so they went in; but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
They stood there puzzled about this, when suddenly two men in bright shining clothes stood by them.
Full of fear, the women bowed down to the ground, as the men said to them, "Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive?
He is not here; he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was in Galilee:
'The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.' "
Then the women remembered his words,
returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest.
The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; they and the other women with them told these things to the apostles.
But the apostles thought that what the women said was nonsense, and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; he bent down and saw the grave cloths but nothing else. Then he went back home amazed at what had happened.
On that same day two of Jesus' followers were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
and they were talking to each other about all the things that had happened.
As they talked and discussed, Jesus himself drew near and walked along with them;
they saw him, but somehow did not recognize him.
Jesus said to them, "What are you talking about to each other, as you walk along?" They stood still, with sad faces.
One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn't know the things that have been happening there these last few days?"
"What things?" he asked. "The things that happened to Jesus of Nazareth," they answered. "This man was a prophet and was considered by God and by all the people to be powerful in everything he said and did.
Our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and he was crucified.
And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free! Besides all that, this is now the third day since it happened.
Some of the women of our group surprised us; they went at dawn to the tomb,
but could not find his body. They came back saying they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive.
Some of our group went to the tomb and found it exactly as the women had said, but they did not see him."
Then Jesus said to them, "How foolish you are, how slow you are to believe everything the prophets said!
Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter his glory?"
And Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets.
As they came near the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther;
but they held him back, saying, "Stay with us; the day is almost over and it is getting dark." So he went in to stay with them.
He sat down to eat with them, took the bread, and said the blessing; then he broke the bread and gave it to them.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.
They said to each other, "Wasn't it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?"
They got up at once and went back to Jerusalem, where they found the eleven disciples gathered together with the others
and saying, "The Lord is risen indeed! He has appeared to Simon!"
The two then explained to them what had happened on the road, and how they had recognized the Lord when he broke the bread.
While the two were telling them this, suddenly the Lord himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
They were terrified, thinking that they were seeing a ghost.
But he said to them, "Why are you alarmed? Why are these doubts coming up in your minds?
Look at my hands and my feet, and see that it is I myself. Feel me, and you will know, for a ghost doesn't have flesh and bones, as you can see I have."
He said this and showed them his hands and his feet.
They still could not believe, they were so full of joy and wonder; so he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?"
They gave him a piece of cooked fish,
which he took and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, "These are the very things I told you about while I was still with you: everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the writings of the prophets, and the Psalms had to come true."
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
and said to them, "This is what is written: the Messiah must suffer and must rise from death three days later,
and in his name the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins must be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.
And I myself will send upon you what my Father has promised. But you must wait in the city until the power from above comes down upon you."
Then he led them out of the city as far as Bethany, where he raised his hands and blessed them.
As he was blessing them, he departed from them and was taken up into heaven.
They worshiped him and went back into Jerusalem, filled with great joy,
and spent all their time in the Temple giving thanks to God.