I’ve got to confess, I’m not used to reading about a genuinely good guy in this bible, but I think Nehemiah might actually fit the bill.
So some the poor of the city come to Nehemiah and complain:
“We have large families and we need food! We’re mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to buy food during this famine.”
And others said, “We’ve borrowed money to pay our taxes on our land. We’ve asked our neighbors for it, but they’ve made us sell our sons and daughters to them in slavery, and we are powerless!”
Nehemiah says, “Well, it’s your own fault for having too many children and not managing your finances well enough. God helps those who help themselves. Just pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and I’m sure that upper class tax cut will help you out eventually.”
No, no, Nehemiah gets pissed when he hears this, calls up the nobles, the government officials, the priests, and the wealthy and says, “You’re charging them interest!?! We’re restoring our homeland and buying ourselves back from foreigners and you’re making people sell themselves to you for money?!”
Everyone gets real quiet and awkward.
“You’re sinning against your brothers and against God. You’re acting worse than the Gentiles, guys. I mean, I’m lending people money, but I’m not charging them interest or taking their kids or land. Knock that crap off and give them back their stuff and stop charging them interest!”
So everyone agrees and takes an oath to follow Nehemiah’s command. And Nehemiah pronounces a curse upon anyone who fails to do right by the poor. And everyone fulfills their oath and stops acting like a greedy jackass.
Can… can you be our president, Nehemiah? Or maybe come and speak to our churches?
Nehemiah is appointed governor of Judea and acts with humility, easing the burden of taxation on the people, and dedicating himself to rebuilding the city wall. His household and retainers pitched in on the labor, and he never acquired any property for himself.
He asks God to remember him with favor for his good actions towards his neighbors.
Seriously, man… come back, run for office here, please?
Sanballat and Tobiah are back up to their schemes and try to lure Nehemiah to a conference where they plan to kill him, but Nehemiah refuses their summons, so they accuse him of plotting sedition against the king, but he tells them they’re imagining things, and he continues to seek God’s help against them.
One of the Jews comes and tells him that men are coming to kill him and he should come and hide in the Temple and lock the Temple doors to be safe.
Nehemiah says, “I don’t run. And I’m not going to sin and go into the Temple out of cowardice.”
He realizes that the guy is a paid stooge of Sanballat and Tobias and was trying to lure him into a trap that would discredit him in front of his fellow Jews.
So Nehemiah finishes the wall, and the enemies of the Jews are afraid, because they attributed the success of the building project to God.
Nehemiah also reveals that there were many compromised members of Judean nobility that were in the pocket of Tobias and they served as his spies.
With the work done, Nehemiah appoints his brother as the mayor of Jerusalem with Hananiah, the commander of the citadel because he was a man of integrity. Nehemiah issues command that the gates of Jerusalem were not to be opened until the sun was hot, and that they should appoint a guard from among the residents of Jerusalem to serve as gatekeepers.
Then comes a list of families and their lineages. Some of the priests couldn’t confirm their Levitical heritage with records and were excluded temporarily from eating the sanctified foods, but could eat form the allotment donated to the priests.
Ezra stands up and reads the Law as a sort of renewal of the covenant between God and the people. Some of the people are upset because they realize how badly their ancestors screwed up, but Nehemiah, Ezra, and the priests tell them not to cry, but that this is a celebration.
So for seven days, Ezra gets up and reads the law for three house before the assembly, then it appears that everyone broke up and ate and drank freely in celebration.