Ah… here we go.
Nehemiah notes that the pure Israelites have separated themselves from the foreigners, because we just couldn’t get through one book without something awful, could we?
So the Israelites put on sackcloth and start praying and the summary is pretty much the same thing it usually is:
God is awesome. He chose Abraham to bear his chosen people and give them the land of Canaan in the most convoluted way imaginable, which involved slavery, a massacre of Jewish male children, and a few genocides along the way. But we screwed it all up by being assholes, but you were merciful and kept sending us prophets to correct us, but we killed them. And then you sent us into Babylon, but now we’re back even though we’re still slaves of Persia and we have to send them our food and taxes.
Everyone agrees to try and keep the law of Moses and all the leaders sign a pledge to do so.
Here are the leaders who signed the pledge.
And the people take a pledge to not marry any filthy devil foreigners or buy their wares on a Saturday and they will stop working the land one year out of every seven and cancel all the debts.
The priests work out a rotation as to which family has to bring the wood to the altar in the Temple, and everyone agrees to chip in and donate money and crops to keep the priests fed.
It was a good gig to be a priest.
A bunch of people settled in Jerusalem and here are their names.
Here is a list of the priests.
And we had a big party to celebrate the dedication of the wall.
Well, I guess party is the wrong word because someone breaks out the book of Deuteronomy and reads it out loud to the people. And the people read the part about how Ammonites and Moabites were to be excluded from the Temple, so they engage in some good old fashioned racism and shun all the foreigners among them.
Prior to this separation, one of the priests had set aside a room in the Temple that was used as a storeroom for Tobias. Nehemiah had returned to Susa, but when he came back, Nehemiah cleaned out the room and threw Tobias’ belongings into the street.
And Nehemiah discovers that the priests and musicians had returned to working the fields because the offerings and tithes had stopped, so he yells at the officials and gets the tithes and offerings back up and running so the priests can work in the Temple.
Nehemiah also notices that people were working and selling stuff on the Sabbath, so he puts a stop to that practice and shuts the gates of Jerusalem at sundown Friday and doesn’t have them open again until sundown Saturday. He threatens to arrest the traders if they camp outside the city.
And yes, Nehemiah notices that some of the Jews have married foreigners, so he does the only sensible thing and yells at them, pulls out their hair, and beats them. Because of course the one guy I thought was cool turns out to be a racist too.
So Nehemiah kicks out the son of the high priest for marrying Sanballat’s daughter, and purifies the priests and Levites of everything foreign and icky, because of course he does…
Well, my takeaway on this book is that people are always going to disappoint you if you start to think too highly of them. Nehemiah seemed like a pretty good guy, but he had a pretty big character flaw.