T HERE was once a beautiful city named Jerusalem, with gardens and fountains, and a high wall all about it. But enemies entered in, and destroyed the houses and gardens, broke the wall, and burned the gate—and only a few of the people were left within the city.
Now, there was a man of great skill in building—called Nehemiah—and word came to him that the beautiful city of Jerusalem lay waste and desolate. It grieved Nehemiah, for he remembered how he had been to Jerusalem when he was only a little boy; and he hastened to the king to ask if he might go a journey and rebuild the city.
When he came to the king he was sore afraid, for the king sat upon his throne and the queen beside him; but Nehemiah bowed low, and said:
"Let the king live forever. The city, the place of my fathers, lieth waste, and the gates are consumed with fire."
Then the king said to Nehemiah: "For what dost thou make request?"
And Nehemiah answered: "If it please the king, I would go to Judah, to the city of my fathers, to build it." And it pleased the king to send Nehemiah. So he set out.
Now the king gave him horsemen and captains of the army to protect him. He gave him a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the forest, that he might hew timber for the gates of the palace, the walls of the city, and the house where he should live. And Nehemiah came up to Jerusalem.
By night Nehemiah left his men and went out to see the gate of the city and the dragon well; and he found the beautiful walls all burned and broken down. He went to the gate of the fountain, and the king's pool, and farther on by the banks of a little brook where he could see the wall again; then back through the valley, and in the gate once more, very sad and sorrowful at all the desolation. But in the morning he called the people together, and he showed them the logs he had hewn, and he said that he had come to help them rebuild the city.
So, first, they built a new sheep gate and set up heavy doors for it, that the wolves might not come down from the mountains and enter in. Next they set up the fish gate, and laid the beams, and set up the doors and the locks and the bars. They built new gates to the city and fortified the walls—the goldsmiths hammering out beautiful ornaments for the gates. They built new fountains and a wall about the pool of Siloah in the king's garden.
But as they began working on the houses the enemy heard the sound of hammer and anvil, and they were angry that Jerusalem was being builded, and they would have entered the city. Then Nehemiah gave the people their swords, and their spears, and their bows; and he rose up and said to the people:
"Be not afraid. Remember the Lord which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses."
So it came to pass that, of those within the city, half of them wrought, while the other half held the spears and bows. They which builded the walls, and they which carried stone and mortar, wrought with one hand, and carried a spear in the other. Every builder had a sword girded to his side. So they builded, and a trumpeter stood by Nehemiah to sound the alarm. So they worked, holding spears, from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.
When the enemy heard what Nehemiah had done, they returned every man to his work. And the walls were built, the gates were hung, and Jerusalem was beautiful once more.