Nehemiah opens with weeping. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king of Persia–a position of great responsibility and trust. As cupbearer, Nehemiah was responsible for making sure the king’s food and drink were not poisoned. He would have been one of the few people in the court with regular access to the king. God placed Nehemiah in this position for a reason. When Nehemiah heard that Jerusalem lay in ruins, vulnerable to attack because of the city’s broken walls, Nehemiah visibly grieved. When the king asked why Nehemiah was so sad, God provided an opportunity for Nehemiah to explain his desire to help rebuild his ancestral home. And though God clearly ordained the moment, Nehemiah’s relationship with the king provided a foundation of trust that predisposed the king to grant Nehemiah’s request to rebuild the wall. Nehemiah made the dangerous journey to Jerusalem with the king’s full support, inspected the wall, and began enlisting the people to build. Nehemiah made a list of the different men who volunteered to oversee the rebuilding of a particular section of the wall, and right there in the middle of chapter three is a fascinating line:
Shallum, son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters (Nehemiah 3:12).
Shallum, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, rebuilt a section of the wall with the help of his daughters. His daughters. Really?
That brief mention of these women otherwise unnamed in Scripture intrigues me. How exactly did Shallum’s daughters help rebuild the wall? As some have suggested, were these women wealthy heiresses or widows who helped their father finance his part of the rebuilding efforts? Did they provide food and drink for the workers, or did they actually clear rubble, spread mortar, and carry stones with their own hands? All we know is that Shallum’s daughters made a significant enough contribution to the rebuilding effort that Nehemiah listed them as participants in the vital and dangerous task–the only women to be so noted.
Rebuilding the wall was not easy, but it was essential to Jerusalem’s security. In the ancient world walls were a city’s first line of defense. Walls helped city leaders control access to the city and protected the city from attack. Without walls cities were vulnerable to attacks from bandits, wild animals, and enemy armies. With a wall and a good source of water, cities could withstand a siege and repulse enemy forces. Living in a unwalled city made its residents vulnerable and insecure. But rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall was not an easy proposition. Rubble had to be cleared. Supplies had to be gathered. The gates the Babylonians had burned with fire had to be rebuilt. And all this had to be done by a population that was a fraction of the size Jerusalem had once boasted–returning exiles now struggling to survive in the land they had once called home. And Jerusalem’s rebuilding efforts did not go unopposed. Rebuilding Jerusalem caused a realignment in the political power structures in the region, and some of the neighboring provincial governors were displeased. They attempted to sabotage the rebuilding efforts, causing Nehemiah to order the workers to build with a sword in one hand and carry their materials with the other.
And yet in the midst of all this, Shallum’s daughters found a way to participate in rebuilding the wall and ensuring the security of their home. What does that look like for us? What walls are we called to rebuild?
Ezekiel 22:30 gives us a hint. “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” Ezekiel describes how God searched for someone who would intercede on behalf of Israel despite the nations sin, but he found no one. And because there was no intercessor, the land faced judgment.
Are we willing to be intercessors who build up the wall and stand in the gap on behalf of our homes, families, cities, and nation? Paul charges us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18).
Worried about the direction of our country in this election season? Pray.
Concerned about our changing moral standards? Pray.
Hunger for your children to walk in purity, holiness, and truth? Pray.
Want your church to impact your community? Pray.
Need to see heaven’s power transform your circumstances? Pray.
Pray. And with every word uttered, every tear wept, every promise claimed, we build our wall one brick at a time. Pray–at all times–with all kinds of requests and petitions–pray, and see God’s transforming power at work. Pray, and join Shallum’s daughters in rebuilding the wall.
[Tweet “Shallum’s daughters rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. What wall will you rebuild? @leigh_powers”]
Q: So today, let’s join together in building a wall of prayer around those we love. Share your prayer requests in the comments, and type out a brief prayer for someone else. We don’t have to have details or names–God has those covered. But let’s join in praying for one another today.
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