In November of 2017, Jerusalem Rising launched. I had taught about Nehemiah’s rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall many times, but I had missed the women in the story. Now, I had a chance to correct that oversight.
The daughters of Shallum helped Nehemiah rebuild the stone wall around the city. What? Women wall builders in Bible Times? Yes, you can find them listed in Nehemiah 3:12. We don’t know the daughters’ names, or how many there were, so I call my faithful duo Adah and Judith.
There is also a nasty woman in the story of Nehemiah. A prophetess, albeit a false prophetess, works against Nehemiah and ultimately God, in her plans to thwart the rebuilding. Her name is Noadiah, and you can find her in Nehemiah 6:14.
Even though my launch was almost four years ago, I am always learning something new about this story and God’s Word.
When Adah bat Shallum finds the governor of Judah weeping over the crumbling wall of Jerusalem, she learns the reason for Nehemiah’s unexpected visit—God has called him to rebuild the wall around the City of David.
Nehemiah challenges the men of Jerusalem to labor on the wall and in return, the names of their fathers will be written in the annals for future generations to cherish. But Adah has one sister and no brothers. Should her father who rules a half-district of Jerusalem be forgotten forever?
Adah bravely vows to rebuild her city’s wall, though she soon discovers that Jerusalem not only has enemies outside of the city, but also within. Can Adah, her sister, and the men they love, honor God’s call? Or will their mission be crushed by the same rocks they hope to raise.
Holding the oil lamp before her, Adah strolled toward the mournful sounds. If this were a trap, the deceiver would receive a warmed-oil bath. She passed through the remnants of the gate, by a length of crumbling wall, and inched closer to a figure crouched on the ground. Muttered words grew louder. Was this person in prayer or pain? She kept a safe distance in case the stranger lunged.
She licked her lips and concentrated on her single word greeting. “Shalom.”
The figure flinched. The weeping halted. No sudden movements came, only a careful rise and a slow turn in her direction.
Her trembling hand held the lamp aloft and sent light gray shadows dancing across a man’s face.
“Daughter of Shallum?”
It couldn’t be.
What was the governor of Judah doing weeping outside the city in the middle of the night? Did he find some fault with the officials, or with her father and his duties? And if he had fallen, where were the soldiers that had accompanied him on his trip? Sweat pooled above her lip as she balanced the lamp. Should she go and find Nehemiah’s guard? But where would she look? Her mother waited for her return.
Nehemiah brushed off his robes and swiped at the skin beneath his eyes. No salutation came. Chirping crickets continued their unending song.
“Are you hurt?” She blurted as she scanned his garment for the stain of blood.
He shook his head, but his chest shuddered.
She opened and closed a fist, not knowing what to do or say next. Her wandering alone at night, needed an explanation. A man could scout the streets of Jerusalem in the dark…but not an unescorted girl. And not the daughter of a ruler. She swallowed, but the lump in her throat remained. A small cough cleared her windpipe. “I did not mean to disturb you, Governor. My mother could not sleep, so I brought her outside for some night air. She heard someone in distress, so I came to see if I could help.”
He glanced off into the distance. “Your mother is here?”
“I left her beyond the gate.” Would he think her irresponsible? “This section of the city lies within my father’s district.” She looked around as if a crowd of city dwellers encircled their meeting place. “Most people are known to us.”
Nehemiah stepped closer. The flame from the lamp illuminated his finely stitched collar. She lowered the light so as not to irritate his eyes and to show him the respect he deserved. “You are a brave woman.” His praise was filled with the familiar authority she heard at their introduction hours before. “Your compassion knows no end, for you did not turn back at this hour.”
If that were only true. Her mother had sent her to seek the mourner. Left to her own decisions, she would have fled. “My mother deserves your praise. She heard you.” Heat rushed to Adah’s cheeks. “Sometimes I believe God blesses my mother’s hearing since her sight is no more.”
Nehemiah scrutinized her face as if the sun was in full glory. “Is her blindness a burden to you?”
“No.” Adah flinched at her half-truth and stood a bit straighter.
The governor’s stare did not waiver.
“Well, maybe. Some days.” Had she ever admitted this truth before? Not desiring to sound hard hearted, she said, “I love my mother. I would never complain about the extra work.”
The governor nodded. He averted his gaze and pointed toward some crags in the distance. “My father and his father are buried near here.”
She knew the caves of which he spoke, for many tombs were carved out of the same rock.
He continued, “When my brother brought word that Jerusalem wallowed in disrepair, I could not stay away any longer.” Nehemiah pressed a fist to his chest as if he were seeing the destruction of his city for the first time. “God has called me to rebuild the birthplace of my fathers. To resurrect the city of His beloved, David.” He turned to her with a gleam in his eye. “That, daughter of Shallum, is my burden.”
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Barbara M. Britton lives in Southeast, Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She is published in Biblical Fiction and loves bringing little-known Bible characters to light in her stories. Her WWI Historical Until June released in 2020. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Find out more about Barbara’s books on her website, www.barbarambritton.com.You can also follow Barbara on Twitter, BookBub, Facebook and Instagram