Listen to this chapter in Hebrew:
1When Sanballat and Tobiah, and the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that healing had come to the walls of Yerushalayim, that the breached parts had begun to be filled, it angered them very much,
אוַיְהִי כַאֲשֶׁר שָׁמַע סַנְבַלַּט וְטוֹבִיָּה וְהָעַרְבִים וְהָעַמֹּנִים וְהָאַשְׁדּוֹדִים כִּי־עָלְתָה אֲרוּכָה לְחֹמוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַ ִם כִּי־הֵחֵלּוּ הַפְּרֻצִים לְהִסָּתֵם וַיִּחַר לָהֶם מְאֹד׃
2and they all conspired together to come and fight against Yerushalayim and to throw it into confusion.
בוַיִּקְשְׁרוּ כֻלָּם יַחְדָּו לָבוֹא לְהִלָּחֵם בִּירוּשָׁלָ ִם וְלַעֲשׂוֹת לוֹ תּוֹעָה׃
3Because of them we prayed to our God, and set up a watch over them day and night.
גוַנִּתְפַּלֵּל אֶל־אֱלֹהֵינוּ וַנַּעֲמִיד מִשְׁמָר עֲלֵיהֶם יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה מִפְּנֵיהֶם׃
4Yehuda was saying, “The strength of the basket-carrier has failed, And there is so much rubble; We are not able ourselves To rebuild the wall.”
דוַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה כָּשַׁל כֹּחַ הַסַּבָּל וְהֶעָפָר הַרְבֵּה וַאֲנַחְנוּ לֹא נוּכַל לִבְנוֹת בַּחוֹמָה׃
5And our foes were saying, “Before they know or see it, we shall be in among them and kill them, and put a stop to the work.”
הוַיֹּאמְרוּ צָרֵינוּ לֹא יֵדְעוּ וְלֹא יִרְאוּ עַד אֲשֶׁר־נָבוֹא אֶל־תּוֹכָם וַהֲרַגְנוּם וְהִשְׁבַּתְנוּ אֶת־הַמְּלָאכָה׃
6When the Yehudim living near them would arrive, they would tell us time and again “…from all the places where…you shall come back to us…”
ווַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר־בָּאוּ הַיְּהוּדִים הַיֹּשְׁבִים אֶצְלָם וַיֹּאמְרוּ לָנוּ עֶשֶׂר פְּעָמִים מִכָּל־הַמְּקֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר־תָּשׁוּבוּ עָלֵינוּ׃
7I stationed, on the lower levels of the place, behind the walls, on the bare rock—I stationed the people by families with their swords, their lances, and their bows.
זוָאַעֲמִיד מִתַּחְתִּיּוֹת לַמָּקוֹם מֵאַחֲרֵי לַחוֹמָה בצחחיים [בַּצְּחִיחִים] וָאַעֲמִיד אֶת־הָעָם לְמִשְׁפָּחוֹת עִם־חַרְבֹתֵיהֶם רָמְחֵיהֶם וְקַשְּׁתֹתֵיהֶם׃
8Then I decided to exhort the nobles, the prefects, and the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them! Think of the great and awesome Hashem, and fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and homes!”
חוָאֵרֶא וָאָקוּם וָאֹמַר אֶל־הַחֹרִים וְאֶל־הַסְּגָנִים וְאֶל־יֶתֶר הָעָם אַל־תִּירְאוּ מִפְּנֵיהֶם אֶת־אֲדֹנָי הַגָּדוֹל וְהַנּוֹרָא זְכֹרוּ וְהִלָּחֲמוּ עַל־אֲחֵיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם וּבְנֹתֵיכֶם נְשֵׁיכֶם וּבָתֵּיכֶם׃
9When our enemies learned that it had become known to us, since Hashem had thus frustrated their plan, we could all return to the wall, each to his work.
טוַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר־שָׁמְעוּ אוֹיְבֵינוּ כִּי־נוֹדַע לָנוּ וַיָּפֶר הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת־עֲצָתָם ונשוב [וַנָּשָׁב] כֻּלָּנוּ אֶל־הַחוֹמָה אִישׁ אֶל־מְלַאכְתּוֹ׃
10From that day on, half my servants did work and half held lances and shields, bows and armor. And the officers stood behind the whole house of Yehuda
יוַיְהִי מִן־הַיּוֹם הַהוּא חֲצִי נְעָרַי עֹשִׂים בַּמְּלָאכָה וְחֶצְיָם מַחֲזִיקִים וְהָרְמָחִים הַמָּגִנִּים וְהַקְּשָׁתוֹת וְהַשִּׁרְיֹנִים וְהַשָּׂרִים אַחֲרֵי כָּל־בֵּית יְהוּדָה׃
11who were rebuilding the wall. The basket-carriers were burdened, doing work with one hand while the other held a weapon.
ha-bo-NEEM ba-kho-MAH v'-ha-no-s'-EEM ba-SE-vel o-m'-SEEM b'-a-KHAT ya-DO o-SEH va-m'-la-KHAH v'-a-KHAT ma-kha-ZE-ket ha-SHA-lakh
יאהַבּוֹנִים בַּחוֹמָה וְהַנֹּשְׂאִים בַּסֶּבֶל עֹמְשִׂים בְּאַחַת יָדוֹ עֹשֶׂה בַמְּלָאכָה וְאַחַת מַחֲזֶקֶת הַשָּׁלַח׃
4:11 Doing work with one hand while the other held a weapon
Throughout the Tanakh, God does wonders and miracles to save the Jewish people. Although perhaps one would think that a nation under Hashem’s direct protection should not need arms to defend itself, it is His will that people conduct themselves in a natural manner. Only when necessary will Hashem intervene with open miracles. This verse describes how in Nechemya’s time, those rebuilding the walls of Yerushalayim would work with one hand while holding weapons of self-defense in the other. Though they rely on their own strength for protection, they remember that the Lord is the source of their might and their success. As described earlier in verse 3, first they “prayed to our God,” and then they “set up a watch” against their enemies. Today, the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are the ones protecting the Nation of Israel. At IDF swearing-in ceremonies, each soldier is given a Tanakh to hold in one hand, and a gun in the other. In this way, Israeli soldiers are the spiritual descendants of Nechemya’s work force who are reminded that it is not their strength alone that protects the nation, but Hashem above.
12As for the builders, each had his sword girded at his side as he was building. The trumpeter stood beside me.
יבוְהַבּוֹנִים אִישׁ חַרְבּוֹ אֲסוּרִים עַל־מָתְנָיו וּבוֹנִים וְהַתּוֹקֵעַ בַּשּׁוֹפָר אֶצְלִי׃
13I said to the nobles, the prefects, and the rest of the people, “There is much work and it is spread out; we are scattered over the wall, far from one another.
יגוָאֹמַר אֶל־הַחֹרִים וְאֶל־הַסְּגָנִים וְאֶל־יֶתֶר הָעָם הַמְּלָאכָה הַרְבֵּה וּרְחָבָה וַאֲנַחְנוּ נִפְרָדִים עַל־הַחוֹמָה רְחוֹקִים אִישׁ מֵאָחִיו׃
14When you hear a trumpet call, gather yourselves to me at that place; our God will fight for us!”
ידבִּמְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת־קוֹל הַשּׁוֹפָר שָׁמָּה תִּקָּבְצוּ אֵלֵינוּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ יִלָּחֶם לָנוּ׃
15And so we worked on, while half were holding lances, from the break of day until the stars appeared.
טווַאֲנַחְנוּ עֹשִׂים בַּמְּלָאכָה וְחֶצְיָם מַחֲזִיקִים בָּרְמָחִים מֵעֲלוֹת הַשַּׁחַר עַד צֵאת הַכּוֹכָבִים׃
16I further said to the people at that time, “Let every man with his servant lodge in Yerushalayim, that we may use the night to stand guard and the day to work.”
טזגַּם בָּעֵת הַהִיא אָמַרְתִּי לָעָם אִישׁ וְנַעֲרוֹ יָלִינוּ בְּתוֹךְ יְרוּשָׁלָ ִם וְהָיוּ־לָנוּ הַלַּיְלָה מִשְׁמָר וְהַיּוֹם מְלָאכָה׃
17Nor did I, my brothers, my servants, or the guards following me ever take off our clothes, [or] each his weapon, even at the water.
יזוְאֵין אֲנִי וְאַחַי וּנְעָרַי וְאַנְשֵׁי הַמִּשְׁמָר אֲשֶׁר אַחֲרַי אֵין־אֲנַחְנוּ פֹשְׁטִים בְּגָדֵינוּ אִישׁ שִׁלְחוֹ הַמָּיִם׃