This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Sunday, 19 January 2014


So it's welcome back to our class of atheists and other beginners, as we resume the Eccles Bible project after the break. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas (er, just Mas in your case!), and wish you a Happy Nehemiah.

Anyway, to recap, here we are in the 5th century BC, and the Jews have been in exile in Babylon. As we saw last time, Ezra (Esdras) has brought some of them back to Jerusalem.

Nehemiah the cup-bearer

What ho, Nehemiah! Any chance of one of your pick-me-ups?

This is the tale of Nehemiah, the cup-bearer of King Artaxerxes of Persia, who retrains as a builder (or maybe architect) in order to get Jerusalem rebuilt. Ezra turns up again later in the Book of Nehemiah, and he is now billed as a priest and scribe,

Nehemiah the builder

Our hero rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem.

In the above picture Nehemiah is presumably the one reading the plans, rather than the ones doing the actual building, but one can never be sure. Perhaps the other chaps are the sons of Hassenaah, who built the Fish Gate (see Chapter 3); or possibly Malchiah the son of Rechab who was told to repair the Dung Gate. It was a true poet who named these gates.

gates of Jerusalem

This is what Nehemiah has on his scroll.

Actually, talking of Gates, we have Bill and Melinda here today in our Bible class for the first time. Welcome, guys! No mention of Windows in this book, I'm afraid, but I suppose you'll enjoy Jeremiah when we get to it, with its For death is come up through our Windows. I wonder whether Jerry was thinking of you there?

Half way through the book, Ezra attends to the spiritual needs of the people (now that their deliveries of fish and dung have been sorted out), and after a bit of prayer and penance they once again promise to keep the Law.

fish puppet

A delivery of fish.

Nehemiah actually becomes the effective governor of Jerusalem; he later pops off back to Persia to do some more cup-bearing, before returning to find that the Jews have gone off the rails yet again. So he fixes that.

In next month's instalment we have a choice: we can follow the Protestant Bible and jump straight onto Esther (so to speak), or take the Catholic and Orthodox line, and include Tobit and Judith.

Oliver, Hamlet

Tobit or not Tobit? That is the question.

We'll discuss Tobit next. Class dismissed.


  1. And lo! Rubí the donkey, who has been compared to Eeyore, dreamed of entering Jerusalem through the Gates of Nehemiah and she recounted her dream thus:

    First I tried going through the Fish Gate but the guards said I had not fish in my pack saddle, so I was shooed away towards the Sheep Gate. Here the guards quickly identified me as a not-sheep and I was shooed away towards the Inspection Gate, but due to dodgy hinges the Health and Safety officers kept this gate closed for inspection. I also found the East Gate closed because they were reserving it for the coming of the Messiah, so I continued on my way to the Horse Gate. A similar problem here to the Sheep Gate, when guards noticed the length of my ears and pronounced me a not-horse. Being a donkey, I did not even consider the Water Gate for a moment, but walked quickly past without even looking at it. I passed by the Fountain Gate in similar haste, for obvious reasons. When I got to the Dung Gate I reversed in and briefly had a crap before moving on, as is tradition. The Valley Gate was guarded by Welshmen and their password question "How Green Was My Valley?" defeated me, and they decided I was not a pit pony.

    So I eventually arrived at the Old Gate, where the guard asked me “What is the Old Traditional pass word?”

    I said, “Look mate, the word ‘Jesus’ occurs only slightly more than twice as often as the word ‘donkey’ in the Bible, so give me a break and let me into Jerusalem: the password is DONKEY.” It was! And that is how this donkey finally entered the city and sat down to drink a well-earned pint of Zadok's Finger best bitter outside the Carpenters Arms.

    1. Thank you, bruvver Rabit. We is all learnin a lot today.

  2. Darling eccles, does you have to have a Babylonian fish hat to get through that gate? You'll remember Bosco knows all about them - does he have a supply hidden away? Xx Jess

  3. Malachi on the tithe: "if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." So give 10% to The Vatican Bank today and watch the returns grow (whiter).

  4. There was a Water Gate scandal in Nehemiah's times.