Nehemiah Rebuilds The Walls of Jerusalem
Story Table / Lego "Drama" Workshop
Summary of Lesson Activities
Students will learn some background on the Exile/Return, then they will rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (on a Story Map of Nehemiah's Jerusalem) using Lego's Duplo. They will learn about the different gates using fun memory props, and after hearing Ezra's speech they will act out their response with Duplo figures.
*Teacher Note: As a preface, in this Exile and Return rotation, this lesson we typically present later in the month so our children already have the background for this event. That's why there are questions at the beginning of this lesson where I ask them to recall things about Nehemiah. You may need to alter that part of the lesson for your context and provide more background as needed (such as read Nehemiah's story from a children's storybook).
Nehemiah 1-4; 8:1-6
Preparation and Materials
- Read scripture and review lesson plan.
- Gather the materials.
- Large sheet of paper or 6 pieces of poster board (to make story map)
- 1) Download diagram of "Nehemiah's Jerusalem," attached to end of this lesson.
- 2) Using above diagram draw a copy onto the paper or poster board (see below Notes-Nehemiah's Jerusalem Story Map.) When drawing Jerusalem outline, do not include the gate names.
- Make a scroll for Ezra (see Notes)
- Duplo or Mega Blocks (see Notes Walls & Gates)
- Gate Memory Props (this is what we used):
- Sheep Gate: sheep puppet
- Fish Gate: Fish cut-out
- Old Gate: nothing
- Valley Gate: picture of a valley, on a folded card
- Dung Gate: white garbage bag (see last photo below)
- Fountain Gate: picture of a fountain, on a folded card
- Water Gate: picture of water, on a folded card
- Horse Gate: toy horse
- East Gate: picture of a sunrise, on a folded card
- Inspection Gate: magnifying glass
- Rice Krispie Squares (snack option)
- Make a batch in advance, if using
Nehemiah's Jerusalem Story Map: At the end of the lesson is the basic diagram I used in making the “map” of Jerusalem. The first time I sketched it on a long piece of bulletin board paper. But we only do this rotation every 6 years; the poor map didn’t survive very well, rolled up somewhere. So round 2, I used 6 pieces of poster board (2x3 taped together). That was much easier to fold and store. This past fall we did that rotation for the 3rd time, using the “map” from round 2 (6 years ago).
Ezra’s Scroll: Is made from a piece of white wired ribbon. It rolls up nicely from both ends and holds its shape, so can be inserted into the little Duplo “hands.”
Walls: We didn’t try to attach the Duplo to each other; just laid them end-to-end to create a wall (one Duplo high) all the way around.
Gates: We made the gates by placing two square (2 hole-by-2 hole) Duplo on top of each other, for each side of the gate, and putting along (6-hole x 2-hole) Duplo on top. That construction was then mounted to either side of the wall where the gap was left for the gate I set aside all the pieces for the gates and had them separate, so I could hand out the necessary materials to each child or pair of children who constructed a gate.
Temple: The “temple” is just a block from a Duplo set—I think it has picture of corn on it! None of this is “to scale”; it’s more a placeholder for where the Temple would have been.
Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction
Begin by asking the children who Nehemiah was and what he did. If needed, prompt them. (*Note: here is where you may want to read the story of Nehemiah from a Bible Storybook):
1) cupbearer to the king
2) sad because the walls of Jerusalem were still broken down
3) king gave him permission to return and lead the people in repairing them
4) first inspected the walls
5) then helped the people rebuild them, even with opposition.
Then say, Did you know that Nehemiah and the people who went back to Jerusalem with him weren’t the first of God’s people to return? Daniel and his friends (see if children can name them) and thousands and thousands of people were carried away from their homes when Babylon conquered Jerusalem. The temple and the walls of the city were destroyed.
Lay out the map of Jerusalem
Many years later, when Daniel was an old, old man, Cyrus became king of Persia. And he made a decree that the Temple should be repaired! The king even gave back all the gold and silver things that had been taken from the Temple.
Do you think all the people went back? Do you think a lot of them went back? Really only a small number went back to help Zerubbabel. They had a lot of trouble but they finally got the Temple built. Place Temple block on the Jerusalem map. It wasn’t as fancy as the one Solomon had built; some of the old people, who had seen that beautiful Temple, were a little sad. But all the people were GLAD to have the Temple built. One problem remained—the walls were still broken.
Around 80 years after the first group went with Zerubbabel, King Artaxerxes let Ezra go back to Jerusalem. This is the same king that Nehemiah served as cupbearer. Ezra led the second group of people back to Jerusalem. They were mostly priests and Levites. Ezra wanted to make sure the people knew and followed God’s Word. And the king sent a lot of gold, silver, and other things back with them.
Ezra discovered that the people weren’t following God the way they should. So Ezra had to get all that straightened out and teach the people how to love and worship God. Ezra was still there when Nehemiah arrived about 15 years later.
Do you remember the first thing that Nehemiah did when he got there—at night?
Before he even told the people why he had come, he inspected the walls to see what kind of work needed to be done.
Dig - Main Content & Reflection
Right now, I’d like you to spread out all along the edges of this map. Don’t get on it, just sit beside it.
Now Nehemiah knew they had a big job to do. Look at this line all the way around. That’s where the wall should be. And do you see these little marks? They show where the gates should be. Let’s count how many gates were in the wall of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah.
Rebuilding the wall was a big job, but it was also an important one. Why do you think they needed to get that wall built? (Allow responses.) Right! The city wouldn’t ever be safe without a way to shut out armies that tried to attack.
Nehemiah came up with a very clever plan: he had everyone build the part of the wall that was in front of their houses—the part in their neighborhood. Why do you think he did that? You’re right—everyone would want to do an extra-good job if that part of the wall was protecting their homes.
I’m going to give each of you some blocks, and I want you to line them up on the part of the wall in front of where you are sitting. You’ll need to work with your neighbors to get things lined up just right. Don’t be selfish with your blocks. Do you think the people who went back to build the Jerusalem wall said, “Those bricks are mine!” No! They worked together. Don’t cover up the spaces for the gates when you build—leave them open.
Distribute blocks and let children work.
Great job! One by one, the people also rebuilt the gates. They started with the Sheep Gate (Show how to construct the gate; then put sheep figure in front of that gate) This was the gate by which the sheep and lambs used in the sacrifices were brought into the city. So, the first gate was the __________ (recite answer together).
The next gate to be built was this one. It was called the Fish Gate. (Have two students near that gate construct it. Place fish die cut in front of the gate.) Can you guess why? Right! The fishermen would bring their catch of fish in this way. Let’s name the gates we’ve learned so far. Point at each one in turn and see if the children can name them.
(With this and each successive gate, the child(ren) sitting nearest should rebuild the gate.)
The third gate that was rebuilt was the Old Gate. We’re not sure exactly why it was called that, but it may have been one of the original gates when Jerusalem was first built. I don’t have anything to put here in front of the gate to stand for “old” so we’ll just have to remember it. (As a reminder, I just graphed the bottom of my chin with my fist, and then pulled downward, as though pulling on a beard.) Let’s review all the gates (sheep, fish, old)
Now we come to the Valley Gate. That direction (point outward from the gate) there was a big valley. (Place card with a picture of valley adjacent to the gate) Can you name all four gates we’ve learned so far?
The fifth gate to be rebuilt was the Dung Gate. Does anyone know what dung is? It’s like cow manure. Yuck! This was the gate where they took all the garbage to be thrown out. So we’ll put a little garbage bag here. (The memory aid for this gate is a trash bag cut from one corner of a plastic trash bag, with all but one side taped shut.) P-U! I’m going to go back to the first gate, and let’s name them all.
Next was the Fountain Gate. Place Fountain picture in front of it. There was a pool there where people washed off before going to the Temple. Can you name all the gates?
Here was the Water Gate. Place water picture in front of the gate. It led down to a spring. Before Jerusalem was destroyed, a king named Hezekiah built a tunnel that brought the water into the city. So if they were ever attacked and had to shut up all the gates, they would have plenty of water!
Let’s count how many gates we’ve finished so far, and name them as we go.
This is the Horse Gate. Place toy horse in front of gate. Why do you think it was called that? (Answers.) Well, you’re right that horses went in and out there. But back then, horses weren’t used by regular people. Most people didn’t have an animal to ride; they just walked. But if they DID ride on an animal, it was a donkey or camel or something like that. The horses were only used to pull chariots in battle. The king’s stables were near this gate and that’s where the men of Jerusalem would bring their horses out to go to war.
The East Gate was called that because it was on the east side of Jerusalem. The picture to remind us which gate this is, is a rising sun. Because the sun rises in the east.
The last gate is the Inspection Gate. Place magnifying glass in front of it. To inspect something means to look at it very closely, so we’ll use this magnifying glass to remind us of the name of this gate. Just like our army today, the commander would inspect the soldiers to make sure they were ready for battle. They would line up and show their weapons. The king would meet the army at this gate to inspect them.
Let’s name all the gates again.
Who knows how long it took Nehemiah and the people to get all this work done? Remember they weren’t building with Duplos! They had a very large wall to build. And bullies and troublemakers come along and try to stop them, so they had to carry weapons with them and take turns guarding the other workers.
It took them 52 days! That’s not even 2 months.
When they were finished they were very happy. But building a strong wall wasn’t enough. They needed to make sure they would be strong in the Lord and in living the way He wanted. So all the people gathered at the Water Gate. Who can show me where that is?
Let me read in Nehemiah chapter 8 what happened. Ezra—the man who came back with the 2nd group of people, ahead of Nehemiah—stood up and read God’s Word to the people. (Read from Nehemiah 8:1-6.)
Now we are going to act that out. I’m going to give each of you a Duplo person. Let’s all come over on the side where the Water Gate is. Here is the platform. I’m going to put Ezra up here on the platform. Do you remember what the people did when after they heard God’s Word? They did 3 things. First they raised their hands in the air in worship. So raise your Duplo person’s arms up! They said “Amen! Amen!” and then they bowed to the ground. So you’ll bow your Duplo person down, in front of the platform where Ezra is. Let’s do that now, all together.
Now everyone come over here. Because you were such good builders, I’m going to give you a brick to eat. Not really! I have a Rice Krispie treat for each person.
Lesson written by Mary Friedeman
of DaySpring Community Church, Clinton, MS
Printed from https://www.rotation.org
Photo above: The children learned the name of each gate. We used symbols to help us remember. Here, the Sheep Gate (sheep puppet) is on the left and the Fish Gate (fish cut-out), on the right. In the foreground, inside the walls, is the Temple (a Duplo block) which was rebuilt earlier by Zerubbabel.
Photo above: Another view of the wall. Fish Gate on the corner, Old Gate (no prop, pulled down from my chin-as if I had a long beard) and Valley Gate (picture of a valley) along this length.
Photo above: The white trash bag denotes the Dung Gate which the children found quite hilarious. Perpendicular to it, starting up the other side, is the Fountain Gate (picture of a fountain). Next is the Water Gate (picture of water), where the people gathered to hear Ezra read the Law. Just as in Nehemiah 8, they raised their hands in praise, cried out "Amen! Amen!", then they bowed (their Duplo people) down on their faces.