Exploring the Bible // Nehemiah
The book of Nehemiah is closely related to the book just prior to it—Ezra. The Israelites are returning to their Promised Land after 70 years of captivity. While Ezra focused on the rebuilding of the temple, Nehemiah focused on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. And it wasn’t an easy task.
The book was authored by Nehemiah around 430 B.C.
Rebuilding the Wall (Ch. 1-7)
A Desire to Return (Ch. 1-3)
The book opens up to Nehemiah and his life in Susa, a city in Persia. He is serving in a highly respected position as the cupbearer to the king. Meaning, he was an Israelite greatly respected and trusted by the king enough to be appointed to such a position.
Nehemiah’s brother, Hanini, visits and brings a report on how the city of Jerusalem is in distress. At this point, many Israelites had returned to their home after being in captivity and the walls of their beloved city had been destroyed.
When Nehemiah hears the news, he wept and mourned for days.
In chapter 2, Nehemiah decides to ask the king if he may leave his office and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. He is granted his request and rebuilding starts in chapter 3.
Opposition to the Wall (Ch. 4-7)
Governors from surrounding areas rise up against the rebuilding of the wall. Namely, Sanballat and Tobiah came against their work. However, Nehemiah bowed in prayer while also taking practical measures to continue the work. He had men stationed where there were gaps to defend in case of attack. Even against the opposition, the wall was completed in 52 days!
A note to make: while rebuilding the wall and facing opposition, a cry rose up among the people of unfair treatment. The wealthy were taking advantage of the poor by leveraging their debt to enslave them and exacting high interest. Nehemiah was angry with this unjustness and called the Israelites to be kind to each other. Peace was restored and Nehemiah was appointed governor of Judah.
Revival in Jerusalem (Ch. 8-13)
This section connects with the book of Ezra, when Ezra read the law to the people. It was the heart of Ezra, who was serving as priest, and Nehemiah, as governor, to point the people back to God and reinstitute certain religious principles. The nation, now rebuilt, rededicates to the Lord.
What We Can Learn
Nehemiah wasn’t a priest. like Ezra. He served in the secular world but had a heart to serve God and overcame many odds to do just that. He shows that a person can bring glory to God no matter their vocation or background. The book is also a great text on leadership, for those with an interest in leading well.
“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Nehemiah 1:11