Handbook of Nehemiah
The Wall of Jerusalem Rebuilt
According to persistent Jewish tradition, Ezra was author of the books of I and II Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah; the four books being originally one work, though some think that Nehemiah himself may have written the book of Nehemiah.
Ezra was the great grandson of Hilkiah the priest, who, 160 years earlier, had directed king Josiah's reformation (Ezra 1:1; II Kings 22:8); had most worthy descendant of his famous ancestor. He went from Babylon to Jerusalem (457 B.C); 80 years after the Jews had first returned, and 13 years before Nehemiah came.
Nehemiah went to Jerusalem (444 B.C). Ezra had been there 13 years. But Ezra was a priest, teaching religion to the people. Nehemiah
came as civil governor, with authority from the king of Persia
to rebuild the Wall. and restore Jerusalem as a fortified city. The Jews had been home nearly 100 years, and had made little progress beyond rebuilding the Temple, a very insignificant Temple at that, because whenever they would start work on the wall, their more powerful neighbors would either bluff them off by force, or through
intrigue get orders from the Persian court for the work to stop.
Parts of the book are in the first person, being direct quotations from Nehemiah's official reports.
Nehemiah was a man of Prayer, Patriotism, Action, Courage and Perseverance. His first impulse always was to pray (1:4; 2:4; 4:4, 9; 6:9, 14). He spent 4 months in prayer before he made his request to the king (1:1; 2:1)
Nehemiah was cupbearer to king Artaxerxes (1:11;2:1), a trusted and important official. Artaxerxes was king of Persia (465-425 B.C.); son of Xerxes, and so, stepson of Queen Esther the Jewess. Esther became Queen of Persia about 60 years after the Jews had returned to Jerusalem. This must have given the Jews great prestige at the
Persian court. Esther most probably was still alive, and an influential personage in the palace, when both Ezra and Nehemiah went to Jerusalem. Our guess is that we have Esther to thank for Artaxerxes' kindly feeling toward the Jews, and his interest in having Jerusalem rebuilt.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: "stairs thet go dou.n from the city of David" ( 15); "bend in the wall" (25); tower that stands out" (26): the remains of these may now be clearly detected.
Old-time enemies of the Jews, who were now in possession of the land, Moabites, Ammonites, Ashdodites, Arabians, and the recently imported Samaritans, craftily and bitterly opposed the rebuilding of the Wall of Jerusalem. They mobilized their armies, and marched against Jerusalem. But Nehemiah, with faith in God, skillfully arming and arranging his men, drove straight ahead with the work, day and night; and, in spite of all obstacles, the Wall was finished in 52 days. And Jerusalem was again a fortified city, 142 years after its destruction in 586 B.C.
After the Wall was built, Nehemiah and Ezra gathered the people together to organize their national life. Chapter 7 is about the same as Ezra 2, giving the list of those who had returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel nearly 10 years before. There were certain genealogical matters that had to be attended to.
Then, for seven days, every day from early morning till midday, Ezra and his helpers, "opened the Book of the Law, and read in the Law of God, distinctly, and gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading." This public reading and exposition of God's Book brought a great wave of repentance among the people, a great "revival," and a solemn covenant to keep the Law, as noted in chapters 9, 10.
It was the finding of the Book of the Law that brought Josiah's great Reformation (II Kings 22). It was Martin Luther's finding of a Bible that made the Protestant Reformation, and brought religious liberty to our modern world. The weakness of present-day Protestantism is its Neglect of the Bible which it professes to follow. The grand need of today's pulpit is Simple Expository Preaching.
IN deep penitence and great earnestness, they "made a sure covenant, and wrote it, and sealed it, and entered into an oath and a curse, that they would walk in God's Law (9:38; 10:29). The Wall completed, and dedicated, one-tenth of the population was brought into the city to live, and its government and Temple services organized.
Correction of laxities about Tithes, Sabbath, and Mixed Marriages. Nehemiah was Governor of Judah at least 12 years (5:14). Josephus says that he lived to great age, and governed Judah the rest of his life.