Scriptures

Complete Study Of The Book Of Nehemiah

Introduction

The seventy years of Israel’s captivity had now come to an end, exactly as Jeremiah said it would, Jeremiah 29:1-14, and so, the Book of Nehemiah covers the events of the Jews returning from their Babylonian captivity. In the year 538 B.C., the Medes and Persians took over from the Babylonians and became the ruling power of the world.

All the prisoners, including those from Israel, who were formally under the subjection of Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king were now under the control of Cyrus, the Medo-Persian king. Isaiah also prophesied the end of Israel’s captivity, he even names Cyrus and tells us that he would be the king who would help Israel rebuild the temple and Jerusalem, Isaiah 44:28-45:7.

Cyrus was a different kind of king, as he believed that all his prisoners would be more loyal to him if they were free, rather than being slaves. He and the other kings who followed, helped the people to return home and rebuild their temples. Because the people were free to practice their religion, this, in turn, promoted loyalty to the kings.

The return of Judah took place in three stages and may be summarised as follows.

Stage 1

This first stage was by the decree of Cyrus for the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple to God in 538 B.C. Ezra 1-6. Zerubbabel was the political leader of the Jews who returned at this time and Joshua was the Levitical religious leader who returned with him.

Approximately 50,000 people returned at this time. 42,360 Jews plus 8,000 servants. This included 200 singing men. The purpose of this return was to rebuild the temple, which was completed in 516 B.C. The work of rebuilding the temple began under Zerubbabel and Joshua. The altar was established on October 5th 537 B.C., and the foundations of this second temple were completed in May/June of 536 B.C.

However, the people grew selfish and careless and the work lay dormant for several years. God raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah to rebuke and encourage the people, and the temple was finally completed in February/March of 516 B.C.

Stage 2

The religious leader of this return was Ezra the scribe in 457 B.C. Ezra 7-10. This was a much smaller return as only about 2,000 Jews returned at this time. The purpose of this return was to purify the worship services. Pagan wives had been taken and squatters were in the temple.

Stage 3

It was at this time that Nehemiah was allowed to return to the land in order to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and enable the people to re-inhabit the city, 445/444 B.C. Nehemiah 1:1-13. The name Nehemiah means ‘the Lord comforts’. He was the son of Hacaliah and held the prominent position as a cupbearer to the king of the Medo-Persian Empire. He was later appointed by Artaxerxes I to be the governor of Judah.

When word came to Nehemiah about the state the Jews were in, he was deeply moved. The walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. and the returning Jews were under a constant threat. He knew that something had to be done and as all good leaders should do, he took action and did something about the situation his fellow people were in.

He didn’t have a meeting about the situation first and he didn’t wait for someone else to step up to the mark. He stepped up to the mark believing that God was using him, and he allowed God to use him to help his people rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Author

Most of the book is written in the first person and since the book itself declares that Nehemiah is the author, we can safely come to the conclusion that Nehemiah wrote the book.

The name Nehemiah means ‘the Lord comforts’ and he was the son of Hacaliah of Judah. He held the important position of a cupbearer to the king of the Medo-Persian Empire. He was later appointed by Artaxerxes I to be the governor of Judah.

As a leader, Nehemiah told the people what they didn’t want to know and he led them where there was great resistance in going. He was able to do this because of his passion for the law of God, and his desire to preserve the future of Israel according to the law. Other prophets around at this time were Ezra, Malachi, Haggai and Zephaniah.

Date

It’s generally accepted that Nehemiah wrote the book around 430 B.C. Ezra had been in Jerusalem for about 13 years when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in 444 B.C., so, Nehemiah covers the events between 444 B.C. and 432 B.C.

Life During The Return

Very little had changed from the time of the exile. The Jews were living previously in Babylon, modern-day Iraq, during the exile. But we find them in the land of Persia, modern-day Iran, and returning to their homeland of Israel during the period of the return.

The land of Persia or modern-day Iran is a large plateau between the plain of the Tigris on the west and the Indus River valley to the east. In the south, it is bordered by the Persian Gulf leading to the Indian Ocean. To the north of the plateau are the Caspian Sea and the chains of mountains that extend from the south end of the Caspian Sea.

Cyrus conquered territories he emphasized winning the favour of the gods, the priesthoods and their followers in those lands. Thus he would reverse the deportation policies of Assyria and Babylon, allowing people to return to their homelands and thus gaining their loyalty.

The Persian people were polytheistic, but at this time there seems to have been the beginnings of Zoroastrianism. To be sure, Darius and Xerxes exalted Ahuramazda, the god Zoraster preached, but they do not mention Zoraster. Cyrus, however, comes across as very tolerant of various religions, making him simply a typical Persian polytheist.

Zoroastrianism contains a dualism, a contradiction of good and evil, a Good Spirit and an Evil Spirit with his demon henchmen. The Good Spirit represents light, fire, summer, fertile land, and health. While the Evil Spirit represents darkness, winter, drought, sickness, and death.

In later Zoroastrianism, individuals were judged by whether their good deeds, outweighed their evil deeds. Fire was used as a symbol of the god Ahuramazda, the god worshipped in Zoroastrianism.

All other aspects of life, dress, diet, etc, were the same as the period of the exile. Obviously, those who stayed in Persia lived a wealthier lifestyle than those who returned to the land. Those that returned would have a more basic lifestyle for a while until houses were rebuilt, city walls put up and crops re-grown.

Outline

Nehemiah’s Prayer for the Exiles. Nehemiah 1
Artaxerxes Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem. Nehemiah 2
Builders of the Walls Named. Nehemiah 3
Builders Overcome Ridicule. Nehemiah 4
Nehemiah Abolishes Debt and Bondage. Nehemiah 5
Sanballat’s Plot. Nehemiah 6
Completion of the Wall. Nehemiah 6:15
Census of Returned Exiles. Nehemiah 7
Ezra Reads the Law. Nehemiah 8
Israelites Fast and Repent. Nehemiah 9
Israelites Seal the Covenant. Nehemiah 10
People Settle in Jerusalem. Nehemiah 11-12
Nehemiah Restores Laws. Nehemiah 13

To Continue To Read This Study In Its entirety, Or To Download It To Your PC, Please Click On The  Icon Below

Complete Study Of The Book Of Nehemiah  

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

MENU