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nehemiah

Nehemiah

Author

The author of this book is something that has been debated into three major views. Kenneth Boa's sermon on the overview of Nehemiah shows these three views.

  1. The first view believes that Nehemiah, himself, is the author of this book.
  2. The second view believes that Ezra wrote Nehemiah by compilation of Nehemiah's records of the event.
  3. The third view believes that neither Ezra or Nehemiah wrote the book but someone else who is entirely unknown.

The evidence points to Ezra, a Jewish scribe and priest, compiling Nehemiah's accounts into the book we now know today. We know this to be true because Ezra and Nehemiah were originally written as a single manuscript and later divided into two separate accounts. Ezra, a descendant of Aaron, Moses' brother, was used by God to keep His covenant to report His nation and rebuild the temple. This was accomplished by the favor God bestowed upon him in the eyes of King Artaxerxes who supplied the every need of the returning Jews from the Babylonian exile.

Historical Background

According to an article from gotquestions.org on the background of the book of Nehemiah, the book is believed to be written between 445-450 B.C.. Chronologically, this book fits into the Old testament after Esther. For better context, this is approximately 1000 years after Moses and 400 years before Christ. The nation of Israel is in shambles, completely dispersed by the Babylonian Exile. Their capital, Jerusalem, was destroyed along with Solomon's temple so much so that it could be described as a ghost town. This was the state of the beloved capital for 70 years, forgotten and destined to be buried by time. The people have made a home for themselves in Babylon and the desire to return, if any at all, was minuscule. Jews began to rise to positions of great important. People like Esther, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all became leaders in this new land. Things started to change in the book of Ezra. After 70 years the Jews were given the opportunity to return back to Jerusalem. 50,000 Jews, only 2% of the 2 or three million Jews, returned and rebuilt the temple.

According to David Guzik's study guide for Nehemiah, the book picks up this narrative around 15 years after the end of Ezra, or 100 years after the first Jews returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel. One important thing to note from the book of Ezra is they also attempted to rebuild the walls but were stopped by their enemies. (Ezra 4:6-23) This was something that the Jews considered impossible up to the point of Nehemiah.

Purpose

The ancient Hebrew name for the book of Nehemiah means “comfort of Jehovah or Yahweh”. This plays into the purpose of the book significantly by setting the overall theme. According to Geisler's, “A Popular Survey of the Old Testament”, the three main purposes for this book are as follows:

  1. The historical purpose: The book provides a record of the rebuilding of the walls and city of Jerusalem that we would not have otherwise.
  2. The doctrinal purpose:: The book demonstrates how God is continually faithful to keep His promises with His people even after all seems lost. This is where the historical context of the book is important. To understand the attributes of God that are displayed here, an understanding of what the nation of Israel has already gone through is necessary. Over and over again God's people, the Israelites, have rebelled against Him. God promised He would bless the people if they obeyed and cursed them if they didn't. But He also promised to preserve the line of David knowing all the while they would turn against Him. Another important doctrinal purpose is shown in the the character of the cup barer, Nehemiah. Nehemiah's repose to his difficulties, which will be covered in further detail in another section, all shown the power of prayer and scriptures. God will give the strength needed for His people to follow and accomplish their calling.
  3. The Christological purpose: This purpose goes back to the promise God kept with the line of David. The line of David ultimately points to Christ, along with the entirety of the Old Testament. From the line of David, Christ would be brought into this earth. Nehemiah shows how God preserves that line and keeps the hope alive among His people.

Overview

Chapter One

The Narrative continues by immediately establishing the importance of Nehemiah by giving the geographical location, Shushan the citadel. This was the capital city of the Persian empire, specifically the palace. Nehemiah inquires about the Jews in Jerusalem that returned several years prior. Even though the temple was rebuilt the city was still in shambles because the wall was not built. David Guzik explains the importance of walls during this time period in his study guide. All of the suffering the Jews were going through is because of the lack of protection of a wall. With out protection, Jerusalem will never thrive or become great because there was nothing stopping bandits from sweeping in and stealing any valuables. Even though the temple was built, it could never be beautiful and adorned with valuables because it would be raided and taken away. The people who lived in an unwalled city were constantly under waves of stress because they were complexly at the mercy of anyone who walked in. Hearing this, Nehemiah goes to the Lord in prayer.

Personal Application of Chapter One

  • Verse two gives insight to the character of Nehemiah. This man's heart was 800 miles away with his brethren in Jerusalem. Even though he had this extremely respected position as a cup bearer, he didn't let his duties and position create a self centered importance. Because his mind was on things of God, his heart was also focused on God's people and God's city.
  • One of the most powerful lessons to learn from Nehemiah is that of leadership. Throughout each chapter we will see how Nehemiah is a beautiful example of what a Godly leader looks like. We are all leaders in one way or another, but the question is, are you a leader that is leading people towards or away from God? God appoints leaders to complete His work. It isn't something that is easily accomplished, there will be opposition. Nehemiah had a goal, he wanted to rebuild something that had been considered impossible. His vision was so big, it was impossible to overcome without God.
  • Nehemiah's reaction to the destruction is deeply moving. He had to sit for his legs became so weak, he wept, fasted, and prayed for many days. This was a burden from the Lord that was way more than a temporary emotion. He had a drive to fix the problem. One thing that is often over looked about Nehemiah's reaction was what he didn't do! Today, many people in Nehemiah's positions would complain or try to find another way to fix the issue without getting his own hands dirty. Even though he couldn't immediately jump in and fix the walls, he didn't hesitate to do the most powerful thing he could do at that point in his life- he intensely prayed. This is a key attribute of a Godly leader. Nehemiah prayed for four months before taking the next step in this process of rebuilding the walls. The actual building only took half the time Nehemiah spent in prayer. He took everything to God, his stress, worry, anxiety. So often people try to relieve their stress with entertainment but that is only a distraction. God is the only one who can give you true peace in times of stress.
  • The lat character trait of a Godly leader learned from chapter one is humility. He understand who he is and who God is. He openly confessed the sins of himself and his people as they truly were. Don't try to excuse your sin with God. Beginning to be honest with God is a sure way to have a deeper relationship with Him. He humbled himself to the point where he knew he couldn't do a single thing without the power of God.

Chapter Two

In chapter two, Nehemiah is confronted by the king on why his countenance is so low. This gives Nehemiah the opportunity to tell the king of his desire to go to Jerusalem to build a wall. By the grace of God, the king is happy to not only allow Nehemiah to go, but to provide all the needed supplies. Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem without telling anyone of his intentions and goes to view the walls late at night. The chapter ends with enemies of the Jews trying to stop the work of God. But Nehemiah stays focused and blows off all of their attacks.

Personal Application of Chapter Two

  • Chapter two really harps on prayer. When Nehemiah was confronted by the king, he immediately went to God for guidance in a quick prayer. He understood the importance of the situation and wanted God to guide his actions. This also shows the power of a simple and short prayer, it doesn't always need to be long. It wasn't Nehemiah's job to convince the king but God's place. He was straight forward in what he wanted without trying to manipulate the conversation in his own way. This is directly connected to Christians today sharing their faith. It isn't our job to persuade, but to share and leave the results up to God.
  • Nehemiah was prepared when the king asked him for details. Because he spent four month in prayer he knew exactly what he needed and when he needed it. He had the details even before seeing what exactly needed to be done to the walls. That is the power of prayer right there. He didn't only pray but he listened to God's response and followed that calling. He must have had a great deal of trust in God to know that somehow it would all fall into place and he would be able to go to Jerusalem.
  • The boldness of Nehemiah is another attribute of a Godly leader. Nehemiah wasn't afraid to ask the king what he needed. He wasn't afraid to jump right into where God wanted him. He wasn't afraid to lead a project that many thought was impossible. He wasn't afraid to combat all of Satan's obstacles. Even the fact that he actually left is a lot farther then a lot of Christians can say of themselves today. God touches a lot of hearts, many pray for wisdom and guidance but they don't actually do what they were called to do. They never take the action to turn that goal into a reality. What needs to be realized is talking will never substitute doing.
  • The last area that dominantly displays a Godly leadership is Nehemiah's response to opposition. The first way Satan tried to stop God's work was through mockery and discouragement. Christians go through trials to test their faith and help them grow closer to God. We need to be like Nehemiah and only care bout what God thinks about us and not what men think. His response was not defensive, but truthful. He would not let Astana distract him from his calling. The opposition did not immediately fade either, this was continual and it only worsened as seen in the future chapters.

Chapter three

The third chapter is all about the rebuilding of the wall. It goes into detail about the people who worked and what areas they did that work. It is basically a record book or names.

Personal Application of Chapter Three

  1. This chapter demonstrates the power of God among people who are willing to give Him their lives. Many of these people didn't have special talents or any specialty in the area of building. It shows God can do so much more with someone with a willing heart with little talent then he can with someone with a closed heart with a lot of talent. Believers need to join together to accomplish things. There is strength in numbers, especially when those numbers are all blessed by the spirit of God.
  2. Nehemiah's leadership is also seen in his wise decisions to make everyone accountable for his or her own work. He gave each group a specific section to work on and established own sub leaders to keep everyone on track. He also began spiritually instead of physically. He helped prepare the hearts of the workers and started with priests to set the path for others. Nehemiah had an opened heart and was willing to work with everyone according to their own needs and ability. He allowed God to rule through him.

Chapter Four

Chapter four shows Jews perseverance and dedication in overcoming opposition. They faced mockery, but much more then that. Their enemies were deeply disturbed, this was directly from the devil himself. They called the Jews “feeble”. The adversaries began to work harder to stop the progress as the gaps in the walls began to close. All of them came together and conspired to attack and kill.

Personal Application of Chapter Four

  • Discouragement is one of Satan's main ways to keep believers right where he wants them- away from Gods work. The Jews specifically faced discouragement by unrelated criticism from their enemies. Some of the things that they said had truth to it. We need to be extra careful to not let Satan in our minds. Satan will focus on the small negative faults and ignore the truth that the Lord can and will overcome. Discouragement is so powerful because it's the total opposite of faith. It causes us to look at ourselves and our weakness instead of Gods all mighty power.
  • Again we see Godly leadership in Nehemiah's response. He goes straight to God and asks Him to battle his enemies for him. We should never take out our anger on our enemies but go to God because He knows what is best. Nehemiah's prayers ended up giving strengthened dedication to keep building the wall. It's fascinating to see how God literally gave them, “A mind to work”. This is exactly what the devil aims to steal from us- a mind to work. He strives to smother us in self deprecation or self inflation. This is one of the most important lessons about understanding the devil. The work of God infuriates the enemy. The Jews adversaries went to drastic measures, to the point where they attempted to kill the construction workers. They also used the strategy of confusion to try to scatter and disorganize Gods people from within.
  • All throughout this book we see God's people responding to increasingly difficult situations in the way God commands. Nothing would stop them from praying and depending on their Savior. They didn't just pray, but they took action as well. The people set a watch in response to the death threats. When we face temptations or trials we too need to set specific watches in our life to ensure we stay in the light. A good quote that accurately summarize this is, “Our prayer do not replace our actions; they make our actions effective for Gods work”- unknown. Nehemiah persisted through day and night, never dropping his watch and never pausing from his calling.
  • Obstacles are inevitable. The Jews didn't only have obstacles from their enemies but they had the challenge of simply building the wall. Before they could even begin the foundation, they had to remove the heaps and heaps of rubble that cluttered the area. It's the same in our Christian life, we can not build a solid foundation in Christ without first removing all of the sin that covers our hearts. It's not easy to haul the debris away, yet it's necessary to succeed.

Chapter Five

Chapter five focuses more on the obstacles that the devil hurled at the Jews internally. When death threats and discouragement failed to break the Jews we the importance of maintaining a strong body that fluidly works together. The issue was over money. Because the men were working on the wall, they dropped their jobs and ceased to take in any income to support their family. There was also a famine running through the land which made it even harder for the people to find food. The nobles were selling food for high interested which caused many people to have to sell their houses simply to be able to eat everyday. This angered Nehemiah because it was a self centered problem that stopped the building of the walls. He took action and righted the problem immediately.

Personal Application for Chapter Five

  • Money is a tricky topic. Handling it properly as believers is something a lot of people try to detach from each other. So often the use of money is disconnected with our spiritual life. This leads to problems not only in our own hearts but with others. Christians are called to be givers, realizing that everything we have is from God. This is not our final home, and while we are here the goal is to bring as many lost to Christ as possible. When we have problems with money, it's rarely just about money, its about greed, trust, or our self centered tendencies.
  • Nehemiah's anger in response to this problem is another attribute to a Godly leader. He confronted those who he knew were wrong in a wise manner. Nehemiah only acted after serious thought, he was passionate but not rash. Again we see his boldness, a leader should approach problems head on without skimming or avoiding them. He didn't just correct them but he set a Godly example by feeding 150 other Jews out his own generosity instead of seeking a profit.

Chapter Six

This is the turning point of the book of Nehemiah. In chapter six, the walls are finally finished. The devil makes his final attack to try to stop it once and for all, but Nehemiah sees right through the deception.

Personal Application of Chapter Six

  • The main leader attribute seen in chapter six is discernment. Nehemiah's enemies arranged what looked like a friendly meeting, but God equipped him to be able to see past the outward appearances. Today, so many Christians are lacking discernment. They look on the outside and follow whoever looks better. This isn't walking in the foot steps of Jesus. Discernment only comes through studying God's word which leads to spiritual maturity. Seek the holy spirit.
  • This discern allowed him not only to avoid the problem, but keep him from getting distracted.

Chapters 7-13 are focused on the regeneration of Jerusalem and the spiritual revival of the people.

Nehemiah 7

The walls are up and the doors are installed in the gates. Nehemiah turns the city over to his brother and the ruler, Hananiah, and warns them to protect the city against invasion. Because the number of inhabitants was few in Jerusalem and it was relatively very large by comparison, a census was taken of those within Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 8

The people want to understand God better. They go to Ezra and Ezra begins reading the law to the people. As Ezra read, there were Levites who explained the law to them so they understood. So the people wept and mourned for their sin. The Levites instructed the people that they were not to morn or weep because the day was a holy day unto the Lord. So, the people met for a second day to hear the word of the Lord. The feast of booths had not been performed for generations and so the people built booths and kept the feast for seven days and heard the word of the Lord for eight days. On the eighth day, they had a solemn assembly.

Nehemiah 9

The Israelites repented in sackcloth and ashes because of the conviction from the reading of God’s word. Then the leaders worshipped and praised the Lord and prayed to the Lord with a prayer that described their rebellion against the Lord from the time of the deliverance out of Egypt until the present time. So, the people then wanted to make a covenant with the Lord, to do what He commanded them to do.

Nehemiah 10

The signers of the covenant are listed and the people are further instructed about the specific things they need to do to remain obedient to the Lord.

Nehemiah 11

The rulers would live in Jerusalem. The remainder of the people would cast lots to see which ten percent lived in Jerusalem and which ninety percent would live in the outlying cities. The men who were willing to dwell in Jerusalem where blessed by the others indicating that possibly living in Jerusalem was expected to be more dangerous. Then follows a list of the people who would live in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah 12

The Levites living in Jerusalem are listed. Then thanks were given from the top of the gates around the city.

Nehemiah 13

A summary is given of the record of Nehemiah.

Citations

https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Neh/Neh_1.cfm https://bible.org/seriespage/21-nehemiah http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/nehemiah%E2%80%93the-man-behind-the-wall/

nehemiah.txt · Last modified: 2017/07/02 02:38 by tyler.tibbetts