Introduction to Nehemiah
Who wrote the book?
Jewish tradition identifies Nehemiah himself as the primary author of the historical book. Much of the book is written from his first-person perspective. Nothing is known about his youth or background; we meet him as an adult serving in the Persian royal court as the personal cupbearer to King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:11-2:1). The prestigious position reveals something of Nehemiah’s upright character. Though he remained in Persia after the exiles had been allowed to go home, he was highly interested in the state of affairs in the Judah (his brother Hanani [1:2] had returned there earlier). The book of Nehemiah could be read as a sequel to the book of Ezra, and some scholars believe the two were originally one work. It is possible that Ezra compile Nehemiah’s original accounts with other material to create the book of Nehemiah. However, most scholars believe Nehemiah wrote the book.
When and where?
The book of Nehemiah opens in the Persian city of Susa in the year 444 BC. Later that year, Nehemiah traveled to Israel, leading the third of three returns by the Jewish people following their seventy years of exile in Babylon. (The previous chapter of Ezra describes the earlier two returns.) Most of the book centers on the events in Jerusalem. The narrative concludes around the year 430 BC, and scholars believe the book was written shortly thereafter.
Nehemiah is the last historical book of the Old Testament. Although the book of Esther appears after Nehemiah in the canon, the events in Esther occurred in the time period between Ezra 6 and 7, between the first and second returns of the people to Israel. The prophet Malachi was a contemporary of Nehemiah.
Why is Nehemiah so important?
Nehemiah was a layman, not a priest like Ezra nor a prophet like Malachi. HE served the Persian king in a secular position before leading a group of Jews to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the city wall. Nehemiah’s expertise in the king’s court equipped him adequately for the political and physical reconstruction necessary for the remnant to survive.
Under Nehemiah’s leadership, the Jews withstood opposition and came together to accomplish their goal. Nehemiah led by example, giving up a respected position in a palace for hard labor in a politically insignificant district. He partnered with Ezra, who also appears in this book, to solidify the political and spiritual foundation for the people. He did not claim glory for himself but always gave God the credit for his successes.
What's the big idea?
Nehemiah recorded the reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem, Judah’s capital city. Together, he and Ezra, who led the spiritual revival of the people, directed the political and religious restoration of the Jews in their homeland after the Babylonian captivity.
Nehemiah’s life provides a fine study on leadership. He overcame opposition from outsiders as well as internal turmoil. He exercised as hi administrative skills in his strategy to use half the people for building while the other half kept watch for the Samaritans who, under Sanballat, threatened attack (Nehemiah 4-7). As governor, Nehemiah negotiated peace among the Jews who were unhappy with the Persian taxes. He exhibited a steadfast determination to complete his goals. Accomplishing those goals resulted in a people encouraged, renewed, and excited about their future.
Before We Begin..
Each day during this faith journey together, we will take a deeper look into the story of Nehemiah. The first ten days of this journey will be spent opening our hearts to a God-given burden and prayer. The second ten days will dive into the topic of faith and the role it plays in this journey. The last ten days will look at the sacrifice and commitment it takes for us to be used by God in a big way. The possibilities are numerous, the capability of God is limitless, and the privilege to be part of His plan is significant.
Read over the entire story from Nehemiah chapter 1 to Nehemiah chapter 6 several times throughout this journey. Before you begin, ask the Holy Spirit to walk with you each day and to guide you through this faith journey of prayer, faith, sacrifice and commitment. We know His desire is to do a transformational work in your heart.
Click Below for Each Day's Devotional