The following Timeline of Biblical History can be enlarged by zooming in on the page. It is helpful to see the flow of history and the point in which Nehemiah fits in (approximately the middle of the bottom line/arrow).
Author: Nehemiah (meaning: Yahweh consoles)
- Much of the material in this book is from Nehemiah’s personal journal.
- Nehemiah was the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes I (Persia, 445 B.C.). This gave him a very influential position with the king. A cupbearer was often also a trusted advisor.
- Artaxerxes’ step-mother was Esther (who was probably still alive).
- He heard that the walls of Jerusalem were still unfinished and was broken hearted. So, he requested permission from Artaxerxes to go to Jerusalem to complete the work. He was granted permission and he finished the job in only 52 days. This completed the work begun by Ezra.
- Artaxerxes appointed him to be governor of Judah. Non-Biblical sources confirm the historicity of Nehemiah and tell us that he ceased to be governor before 408 B.C.
- He traveled to Jerusalem, stayed for 12 years, returned briefly to Babylon (1:1; 13:6), then returned to Jerusalem…where he called the people to repentance.
- This book completes the record of the history of the return of the exiles from deportation in Babylon. It also signifies the beginning of Daniel’s “seventy weeks” (Daniel 9:25), and provides the historical setting for the book of Malachi.
Nehemiah was probably between 445-425 B.C.
3rd Return to Judah & Repairing of the City Walls (Nehemiah) Nehemiah 1-7
Nehemiah 1:1-2:20 The Return to Jerusalem
Nehemiah 1:1-11-Nehemiah served as a cupbearer for the Persian king, Artaxerxes. He received news from a family member that the Jews in Jerusalem were not doing well and it distressed him deeply. He wept and mourned for days, fasting and praying. Notice the content of his prayer:
- he praises God for Who He is (:5);
- he thanks God for what He has done…”who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness” (:5, the Hebrew word for “lovingkindness” is “hesed”);
- he confesses the sin of the people and includes himself (:6-7);
- he agrees that God is righteous in His judgment (:8-9);
- he asks for God’s help as he approaches the king with his plan (:10-11, “this man” is the king).
This would be a good pattern for us to follow in our own prayers.
Nehemiah 2:1-8-Nehemiah asks the king for permission to go to Jerusalem and to restore it. He also asks for materials. The king grants his request. Nehemiah understands this to have happened "because the good hand of my God was on me" (1:8; also see 2:18).
Nehemiah 2:9-10-Between verses 8 and 9 there is a gap in time. In verse 8, Nehemiah is in Susa (capital of Babylon). In verse 9, he has arrived in Jerusalem. When he arrives he immediately meets with the leaders. However, immediately some of the non-Jews in the area were not pleased.
Nehemiah 2:11-16-Initially, Nehemiah did not tell the leaders what his intentions were. Nehemiah made a secret, night-time inspection of the city wall and found it in great disrepair. The route for the inspection began in the southwest at the Valley Gate…proceeded to the east to the King’s Pool (probably the Pool of Siloam)…and then went up the ravine (the Kidron valley). It is unclear if he then went to the west and then to the south (this would complete a circle and bring him back to his starting point)…or, if he retraced his steps to the south, then west, and arrived back at the Valley Gate.
Nehemiah 2:17-20-The next day he announced to the other Jews his intention to rebuild the walls. He told them how God's good hand had been upon him (:18)...and they were encouraged..."So they put their hands to the good work" (:18). However, again, the non-Jews were not pleased...and began to mock them for their attempts. Nehemiah simply replied, "The God of heaven will give us success..." (:20). He also told them that they had no part in what God was doing.
Nehemiah 3:1-7:4 The Repairing of the City Walls
Nehemiah 3:1-32-This chapter gives a description of who was working on the various parts of the wall. A person would be listed and then it would identify the next person using the words, "next to him", or “after him”. People from all walks of life accepted a place of service, both men and women (:12)...some, such as Meremoth, even accepted a second place (:5,27; 21)...some did so, even though their leaders were opposed to it (:5)...some, who had previously married foreign women, and had been restored, helped (:11; cf. 10:31). While all of them did their work, one man did so with unusual enthusiasm. Baruch, “zealously repaired another section”. That’s the man I want to work next to!
Prayer: Lord, when Nehemiah saw the situation in Jerusalem his heart was broken. He knew that the condition of the wall represented the condition of the people. They were broken. While Ezra had made a good start…there was much that had not been done. It is interesting that Nehemiah exhibited Your blessing in a very tangible way. He told the people that Your hand, Your blessing was on them…and then he demonstrated it by rebuilding the wall. I pray that You will help me to be able to show others Your blessings in tangible ways. Use me to bring glory to You. And Father, help me to do Your work with the enthusiasm of Baruch!