OVERVIEW OF NEHEMIAH
Author: Tradition has been that Ezra the priest wrote both Ezra-Nehemiah as one book, and wrote Nehemiah from Nehemiah’s firsthand account. But because Nehemiah is written as a firsthand account, more scholars today believe Nehemiah was the author, telling his own story of going from cupbearer to king Artaxerxes of Babylon to being sent by the king to rebuild Jerusalem and serve as its governor.
Date: Probably sometime after 433 B.C. (Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in 458 B.C. and Nehemiah in 445 B.C.)
Audience/Purpose: Written to show the Jewish people how God used Nehemiah to rally the people to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and to lead in bringing moral, ethical and spiritual renewal to Israel.
Chapters 1-7 - REBUILDING
1:1-11 - Nehemiah mourns, fasts, prays for days at news of sad conditions of Jerusalem and people
1:11b-2:10 - God answered Nehemiah’s prayer for king Artaxerxes to grant his safe return to Jerusalem
2:11-20 - Nehemiah quietly examined the city and inspired Jewish leaders to start work of rebuilding
3:1-32 - List of the various sections of the walls and gates rebuilt and those who did the work
4:1-23 - Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and associates opposed the Jews’ work, but Nehemiah encouraged people to pray and not be afraid, work diligently, and prepare to guard and fight
5:1-19 - Nehemiah rebuked Jewish leaders for exacting usury from people and they repent, he explained how he denied himself governor’s allotment out of respect for demands on the people
6:1-7:3 - Nehemiah’s faith and leadership overcame schemes/intimidation of opponents to complete wall
7:4-73a - List of exiles who returned to Jerusalem and those who made contributions for the work
Chapters 8-13 - REVIVAL & REFORM
7:73b-8:18 - All Israel gathered and listened to Ezra, Nehemiah, priests read and explain the Law for half a day, celebrated greatly what they heard, reinstituted Festival of Booths, did this for seven days
9:1-5a - Ten days later, Israel regathered to hear Word read again for quarter of day, then fasted, confessed sins, and worshiped God for another quarter of day
9:5b-37 - Levites’ prayer recounting God’s past faithfulness i spite of forefathers’ rebellion, appealing to His gracious mercy to help them in their current distress
9:38-10:39 - List of Jews who entered written agreement to obey God and not neglect His house, not marry foreigners, not buy or sell on Sabbath, but faithfully bring tithes, offerings, contributions (“We will not neglect the house of our God”)
11:1-36 - List of the leaders of the people, descendents of Judah and Benjamin, and the Levites, priests, gatekeepers who settled in Jerusalem, along with others who settled in surrounding towns and areas
12:1-26 - Priests and Levites who returned with first wave of Jews with Zerubbabel and Jeshua
12:27-43 - Dedication of the wall, Ezra led choir procession to one side, Nehemiah led the other, both took places opposite each other in the house of God, and they along with the people sang with great joy
12:44-47 - The contributions brought and stored for the Levites, priests, singers, gatekeepers
13:1-31 - According to Law and in effort to purify Temple and its worship, Nehemiah led for removal of foreigners from house of God, reestablished provisions for Levites that had been neglected, stopped improper buying/selling on Sabbath, and spoke out to stop priests and people from intermarrying pagans
Gospel According to Nehemiah
Nehemiah was sent to Jerusalem to lead the people to rebuild the city. Christ was sent to earth to establish the kingdom of God in the hearts of those who would believe and follow Him.
Nehemiah’s heart broke over the news of the sad conditions of the city and the people. Christ’s heart was drawn toward humbled sinners, the outcasts, the poor, and the hurting.
Nehemiah and the people faced opposition from enemies to rebuilding the city but by prayer and faith in God, they continued the work to completion. Christ was opposed by the devil and His own people to the point of being crucified, but was raised to life and will complete His work in us until the Day of HIs return.
Nehemiah confronted the spiritual, religious and social sins of his day that mostly took the form of breaking God’s law for the sake of their own advantage (exacting usury against the poor, buying/selling on the Sabbath, marrying pagan spouses, etc.). Christ confronted the spiritual, religious and social sins of his day by exposing people’s religious hypocrisy as a cover up to the true spiritual condition of their hearts. Both Nehemiah and Christ sought to bring the hope of spiritual renewal to the penitent and the hope of social reform to the poor and disadvantaged.
Nehemiah was instrumental in galvanizing the Jews for the work of rebuilding the city and in helping Ezra and the priests bring spiritual renewal. Christ was instrumental in galvanizing followers into a new community of faith committed to living, proclaiming, and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of God.
Contemporary Significance & Applications
Christians are to follow Christ into the broken places with His love and the good news of His kingdom.
Christians are to reflect the heart of our Lord toward the places in which we live.
Christians are to persevere in prayer and the ministry of rebuilding lives in Christ until the final Day.
Christians are to speak out with biblical truth against the spiritual, religious and social sins of our day in the hope of bringing needed renewal in people’s lives and to bring hope to the hopeless.
Christians are to live in a community of faith with one another in love, who together are seeking to proclaim and advance the kingdom of God as the hope of the world.
If you’ve been away from Troy for many years and had not heard anything and “Hanani” came to give you a report of the condition of the city and the people of God, what do you think you might hear?
What are the most prominent sins or areas in the church in most need of renewal?
What societal sins or injustices are the church not seeking to confront or correct enough?
What brokenness in our world do you think Christ may be wanting us to do more to help rebuild?