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Notes on
Nehemiah

2 0 1 4   E d i t i o n
Dr. Thomas L. Constable


Introduction

TITLE

This book, like so many others in the Old Testament, received its title from its principal character. The Septuagint (Greek) translation also had the same title, as does the Hebrew Bible. The Jews kept Ezra and Nehemiah together for many years.[1] The reason was the historical continuity that flows from Ezra through Nehemiah.

For many years, believers regarded Ezra and Nehemiah as twin books. They called them 1 and 2 Ezra (or "Esdras," the Greek transliteration of Ezra). Jerome, who lived in the fourth century A.D., gave Second Ezra the name "Nehemiah." This fact illustrates the close relationship that exists between these two books. A single story begins in Ezra and ends in Nehemiah.

WRITER AND DATE

The use of the first person identifies the author as Nehemiah, the governor of the Persian province of Judah (1:1—2:20; 13:4-31). His name means "Yahweh has comforted" or "Yahweh comforts."

The mention of Darius the Persian in 12:22 probably refers to Darius II, the successor of Artaxerxes I (Longimanus).[2] Darius ruled from 423-404 B.C. The text refers to an event that took place in Darius' reign (12:22). Therefore, Nehemiah must have written the book sometime after that reign began. Since there are no references to Nehemiah's age in the text, it is hard to estimate how long he may have lived. When the book opens, he was second in command under King Artaxerxes (cf. Daniel). If he was 40 years old then and 41 when he reached Jerusalem in 444 B.C., he would have been 62 years old in 423 B.C. when Darius replaced Artaxerxes. Consequently he probably wrote the book not long after 423 B.C., most likely before 400 B.C.[3]

SCOPE

The years of history the book covers are 445-431 B.C., or perhaps a few years after that. In 445 B.C. (the twentieth year of Artaxerxes' reign, 1:1), Nehemiah learned of the conditions in Jerusalem that led him to request permission to return to Judah (2:5). He arrived in Jerusalem in 444 B.C. and within 52 days had completed the rebuilding of the city walls (6:15). In 432 B.C. Nehemiah returned to Artaxerxes (13:6). He came back to Jerusalem after that, probably in a year or so. The record of his reforms following that return is in the last chapter of this book. Apparently Nehemiah completed all of them in just a few weeks or months. Even though the book spans about 15 years, most of the activity Nehemiah recorded took place in 445-444 B.C. (chs. 1—12) and in 432-431 B.C. (ch. 13). Together, Ezra and Nehemiah record about 110 years of Israel's history (538-430 B.C.). Nehemiah carries us to the end of the Old Testament chronologically.


CHRONOLOGY OF THE BOOK OF NEHEMIAH

445
B.C.
Nehemiah learned of conditions in Jerusalem and requested a leave of absence from Artaxerxes.
444 He led the Jews to Jerusalem.
Repairs on the wall of Jerusalem began.
The Jews completed rebuilding the walls.
Nehemiah promoted spiritual renewal among the returnees.
443  
442  
441  
440  
439  
438  
437  
436  
435  
434  
433  
432 Nehemiah returned to Artaxerxes, ending his 12 years as governor of Judah.
Malachi may have prophesied in Jerusalem.
431 Nehemiah may have returned to Jerusalem and begun his second term as governor.
More religious reforms apparently began.[4]
430  
429  
428  
427  
426  
425  
424  
423 Darius II began to reign.

HISTORICITY

"The historicity of the book has been well established by the discovery of the Elephantine papyri, which mention Johanan (12:22, 23) as high priest in Jerusalem, and the sons of Sanballat (Nehemiah's great enemy) as governors of Samaria in 408 B.C. We also learn from these papyri that Nehemiah had ceased to be the governor of Judea before that year, for Bagoas is mentioned as holding that position."[5]

The Elephantine papyri are letters the Jews in Babylon sent to Jews who had fled to a colony in southern Egypt, called Elephantine, following the destruction of Jerusalem. They throw much light on Jewish life as it existed in Babylon during the exile.

OUTLINE

Go to the table of contents to see the outline of the book of Nehemiah.

MESSAGE

God revealed three things about the returned exiles in this book.

First, the people in view are the approximately 97,000 Israelites who returned from captivity: the remnant. Fifty thousand had returned under Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel in 536, about 5,000 had returned under Ezra in 458, and about 42,000 returned under Nehemiah in 444 B.C. They had no conscious national influence that arose from their purpose as a nation. They did not have much messianic hope, either. There is no reference to this hope in Ezra, Nehemiah, or Esther. However, Zechariah, who prophesied during this time, gave many messianic prophecies.

Second, the purpose of God was that His people should return to His Law. The civil reformation was secondary to the reading of the Law that took place in Jerusalem. The reading of the Law (ch. 8) led to the praying of the Levites (ch. 9), and that resulted in the making of a covenant (ch. 10). God's purpose was to put Israel back under the Law until Christ would come.

Third, the divine Potter at work in this book continues the task of reshaping that He began in Ezra. His primary instrument at this time was Nehemiah. Nehemiah was not a king, a priest, or a prophet, but an ordinary citizen. He held a cabinet-level position under Artaxerxes, the Persian monarch, and he became the governor of Judah later. Generally, the kings of Israel had failed, the people had ignored the prophets, and the priests were corrupt. God chose a man who built a wall around Jerusalem in a little over seven weeks so the people could give concentrated attention to the reading and exposition of God's Word. Nehemiah was a man like others God used before him, a man who lived and walked by faith. Joshua was such a person and was also neither king, prophet, nor priest. Nehemiah did for Israel in his day what Joshua had done in his. Ezra was similar to Moses, and Nehemiah was similar to Joshua.

Notice next three things about Nehemiah's faith.

First, Nehemiah had an attitude of faith. He had remarkable confidence in God. This faith apparently never wavered. Nehemiah wanted to see God's purposes fulfilled (1:1-4). He expressed his concern in his inquiry and sorrow. His prayer and sorrow show his confidence in God's power (1:5—2:4; 4:9). Furthermore, he purposed to cooperate with God so God's will would happen. He expressed this commitment in his activity.

Second, Nehemiah also acted in faith. We can see his faith in three activities. He acted cautiously (5:7). He examined the wall secretly and silently. Then he divided the work so every man built near his own house. This guaranteed the personal interest and diligence of the workers. He also acted courageously (13:11, 17). He started by himself, single-handedly. Then he stuck with the work tenaciously until he finished it. And he acted without compromise. He did not compromise with the enemies outside the wall. They tried to get him to compromise by using contempt (4:3), then conspiracy (4:8), and then cunning (6:2). And he did not compromise with the Jews inside the wall, either. He did not allow the nobles to continue charging their poorer brothers interest (5:5). He did not allow a priest to give lodging to the enemy (13:4-5). Furthermore, he did not permit mixed marriages with non-Jews (13:23).

Third, Nehemiah achieved by faith. The workers built the walls in only 52 days. Nehemiah settled the people in the city and its suburbs. He expounded and enforced the Law of God. He also provided a place where the people could wait for God's salvation.

Combining Nehemiah's times with his character, we get the message of this book. Nehemiah proves that seemingly impossible things are possible through prayer and hard work when people determine to trust and obey God, and when they put His interests first.

Like Nehemiah, we live in dark times. We too have to deal with indifferent multitudes. As in his day, there is widespread disloyalty to God's truth today. As then, there is lack of enthusiasm for God's plans and purposes now. Not many Christians want to devote their every waking moment to the task that God has commanded us to do (Matt. 28:19-20).

Like Nehemiah, we need to walk by faith in these dark times (cf. Hab. 2:4). We need to be as sure of God as he was. We need to act with God, and for God, even though it means strenuous effort. We also need to decline all compromise with those outside and inside the church. We need to trust God, do our day's work faithfully, and leave the future to Him. May we all follow this great man's example of faith. May we live one day at a time (cf. Matt. 6:11). God always works through a committed minority. Only a few thousand Jews lived in Jerusalem, yet look what they accomplished. The Twelve turned the world upside down.[6]


Exposition

I. THE FORTIFICATION OF JERUSALEM CHS. 1—7

"The first seven chapters of Nehemiah as well as 12:31—13:31 are written in the first person. This, as well as all or part of Neh 11 and the rest of Neh 12, constitutes what is called the Nehemiah Memoirs. As such it offers an extensive look into the life and heart of an outstanding servant of God that is unique to the Old Testament."[7]

"More than half this book is a personal record, punctuated with 'asides' and frank comments which make it (in such parts) one of the liveliest pieces of writing in the Bible. Much of Ezra's story was also told in the first person (Ezr. 8:15—9:15), but Ezra was a quieter personality than the formidable, practical Nehemiah; he does not leap out of the page as this man does."[8]

A. THE RETURN UNDER NEHEMIAH CHS. 1—2

The focus of restoration activities in Nehemiah is on the walls of Jerusalem. In Ezra it was the altar of burnt offerings and especially the temple in Jerusalem.



"The orientation of Nehemiah is more civil and secular than that of Ezra, but it is also written from the priestly point of view."[9]

The walls of the city had lain in ruins since 586 B.C. At that time Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, breached them, entered Jerusalem, burned the temple, carried most of the remaining Jews off to Babylon, and knocked the walls down. Consequently the few Jews who remained could not defend themselves (2 Kings 25:1-11). The returned exiles had attempted to rebuild the walls in or shortly after 458 B.C., but that project failed because of local opposition (Ezra 4:12, 23).

The returned exiles had received permission to return to their land and to reestablish their unique national institutions as much as possible. Therefore, they needed to rebuild the city walls to defend themselves against anyone who might want to interfere with, and to interrupt, their way of life.

1. The news concerning Jerusalem 1:1-3

The month Chislev (v. 1) corresponds to our late November and early December.[10] The year in view was the twentieth year of Artaxerxes' reign (i.e., 445-444 B.C.). Susa (or Shushan, in Hebrew) was a winter capital of Artaxerxes (cf. Esth. 1:2). The main Persian capital at this time was Persepolis.



Hanani (v. 2) seems to have been Nehemiah's blood brother (cf. 7:2). The escape in view refers to the Jews' escape back to Judea from captivity in Babylon. Even though they received official permission to return, Nehemiah seems to have regarded their departure from Babylon as an escape, since the Babylonians had originally forced them into exile against their wills.

The news that Nehemiah received evidently informed him of the Jews' unsuccessful attempts to rebuild Jerusalem's walls in 458 B.C. (Ezra 4:23-24).

"It was an ominous development, for the ring of hostile neighbors round Jerusalem could now claim royal backing. The patronage which Ezra had enjoyed (cf. Ezra 7:21-26) was suddenly in ruins, as completely as the city walls and gates. Jerusalem was not only disarmed but on its own."[11]

2. The response of Nehemiah 1:4-11

Nehemiah's reaction to this bad news was admirable. He made it a subject of serious prolonged prayer (vv. 4, 11; 2:1). Daniel had been another high-ranking Jewish official in the Persian government, and he too was a man of prayer.

"Of the 406 verses in the book, the prayers fill 46 verses (11%), and the history accounts for 146 (36%). The various lists . . . add up to 214 verses or 53% of the total."[12]

One cannot help but note the parallel between Nehemiah's concern for his people, and his willingness to go and help them, and the Lord Jesus' similar concern and commitment before His incarnation.

Nehemiah began his prayer with praise for God's greatness and His loyal love for His people (v. 5). As Ezra had done, he acknowledged that the Jews had been guilty of sinning against God (cf. Ezra 9:6-7). They had disobeyed the Mosaic Law (v. 7). Nehemiah reminded God of His promise to restore His people to their land if they repented (vv. 8-9; cf. Deut. 30:1-5). He also noted that these were the people Yahweh had redeemed from Egyptian slavery for a special purpose (v. 10; cf. Deut. 9:29). He concluded with a petition that his planned appeal to the king would be successful (v. 11a).

"With the expression this man at the end of the prayer Nehemiah shows the big difference between his reverence for his God and his conception of his master, the Persian king. In the eyes of the world Artaxerxes was an important person, a man with influence, who could decide on life or death. In the eyes of Nehemiah, with his religious approach, Artaxerxes was just a man like any other man. The Lord of history makes the decisions, not Artaxerxes."[13]

"Although he is a layperson, he stands with the great prophets in interceding for his people and in calling them to be faithful to the Sinai covenant."[14]

If Nehemiah wrote this book, he was also a prophet (cf. Daniel). Extrabiblical references that mention the office of cupbearer in the Persian court have revealed that this was a position second only in authority to the king (v. 11b; cf. Gen. 40:2-23; 41:9-13).[15] Nehemiah was not only the chief treasurer and keeper of the king's signet ring, but he also tasted the king's food to make sure no one had poisoned it (Tobit 1:22).[16]

"The cupbearer . . . in later Achaemenid times was to exercise even more influence than the commander-in-chief."[17]

"Achaememid" refers to the dynasty of Persian rulers at this time.

"From varied sources it may be assumed that Nehemiah as a royal cupbearer would probably have had the following traits: 1. He would have been well trained in court etiquette (cf. Dan. 1:4-5). 2. He was probably a handsome individual (cf. Dan. 1:4, 13, 15). 3. He would certainly know how to select the wines to set before the king. . . . 4. He would have to be a convivial companion to the king with a willingness to lend an ear at all times. . . . 5. He would be a man of great influence as one with the closest access to the king, and one who could well determine who could see the king. 6. Above all, Nehemiah had to be an individual who enjoyed the unreserved confidence of the king."[18]

Some commentators have concluded that Nehemiah as cupbearer must have been a eunuch.[19] This opinion rests on the translation of the Greek word eunouchos ("eunuch") instead of oinochoos ("cupbearer") in one version of the Septuagint. However, this rendering appears to have been an error in translation, since the Hebrew word means cupbearer.[20]

"Like many since his time, Nehemiah's greatness came from asking great things of a great God and attempting great things in reliance on him."[21]

3. The request of Nehemiah 2:1-8

Nehemiah prayed for four months about conditions in Jerusalem before he spoke to Artaxerxes about them (cf. 1:1; 2:1). Artaxerxes' reign began in the seventh Jewish month, Tishri (late September and early October), of 464 B.C.[22] Therefore Nehemiah presented his request in late March or early April of 444 B.C.

Nehemiah was probably very fearful (v. 2) because Artaxerxes could have interpreted sadness in his presence as dissatisfaction with the king (cf. Esth. 4:2).[23]

"Persian works of art such as the great treasury reliefs from Persepolis indicate that those who came into the king's presence did so with great deference, placing the right hand with palm facing the mouth so as not to defile the king with one's own breath . . ."[24]

Nehemiah realized that the moment had arrived for him to ask Artaxerxes to revise his official policy toward Jerusalem (1:11; Ezra 4:21). This too could have incurred the king's displeasure. Nehemiah's walk with God is evident in that he talked to God as he was conversing with the king (v. 4; cf. 1 Thess. 5:17). Verse 4 contains a beautiful example of spontaneous prayer, one of the best in the Bible.

"One of the most striking characteristics of Nehemiah was his recourse to prayer (cf. 4:4, 9; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 13:14)."[25]

"Quick prayers are possible and valid if one has prayed sufficiently beforehand. In this case Nehemiah's prayer is evidence of a life lived in constant communion with God. Nehemiah had prayed for months, but he knew he was completely dependent on God's work in the king's heart at this moment."[26]

Divine working and human planning are not necessarily contradictory.

"Prayer is where planning starts."[27]

Nehemiah returned to Artaxerxes 12 years after the king had appointed him governor of Judah (5:14; 13:6). Nevertheless he may have also gone back sooner than that (v. 6). One writer calculated the date of Artaxerxes' decree to rebuild Jerusalem as March 5, 444 B.C.[28]

"This date marks the beginning of Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan. 9:24-27). Sixty-nine of those seventy weeks (173,880 days) were literally fulfilled when Jesus entered Jerusalem, presented Himself at His 'royal entry' as Israel's messiah, on March 30, A.D. 33. The prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled to the very day (cf. Luke 19:40-42). The seventieth week of Daniel, the Tribulation (cf. Matt. 24:4-28; Rev. 6—19), will find its fulfillment in the future."[29]

The fortress by the temple (v. 8) was a citadel that stood just north of the temple. Its name in Hebrew was Birah (or in Greek, Baris). It was the forerunner of the Antonia Fortress that Herod the Great built and to which Luke referred in the Book of Acts (Acts 21:37; 22:24).[30]

". . . there were good political reasons for Artaxerxes to grant Nehemiah's request. Inaros had led a revolt in Lower Egypt in the late 460s, aided and abetted by Athens. The Persians had largely squashed this rebellion by 455, but pockets of resistance held out in the delta marshes thereafter. Then, early in the 440s, Megabyxos had led a revolt in Syria, which was probably put down just before Nehemiah made his request. Also, just about 445 the Athenians negotiated the Peace of Kallias with the Persians and hostilities between the two powers ceased. At this point in time Artaxerxes certainly recognized that a stronger Judah populated by loyal Jews would help to bring greater stability to Syria and would provide a bulwark on the border with Egypt."[31]

4. The return to Jerusalem 2:9-20

Because of the opposition of the Jews' neighbors, Artaxerxes sent a military escort to accompany Nehemiah to Jerusalem (v. 9). It is not certain how many Jews traveled with Nehemiah on this occasion. The writer gave us no numbers.

"There was more than protection to be gained from the military escort. It meant an arrival in style, impressively reinforcing the presentation of credentials to the neighbouring governors, and making very plain the change of royal policy . . ."[32]

Sanballat may have originated in Horonaim in Moab, but he seems more likely to have come from one of the Beth-horons (Upper or Lower) located just a few miles northwest of Jerusalem (cf. Josh. 10:10-11).[33] The Elephantine papyri (ca. 400 B.C.) name him as the governor of Samaria, which he may have been then or after this event took place.[34] There was evidently a series of governors of Samaria named Sanballat.[35] Tobiah seems to have been a Jew—his name means "Yahweh is good"—who had attained a position similar to that of Sanballat in Ammon, east of Judah, under the Persians.[36] Scholars have traced nine generations of his influential family.[37]

Probably Nehemiah wanted to survey the damage to the walls secretly (v. 12) because, had Israel's enemies observed him, they might have stirred up the people of the land to riot against him.

"He wished to lay his plans without any possibility of leakage to the enemy before their execution began, and then to let the execution be so swift that the work would be finished before they could successfully appeal to the king against it once more."[38]

Perhaps Nehemiah only surveyed the southern parts of Jerusalem's wall because those were the only sections still standing.



"Jerusalem was always attacked where she was most vulnerable, from the north; thus there was little preserved in that direction."[39]

Another reason for Nehemiah's secrecy was probably that he wanted to formulate a plan before the Jews could marshal arguments why they could not rebuild the walls (v. 16). When he did present his ideas (vv. 17-18), the people responded positively. This is an evidence of Nehemiah's wisdom as a leader.

"There is evidence that Geshem [v. 19] (cf. 6:1ff.), far from being a negligible alien, was an even more powerful figure than his companions, though probably less earnestly committed to their cause. . . . From other sources it emerges that Geshem and his son ruled a league of Arabian tribes which took control of Moab and Edom (Judah's neighbors to the east and south) together with part of Arabia and the approaches to Egypt, under the Persian empire."[40]

Nehemiah continued the policy of not allowing the people of the land to help rebuild Jerusalem, that Zerubbabel had begun (v. 20; cf. Ezra 4:3). He also continued to trust in God's enabling power primarily, rather than in his own ability (v. 20; cf. John 15:5).

"Nehemiah was clearly a shaker, a mover, and a doer."[41]

Donald Campbell identified 21 principles of effective leadership that Nehemiah demonstrated in chapter 2.


"He established a reasonable and attainable goal

He had a sense of mission

He was willing to get involved

He rearranged his priorities in order to accomplish his goal

He patiently waited for God's timing

He showed respect to his superior

He prayed at crucial times

He made his request with tact and graciousness

He was well prepared and thought of his needs in advance

He went through proper channels

He took time (three days) to rest, pray, and plan

He investigated the situation firsthand

He informed others only after he knew the size of the problem

He identified himself as one with the people

He set before them a reasonable and attainable goal

He assured them God was in the project

He displayed self-confidence in facing obstacles

He displayed God's confidence in facing obstacles

He did not argue with opponents

He was not discouraged by opposition

He courageously used the authority of his position."[42]


B. THE REBUILDING OF THE WALLS 3:1—7:4

Nehemiah described the reconstruction of the walls, starting with the Sheep Gate near the city's northeast corner, moving counterclockwise. This record honors those who—by building—helped reestablish Israel in the Promised Land, in harmony with God's will (cf., e.g., Isa. 52:11-12).

1. The workers and their work ch. 3

Eliashib (v. 1) was evidently the grandson of Jeshua, the high priest (12:10; Ezra 3:2). Construction was an act of consecration because this was a project that God had ordained.

Archaeologists continue to study the exact location of the wall at many places, as well as that of towers and gates. There is debate among them regarding various sites, as well as the total extent of the wall. Those who hold to a smaller city are "minimalists,"[43] and those who believe the walls extended farther out are "maximalists."[44]

"This chapter is one of the most important in the Old Testament for determining the topography of Jerusalem. Though some locations are clear, others are not. Opinions differ widely about whether the wall enclosed the southwest hill today called 'Mount Zion' (the Maximalist view) or only the original settlement—including the temple area—of the southwest hill of Ophel (the Minimalist view)."[45]

According to the maximalist view, the two and one-half-mile wall would have enclosed about 220 acres. According to the minimalist view the wall would have been two miles long and enclosed about 90 acres. I think there is better support for the minimalist position. The hill of Ophel (lit. swelling or bulge) was the site between the temple area and the City of David (cf. 2 Chron. 27:3; 33:14). It was evidently a "suburb of the priests."[46]

"Nethinim [v. 26] means given. Probably this is another name for the Gibeonites who were assigned by Joshua to be perpetual slaves as 'hewers of wood and drawers of water' for the house of God (Josh. 9:23). As drawers of water it is appropriate that they dwelt at the water gate. The Nethinim are mentioned: 1 Chr. 9:2; Ezra 2:43, 58, 70; 7:7, 24; 8:17, 20; Neh. 3:31; 7:46, 60, 73; 10:28; 11:3, 21."[47]

2. The opposition to the workers ch. 4

Any attempt to fulfill God's desires will almost certainly draw opposition from God's enemies.

"The real test of a leader is how he or she faces crises and reacts to opposition. This chapter recounts several forms of opposition and how Nehemiah confronted them."[48]

The Jews' enemies used ridicule (vv. 1-6), as well as armed resistance (v. 8), to oppose the work. A better translation of the Hebrew word rendered "wealthy" (v. 2) is "army."

"The Hebrew root 'mll is occasionally used in the OT to denote the fading or withering of a plant (Isa. 16:8; 24:7; etc.). It is also used of people without any hope (Isa. 19:8; Hos. 4:3). It is employed here in Nehemiah [translated "feeble," v. 2, NASB, NIV] to ridicule the Jews."[49]

Nehemiah based his imprecatory prayer (vv. 4-5) on God's promise that He would bless those who blessed Abraham's descendants, and curse those who cursed them (Gen. 12:1-3).

"God's people should always regard prayer not as a last resort but as our primary weapon against opposition."[50]

We should probably understand Nehemiah's request that God would not forgive their sin (v. 5) as referring to their sin of opposing the builders, not all their sins. John Bright considered Nehemiah "not . . . an overly modest man."[51] This is a minority opinion.

"The iniquities and sins were committed by sneering at the work God had commanded. The prayer was thus not vindictive because the Jews were insulted, but because God's work was ridiculed."[52]

"To understand such violent language, we need to appreciate fully the sense of the divine purpose at work, so that opposition is not seen in human terms but as opposition to God himself."[53]

Furthermore, God had already pronounced judgment on Israel's enemies, so Nehemiah was praying according to God's will that He would deliver Jerusalem from her enemies (Josh. 1:5). Finally, Nehemiah was asking God to take vengeance, which is His work, not the work of Nehemiah or other believers (cf. Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19).[54]

Nehemiah and the people's responses to opposition—prayer, continued work, and self-defense (v. 9)—are the proper ones whenever an enemy seeks to stop the building of what God has commanded (e.g., His church, cf. Matt. 16:18).

With the added opposition of the Ashdodites, the residents of a formerly Philistine town (v. 7), the Jews' enemies surrounded them on all sides: north, south, east, and west. Josephus wrote, "They slew many of the Jews."[55] The workers became discouraged by their own fatigue, the immensity of their task, and the threats of their enemies (vv. 10-12). Nehemiah responded by increasing security, focusing their attention again on God, and reminding them of their duty to protect their families and property (vv. 13-14). Oliver Cromwell similarly counseled, "Trust in God and keep your [gun]powder dry." C. H. Spurgeon advised his students, "Pray as if everything depended on God, then preach as if everything depended on you."[56] His approach proved effective (vv. 15-16; cf. Ps. 127:1). The Jews were willing to make temporary sacrifices and endure some discomfort to finish the work God had given them to do (vv. 17-23). In this they are models for all of us who serve God.

3. The strife among the workers ch. 5

This chapter evidently describes a situation that prevailed for more than the 52 days the wall was under construction (cf. v. 14). The writer probably included it in the text here because it was another situation that threatened to block the fulfillment of God's will.

"Up to this point Nehemiah's challenges as a spiritual leader focused primarily on those outside of Judah. But before the walls were finally rebuilt, he encountered the most difficult and intense kind of problem almost every spiritual leader has to face sometime—problems within."[57]

The underlying problem this chapter chronicles sprang from pride. Instead of putting God's interests first and seeking the welfare of their brethren, the Jews were putting their own interests first and taking advantage of their brethren (cf. Matt. 22:37-39). The Mosaic Law forbade Israelites from charging interest when they made loans to fellow Jews (Exod. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-38). Evidently Nehemiah and some of his fellow Jews had paid money to certain Gentiles in Babylonia who owned Jewish slaves in order to liberate those Israelites so they could return to Judah (v. 8). How inconsistent it was, then, for the Jews in Jerusalem to enslave them again. Evidently the people of the land were criticizing the Jews for enslaving their brethren (v. 9). Nehemiah himself seems to have made loans to the poorer Jews in Judah, though he did not say he charged them interest (v. 10). Now he called for a stop not only to usury (charging exorbitant interest) but also to lending. He believed the "haves" should give, not lend, to the "have nots" out of love for God and their brethren. Nehemiah spoke out against social injustice. The people agreed to do as Nehemiah asked (v. 12). The "hundredth part" (v. 11) was the interest rate that, if calculated on a monthly basis, would amount to 12 percent per year.

Nehemiah's unselfish example for the welfare of the community should be a challenge to any leader of God's people (vv. 14-19). The plans of God and the welfare of His people were most important to him.

"One cannot be certain that Nehemiah was originally given a twelve-year appointment as governor by Artaxerxes (2:6). Perhaps his original appointment was for a briefer period, but was extended to twelve years."[58]

The people the governor ruled would have provided his food allowance (v. 14). Rather than taking advantage of his opportunity to acquire real estate, Nehemiah gave his attention to rebuilding the wall (v. 16). He also provided for the needs of over 150 Jews who worked on the wall out of his own pocket (vv. 17-18).

"According to the Persian custom, as governor of Judah Nehemiah had to entertain a number of people at his table."[59]

As Paul later did, Nehemiah gave up what was legitimately his due, in order to provide a good example for those he led (cf. 1 Cor. 9; 2 Thess. 3:8).[60]

"Leadership means going further than those one is leading."[61]

Nehemiah asked God to reward him for what he had done (v. 19). This is not an improper request since God has promised to bless those who put Him first (Deut. 28:1-14; cf. Matt. 6:33; Mark 10:29-30).

"The invocation of God's favour is not so much a plea for a reward as an emphatic way of claiming that he [Nehemiah] has acted in good faith and from right motives. It is a statement of confidence that God is judge, and judges favourably those who sincerely seek to do his will."[62]

The formula "Remember me, O my God . . ." (also in 13:14, 22, and 31) has some parallels in Egyptian literature of this period.[63]

4. The attacks against Nehemiah 6:1-14

Nehemiah recorded three separate plots the Jews' enemies instigated to frustrate his effective leadership.

The plot to distract Nehemiah 6:1-4

The plain of Ono, to which Nehemiah's adversaries invited him for a meeting (v. 2), lay about 25 miles west and a little north of Jerusalem near Ashdod and Judah's border with Samaria. Israel's present international airport at Lod, just east of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast, is very close to this site. It was in a kind of no-man's land between Judah and Samaria. If Nehemiah had accepted this invitation he would have been many miles from Jerusalem for at least two days. This would have given the people of the land opportunity to attack the Jewish workmen.

"Chephirim" (v. 2) may be the proper name of a town. However since it is the plural of the Hebrew word for village it may be a general reference to the towns on the Ono plain. Another possibility is that this Hebrew word should be translated "with the lions" and that this is a figurative reference to the princes of the surrounding provinces.[64] Nehemiah turned down four invitations to this meeting (v. 4).

The plot to discredit Nehemiah 6:5-9

Sanballat sent his "open letter" (v. 6) to all the Jews, not just to Nehemiah. Its purpose was doubtless to create division among the Jews who might begin to wonder if their leader's motive really was as Sanballat suggested.

"Another proof of Sanballat's dishonest intentions is that he sent an open letter, i.e., not sealed, as was the custom in those days. With the open letter, which could be read by anyone on the way, he was responsible for the further spreading of the rumor."[65]

"Gashmu" (v. 6) is a variant spelling of Geshem (6:1). Nehemiah did not let this threat intimidate him and flatly denied the charge (v. 8). Since Nehemiah had a reputation as a man of integrity among the Jews, this seed of doubt did not take root in their minds.

The plot to deceive Nehemiah 6:10-14

Shemaiah claimed to have received a prophecy from God (v. 12). He tried to scare Nehemiah into thinking that assassins were after him so he would seek sanctuary inside the temple. The Mosaic Law prohibited anyone but the Lord's anointed servants from entering the holy and the most holy places in the temple (Num. 1:51; 3:10; 18:7). Nehemiah was not the kind of man his enemies could terrify with a death threat. Perhaps Shemaiah was suggesting that he and Nehemiah commandeer and take possession of the temple,[66] though this possibility seems unlikely to me. Nehemiah saw through this "prophecy." It could not have been from God since it counseled disobedience to the Mosaic Law. The motive of Nehemiah's enemies was to show the Jews that their leader had no real concern about the Law, but was rebuilding the walls for personal reasons (v. 13). This incident was only one of several in which false prophets tried to deceive Nehemiah (v. 14).

Satan still employs these three strategies as he seeks to destroy the effectiveness of spiritual leaders. One writer called them intrigue, innuendo, and intimidation.[67]

5. The completion of the work 6:15—7:4

The builders finished the walls only 52 days after construction had begun (v. 15). "Elul" is late August and early September.

"The operation was, throughout, a triumph of concentration amidst every kind of distraction."[68]

Israel's enemies viewed their rapid progress as evidence that God had helped the workers (v. 16).

"The best answer to opposition is to keep working and fulfill God's will; thus others will see God's power."[69]

The writer mentioned another detracting ploy the enemy instigated. By doing so, he suggested that this additional problem may have plagued Nehemiah throughout the whole process of rebuilding the wall. As mentioned before, Tobiah's name implies that he was a Jew. He had intermarried with Jews who had returned to the land and evidently participated in the restoration projects, though he himself did not approve of the restoration. His marital and social ties with the princes of the restoration community resulted in their commending him to Nehemiah. In short, Nehemiah suffered from pressure that Tobiah and Nehemiah's colleagues brought on him. This powerful Jew, who did not share God's desires for His people, had considerable influence with many of the restoration leaders.

Sometimes powerful brethren who have influential supporters create the Christian leader's most difficult problems. They may really want to see something other than God's will accomplished.

Note the following lessons in leadership from Nehemiah 1—6. A leader must be a person of prayer (ch. 1), have a vision (2:1-3), and be a wise planner (2:4-8). He must inspire his followers (2:11-20), organize his task (ch. 3), and combine faith and common sense (ch. 4). He needs to be compassionate (5:1-13), possess personal integrity (5:14-19), be absolutely impartial (ch. 5), and display a sense of mission (ch. 6).

Having finished the walls, Nehemiah took steps to ensure that the city would remain secure by appointing guards. Now temple worship could flourish (7:1). The gatekeepers usually guarded the temple entrance, but Nehemiah posted them at the city gates because of the imminent danger there. The "faithful man" (7:2) was Hanaiah, not Hanani, though he too was, of course, reliable. To minimize the threat of potential invaders, Nehemiah ordered that the gates of Jerusalem be open only during the busiest hours of the day (7:3). People had not been living in Jerusalem because it was vulnerable to attack (7:4). The small population rendered it more vulnerable than it would have been with the city full of people. Nehemiah later proposed a plan that would increase the population and consequently the security of Jerusalem (11:1-2).

C. THE RECORD OF THOSE WHO RETURNED 7:5-73

"Of all biblical characters, Nehemiah is perhaps the most explicit on 'the practice of the presence of God' [v. 5a]."[70]

This is not a list of the people who accompanied Nehemiah to Jerusalem in 444 B.C. but a record of those who returned with Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel, and Jeshua in 537 B.C. (v. 7). It is almost identical to the list in Ezra 2.

Why did Nehemiah repeat this list? Apparently he wanted to encourage the Jews to move into Jerusalem (11:1-2). This was one of the goals of the return. To determine who were pureblooded Israelites, he did some research and uncovered this list. There may have been a need to validate claims to property rights and similar matters as well.[71] Nehemiah then used the list as the basis for his plan (cf. 11:1-24). The repetition of this list also confirms God's faithfulness in preserving His chosen people and God's loyal love in bringing them back into the land that He promised to give their ancestors. It is a second witness to His faithfulness and love, the first list being the first witness. The Nehemiah of verse 7 therefore is not Nehemiah the wall-builder (cf. Ezra 2:2).

The total number who returned was 49,942 (vv. 66-67; Ezra 2:64-65). However, the sum of the individuals the writer mentioned in this chapter is 31,089 (and 29,818 in Ezra 2).[72]

The "seventh month" (v. 73) probably refers to the month Tishri in the year 537 B.C. This was the year in which the returned exiles just named gathered in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Ezra 3). It could hardly be the "seventh month" in the year the walls were completed (444 B.C.), since the people were in Jerusalem on the first day of that seventh month (8:2), not in their various towns. Probably we should add verse 73b to the end of this list.

"Nehemiah appears to be reminding the reader of that great gathering with the hopes that a comparison will be made with the gathering recorded in Nehemiah 8."[73]

II. THE RESTORATION OF THE JEWS CHS. 8—13

One writer viewed chapters 8—13 (really 7:73—13:37) as the third part of the tripartite structure of Ezra-Nehemiah. Ezra 1:1-4 deals with "potentiality," the decree to the community to build God's house. Ezra 1:5—Nehemiah 7:72 records the process of "actualization." The community builds God's house in response to the decree. Nehemiah 7:73—13:31 documents "success." The community celebrates the completion of God's house according to the Torah.[74]

A. THE RENEWAL OF THE MOSAIC COVENANT CHS. 8—10

"The reading of Scripture (Neh 8) and the act of prayer (Neh 9) followed by community commitment (Neh 10) is a model for worshiping communities."[75]

This was another instance in Israel's history of a covenant renewal accompanying a spiritual awakening (cf. Exod. 34; Josh. 24; 2 Kings 18; 22—23; Ezra 10:12-14; et al.).

1. The gathering of the people ch. 8

The fact that Nehemiah did not move back to Susa when he finished the wall and secured the city shows that his concern was not primarily those projects. The larger goal of reestablishing the Jews in the land to which God had told them to return following the exile was his primary objective (cf. Isa. 48:20; Jer. 50:8; 51:6). He wanted to see God's plan fulfilled. He put God's interests before his own.

The Mosaic Law specified that once every seven years the people of Israel were to assemble and listen to the reading of the Law. This was to take place during the Feast of Booths (also called Tabernacles, Deut. 31:10-13). This occasion provided an opportunity for the people to renew their commitment to Yahweh and His Law. Such covenant renewal ceremonies had taken place earlier in Israel's history (e.g., Josh. 8:30-35; 24:1-27; et al.) and were common in the ancient Near East. Nehemiah 8 records another of these that took place in the year 444 B.C.

The reading of the law 8:1-8

This ceremony reflects the form of Israelite worship that had developed in exile. Almost the same elements that characterized the synagogue services begun then appear here. The people assembled, there was a request for the reading of the Torah, someone opened the scroll, and the people stood. Then someone (Ezra) offered praise, the people responded, and they received instruction (a sermon). Finally the Law was read, an oral explanation and exhortation followed, and the people departed for a fellowship meal.[76]

The "first day of the seventh month" (v. 2) was the day on which the Israelites were to observe the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:24). The priests blew trumpets to assemble the people, to announce God's working among them, and to signal preparation for the Day of Atonement, which followed on the tenth of the month (Lev. 23:27).

This time the people gathered at an appropriate place near the Water Gate (v. 1). This gate was on the east side of the City of David, and it was near the Gihon Spring.

Nehemiah did not mention Ezra earlier in this book. However, now we learn that he was still active in Jerusalem as a contemporary and fellow leader of the restoration community along with Nehemiah. As the most important scribe in Israel at this time, as well as a priest, he led the people by reading the covenant to them (v. 3).

Scholars have suggested that "the book of the Law of Moses" (v. 1) refers to the legal material in the Pentateuch, or the "priestly code" (i.e., Leviticus), or the Deuteronomic laws, or the entire Pentateuch (i.e., the Torah). There is no way to solve this mystery now. We do know, however, that the book was a scroll, since codices (books as we know them) did not become popular until the early Christian centuries.

Even though Ezra apparently read for several hours, the people remained attentive. This attitude, along with their standing on their feet because they respected the Law, shows the commitment of these obedient Jews to Yahweh and His Word (vv. 3, 5). Evidently a wooden podium accommodated Israel's leaders who stood on a raised platform with Ezra (v. 4). Lifting up the hands toward heaven, normally with palms upward, was a common way in which the Jews expressed their desire to receive a blessing from God (cf. 1 Kings 8:22). Bowing with faces to the ground, a posture Muslims still observe, reflected their sense of humility before God (cf. Gen. 18:8). This is how slaves bowed before their masters in the ancient world (v. 6; cf. Gen. 27:29; 37:10; 49:8 et al.).

Not only did the leaders read the Word of God, they also translated it from the Hebrew language into Aramaic, the common language of the Persian Empire. Some of the Jews present did not know Hebrew (13:24), having grown up in Babylon and elsewhere, away from Jews who maintained fluency in the Hebrew language. The written translation of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic, with comments added, was the Targum (lit. translation). The Apostle Paul referred to himself as a Hebrew (Phil. 3:5). He meant that he was a Jew who could read the Hebrew Bible in the original Hebrew language, not just in Aramaic.

Ezra and his associates not only translated the Law, they also explained what it meant and how it applied to the people. This is true Bible exposition.

The response of the people 8:9-12

Conviction of their departure from God's will fell on the people as they heard the Law read. Their initial reaction was to mourn and weep (v. 9). Eating the fat (v. 9) means eating the best parts. The exposition of Scripture taught the Israelites God's will, convicted them of their short-comings, corrected their conduct, and fitted them for righteous living (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16).

However, the Law specified that the Feast of Trumpets was to be a joyous occasion, so Nehemiah urged them to rejoice in the Lord (v. 10). This joy, as they thought about Yahweh, would strengthen and sustain them as a tonic. I consider verse 10 the key verse of the book, because it reveals how the returnees were able to rebuild the wall. The theme of joy runs throughout this book. It was the people's joy in the Lord that enabled them to accomplish such a remarkable restoration of the wall and fidelity to the covenant.

The Feast of Tabernacles 8:13-18

Note that the spiritually revived people had an insatiable appetite to learn more about God's Word. This is a normal outcome of true revival.

Perhaps part of what Ezra and his associates read to the people, or at least to the leaders, included Leviticus 23 (v. 13). In Leviticus 23, God called on the Jews to observe the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) on the fifteenth through the twenty-first days of the seventh month (Lev. 23:34-36). This was a happy celebration that looked back to the Israelites' years of wandering in the wilderness when they lived in booths that they made out of branches. The Contemporary English Version translators called this feast the Feast of Shelters. It also looked forward to the Israelites' entrance into, and permanent residence in, the Promised Land. Consequently, it would have had special significance for the returned exiles who now again had entered into the Promised Land after being absent from it for years. They had come through a kind of wilderness experience themselves. They even had to travel through a literal wilderness to get back to their land.

Nehemiah did not record whether the people also observed the Day of Atonement that fell on the tenth of the same month. Probably they did, since they were restoring the other Israelite institutions. Perhaps he passed over mentioning it because the Day of Atonement was a sad day in the Jewish year. It was the only fast among Israel's festivals wherein the people afflicted themselves in repentance for their sins. Nehemiah seems to have wanted in this chapter, and in the whole book, to emphasize the positive aspects of the restoration, namely, God's faithfulness and the people's joy.

The restoration community had observed the Feast of Tabernacles previously (Ezra 3:4). However, the present celebration was the most festive and well-attended one since Joshua had brought the Israelites into the Promised Land (v. 17). This reflects growing joy and spiritual strength among the Jews who returned from exile.

"Let it be stressed, however, that it is joy in God. What we witness here is not the tacking on of vacuous festivity to an act of worship which is itself kept drab. The rejoicing is worship. What must be cultivated is a rejoicing together in the goodness of God."[77]

The Law also prescribed the solemn assembly on the twenty-second of the month (Lev. 23:36). Probably this was the day when the people would have normally renewed their commitment to God formally. It was customary in the ancient Near East for citizens to regularly make such a commitment to their lord (suzerain) in such a fashion.

"Today, even more, not just the pastors and 'experts' but all believers should 'do theology,' reflecting together on the application of biblical, ethical principles to every area of life. To do theology or theologize is to apply biblical principles to every aspect of life."[78]

"The sequence in chapter 8 is striking: intellectual response to the Word (vv. 1-8), emotional response to the Word (vv. 9-12), and volitional response to the Word (vv. 13-18)."[79]

"The Word of God had a tremendous impact on the Restoration community. It pointed the people to their sin (8:9), led them to worship (8:12, 14), and gave them great joy (8:17)."[80]

2. The prayer of the people ch. 9

The people were not content to go about their business as usual after hearing the Word of God read. They realized they needed to hear more and to get right with God more completely.

The preparations for prayer 9:1-4

Two days after the solemn assembly (8:18), the people were still mourning over their sins (9:1). This was a genuine spiritual revival. In obedience to God's Law the people broke off forbidden alliances with non-Jews (cf. Deut. 23:3-8). They also confessed their ancestors' sins as well as their own, listened to the reading of the Law, and worshipped God (vv. 2-3). Seven Levites led the people in confession and worship (v. 4).

"It is of interest that the congregation did not only confess their own sins, but also those of their ancestors. This is a recurring theme in the books of Ezra-Nehemiah. They felt their solidarity with past generations."[81]

". . . 'separation' [v. 2] has nothing to do with simply disliking someone. Separation has to do, principally, with religious commitment—with the idea of covenant."[82]

The prayer of praise 9:5-38

A second group of seven Levites (v. 5) led the people in the prayer of praise that Nehemiah included in this book, perhaps on a different day than the prayer he wrote about in verses 1-4.

"The prayer is intended to instruct the readers. It gives us a survey of the history of Israel with emphasis on certain events in the life of the Chosen People. This approach is comparable to that of Pss. 78, 105, 106, 135, and 136."[83]

It is especially helpful to read this prayer through the eyes of the returned exiles. They had experienced many of the same things their forefathers had. We, too, can identify with their appreciation of God's grace, since we have seen these things in God's dealings with us.

This is one of the great prayers of the Old Testament. It praises God for His character and conduct. It describes God's greatness seen in His creation of the cosmos (v. 6), and His grace and faithfulness in calling Abraham, promising him the land of Canaan, and fulfilling that promise (vv. 7-8). The returned exiles could identify with God's miraculous deliverance of their forefathers when they were slaves in Egypt (vv. 9-11).

"Some forty Hebrew words are used to speak of miracles; they are used approximately five hundred times in the Old Testament. Half of these five hundred occurrences refer to the miracles of the exodus."[84]

The returnees could also appreciate God's supernatural guidance of them and His faithful provision for them until He brought them to the Promised Land (vv. 12-15). They also voiced thanks to God for choosing them and for giving them His Law (vv. 13-14). While the second Exodus motif is strong in the biblical writers' concept of the restoration, the idea of pilgrimage and procession to Zion is equally strong.[85] In spite of their forefathers' rebellion (vv. 16-17a): God forgave them and graciously guided them (v. 19), provided for their physical needs (vv. 20-21), and gave them victory over their enemies (v. 22). He also multiplied them (v. 23), brought them into the Promised Land (vv. 24-25a), and established them there (v. 25b).

During the period of the judges and during the monarchy, the Israelites disobeyed and rebelled many times. Nevertheless, God delivered them when they repented (vv. 26-29) and sent the prophets to turn them back to Himself (v. 30). This shows God's further grace and compassion toward His people (v. 31). The returned Jews then called on God to remember their sufferings in exile (v. 32). They acknowledged that the exile was a consequence of their disobedience to God's Word (vv. 33-34). Even in exile, most of the Israelites had not returned to God (v. 35). Consequently, much of the Jewish nation was still in bondage to its Persian rulers (vv. 36-37).

"This sad confession, like that of Ezr 9:9, affords clear proof that the leaders of post-Exilic Judaism did not regard their return from Babylon as final fulfillment of such prophecies of Israel's restoration to the land as Isa 11:11-16; 14:1, 2."[86]

Nonetheless now they, the faithful remnant of returnees, were ready to make a formal commitment to obey Yahweh again (v. 38).

3. The renewed commitment of the people ch. 10

Nehemiah explained the agreement he previously referred to in 9:38 in this chapter. Conviction of sin (ch. 8) led to confession of sin (ch. 9) and resulted in a covenant with God (ch. 10).

"Nehemiah 10, despite its forbidding portal of 27 verses of proper names, is in reality a small treasure house of post-exilic interpretations of earlier Israelite law."[87]

The signers of the document 10:1-27

The names in verses 2-8 are those of the heads of 21 priestly families (cf. 12:12-21). Verses 9-13 record the names of 17 Levites. Then the writer gave the names of 44 heads of other leading families (vv. 14-27).

The pledge to keep the Law 10:28-39

The rest of the restoration community joined those who signed their names pledging to obey the Mosaic Law (vv. 28-29). The "curse" they took on themselves was submission to the curse that God promised would come on those who did not keep His Word (v. 29; Deut. 28:15-68). "Law" (Heb. torah) refers to all God's instructions, "commandments" are His rules, "ordinances" are His judicial pronouncements, and "statutes" are His permanent decrees (v. 29; cf. Deut. 4:45).

These Jews promised, specifically, not to intermarry with pagans (v. 30) and to keep the Sabbath day and the sabbatical year (v. 31). They further committed to support the temple service financially (vv. 32-34), to give their firstfruits to God (vv. 35-37a), and to pay their basic tithe tax (vv. 37b-39). The last sentence in verse 39 shows that the primary concern of the people was the worship that was the heart of their national life. Their priorities were proper.

The Law required Israelites 20 years old and older to pay one-half a shekel as a temple tax (Exod. 30:11-16). This particular congregation only promised one-third of a shekel (v. 32). Perhaps Nehemiah reduced the amount since the returned exiles were now poor (cf. 5:1-5).[88] Another explanation is that the people may have pledged this one-third shekel in addition to the other one-half.[89] A third possibility is that a different system of evaluating the shekel had replaced the older one.[90] The text is not specific on this point. In any case the people responded sacrificially.

B. THE RESIDENTS OF THE LAND 11:1—12:26

When the exiles returned to the Promised Land, living in Jerusalem was not an attractive prospect because the city lay in ruins. However, with the rebuilding of the temple and the walls, the capital became a more desirable place to live. Nehemiah as governor saw the wisdom of populating Jerusalem with pureblooded Jews and set about to encourage the people to live within the city walls. Most of this section of the book (11:3—12:26) is a parenthetical interjection into the chronological progression of the narrative.

1. The residents of Jerusalem 11:1-24

Some leaders had already chosen to live in Jerusalem (v. 1). Nehemiah initiated a plan to determine which one family in ten, of those not living in the city, would move into it (v. 1). Additional immigrants volunteered to live there (v. 2). There was a cross section of leaders, therefore, who lived in Jerusalem, while other leaders lived in the other towns of Judah (v. 3).

"The city wall was built, and now a new measure to safeguard the city was instituted, namely, to repopulate it."[91]

The residents of Jerusalem included Jews from the tribes of Judah (vv. 4-6) and Benjamin (vv. 7-9). There were twice as many from Benjamin as from Judah. There were priests (vv. 10-14), Levites (vv. 15-18), and gatekeepers (v. 19). The rest lived in the outlying towns (v. 20), except for the temple servants (v. 21). The Ophel was apparently a leveled mini-valley (or perhaps a low hill) between the City of David and the temple area.[92] Pethahiah appears to have been an adviser to the Persian king (Artaxerxes) in matters of Jewish affairs (v. 24). Compare 1 Chronicles 9:2-34 for a similar list. Estimates of Jerusalem's population at this time vary from 4,800[93] to 8,000[94].

2. The residents of the outlying towns 11:25-36

The towns south of Jerusalem, from the Hinnom Valley just south of the city as far as Beersheba, were those in the territory belonging to the tribe of Judah. Those north of Jerusalem stretching to the neighboring province of Samaria were towns of Benjamin. These were the two sections of the Persian province of Yehud (Judah). Nehemiah mentioned 17 prominent towns in Judah here (vv. 25-30), and 15 in Benjamin (vv. 31-35). The Levites lived among the general population, as when the Israelites first entered the Promised Land under Joshua, in order to be a good influence and to act as spiritual resource persons (v. 36).

"In a time when self-centeredness seems to dominate Western life-styles, the Word of God calls us to work and live together as a community, to be dependent upon one another, and to help one another in achieving the task God has set before us."[95]

3. The priests and Levites 12:1-26

The priests and Levites were the most important people who returned from exile because they reestablished worship in the land. Verses 1-7 give the names of 22 leaders among them who had returned in 537 B.C. with Zerubbabel and Jeshua (cf. 1 Chron. 24:7-19). The writer also mentioned eight Levites by name (vv. 8-9; cf. Ezra 2:40-42).

The genealogy of the high priest was especially important. Five succeeding descendants of Jeshua appear in the text (vv. 10-11).[96] This list continues the one in 1 Chronicles 6:3-15 that ends with the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C.

The text also lists heads of 21 priestly families in the generation that followed Jeshua's (vv. 12-21). The names of the heads of the nine Levitical families that Nehemiah referred to in verse 22 appear in verses 24-26. The four high priests he mentioned in verse 22 evidently registered these names. Darius the Persian (v. 22) is probably Darius II (423-404 B.C.).[97] The "Book of the Chronicles" (v. 23) is not the canonical Book of Chronicles but another record of names.[98]

C. THE DEDICATION OF THE WALL 12:27-47

This portion of the book resumes the historical narrative in chronological order from 11:2 where it stopped. Probably the dedication took place soon after the covenant renewal ceremonies (chs. 8—10).

1. Preparations for the dedication 12:27-30

Nehemiah enlisted Levites from all over Judah to guarantee that the dedication service would be properly grand. The people separated from uncleanness as they anticipated the sacrifices and worship that would take place.

2. The dedication ceremonies 12:31-47

One large choir mounted the city wall and walked around it counterclockwise, evidently beginning at the Valley Gate (vv. 31-37). Another choir mounted it, probably at the same place, and proceeded in a clockwise direction (vv. 38-39). Both groups appear to have sung as they walked (v. 42). They met at the temple (vv. 40-42). There the priests offered many sacrifices and the people rejoiced greatly (v. 43). This was the same wall that Tobiah had earlier claimed would be so weak that even a fox walking on it would break it down (4:3)!

"The final consummation of Nehemiah's work had been reached. The city was protected by a wall and could resist any attempt of the neighboring nations to attack it. This was one of the main reasons for the joy. The other was that the people had demonstrated that they could perform a major task as a unit, and this proved to be a great stimulus to their morale."[99]

Nehemiah also reestablished the temple service as David had organized it (vv. 44-47). He did for the second temple what David had done for the first temple.

This was the greatest day in the history of the restoration community. Israel was now back in the land more securely and scripturally than it had been since the first exiles had returned. Nehemiah had succeeded in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, reestablishing the Mosaic Law as Israel's authority, and reorganizing the temple ministry in harmony with God's will.

D. THE REFORMS INSTITUTED BY NEHEMIAH CH. 13

To understand when the events described in this chapter took place, it is necessary to read verses 1-7, not just verse 1. Nehemiah returned to Artaxerxes in 432 B.C. (v. 6). It was customary in the ancient Near East for kings to require their servants to return to them periodically to reaffirm their allegiance. "Some time" later Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem (v. 6). The text does not say how much later this was. The prophet Malachi reproved the Jews in Judah for the same sins Nehemiah described in this chapter, and conservative scholars usually date his prophecies about 432-431 B.C. Therefore Nehemiah may very well have returned to Jerusalem about 431 B.C. Undoubtedly he would have wished to return as soon as possible.

Each of the following reforms dealt with a violation of the covenant these people had made with God (cf. 10:29-32).

1. The exclusion of foreigners 13:1-3

Discovery of the law that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of the Lord (Deut. 23:3-4) led the leaders to exclude all foreigners from the restoration community.

"But the social climb was tempting in these trying days, and marriage offered an attractive ladder."[100]

There are three explanations for Ruth's inclusion. The best one, I believe, is that unbelieving immigrants from these nations were those denied full rights. This would explain why Rahab, a Canaanite, and Ruth, a Moabite, became citizens. They were both believers. Another explanation is that the use of the Hebrew masculine nouns, Ammonite and Moabite, refer to males exclusively. A third possibility is that the Israelites simply did not enforce this law.

2. The expulsion of Tobiah 13:4-9

Eliashib was the high priest (3:1, 20; 13:28). He was evidently a close relative of Tobiah, the Jewish Ammonite leader who had opposed Nehemiah's efforts to rebuild the walls (2:19; 6:1, 17-18). Probably Eliashib cleaned out one of the temple storerooms and converted it into an apartment for Tobiah because he was an influential relative (v. 7). Nehemiah was very angry when he returned to Jerusalem and discovered this enemy of the faithful remnant living in the temple, so he threw him out.

"If on his first visit he had been a whirlwind, on his second he was all fire and earthquake to a city that had settled down in his absence to a comfortable compromise with the gentile world."[101]

"With this incident Nehemiah set the example of his new approach to an unnecessarily close relationship with foreigners. The purity of religion had to be maintained at any cost. This was absolutely necessary if the small community, beset as it was with all the temptations of paganism, was to be prevented from reverting to a compromise with the neighboring nations and bringing their ancestral religion into danger."[102]

Nehemiah could legitimately call Artaxerxes the king of Babylon in 431 B.C. Artaxerxes was, of course, a Persian king, not one of the kings of the Babylonian Empire. However, in 431 B.C., Persia ruled Babylon.

3. The revival of tithing 13:10-14

Because the people had failed to bring their tithes to the temple, the Levites had to abandon their service in the temple to provide for their own physical needs. This failure may have resulted in rooms standing vacant for Tobiah to occupy as well. In response to Nehemiah's reprimands, and Malachi's preaching, the people began to tithe again (cf. Mal. 3:8-10)

Thus far all of Nehemiah's reforms, following his return to Jerusalem, involved temple service. Verse 14 records his prayer in view of these reforms (cf. 5:19).

"God's 'remembering' always implies His intervention, not merely His recollection or recognition."[103]

4. The observance of the Sabbath 13:15-22

Nehemiah discovered that foreign merchants were selling goods in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, and that the Jews were also preparing and transporting goods on that holy day. He rebuked both the merchants and the Jewish nobles (cf. 10:31). Furthermore, he locked the city gates on the Sabbath and kept traders from gathering outside and tempting the Jews to buy and sell. He asked God to remember him for his fidelity to the Mosaic Law (v. 22b).

"In opposing Tobiah's personal use of a room in the temple precincts, Nehemiah was concerned about honoring holy space; in his anger against those who wanted to make the Sabbath just another day of buying and selling, he wanted to protect holy time."[104]

5. The rebuke of mixed marriages 13:23-29

Nehemiah confronted this problem as Ezra had several years earlier (Ezra 9—10). The text records only Nehemiah's words to the people, but since we know what kind of person he was, we can safely assume that he followed up his words with action. Evidently some of these Jews had divorced their Jewish wives to marry foreigners (Mal. 2:10-16). Plucking the beard (v. 25) was a form of punishment (cf. Isa. 50:6), and it was a public disgrace (2 Sam. 10:4). The marriage of Joiada's son to a foreigner (v. 28) was especially bad since he was the grandson of the high priest, and priests were to marry only Jewish virgins (Lev. 21:14).

"Any person in the high-priestly lineage could become high priest. It was thus a dangerous situation."[105]

In the ancient East, marriages involving prominent families were often arranged to secure political advantage and to form alliances. Probably this was the case in the marriage of the high priest's grandson and Sanballat's daughter. Again, a similar prayer by Nehemiah marks off this significant reform (v. 29; cf. v. 14).[106]

". . . Will Israel survive just to repeat the sins of the past? Intermarriage dragged Solomon and the entire nation into a vortex of doom that led to the exile. Will the postexilic generation go the same way?"[107]

6. The summary of Nehemiah's reforms 13:30-31

Probably we should understand these verses as summarizing Nehemiah's reforms after he returned to Jerusalem, namely, those described in this chapter. How long Nehemiah remained in Jerusalem is unknown. He behaved in this chapter as though he still had the power of a Persian governor.

". . . as facilitator of political stability and as the resolute upholder of the law, Nehemiah's mission has messianic features about it as well. He is thus a religious reformer who can be cast into the very best traditions of a Josiah or a Hezekiah."[108]

"Nehemiah's singlemindedness of purpose, attention to detail, willingness to delegate authority, dedication to service, and dependence on God were combined in a man who can simply be labeled as a servant of God."[109]


Conclusion

The Book of Nehemiah records the fortification of Jerusalem and the restoration of the Jews, two essential steps that were necessary to reestablish God's people in His will and in their land.

Nehemiah continued the good work that Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and Ezra had begun. Zerubbabel's great contribution had been the rebuilding of the temple, and Ezra's was the reformation of the people. Ezra and Nehemiah worked together in this latter task. Ezra 7—10 records Ezra's work in 458 B.C., and Nehemiah 8—13 describes Nehemiah's work in 444 and probably 431 B.C.

Whereas Ezra was a priest and a scribe, a "professional" religious leader, Nehemiah was a "layman," an administrator who was responsible to a Persian king. Both had deep commitment to God's will for Israel as Yahweh had revealed this in His Word. Both were true Jewish patriots in the best sense of that word.

The Book of Nehemiah provides a great illustration of how prayer and hard work can accomplish seemingly impossible things when a person determines to trust and obey God. As a leader Nehemiah was a man of responsibility, vision, prayer, action, cooperation, and compassion who triumphed over opposition with proper motivation.[110]

"The books of Ezra and Nehemiah reflect some of the bleakest and most difficult days of Israel's long Old Testament history. Though the Exile was over and a remnant people was in process of rebuilding the superstructures of national life, the prospects for success paled in comparison to the halcyon days of the past when the Davidic kingdom dominated the entire eastern Mediterranean world. What was needed was a word of encouragement, a message of hope in the God who had once blessed His people above all nations of the earth and who had promised to do so again.

"The great theological theme of the books lies, then, precisely in this nexus between the ancient promises of Yahweh and the present and future expectations of His chosen people. The postexilic community was small but its God is great. Reliance on such a God will assure a future more glorious than anything in the days gone by."[111]

Contrast the harsh conditions in Israel at this time with the glorious future that the writing prophets predicted for the nation. The restoration period did not fulfill the promised glories of the messianic age when Israel will again return to its land.

"It must be said, in conclusion, that no portion of the Old Testament provides us with a greater incentive to dedicated, discerning zeal for the work of God than the Book of Nehemiah. The example of Nehemiah's passion for the truth of God's Word, whatever the cost or consequences, is an example sorely needed in the present hour."[112]

 


Bibliography

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Albright, William F. The Archaeology of Palestine. 1949. Revised ed. Pelican Archaeology series. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Eng.: Penguin Books, 1956.

Allrik, H. L. "The Lists of Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 7 and Ezra 2) and the Hebrew Numerical Notation." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 136 (December 1954):21-27.

Anderson, S. E. Nehemiah the Executive. Wheaton: Van Kampen Press, 1954.

Avigad, N. Rediscovering Jerusalem. Nashville: Abingdon, 1983.

Bahat, Dan. "Jerusalem Down Under: Tunneling along Herod's Temple Mount Wall." Biblical Archaeology Review 21:6 (November-December 1995):30-47.

Barber, Cyril. Nehemiah and the Dynamics of Effective Leadership. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1976.

Batten, Loring W. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. International Critical Commentary series. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1913.

Baxter, J. Sidlow. Explore the Book. 6 vols. London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, 1965.

Bell, Robert D. "The Theology of Nehemiah." Biblical Viewpoint 20:2 (November 1986):56-63.

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. "The Mission of Udjahorresnet and Those of Ezra and Nehemiah." Journal of Biblical Literature 106:3 (1987):409-21.

_____. "A Theological Reading of Ezra-Nehemiah." Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association 12 (1989):26-36.

Breneman, Mervin. Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. The New American Commentary series. N.c.: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993.

Bright, John A. A History of Israel. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1959.

Brockington, L. H. Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. Greenwood, S.C.: Attic Press, 1969.

Broshi, Magen. "La population de l'ancienne Jerusalem." Revue Biblique 92 (1975):5-14.

Bury, J. B.; S. A. Cook; and F. E. Adcock, eds. The Cambridge Ancient History. 12 vols. 2nd ed. reprinted. Cambridge, Eng.: University Press, 1928.

Campbell, Donald K. Nehemiah: Man in Charge. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1979.

Clines, David J. A. Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. New Century Bible Commentary series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., and London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, 1984.

_____. "Nehemiah 10 as an Example of Early Jewish Biblical Exegesis." Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 21 (1981):111-17.

Coggins, R. J. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible series. Cambridge, Eng.: University Press, 1976.

Cross, Frank Moore, Jr. "A Reconstruction of the Judean Restoration." Journal of Biblical Literature 94:1 (March 1975):4-18.

Darby, John Nelson. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. 5 vols. Revised ed. New York: Loizeaux Brothers Publishers, 1942.

de Vaux, Roland. Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions. 2 vols. Translated by John McHugh. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961.

Dulin, Rachel. "Leaders in the Restoration." The Bible Today 24:5 (September 1986):287-91.

Dumbrell, William J. "The Theological Intention of Ezra-Nehemiah." Reformed Theological Review 45:3 (September-December 1986):65-72.

Dyer, Charles H., and Eugene H. Merrill. The Old Testament Explorer. Nashville: Word Publishing, 2001. Reissued as Nelson's Old Testament Survey. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001.

Eskenazi, T. In an Age of Prose. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988.

Fensham, F. Charles. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. New International Commentary on the Old Testament series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983.

_____. "Medina in Ezra and Nehemiah." Vetus Testamentum 25:4 (October 1975):795-97.

Gaebelein, Arno C. The Annotated Bible. 4 vols. Reprint ed. Chicago: Moody Press, and New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1790.

Galling, Kurt. "The 'Gola-List' according to Ezra 2//Nehemiah 7." Journal of Biblical Literature 70 (1951):149-58.

Getz, Gene A. "Nehemiah." In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, pp. 673-97. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1985.

Geva, H. "The Western Boundary of Jerusalem at the End of the Monarchy." Israel Exploration Journal 29 (1979):84-91.

Gowan, D. E. Bridge Between the Testaments. Pittsburgh: Pickwick, 1976.

Grabbe, Lester L. "The Jewish Theocracy from Cyrus to Titus: A Programmatic Study." Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 37 (February 1987):117-24.

Grafman, R. "Nehemiah's Broad Wall." Israel Exploration Journal 24 (1974):50-51.

Hoehner, Harold W. "Daniel's Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology." Bibliotheca Sacra 132:525 (January-March 1975):47-65.

Holmgren, Fredrick Carlson. Israel Alive Again. International Theological Commentary series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987.

Hoppe, Leslie J. "The Restoration of Judah." The Bible Today 24:5 (September 1986):281-86.

Howard, David M., Jr. An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books. Chicago: Moody Press, 1993.

Ironside, Harry A. Notes on the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah & Esther. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, n.d.

Ivry, Alfred L. "Nehemiah 6, 10: Politics and the Temple." Journal for the Study of Judaism 3 (1972):35-45.

Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by William Whiston. London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1866; reprint ed. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988.

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. Toward an Old Testament Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978.

Keil, C. F. The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Translated by Sophia Taylor. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.

Kenyon, Kathleen M. Jerusalem: Excavating 3000 Years of History. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967.

Kidner, Derek. Ezra and Nehemiah. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries series. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979.

Kitchen, K. A. The Bible in Its World. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1977.

Laney, J. Carl. Ezra and Nehemiah. Everyman's Bible Commentary series. Chicago: Moody Press, 1982.

Lange, John Peter, ed. Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. 12 vols. Reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960. Vol. 4: Chronicles-Job, by Otto Zockler, Fr. W. Schultz, and Howard Crosby. Translated, enlarged, and edited by James G. Murphy, Charles A. Briggs, James Strong, and L. J. Evans.

Longman, Tremper, III and Raymond B. Dillard. An Introduction to the Old Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Luck, G. Coleman. Ezra and Nehemiah. Chicago: Moody Press, 1961.

Mazar, Benjamin. "The Tobiads." Israel Exploration Journal 7 (1957):137-45, 229-38.

McConville, J. G. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Daily Study Bible series. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1985.

Merrill, Eugene H. Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.

_____. "Pilgrimage and Procession: Motifs of Israel's Return." In Israel's Apostasy and Restoration: Essays in Honor of Roland K. Harrison, pp. 261-272. Edited by Avraham Gileadi. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

_____. "A Theology of Ezra-Nehemiah and Esther." In A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 189-205. Edited by Roy B. Zuck. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991.

Monson, James M. The Land Between. Jerusalem: By the author, P.O. box 1276, 1983.

Morgan, G. Campbell. Living Messages of the Books of the Bible. 2 vols. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1912.

Myers, Jacob M. Ezra; Nehemiah. Anchor Bible series. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1965.

The NET (New English Translation) Bible. First beta printing. Spokane, Wash.: Biblical Studies Press, 2001.

The New Scofield Reference Bible. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, et al. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Olmstead, A. T. History of the Persian Empire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948.

Pfeiffer, Charles F., and Howard F. Vos. The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands. Chicago: Moody Press, 1967.

Prichard, James B., ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts. 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955.

Redpath, Alan. Victorious Christian Service. Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1958.

Rowley, H. H. "The Chronological Order of Ezra and Nehemiah." In The Servant of the Lord and other Essays on the Old Testament, pp. 137-68. 2nd edition. Revised. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965.

_____. "Nehemiah's Mission and Its Background." Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 37:2 (March 1955):528-61.

_____. "Sanaballat and the Samaritan Temple." Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 38:1 (September 1955):166-98.

Ryle, H. E. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Cambridge, Eng.: University Press, 1917.

Schiemann, Richard. "Covenanting with the Princes: Neh. VI:2." Vetus Testamentum 17 (July 1967):367-69.

Schwantes, Siegfried J. A Short History of the Ancient Near East. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1965.

Seume, Richard H. Nehemiah: God's Builder. Chicago: Moody Press, 1978.

Slotki, Judah J. Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah. London: Soncino Press, 1951.

Student Map Manual. Jerusalem: Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est., 1979.

Swindoll, Charles R. Hand Me Another Brick. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978.

Thiele, Edwin R. The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings. Revised ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965.

Turnbull, Ralph G. The Book of Nehemiah. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968.

Vos, Howard F. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Bible Study Commentary series. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Hosue, Lamplighter Books, 1987.

Whitcomb, John C. "Nehemiah." In The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, pp. 435-46. Edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison. Chicago: Moody Press, 1962.

White, J. Excellence in Leadership. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986.

Williamson, H. G. M. Ezra, Nehemiah. Word Bible Commentary series. Waco: Word Books, 1985.

_____. "The Governors of Judah under the Persians." Tyndale Bulletin 39 (1988):59-82.

_____. "Nehemiah's Wall Revisited." Palestine Exploration Quarterly 116 (1984):81-88.

Wood, Leon. A Survey of Israel's History. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.

Xenophon. Cyropaedia. 2 vols. With an English translation by Walter Miller. The Loeb Classical Library. London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1960.

Yamauchi, Edwin M. "The Archaeological Background of Nehemiah." Bibliotheca Sacra 137:548 (October-December 1980):291-309.

_____. "Ezra-Nehemiah." In 1 Kings-Job. Vol. 4 of The Expositor's Bible Commentary. 12 vols. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and Richard D. Polcyn. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988.

_____. "Postbiblical Traditions About Ezra and Nehemiah." In A Tribute to Gleason Archer, pp. 167-74. Edited by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Ronald F. Youngblood. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986.

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[1]See my notes on the introduction to Ezra.

[2]See my comments on 12:22.

[3]See Frank M. Cross, "A Reconstruction of the Judean Restoration," Journal of Biblical Literature 94:1 (March 1975):18.

[4]Some scholars date Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem at about 425 B.C., e.g., John C. Whitcomb, "Nehemiah," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, pp.435, 445.

[5]Ibid, p. 435.

[6]Adapted from G. Campbell Morgan, Living Messages of the Books of the Bible, 1:1:251-65.

[7]Mervin Breneman, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, p. 168.

[8]Derek Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, p. 77.

[9]Howard F. Vos, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, p. 80.

[10]For the Hebrew calendar, see the appendix to my notes on Ezra.

[11]Kidner, p. 78. Cf. Eugene H. Merrill, in The Old Testament Explorer, p. 353.

[12]Robert D. Bell, "The Theology of Nehemiah," Biblical Viewpoint 20:2 (November 1986):56.

[13]F. Charles Fensham, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, p. 157.

[14]Fredrick C. Holmgren, Israel Alive Again, p. 90.

[15]Fensham, p. 157.

[16]Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 1:3:9.

[17]A. T. Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire, p. 217.

[18]Edwin M. Yamauchi, "The Archaeological Background of Nehemiah," Bibliotheca Sacra 137:548 (October-December 1980):296-97.

[19]E.g., Jacob M. Myers, Ezra-Nehemiah, p. 96; and John Bright, A History of Israel, p. 364.

[20]Yamauchi, p. 298.

[21]Breneman, p. 174.

[22]Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, pp. 28-30, 161.

[23]J. Carl Laney, Ezra and Nehemiah, p. 77.

[24]Edwin Yamauchi, "Ezra-Nehemiah," in 1 Kings-Job, vol. 4 of The Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 684.

[25]Ibid., p. 685.

[26]Breneman, p. 176.

[27]J. White, Excellence in Leadership, p. 35.

[28]Harold W. Hoehner, "Daniel's Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology," Bibliotheca Sacra 132:525 (January-March 1975):64.

[29]Laney, pp. 78-79.

[30]See Dan Bahat, "Jerusalem Down Under: Tunneling along Herod's Temple Mount Wall," Biblical Archaeology Review 21:6 (November-December 1995):45-46. This interesting article walks the reader through archaeological discoveries along the Western Wall of Herod's Temple Mount from south to north.

[31]Vos. p. 91.

[32]Kidner, p. 81.

[33]H. H. Rowley, "Sanballat and the Samaritan Temple," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 38:1 (September 1955):166-67.

[34]James B. Prichard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 492.

[35]Yamauchi, "Ezra-Nehemiah," pp. 768-71.

[36]L. H. Brockington, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, p. 130.

[37]Benjamin Mazar, "The Tobiads," Israel Exploration Journal 7 (1957):137-45, 229-38.

[38]H. H. Rowley, "Nehemiah's Mission and Its Background," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 37:2 (March 1955):559.

[39]Yamauchi, "Ezra-Nehemiah," p. 689.

[40]Kidner, pp. 83-84. Cf. Olmstead, pp. 295, 316.

[41]Yamauchi, "Ezra-Nehemiah," p. 690.

[42]Donald K. Campbell, Nehemiah: Man in Charge, p. 23.

[43]E.g., K. Kenyon, Jerusalem: Excavating 3000 Years of History, p. 107; Fensham, pp. 165-66, 171; David M. Howard Jr., Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books, p. 290; N. Avigad, Rediscovering Jerusalem, pp. 61-63; H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, p. 188; and idem, "Nehemiah's Wall Revisited," Palestinian Exploration Quarterly 116 (1984):81-88.

[44]Cf. R. Grafman, "Nehemiah's Broad Wall," Israel Exploration Journal 24 (1974):50-51; and H. Geva, "The Western Boundary of Jerusalem at the End of the Monarchy," Israel Exploration Journal 29 (1979):84-91.

[45]Yamauchi, "Ezra-Nehemiah," p. 692.

[46]Alfred Edersheim, The Temple, p. 30.

[47]The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 548.

[48]Breneman, p. 193.

[49]Fensham, p. 180.

[50]Breneman, p. 194.

[51]Bright, p. 373.

[52]Fensham, p. 182.

[53]Peter Ackroyd, I and II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, pp. 277-78.

[54]Gene A. Getz, "Nehemiah," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 682.

[55]Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 11:5:8.

[56]Quoted by J. G. McConville, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, p. 95.

[57]Getz, p. 683.

[58]Laney, p. 92.

[59]Fensham, p. 198.

[60]See H. G. M. Williamson, "The Governors of Judah under the Persians," Tyndale Bulletin 39 (1988):77-82.

[61]Idem, Ezra, Nehemiah, p. 246.

[62]McConville, p. 102.

[63]See Joseph Blenkinsopp, "The Mission of Edjahorresnet and Those of Ezra and Nehemiah," Journal of Biblical Literature 106:3 (1987):414-14.

[64]Richard Schiemann, "Covenanting with the Princes: Neh. VI:2," Vetus Testamentum 17 (July 1967):367-69.

[65]Fensham, p. 202.

[66]A. L. Ivry, "Nehemiah 6, 10: Politics and the Temple," Journal for the Study of Judaism 3 (1972):38.

[67]Cyril Barber, Nehemiah and the Dynamics of Effective Leadership, p. 97.

[68]Kidner, p. 100.

[69]Breneman, p. 213.

[70]Kidner, p. 103.

[71]Merrill, p. 357.

[72]See my notes on Ezra 2:2b-35. For a detailed study of the two lists, see H. L. Allrik, "The Lists of Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 7 and Ezra 2) and the Hebrew Numerical Notation," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 136 (December 1954):21-27. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 688, compares the two lists side by side and notes the differences. It also contains possible explanations for the differences in numbers.

[73]Laney, p. 98.

[74]T. Eskenazi, In an Age of Prose, pp. 37-39.

[75]Breneman, p. 222.

[76]Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, pp. 281-82.

[77]McConville, p. 120.

[78]Breneman, p. 229.

[79]Getz, p. 690.

[80]Laney, p. 104.

[81]Fensham, p. 223.

[82]Holmgren, p. 129.

[83]Fensham, pp. 227-28.

[84]Breneman, p. 237.

[85]Eugene H. Merrill, "Pilgrimage and Procession: Motifs of Israel's Return," In Israel's Apostasy and Restoration: Essays in Honor of Roland K. Harrison, pp. 261-272.

[86]Whitcomb, p. 442.

[87]David Clines, "Nehemiah 10 as an Example of Early Jewish Biblical Exegesis," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 21 (1981):111.

[88]Laney, p. 109; Whitcomb, p. 442.

[89]Judah J. Slotki, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, p. 246.

[90]McConville, p. 133.

[91]Fensham, p. 244.

[92]Breneman, p. 259.

[93]M. Broshi, "La population de l'ancienne Jerusalem," Revue Biblique 92 (1975):9-10.

[94]D. E. Gowan, Bridge Between the Testaments, p. 20.

[95]Breneman, p. 263.

[96]On the complex problem of the identification of these high priests, see Yamauchi, "Ezra-Nehemiah," pp. 580-83.

[97]Whitcomb, p. 443.

[98]Vos, p. 129.

[99]Fensham, pp. 257-58.

[100]Kidner, p. 115.

[101]Ibid., p. 129.

[102]Fensham, p. 261.

[103]Kidner, p. 130.

[104]Holmgren, p. 154.

[105]Fensham, p. 267.

[106]The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 681, contains a helpful chart of 13 problems Nehemiah faced and how he dealt successfully with each one.

[107]Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 212.

[108]William J. Dumbrell, "The Theological Intention of Ezra-Nehemiah," Reformed Theological Review 45:3 (September-December 1986):70.

[109]Breneman, p. 59.

[110]Yamauchi, "The Archaeological . . .," p. 304.

[111]Eugene H. Merrill, "A Theology of Ezra-Nehemiah and Esther," in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 200-201.

[112]Whitcomb, p. 435.


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