Pioneers Of The Return
by Wayne Blank
"The remnant that are left of the captivity"
While serving at the palace in Susa, Nehemiah became greatly distressed when he got word that Jerusalem remained in ruins:
"The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof [see also Physical and Spiritual Gates] are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven" (Nehemiah 1:1-4 KJV)
Nehemiah's sadness did not go unnoticed before the king:
"Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid, And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it." (Nehemiah 2:2-5 KJV)
Nehemiah In Jerusalem
The king's permission was granted, and accompanied by Persian cavalry (Nehemiah 2:9), Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem where he would serve as the governor. This occurred approximately 446 B.C., about 11 years after Ezra (see Ezra) got there.
When Nehemiah arrived, he quickly made a survey of the fallen city, and organized the people to make the restoration (Nehemiah 2:11-20). Despite opposition from people such as Tobiah the Ammonite, Sanballat the Horonite and Geshem the Arab (Nehemiah 2:19), the wall was rebuilt in 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15), with the rest of the work completed in about 6 months. Nehemiah worked closely with Ezra (Nehemiah 8:1) in restoring not only the city, but the people's obedience to God.
After much of his mission was completed, Nehemiah went back to Persia (Nehemiah 13:6), but returned to Jerusalem later to again enforce the Law of God after the people reverted to their disobedient ways, including defiling the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-22), and involvement with idolatrous people (Nehemiah 13:23-29) - the very same reasons that caused the destruction of the city in the first place (see Why Babylon?). It was during this period that the prophet Malachi (see Malachi) was also active in the city.
Nehemiah's final days are not recorded, however he was a courageous and obedient servant of God who almost certainly remained so for the remainder of his life. The book of Nehemiah is named after him.