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Nehemiah 1-3

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

Nehemiah Chapter 1

Nehemiah was a Jew of The Southern Kingdom of "Judah" (in contrast to the The Northern Kingdom of "Israel") who found himself a servant to the Persian king after Persia (today known as Iran) had overtaken the Babylonians as the superpower of Mesopotamia (today known as Iraq). The Lord had used the Babylonians to deliver His wrath upon idolatrous Judah (see Why Babylon?) so the exiled people of Judah went from being the prisoners of the Babylonians to the prisoners of the Persians.

Although Nehemiah was "just" the cupbearer to the king, it was classified as a high position of trust in the royal palace because servants throughout history occasionally turned out to be Assassins. From his place in the palace, Nehemiah heard of the still-devastated state of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was also capable of writing (a rarity in ancient times), so his eyewitness to history, and his role in the restoration of Jerusalem according to The Lord's will, became a book of the Holy Bible.

"The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev [see Bible Calendar and Bible Months], in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the capital, that Hanani, one of my brethren, came with certain men out of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that survived, who had escaped exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, "The survivors there in the Province who escaped exile are in great trouble and shame; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire." When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days; and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven." (Nehemiah 1:1-4 RSV)

Persian Empire Map

Nehemiah was a true and faithful man of God; his prayer that the Persian king would allow the rebuilding of Jerusalem was answered because Nehemiah was faithful - and it was answered by using faithful Nehemiah to do what Nehemiah prayed for.

"And I said, "O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His Commandments [all of which are Timeless; see How To Be A True Christian - Lesson 1, How To Be A True Christian - Lesson 2, How To Be A True Christian - Lesson 3, How To Be A True Christian - Lesson 4, How To Be A True Christian - Lesson 5, How To Be A True Christian - Lesson 6, How To Be A True Christian - Lesson 7, How To Be A True Christian - Lesson 8, How To Be A True Christian - Lesson 9 and How To Be A True Christian - Lesson 10]; let Thy ear be attentive, and Thy eyes open, to hear the prayer of Thy servant which I now pray before Thee day and night for the people of Israel Thy servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against Thee. Yea, I and my father's house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against Thee, and have not kept the Commandments, the statutes, and the ordinances which Thou didst command Thy servant Moses [see The God Of The Old Testament to understand exactly Who it was that gave The Ten Commandments to Moses]. Remember the word which Thou didst command Thy servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My Commandments and do them, though your dispersed be under the farthest skies, I will gather them thence [see The Gathering of Israel and Judah] and bring them to the place which I have chosen, to make My Name dwell there.'

They are Thy servants and Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy great power and by Thy strong hand. O Lord, let Thy ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant, and to the prayer of Thy servants who delight to fear Thy Name; and give success to Thy servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." Now I was Cupbearer to the king." (Nehemiah 1:5-11 RSV)

Nehemiah Chapter 2

Nehemiah found the king to be very interested in hearing what concerned him.

"In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, "Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing else but sadness of the heart." Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, "Let the king live for ever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?" (Nehemiah 2:1-3 RSV)

Persian Kings In Bible History

Common Name B.C. Date Name In Persian Name In Bible Bible References
Cyrus 539-530 Koorush Cyrus Isaiah 45, Daniel, Ezra 1-3
Cambysses 530-521 Cambujieh Ahasruerus Ezra 4-6
Pseudo Smerdis 521 Berooyeh Doroughi Artaxerxes Ezra 4:7-23
Darius the Great 521-486 Darryoosh Darius Ezra 5,6
Xerxes 486-465 Khashayarshah Ahasurerus Esther 1-10
Artaxerxes I 464-423 Ardeshier Deraz Dast Artaxerxes Nehemiah 1 - 13, Ezra 7-10

The king's co-operative attitude was given by The Lord, in response to Nehemiah's prayer:

"Then the king said to me, "For what do you make request?"

So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may rebuild it." And the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him [a Jew even became queen of Persia in that era - see Esther and Mordecai and Haman], "How long will you be gone, and when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time." (Nehemiah 2:4-6 RSV)

With permission granted, Nehemiah was then given the political and financial means to begin the rebuilding, plus a military escort of Persian cavalry.

"And I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the Province Beyond the River [i.e. The Jordan River], that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah; and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house which I shall occupy."

And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen." (Nehemiah 2:7-9 RSV)

Upon his arrival, Nehemiah made a survey of the still devastated and rubble-strewn city.

"So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; and I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no beast with me but the beast on which I rode.

I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Jackal's Well and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool; but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall; and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing; and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest that were to do the work." (Nehemiah 2:11-16 RSV)

From what he saw, Nehemiah realized that it was going to be a massive job to rebuild; he then also discovered that there would be attempts of local political opposition to the rebuilding as well (which had stopped the earlier rebuilding).

"But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they derided us and despised us and said, "What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?"

Then I replied to them, "The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build; but you have no portion or right or memorial in Jerusalem." (Nehemiah 2:19-20 RSV)

Nehemiah Chapter 3

Nehemiah then organized and supervised the people of Judah for the rebuilding. The account of the gates and walls provides a very detailed geographic picture of ancient Jerusalem (see also Bible Places and The Beautiful Gate).

The Lion Gate at Jerusalem

"Then Eliashib the high priest [see also The Lines Of Eleazar and Ithamar] rose up with his brethren the priests and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors; they consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.

And the sons of Hassenaah built The Fish Gate; they laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. And next to them the Tekoites [see also Tekoa] repaired; but their nobles did not put their necks to the work of their Lord.

And Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, who were under the jurisdiction of the governor of the province Beyond the River. Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers [see Perfume], repaired; and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired. Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house; and next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.

Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate [see also Valley Of Hinnom and Valley Of Kidron]; they rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand Cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.

Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem [see also Beth], repaired the Dung Gate; he rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

And Shallum the son of Colhozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate [see Fountains; also Wells and Cisterns]; he rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars; and he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah [see Pools] of the king's garden, as far as the stairs [see also The Zion Bridge] that go down from The City of David. After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired to a point opposite the sepulchres [see Sepulchre] of David, to the artificial pool, and to the house of the mighty men.

After him the Levites [see also Raiders Of The Lost Ark] repaired: Rehum the son of Bani; next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. After him their brethren repaired: Bavvai the son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah; next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the Angle. After him Baruch the son of Zabbai repaired another section from the Angle to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. After him Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired another section from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib.

After him the priests, the men of the Plain, repaired. After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house. After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the Angle and to the corner. Palal the son of Uzai repaired opposite the Angle and the tower [see also Towers] projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower. After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel.

Above the Horse Gate [see also Horses] the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house. After them Zadok the son of Immer repaired opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate [see also Why Did They Face East?], repaired. After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah repaired opposite his chamber. After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate, and to the upper chamber of the corner. And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired." (Nehemiah 3:1-32 RSV)

Fact Finder: What did the gates of the physical city of Jerusalem symbolize? What did Jesus Christ say about the "gates" of the coming New Jerusalem?
See Physical and Spiritual Gates

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