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With the walls (and therefore the definition) of the city restored, Jerusalem again became a place of peace and order, under Governor Nehemiah.
"Now when the wall [see also Walls had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. And I said to them, "Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they are still standing guard let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, each to his station and each opposite his own house." (Nehemiah 7:1-3 RSV)
Nehemiah made a census of the people of Judah right from the first stage of the return at the time of Zerubbabel (see listing below).
"The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few and no houses had been built. Then God put it into my mind to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it: These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon [see King Nebuchadnezzar; also Nebuchadnezzar's Conversion] had carried into exile; they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel" (Nehemiah 7:4-7 RSV)
Nehemiah Chapter 8
"And when the seventh month had come, the children of Israel were in their towns" (Nehemiah 7:73 RSV) marked the beginning of a new beginning for the people of Judah in their homeland. It had been a gradual and calibrated return under three leaderships:
536 BC: Zerubbabel (Ezra Chapter 2). The prophets Zechariah and Haggai (and others) were active at that time.
Ezra the "lawyer" (see Scribes) was still very active in the time of Nehemiah:
"And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate [see The Gates Of Old Jerusalem]; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which The Lord [see YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD and "The God Of The Old Testament"] had given to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month." (Nehemiah 8:1-2 RSV)
The "first day of the seventh month" is the Feast of Trumpets, a day "holy to our Lord" that signifies another sort of return to Jerusalem that is coming (see Christ's Feast of Trumpets).
"And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to The Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.
The people also then joyously observed the "feast of booths" (see Christ's Feast of Tabernacles).
"On the second day the heads of fathers' houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the law. And they found it written in the law that The Lord had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should publish and proclaim in all their towns and in Jerusalem, "Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written."
Nehemiah Chapter 9
The people of Judah (see The Southern Kingdom) were at that time well aware of why they had been sent to exile in Babylon (see Why Babylon?), just as the people of The Northern Kingdom of "Israel" had over a century before the people of Judah (see The Galilee Captivity).
"Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth [see Sackcloth and Ashes], and with earth upon their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the book of the law of The Lord their God for a fourth of the day; for another fourth of it they made confession and worshiped The Lord their God." (Nehemiah 9:1-3 RSV)
Their prayer included a confession that their ancestors knew the way of The Lord, but had turned their backs on Him.
"Thou didst come down upon Mount Sinai, and speak with them from heaven and give them right ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and thou didst make known to them thy holy sabbath and command them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses thy servant [see The Trysting Tent and Why Did Christ Put Moses To Death?]. Thou didst give them bread from heaven for their hunger and bring forth water for them from the rock for their thirst, and thou didst tell them to go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them." (Nehemiah 9:13-15 RSV)
The people of Judah recognized the sins of their previous generations and vowed not to make the same mistake. Unfortunately, in their zealous effort to obey God's Law, they added many of their own "laws" and "traditions of men" that eventually contradicted the pure Word of God that they claimed to be obeying - hence the reason that centuries later the Pharisees and Sadducees falsely and hypocritically accused Jesus Christ of being a "sinner" (see Did Jesus Break The Law?)
"Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against thee and cast thy law behind their back and killed thy prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to thee, and they committed great blasphemies. Therefore thou didst give them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer; and in the time of their suffering they cried to thee and thou didst hear them from heaven; and according to Thy great mercies thou didst give them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies." (Nehemiah 9:26-27 RSV)
Fact Finder: Why was it necessary for the people of Judah to return to Jerusalem?