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Getting to Know the Bible: Nehemiah Overview

Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.

Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on Nehemiah. But before we get to Nehemiah 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of Nehemiah. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.

And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of Nehemiah, as we prepare to behold and discern Nehemiah, beginning with Nehemiah 1 in our next installment of this series.

Book Type: Book of History; the sixteenth book of the Old Testament

Author: Nehemiah is noted as the most likely author, as the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one. It is possible that Ezra compiled Nehemiah’s original accounts with other material to create the book of Nehemiah. However, most scholars believe the book was written by Nehemiah.

Date of Writing: Likely between 457 and 420 B.C.

Audience: The people of Judah who had returned from Babylonian exile.


Original Language: Hebrew

Genre: Narrative

Timeline: Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem in the 20th year of king Artaxerxes I (444 BC)

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Nehemiah, one of the history books of the Bible, continues the story of Israel's return from the Babylonian captivity and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.

Summary: Nehemiah was a Hebrew in Persia when the word reached him that the Temple in Jerusalem was being reconstructed. He grew anxious knowing there was no wall to protect the city. Nehemiah invited God to use him to save the city. God answered his prayer by softening the heart of the Persian king, Artaxerxes, who gave not only his blessing, but also supplies to be used in the project. Nehemiah is given permission by the king to return to Jerusalem, where he is made governor.

In spite of opposition and accusations the wall was built and the enemies silenced. The people, inspired by Nehemiah, give tithes of much money, supplies, and manpower to complete the wall in a remarkable 52 days, despite much opposition. This united effort is short-lived, however, because Jerusalem falls back into apostasy when Nehemiah leaves for a while. When he returned to Jerusalem, Nehemiah found the walls strong but the people weak. He set about the task of teaching the people morality and he didn't mince words. "I argued with those people, put curses on them, hit some of them and pulled out their hair" (13:25). He reestablishes true worship through prayer and by encouraging the people to revival by reading and adhering to the Word of God.

Overview: This book consists of thirteen chapters and includes two main sections. The first section is the majority of the text: the first twelve chapters. This section concentrates on Nehemiah's first trip to Jerusalem as its appointed governor. Following a time of fasting and mourning in Babylon, God providentially allows Nehemiah to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the city (Nehemiah 1:1—2:20). The first course of action is to rebuild the city's walls (Nehemiah 3:1—7:4). Once completed, after a fifty-two-day period, Nehemiah reflects on his return under Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 7:5–73).

The end of chapter 7 transitions to the coming of Ezra, and a spiritual renewal of the people (Nehemiah 8—10). After hearing a declaration of the law of the Lord, the people repent (Nehemiah 8:13—9:37). The Jewish priests then renew the covenant with the people of God, resulting in a time of celebration (Nehemiah 9:38—10:39).

Nehemiah's next efforts focus on the resettlement of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:1—12:26). The people of Israel dedicate the walls of the city to the Lord, including much celebration (Nehemiah 12:27–47).

The second main section of the book is found in chapter 13. Years later, Nehemiah returns for a second term as governor. He is dismayed at some of the sin he finds among the people of the city. He cleanses the city from foreign gods and marriages, ending with a sincere call to the Lord: "Remember me, O my God, for good" (Nehemiah 13:31).

Foreshadowing: Nehemiah was a man of prayer and he prayed passionately for his people (Nehemiah 1). His zealous intercession for God's people foreshadows our great Intercessor, Jesus Christ, who prayed fervently for His people in His high-priestly prayer in John 17. Both Nehemiah and Jesus had a burning love for God's people which they poured out in prayer to God, interceding for them before the throne.

Application: Nehemiah led the Israelites into a respect and love for the text of Scripture. Nehemiah, because of his love for God and his desire to see God honored and glorified, led the Israelites towards the faith and obedience God had desired for them for so long. In the same way, Christians are to love and revere the truths of Scripture, commit them to memory, meditate on them day and night, and turn to them for the fulfillment of every spiritual need. Second Timothy 3:16 tells us, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." If we expect to experience the spiritual revival of the Israelites (Nehemiah 8:1-8), we must begin with God's Word. Each of us ought to have genuine compassion for others who have spiritual or physical hurts. To feel compassion, yet do nothing to help, is unfounded biblically. At times we may have to give up our own comfort in order to minister properly to others. We must totally believe in a cause before we will give our time or money to it with the right heart. When we allow God to minister through us, even unbelievers will know it is God's work.

Key Verses (ESV):

Nehemiah 1:3: " And they said to me, 'The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.'" Nehemiah 1:11: "'O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.' Now I was cupbearer to the king." Nehemiah 6:15–16: "So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God."

*Note: The book of Nehemiah opens in the Persian city of Susa in the year 444 BC. Later that year, Nehemiah traveled to Israel, leading the third of three returns by the Jewish people following their seventy years of exile in Babylon.

I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.

May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.

Love you much.

Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!

-Humble Servant

P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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