|Nehemiah Images and
The Book of Nehemiah
Nehemiah 1:7-9 - 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 are burned with fire.
Nehemiah 13:1-3 - On that day they read in the book of Moses
in the audience of the people; and therein was found written,
that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the
congregation of God for ever; Because they met not the children
of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against
them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the
curse into a blessing. Now it came to pass, when they had heard
the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed
The Old Testament - A Brief Overview
Tomb of Cyrus the
Great at Pasargadae
"O man, whoever you are and
wherever you come from, for I know that you will come--I
am Cyrus, son of Cambyses, who founded the Empire of the
Persians and was king of the East. Do not grudge me this
spot of earth which covers my body." - Cyrus
This tomb of the great
Persian ruler, Cyrus, was discovered in 1951 at the
ruins of Pasargadae (south-central Iran). Over 2500
years old, the tomb is in decent condition, made of
white limestone and stands a total of 36 feet high. The
tomb itself is 18 feet high resting on a 6 level base,
also 18 feet high. It was built like a Ziggurat with
Ionian and Lydian features. There is a small entrance
and double doors leading to a room with no windows which
once contained the "golden sarcophagus" of Cyrus, it is
now an empty shell. Five huge stones make up its roof,
which was slanted (gabled) to shed heavy rains. These
Nordic gables were the architectural style of lands far
to the north. The inscription was seen and recorded by
Plutarch in AD 90.
Summary of The Book of Nehemiah
In Hebrew tradition Ezra and Nehemiah are regarded as one
book. That the books were not one originally, however, is
indicated by the presentation of identical material in Ezra 2
and Neh. 7:6-70. How they came to be regarded as one must remain
a matter of conjecture. They are treated together here because
of their close relation to one another.
Each book bears the name of its principal character. Ezra was
a descendant of the priest Hilkiah, who had helped to implement
the reforms of Josiah (2 Kin. 22:8). He returned from the
Babylonian exile about 457 BC, eighty years after Zerubabbel led
the first wave of exiles back to their homeland and thirteen
years prior to the return of Nehemiah. He was both a priest and
a scribe whose efforts to purify the religion of the Hebrews,
based on strict adherence to the Law, immeasurably influenced
the course of Judaism for centuries. Ezra is sometimes regarded
as the second greatest hero in the history of Israel, ranking
just after Moses.
Nehemiah emigrated from Babylon to Jerusalem about 445 BC. He
came not as a priest or scribe but as a civil governor with
authority granted by the Persian ruler, Artaxerxes, whom he had
served as cupbearer (Neh. 2:1), to rebuild the wall and other
fortifications of Jerusalem. Despite the opposition of the
foreigners who had settled in Judea during the exile, the work
on the wall was brought to completion in fifty-two days after it
The tradition which represents Ezra-Nehemiah as being one
book also names Ezra as the author. That he had a hand in the
writing is not unlikely, due to the presence of material in Ezra
written in the first person. A great portion of Nehemiah,
however, is also written in the first person, implying that part
or all of it was composed by Nehemiah himself. It has been
suggested by some that this is not a proof of author-ship, but
may indicate that a third person compiled one or both of the two
accounts, with the help of the personal memoirs of Ezra and
Nehemiah. Also, it may indicate that the two men wrote a part of
the books which bear their name, but that we owe their final
form to a later redactor. A third possibility is that Ezra
and/or Nehemiah composed an historical narrative out of
available sources, adding certain items of their own
composition. The two books appear to have been compiled from a
variety of materials, including letters, edicts, genealogies,
personal memoirs and chronicles. This helps to explain the
diversity in style and language which may be seen in them.
Since a date near 400 BC was tentatively as-signed to the
books of Chronicles, the closely related books of Ezra and
Nehemiah would also receive this date. One objection to this is
based on the mention of Jaddua in the list of priests in Neh.
12:11,22. Josephus (Antiquities XI, viii, 4 ) mentions a priest
by this name who lived in the time of Alexander the Great ( c.
330 BC ). Several possible explanations have been offered; it
has been pointed out that it would have been possible for Jaddua
to have served from 400 to 330 BC, although a more likely
solution is either that these were two separate individuals or
that we are presented with yet another example of Josephus'
unreliability as an historical witness.
The purpose of the two books was to show how God fulfilled
the words of his prophets concerning the restoration of his
exiled people to the land of their inheritance. To implement his
purposes, he used the will of the great monarchs of that era:
Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes. In addition, he worked through
such leaders as Joshua, Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra and
Nehemiah in order to bring about the rebuilding of the wall and
the temple and the re-establishment of the Law as the basis for
individual and com-munity conduct. These books furnish almost
all of the known history of the Jews between 536 and 430 BC.
Ezra is concerned with the period from 536 to 456 BC, while
Nehemiah begins about 445 BC and narrates the events of
approximately twelve years.
Quick Reference Map
Map of Jerusalem Restored by
Nehemiah (Click to Enlarge)
The contents of the two books may be analyzed as follows :
Outline of the Book of Nehemiah
1 ) Nehemiah's journey to Jerusalem, made possible by
Artaxerxes, for the purpose of re-building the wall ( 1-2).
2 ) A list of the builders and the repairing of the gate ( ch.
3 ) The rebuilding of the wall in spite of op-position led by
Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem (4:1-7:4).
4 ) The register of those who returned with Zerubbabel ( ch. 7).
5 ) The public reading and exposition of the book of the Law (ch.
6 ) The national repentance and the covenant of obedience (
9:1-10 :39 ).
7 ) Lists of inhabitants ( 11:1-12:26).
8 ) Dedication of the wall and organization of the temple
9 ) Nehemiah's reforms of abuses connected with tithes, the
sabbath and mixed marriages (ch. 13).
In order to gain a complete picture of the history of this
period, these two books should be studied in conjunction with
the writings of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
Quick Reference Maps -
Jerusalem Rebuilt by Nehemiah - The book of Nehemiah records
in the third chapter a description of the course of the walls,
beginning on the northeast side of Jerusalem and moving
counterclockwise. His intention was not to be too exhaustive in
Zerubbabel and Ezra's Journey to Restore Jerusalem -
Zerubbabel, of the house of David heeded the decree of Cyrus to
allow the Jews to return and restore Jerusalem and later more
Jews including Ezra and Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem.
The Persian Empire in the 6th Century BC - The great rulers
of the Persian Empire during the 6th century BC were Cyrus the
Great, Cambyses, and Darius I the Great.
The Persian Empire in the 5th Century BC - During the 5th
centuries BC the Persian Empire expanded under various rulers:
Darius I, Xerxes I (Ahasuerus), and Artaxerxes I.
The Return From Babylon