As we begin our journey through the book of Nehemiah, let’s pause to take a bird’s eye view of who and what we’re about to study.
The book of Nehemiah was presumably written by its namesake, Nehemiah himself. Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes (Neh. 1:11). Nehemiah was a government official, in a position of high integrity and trust, in the king’s inner circle. Nehemiah was part of the security detail for the king, sampling every bit of food and every cup of drink before the king ate or drank it. Since poisoning was a common method of trying to kill people, especially people in authority, Nehemiah risked his life every day for the king.
As we look at the historical timing of the book of Nehemiah, we see that it began in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign (1:1, 2:1). Since Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes’ reign (Ezra 7:8), that means that thirteen years elapsed from the end of the book of Ezra to the beginning of the book of Nehemiah. Ezra was still in Jerusalem when Nehemiah arrived and led a revival during Nehemiah’s administration.
The book of Nehemiah actually records two different administrations of Nehemiah in Jerusalem. Chapters 1-12 document Nehemiah’s first time in office, and Chapter 13 records his second.
So what is the purpose of the book of Nehemiah? Like the book of Ezra, Nehemiah documents the progress of reforms in Jerusalem and Judah. This included the ongoing restoration of God’s people to God’s promised land. Revival, reforms, and restoration worked together to change a culture and a people from rebellion and exile to righteousness before the Lord.
The major themes of the book of Nehemiah are as follows:
- the welfare and protection of the people of Judah, particularly in Jerusalem (ch. 1)
- the rebuilding of the city walls and gates (ch. 2 – 6)
- spiritual revival and the dedication of the wall, the city, and the people (ch. 7 – 10)
- Jerusalem repopulated and security measures established ( ch. 11 – 12)
- Nehemiah’s second administration and further reforms enacted (ch. 13)
In summary, the book of Nehemiah reminds us that the Jewish people did not get into or out of rebellion overnight. This book also reminds us that living according to God’s Word requires diligence on our part over a long period of time – years and decades, not just days or weeks.
This book also shows us God’s faithfulness, love, mercy, and patience with those who are seeking Him, even when they don’t do life perfectly. Let’s face it – none of us can measure up to God’s standard, which is perfection in our outward acts and words as well as our inward thoughts, desire, and attitudes. God loves us unconditionally and seeks a heart relationship with us as individuals as well as corporately as a group of followers.
As we look at these books of Ezra and Jeremiah, we see that righteous living requires not only personal accountability, but also living in a community of like-minded followers of Christ. God never designed or intended us to live our lives as lonesome cowboys out on the trail of life alone.
As we seek to live our lives for Christ over whatever course of years the Lord gives us, may today be the next step forward on that journey of fellowship with Him and in community with others.