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The Work of Nehemiah
Theme of Nehemiah
Purpose and Theology
Nehemiah's First Visit: Restoration of Jerusalem
Nehemiah's Second Visit: Reformation of Jerusalem



  • The book of Nehemia is named for its main character.
  • After the exhile, Nehemiah was responsible for the refortification of Jerusalem and the establishment of civil authority. He also began religious reform.
  • Originally, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were one book, so our study of Nehemiah should very much feel like a continuation of the study of Ezra.
  • Some scholar's believe that Ezra-Nehemiah was the second part of a larger work known as the "Chronicler's History." This work consisted of what we know as 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. This point has been disputed by other scholars and continues to be a matter of great debate.
  • Nehemiah was probably compiled by Ezra, who would have used a number of written sources, including Nehemiah's first person account.
  • Another possibility is that Nehemiah was authored by Nehemiah, with Ezra serving as editor.
  • When studying Nehemiah and comparing it to Ezra, remember that Ezra was a priest and that Nemiah was a layman. In Ezra, the emphasis is on rebuilding the Temple. In Nehemiah, the emphasis is on rebuilding the city walls.
  • Like Ezra, Nehemaiah dates to the latter half of the fifth century B.C., no earlier than 430 B.C.
  • The majority of the book is Nehemiah's first-person memoirs. Ezra's ministry is also included. Sources used to compile the book inclued genealogical records, a covenant document, and a residency list.
  • Nehemiah held a high office of some influence in the court of the Persian king Artaxerses. He heard of the plight of his people in Jerusalem and asked that he be alllowed to go to Jerusalem to help rebuild the wall.
  • We'll see that when Nehemiah went to Jersualem, he was accompanied by an escort of soldiers. This is in contrast to Ezra, who returned without such an escort. A possible reason why is that Nehemiah's mission was political, while Ezra's was religious.

The Work of Nehemiah

  • When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, he conducted a secret inspection of the walls. The inspection was carried out in secret in order to hide the news of his plans from neighboring enemies.
  • During the rebuilding, the Jews faced two serious problems. The first problem was one of psychological warfare from neighboring enemies designed to discourage the building project.
  • The second problem was the poverty of the Jews.
  • Nehemiah served as governor of Judah for twelve years and returned to the royal court of Persia. After a few years, he returned to Jerusalem and was dismayed to find that the principles he had laid down during his time as governor had been neglected.

Theme of Nehemiah

  • "God enriched His people with protection by the walls Nehemiah rebuilt and by the law Ezra reestablished." (Holman Bible Handbook)

Purpose and Theology

  • Nehemiah is the last of the Old Testament historical books. It record the history of the third return to Jerusalem after captivity, telling how the walls were rebuilt and the people were renewed in their faith.
  • Nehemiah continues the story of the restored community, with a focus on the political restoration. (Contrast with Ezra's focus on religious restoration.)
  • By Nehemiah's rebuilding of the city walls, Jerusalem's political integrity was restored and threats from neighboring adversaries were quelled.
  • Even though the focus is on a political restoration, the religious status of the Jews is not ignored. As we've discussed before, the political and religious aspects of Jerusalem are tightly bound to each other.
  • Nehemiah also focuses on worship, drawing attention to the Levites and the priests, who were the first to begin work on rebuilding the wall.
  • Nehemiah also focuses on the soverignty of God, especially in his appointment and protection of Nehemiah. This was accomplished through the kings of Persia. Even Nehemiah's enemies noted that Nehemiah's protection was divinely accomplished.
  • Prayer is also a focus in Nehemiah. "Prayer is the fulcrum that engages God to act in Israel's behalf." (Holman Bible Handbook) We will see examples of invocations for divine blessing, curses on wicked opposition, prayers of confession, and prayers for intervention.
  • Nehemiah also focuses on the fact that Scripture is the driving force that brings the exiles back to the Lord, particularly the Law of Moses.
  • Nehemiah also focuses on community. The cooperative work of the returned exiles made it possible for them to come together and form a tight community.
  • Nehemiah shows the fulfillment of the prophecies of Zechariah and Daniel concerning the rebuilding of Jersualem's walls.

Last update: July 6, 2003

© 2002-2003 Greg Cohoon

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