THE BOOK OF NEHEMIAH
Fourteen years after the return of Ezra, Nehemiah led a company back to their homeland, (B.C. 444), and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. He also restored civil authority. The moral state of the time is disclosed by the prophet Malachi.
The book of Nehemiah can be studied under five divisions:
1. Chs. 1 to 6. The journey to Jerusalem, and the building of the wall.
2. Ch. 7. The census.
3. Chs. 8 to 11. The revival.
4. Ch. 12. The census of the priests and Levites. The dedication of the wall, and the restoration of the temple order.
5. Ch. 13. The restoration of legal order.
THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM AND THE BUILDING OF THE WALL.
Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king of Persia, Ch. 1:11. He had heard reports of the ruined condition of Jerusalem and was burdened with a desire to help remedy the situation, vs. 3-4. To this end he prayed and then held himself open to God to see what might be done. One day the king noticed how sad Nehemiah looked and questioned him as to the reason, Ch. 2:1-2. Looking to God for help he stated the need, and made the request that he might have a leave of absence to go and rebuild his native city, v.5. The petition was granted and having received letters of authority to the local governors, Nehemiah journeyed to Jerusalem, v.11. Like others, he met opposition from the local governors, but he expressed his faith in God and made preparations to build, v.20. Nehemiah was an able executive. He started building the wall and so organized his helpers that each group was responsible for a certain portion. One group lacked a spirit of unity, and God recorded it that we might learn how He takes notice of everything we do and how we do it, Ch. 3:5. The local governors did all they could to hinder. They ridiculed, Ch. 4:3, and they threatened, v.8, but Nehemiah prayed and worked in spite of them. Some of the builders were fearful but Nehemiah urged them on, and arranged his workers in shifts so that part built and part stood on guard, v.16.
Discontent arose because of the oppression of the poorer Jews by their rich brethren. Nehemiah moved popular opinion against them and got that difficulty straightened out, Ch. 7:7, 12-13. After more attempts on the part of the local governors to hinder the work, the wall was finished, and those who opposed were much cast down in their own eyes, Ch. 6:15-16. The foregoing is a fulfillment of Daniel 9:25.
After the wall was finished, Nehemiah appointed his brother, Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace to have charge of Jerusalem. The gates were to be shut every evening and were not to be opened in the morning until the sun was hot. In this way strict watch was kept over all who went out and came in, Ch.7:1-3. A census was taken of the people so that they could be registered. One group of men who were somewhat connected with the priesthood were not able to trace their pedigree, vs. 63-65, so they were temporarily suspended until the mind of God could be ascertained. What a lesson it teaches us, that we should be very clear as to our place in Godís family and hot leave it to guesswork.
True and lasting revival is based on a faithful application of Godís Word. In Ch. 8, we are told how the law was read and explained to the people, v.8, and how they responded and arranged to keep the feast of tabernacles, vs. 16-18. Following that the people fasted and humbled themselves, while the Levites and priests confessed before God the backsliding of the nation in view of the goodness of the Lord to them, Ch. 9. This terminated with the united promise of all to enter into a covenant with God, v38; Ch. 10:1, 28-31, to observe His law or bear the consequences. After settling the matter and being revived accordingly, decision was made as to who should live in Jerusalem and who in the villages, Ch.11.
THE CENSUS OF THE PRIESTS AND LEVITES; THE DEDICATION OF THE WALL; AND THE RESTORATION OF TEMPLE ORDER.
A census of the priests and Levites was taken, so that from among their number necessary appointments could be made for the service of the temple. With such good order restored, plans were then made to dedicate the wall. Two companies of singers were appointed to offer praise to God, Ch. 12:40, and there was great rejoicing among the people. The temple order was then restored, and everything set in order as was ordained in the days of David.
THE RESTORATION OF LEGAL ORDER.
Nehemiah had to return to Babylon since he was only granted a leave of absence. While he was away the priests and the people began to fall away from God. Another permit was obtained by Nehemiah and he returned to Jerusalem and endeavored to restore legal order once more. Godís house was forsaken, the Sabbath was not being kept, and there was considerable intermarrying with the heathen. Nehemiah became angry at such laxity, so that he chased a man from him who was a member of the priesthood, Ch. 13:28. His faithful heart was deeply exercised and he prayed that God would requite them for their wrongdoing, and that he might be remembered by the Lord for his faithfulness, vs.29, and 31.