Book of Nehemiah
NEHEMIAH, BOOK OF. The b.c.closes the history of the biblical period. Closely allied to the , it was attached to it in the old Jewish reckoning. It gives the history and reforms of Nehemiah the governor from 444 to about 420
I. Nehemiah Returns to Jerusalem (1:1-2:20).
II. Building Despite Opposition (3:1-7:4).
III. Genealogy of the First Returning Exiles (7:5-73 [=
IV. The Revival and Covenant Sealing (8:1-10:39).
V. Dwellers at Jerusalem and Genealogies (11:1-12:26).
VI. Final Reforms (13:1-31).
Nehemiah’s great work of restoring the wall of Jerusalem depended basically on securing permission from the king. Ezra had returned to Jerusalem with a sizable group of people and much gold and silver only a dozen years previously (see Nehemiah), but had been hindered in his work by adverse royal decrees secured by his enemies. In God’s providence Nehemiah secured the restoration of royal favor.
The actual building of the wall was parceled out among different leaders. Various cities of the province of Judea sent contingents of workers, and we can here learn something of the extent of Nehemiah’s domain. The rapidity of building may have been due to preliminary work that Ezra might have accomplished. Most of the gates and sections of the wall mentioned in chapter 3 cannot be identified with certainty. Perhaps the wall enclosed only the eastern hill of Jerusalem.
The opposition to Nehemiah by Sanballat and others combined ridicule, threat, and craft. Sanballat is called the governor of Samaria in the Elephantine Papyri. He was apparently not anxious to see a rival province strengthened, and there was religious antagonism as well to Nehemiah’s strict reform program.
Internal difficulties also developed. The rich charged interest of one percent (per month, apparently,
The genealogy of
Nehemiah’s reform involved the teaching of Moses’ Law by Ezra and others at the
Nehemiah’s final reform included the removal of Tobiah from the temple precincts. Tobiah had entered through friendship with Eliashib the high priest while Nehemiah was back in Persia. Also a grandson of Eliashib had married Sanballat’s daughter (
Bibliography: J. M. Myers, Ezra, Nehemiah (AB), 1965; D. Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah (TOTC), 1979; F. C. Fensham, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah (NIC), 1982.——RLH
NEHEMIAH, BOOK OF. In the original Heb. Bible the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are one. For general introductory material, see Book of Ezra.
Nehemiah held the important position of cupbearer to Artaxerxes I. It seems that an attempt to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem had come to a violent end by orders of the king (
The only serious problem is the presence of Ezra in the book. As the book stands, Ezra came to Jerusalem in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I (
This order of events has been attacked in recent years, and two main alternatives have been proposed for the coming of Ezra, i.e. the seventh year of Artaxerxes II (398) or, by emending the text, the thirty-seventh year of Artaxerxes I (428).
Before manipulating an alleged sequence of history, a scholar must show that this sequence is impossible, or unlikely, as it stands. Only then may he proceed with his reconstruction as being more likely.
There are three passages which are quoted as evidence that Ezra must have come after Nehemiah.
2. The KJV of
There are, however, some unproved assumptions here. Ezra’s Jehohanan is not described as high priest, nor is he necessarily to be identified with Eliashib’s grandson. Jehohanan or Jonathan were common names, and Eliashib may have had a son, who did not become high priest, and a grandson, who did, both bearing the same name, as uncle and nephew might.
A positive reason against identifying Ezra’s Jehohanan with the later high priest is that the latter murdered his own brother in the Temple (Jos. Antiq. XI. vii. 1). The incident had almost certainly occurred before 398, and, if Ezra had arrived then, he would not have risked his reputation by accepting friendly hospitality from such a man.
4. It is thought that, if Ezra had dealt with mixed marriages, Nehemiah would not have needed to deal with them again so soon afterward (
5. If Ezra had been commissioned to teach the law (
There is, therefore, no necessity to rewrite history, and there is one strong positive argument against the 398 redating of Ezra’s coming. If the Chronicler wrote not later than 300, as is commonly supposed, he could not have confused the relative order of Ezra and Nehemiah, for there would have been many people living whose parents had seen Ezra and who would have told stories about him, but none whose parents had seen Nehemiah.
The alternative date of 428 meets the Biblical requirement of having the two men as contemporaries and removes objections 1, 2, and 4 above. But, since these objections are not substantial, there is no need to make the textual alteration which would change the date.
Contents and outline.
News of disaster at Jerusalem sends Nehemiah, the king’s cupbearer, to prayer (
The king gives him permission to rebuild the city and its walls, and sends him to Jerusalem as governor (
He examines the work, and is opposed by local officials (
The list of builders and their areas of work (
Attempts by outsiders to stop the work by sarcasm and armed threats (
Trouble through the poor having mortgaged themselves and their property to the rich (
Nehemiah is accused of setting himself up as king (
The completion of the wall in fifty-two days. Material would have been on the spot after the abortive attempt of
Register of returned exiles, similar to that in
Ezra and the Levites read and teach the law (
A prayer of national repentance, followed by a specific covenant (
A register of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and neighborhood (11:1-36).
A list of priests and Levites from the return until the end of the Pers. empire (12:1-26).
The ritual dedication of the wall, and arrangements for regular worship (12:27-13:3).
Nehemiah’s further reforms after his return from a visit to Persia (13:4-31).
For primary works see under Ezra, Book of; J. Stafford Wright, The Date of Ezra’s Coming to Jerusalem (1947, 1958); H. H. Rowley, “The Chronological Order of Ezra and Nehemiah,” included in The (1952); “Nehemiah’s Mission and its Background,” included in Men of God (1963).