NEHEMIAH (nē'hĕ-mī'a, Heb. nehemyâh, Jehovah has comforted)
1. One of the leaders of the returning exiles under Zerubbabel (
2. The son of Azbuk, a prince of Beth Zur who helped repair the wall of Jerusalem (
3. The son of Hacaliah and governor of the Persian province of Judah after 444 b.c. Of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah little is known aside from what is in the book that bears his name. His times, however, are illuminated by the rather considerable material found in the Elephantine Papyri from Egypt, which were written in the fifth century. These papyri come from a military colony of Jews residing on an island far up the Nile, opposite Aswan, and are written in Hebrew. They include copies of letters to and from Jerusalem and Samaria. They name several men who are also mentioned in the .
Nehemiah was a “cupbearer” to King Artaxerxes (
Nehemiah was an officer of the palace at Susa, but his heart was in Jerusalem. Word came to him from Hanani, one of his brothers, of the ruined condition of Jerusalem. Overcome with grief, Nehemiah sought the refuge of prayer—and God answered abundantly.
Hanani is called Nehemiah’s brother in
Only about twelve years earlier, in Artaxerxes’s seventh year (457 b.c.), Ezra had gone back to Jerusalem with about 1,750 men, besides women and children (
Nehemiah was a man of ability, courage, and action. Arriving at Jerusalem, he first privately surveyed the scene of rubble (
Nehemiah cooperated with Ezra in numerous reforms and especially in the public instruction in the law (
NEHEMIAH nē’ ə mī ə (נְחֶמְיָ֖ה, LXX Νεεμια, prob. means “Compassion of Yah”).
Nehemiah, Jewish patriot and Pers. statesman was a man raised up to save Israel from national disintegration. He saw clearly that national collapse would jeopardize true religion. He was a cupbearer to the Pers. king, Artaxerxes I (464-424 b.c.), a position of great responsibility and influence; the holder ranked as a high official of the court. In this period only a man of exceptional trustworthiness would have been given the post, for the father of Artaxerxes had been murdered and he himself had gained the throne by a palace revolution.
Nehemiah was a member of a prominent Jewish family, for one of his brothers was the spokesman of an official delegation to Susa (
His every decision indicated wisdom and forethought, and his actions were marked by determination and indomitable courage. His request for letters of safe conduct and authority to obtain materials for the work of rebuilding (
When a report of Nehemiah’s purpose reached the ears of the governors of adjacent provinces their suspicions were aroused and they embarked on a policy of opposition. The ringleader was doubtless Sanballat, governor of Samaria (this was Sanballat I; two of his successors bore the same name, BA XXVI , p. 109f. and p. 120). He was supported by the governor of Ammon, Tobiah (on the Tobiads, B. Mazar, IEJ, Vol. 7, p. 137ff. and p. 229ff.) and by the governor of Dedan, Geshem (K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and OT , p. 159f.). The course of their opposition conforms unmistakably to an all too familiar pattern of human behavior. In their first act of opposition they used the well tried and well-nigh invincible weapon of ridicule (
When verbal gibes and threats failed, Nehemiah’s opponents planned to use force (
Nehemiah’s troubles did not all come from outside Jerusalem. The Jews themselves confronted him with problems requiring diplomacy or firmness. First Judah threatened defection, ostensibly because of overwork, but defeatism also played its part.
A still more difficult internal crisis arose through the complaint of the people that they were being exploited by the rich (
Two more attempts were made by Sanballat and his friends to undermine the work. First by attempting to lure Nehemiah away from Jerusalem (
With the wall sufficiently complete for defense purposes, steps were taken to rehabilitate the Jews. The first step was to make them familiar with the spiritual basis of their nationhood, the law of Moses. Prolonged sessions for readings were arranged, and the authority of the laws for their lives was acknowledged. The Temple service was restored and provision made for its continuation. Nehemiah’s final task was the restoration of national purity (
For Nehemiah worldly success did not spell spiritual failure, and royal society left his appetite for divine fellowship unimpaired. The place of the fear of God in his heart was so great as to banish wholly the fear of man. In a time of apostasy, the study of the character of Nehemiah is particularly relevant.
J. S. Wright, The Date of Ezra’s Coming to Jerusalem (1958); J. M. Myers, Ezra and Nehemiah (1965); H. H. Rowley, The(1965), p. 137ff.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
ne-he-mi’-a, ne-hem-i’-a (nechemyah, "comforted of Yah"):
3. King’s Cupbearer
4. Governor of Judea
Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah, is the Jewish patriot whose life is recorded in the Biblical work named after him. All that we know about him from contemporary sources is found in this book; and so the readers of this article are referred to thefor the best and fullest account of his words and deeds.
All that is known of his family is that he was the son of Hacaliah (
The argument based upon
Some have thought that he was of the royal line of Judah, inasmuch as he refers to his "fathers’ sepulchres" at Jerusalem (
It has been argued again that he was of noble lineage because of his position as cupbearer to the king of Persia. To substantiate this argument, it would need to be shown that none but persons of noble birth could serve in this position; but this has not been shown, and cannot be shown.
From the fact that Nehemiah was so grieved at the desolation of the city and sepulchers of his fathers and that he was so jealous for the laws of the God of Judah, we can justly infer that he was brought up by pious parents, who instructed him in the history and law of the Jewish people.
3. King’s Cupbearer:
Doubtless because of his probity and ability, he was apparently at an early age appointed by Artaxerxes, king of Persia, to the responsible position of cupbearer to the king. There is now no possible doubt that this King his king was Artaxerxes, the first of that name, commonly called Longimanus, who ruled over Persia from 464 to 424 BC. The mention of the sons of Sanballat, governor of Samaria, in a letter written to the priests of Jerusalem in 407 BC, among whom Johanan is especially named, proves that Sanballat must have ruled in the time of Artaxerxes I rather than in that of Artaxerxes II.
The office of cupbearer was "one of no trifling honor" (Herod. iii.34). It was one of his chief duties to taste the wine for the king to see that it was not poisoned, and he was even admitted to the king while the queen was present (
4. Governor of Judea:
The occasion of this commission was as follows: Hanani, the brother of Nehemiah, and other men of Judah came to visit Nehemiah while he was in Susa in the 9th month of the 20th year of Artaxerxes. They reported that the Jews in Jerusalem were in great affliction and that the wall thereof was broken down and its gates burned with fire. Thereupon he grieved and fasted and prayed to God that he might be granted favor by the king. Having appeared before the latter in the 1st month of the 21st year of Artaxerxes, 444 BC, he was granted permission to go to Jerusalem to build the city of his fathers’ sepulchers, and was given letters to the governors of Syria and Palestine and especially to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, ordering him to supply timber for the wall, the fortress, and the temple. He was also appointed governor of the province of which Jerusalem was the capital.
Armed with these credentials and powers he repaired to Jerusalem and immediately set about the restoration of the walls, a work in which he was hindered and harassed by Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and others, some of them Jews dwelling in Jerusalem. Notwithstanding, he succeeded in his attempt and eventually also in providing gates for the various entrances to the city.
Having accomplished these external renovations, he instituted a number of social reforms. He appointed the officers necessary for better government, caused the people to be instructed in the Law by public readings, and expositions; celebrated the; and observed a national fast, at which the sins of the people were confessed and a new covenant with Yahweh was solemnly confirmed. The people agreed to avoid marriages with the heathen, to keep the Sabbath, and to contribute to the support of the temple. To provide for the safety and prosperity of the city, one out of every ten of the people living outside Jerusalem was compelled to settle in the city. In all of these reforms he was assisted by Ezra, who had gone up to Jerusalem in the 7th year of Artaxerxes.
Once, or perhaps oftener, during his governorship Nehemiah returned to the king. Nothing is known as to when or where he died. It is certain, however, that he was no longer governor in 407 BC; for at that time according to the Aramaic letter written from Elephantine to the priests of Jerusalem, Bagohi was occupying the position of governor over Judea. One of the last acts of Nehemiah’s government was the chasing away of one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib, because he had become the son-in-law to Sanballat, the governor of Samaria. As this Joiada was the father of Johanan (
The only early extra-Biblical data with regard to Nehemiah and the Judea of his times are to be found:
(1) in the Egyptian papyri of Elephantine ("Aramaische Papyri und Ostraka aus einer judischen Militar-Kolonie zu Elephantine," Altorientalische Sprachdenkmaler des 5. Jahrhunderts vor Chr., Bearbeitet von Eduard Sachau. Leipzig, 1911);
(2)in Josephus, Ant, XI, vi, 6-8; vii, 1, 2;
(3) in Ecclesiasticus 49:13, where it is said: "The renown of Nehemiah is glorious; of him who established our waste places and restored our ruins, and set up the gates and bars"; (4) and lastly in 2 Macc 1:18-36 and 2:13; in the latter of these passages it speaks of `the writings and commentaries of Nehemiah; and how he, founding a library, gathered together the acts of the kings and the prophets and of David and the epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts.’R. Dick Wilson