Nehemiah

These are all of the chapters of the book of Nehemiah. Clicking on a chapter will show you the text of that chapter of Nehemiah in the Bible (New International Version).

Bible open to Book of Nehemiah

Who Wrote the Book of Nehemiah?

Much of Nehemiah appears to have come directly from the personal writings of Nehemiah himself, and the book begins with the words, “The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah”, and then goes into first-person narrative of Nehemiah’s experiences. This clearly indicates that what we are reading was indeed written by Nehemiah himself.

However, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are so closely related that for many years they were considered in the Hebrew Bible to be one book, as an extension of 1 and 2 Chronicles. This is because it is a continuing story: while Ezra works to re-establish the temple and the moral fabric of the people, Nehemiah arrives later to rebuild the city wall around Jerusalem and serve as governor. It is possible that sections of the book may have been borrowed from Ezra, such as the list in Nehemiah 7:6 – 12:26 which nearly mirrors Ezra 2:1-70. Even with the possibility of some borrowed material, the main narrative of the book is clearly that of Nehemiah, and he is accepted to be the author.

Context and Background of Nehemiah

As stated previously, the Book of Nehemiah is a continuation of the events in the Book of Ezra. Yet unlike Ezra, who was a priest and scribe, Nehemiah does not have a religious vocation – instead, he is a man with a high position before King Artaxerxes I in Persia, serving as cupbearer.

Prior to the beginning of Nehemiah, the Jewish people have been returning to Jerusalem from a seventy-year period of captivity in Persia and are reestablishing their culture and faith in the promised land. It is against this backdrop that the book begins, and Nehemiah is serving the king in the capital city of Susa. He soon leaves for Jerusalem when he hears that, “those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Neh. 1:3).

This causes Nehemiah to weep and pray, and he soon knows that he is the one being called to go to Jerusalem and lead in rebuilding it. Nehemiah had the right skills for this job, as Norman Geisler explains, “Nehemiah’s expertise in the king’s court equipped him adequately for the political and physical reconstruction necessary for the remnant to survive." Nehemiah returns to the land in 444 B.C., thirteen years after the return led by Era and 94 years after the return led by Zerubbabel. He arrives to find a job not yet completed and a people who are growing complacent.

It is important to note that the prophet Malachi is active during the time period covered in Nehemiah, and through his writings, we see that the people who are recently restored to their land, who have rebuilt the city wall and the temple, and have seen the covenant of God fulfilled, are already falling into a pattern of neglecting God.

Main Theme and Purpose of Nehemiah

Ezra dealt primarily with the spiritual restoration of God’s people, and Nehemiah begins by addressing their physical and political restoration. The main theme of Nehemiah is, therefore, one of restoration: the first half of the book deals with the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem (chapters 1-7), and the second half deals with their spiritual restoration and renewal (chapters 8-13).

Perhaps the most moving moment documented in Nehemiah is in chapter 8, where Ezra is reading the words of the Law to the people. Verse 9 gives us a glimpse of that emotional moment, “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” God has finally restored His people as He promised. This moment is the culmination of much hard work, of finally overcoming opposition, and must have been extraordinarily moving for those present. It still moves us today.

What Can We Learn from Nehemiah Today?

Perseverance
A continued theme from the Book of Ezra, we follow God’s people as they transition from life in captivity back to life in their own land. The journey there was not at all easy and involved many setbacks, hurdles, and outright attacks. As we go about the work God has called us to do, we can expect the same kind of setbacks and opposition. It is for us to remain faithful in prayer, and trust in God that He will accomplish His purposes in His time.

God shows His faithfulness to His people in spite of their repeated failures. We can be encouraged that even when we fail, we are not done. The grace of God is greater than our sin, and it is for us to call to mind the faithfulness of God and trust in Him as we set about the tasks He has given us to accomplish.

God’s Work through Our Unity
Nehemiah 4:6 states that “we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” This unity of purpose caused the rebuilding to happen quickly and successfully. It serves as a reminder that if we can set about a task with all our hearts, with a unity of purpose, the Church becomes an effective and powerful vehicle for God to work. 

God’s Work through Individual Believers
The Book of Nehemiah shows us the kind of significant impact one individual can have on a nation. Nehemiah served not as a priest, but in secular offices, using his position to bring back to the Jews order, stability, and proper focus on God, who uses all manner of people in all manner of places doing all manner of work.

Nehemiah is a perfect example of how a person who is devoted to God does not need to be in professional ministry in order to be effective for the kingdom. God created you the way He did for a reason, and He will use your specific strengths to His glory and for His purposes.

God’s Work through Leadership
Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah are men chosen of God to lead His people politically, spiritually, and physically. This came through the rebuilding of their culture, their temple, their city wall, their perseverance and pursuit of righteousness. May we strive to be these kinds of leaders, holding tight to God’s word, and may we be supportive of those who lead us in our faith.

Our Favorite Verses from Nehemiah

Nehemiah 1:3, “They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

Nehemiah 4:14, “After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

Nehemiah 4:17-18, “who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.”

Nehemiah 6:15-16, “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.”

Nehemiah 8:9, “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.”

Nehemiah 8:10, “Nehemiah said, ‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’”

Sources

  • The New Open Bible. (1990). Nashville: T. Nelson, p.544.
  • Norman L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of the Old Testament (Peabody, Mass.: Prince Press, 2007), 165.
  • ESV Bible. (2020). Introduction to Nehemiah | ESV.org.
  • Insight.org. (2020). Book of Nehemiah Overview - Insight for Living Ministries.

Photo credit: ©Sparrowstock

Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and author of A Journey to Bethlehem: Inspiring Thoughts for Christmas and Hope for the New Year. He serves as worship pastor and in Colorado and spends his weekends exploring the Rocky Mountains with his family. Connect on TwitterInstagram, or at JasonSoroski.net.