Who wrote it?
Nehemiah does not specifically name its author, but both Jewish and Christian traditions recognize Ezra as the author. This is based on the fact that the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one.
When(ish) was it written?
The book of Nehemiah was likely written between 445 and 420 BC.
Why was it written?
Nehemiah, one of the history books of the Bible, continues the story of Israel’s return from the Babylonian captivity and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.
Some Key Verses
And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
– Nehemiah 1:3
O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.
– Nehemiah 1:11
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
– Nehemiah 6:15-16
A Quick Summary
Nehemiah was a Hebrew in Persia when the word reached him that the Temple in Jerusalem was being reconstructed. He grew anxious knowing there was no wall to protect the city. Nehemiah invited God to use him to save the city. God answered his prayer by softening the heart of the Persian king, Artaxerxes, who gave not only his blessing, but also supplies to be used in the project. Nehemiah is given permission by the king to return to Jerusalem, where he is made governor.
In spite of opposition and accusations, the wall was built and the enemies silenced. The people, inspired by Nehemiah, give tithes of much money, supplies, and manpower to complete the wall in a remarkable 52 days. But, Nehemiah leaves for a while and everyone falls back into their sinful habits. After 12 years he returned to find the walls strong but the people weak. He set about the task of teaching the people morality and he didn’t mince words. “And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair” (Nehemiah 13:25). He reestablishes true worship through prayer and by encouraging the people to revival by reading and adhering to the Word of God.
Nehemiah was a man of prayer and he prayed passionately for his people (Nehemiah 1). His zealous intercession for God’s people foreshadows our great Intercessor, Jesus Christ, who prayed fervently for His people in His high-priestly prayer in John 17. Both Nehemiah and Jesus had a burning love for God’s people which they poured out in prayer to God, interceding for them before the throne.
What does this mean?
Nehemiah led the Israelites into a respect and love for the text of Scripture. Nehemiah, because of his love for God and his desire to see God honored and glorified, led the Israelites towards the faith and obedience God had desired for them for so long. In the same way, Christians are to love and revere the truths of Scripture, commit them to memory, meditate on them day and night, and turn to them for the fulfillment of every spiritual need. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” If we expect to experience the spiritual revival of the Israelites (Nehemiah 8:1-8), we must begin with God’s Word.
Each of us should have genuine compassion for others who have spiritual or physical hurts. To feel compassion, yet do nothing to help, is unfounded biblically. At times we may have to give up our own comfort in order to minister properly to others. We must totally believe in a cause before we will give our time or money to it with the right heart. When we allow God to minister through us, even unbelievers will know it is God’s work.
Take a few minutes to review the Scripture from Nehemiah 1:1-4, Nehemiah 2:1-6, Nehemiah 8, Acts 2:37-47, John 7:37-38. What verses or ideas stand out to you from these passages? What questions do you have? What would you like to remember and apply to your life?
Who or what do you have a burden for? How has that burden translated into action? How does prayer play a role?
How do you respond when you read the Bible and you are “cut to the heart?” Do you tend to experience more guilt and frustration, or are you more likely to move forward in joy and generosity? Explain.
Read Acts 2:38. To “repent” is to change direction. Is there an area in your life where repentance is called for?
Read John 7:37-38. Have you put your trust in Jesus? Do you come to Him when you “thirst?” Take a few minutes to pray for folks you know who are trying to satisfy their thirst somewhere other than Jesus.