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Bible Dictionaries

Morrish Bible Dictionary

Nehemiah, Book of

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This is the latest of the historical books of the O.T. It commences with the twentieth year of Artaxerxes: this is an important date, because of 'the seventy weeks' of Daniel 9 , which run from the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This commission was given to Nehemiah; the command to build the temple was given by Cyrus. Ezra 1:1 . See SEVENTY WEEKS.

Nehemiah 1 : Nehemiah had God's interests at heart. He heard at Shushan the desolate state of Jerusalem, and he wept and mourned, and prayed. He occupied a post of honour at the court as the king's cupbearer.

Nehemiah 2; Nehemiah 3 : Artaxerxes the king noticed Nehemiah's sad countenance, and inquired the cause. On being informed, he graciously desired Nehemiah to express his wishes. Nehemiah, after prayer to God, asked to be sent to build Jerusalem, and that he might have timber for the purpose, and letters to the governors. All was granted, and an escort was deputed to accompany him.

On arriving at Jerusalem, Nehemiah was opposed by Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite, who were grieved that a man had come "to seek the welfare of the children of Israel." But this only the more stirred up the energy of Nehemiah, and the work of rebuilding the wall proceeded.

Nehemiah 4 : The enemies first mocked him, and then plotted with others to attack him. But being aware of it, he armed the people, and kept part of them ready to repel the attack; and those that worked had a sword as well as a trowel. With Nehemiah was a trumpeter to sound an alarm. Cf. Numbers 10:9 .

Nehemiah 5 : Nehemiah also took up the cause of his distressed brethren. The poor had been compelled to mortgage their lands and vineyards to their richer brethren, who made them pay interest, which was contrary to the law. Nehemiah sharply rebuked the rich for this, and bound them by oath to release the persons and lands. He set them an example by feeding a hundred and fifty at his table, and by not taking any stipend as governor.

Nehemiah 6 is significant of the separate path necessary to be maintained by God's people. Numbers 23:9 . Their enemies tried to entice Nehemiah to a conference on various pleas; but in faith he returned the noble answer, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?" They pretended that he was building the city in order to revolt from the king of Persia, saying that he had appointed prophets to say of him at Jerusalem, "There is a king in Judah." He denied the accusations: they had feigned them in their own hearts. He would not meet them. To add to his distress there were some in Jerusalem who had formed an alliance with Tobiah, and had correspondence with him, reporting the good deeds of Tobiah to him, and sending his words to Tobiah. They thus sought to put him in fear. His devotedness to God's interests, and obedience to His word, saved him from all the wiles of the adversary. In fifty-two days the wall and gates were finished, and the enemies perceived that the work was wrought of God.

Nehemiah 7 : Levites were appointed to their stations, and the charge of the city gates was given to Hanani brother to Nehemiah, and to Hananiah, ruler of the palace, or fortress. A register is given of those who had returned with Zerubbabel, amounting to 42,360, besides their servants. Oblations were then made by Nehemiah and all the people.

Nehemiah 8 : In the seventh month they assembled as one man and kept the Feast of Trumpets. Then the law was read, and great pains were taken that the people should understand it. The people wept when they heard what the law enjoined; but the Levites instructed them rather to rejoice, for the day was holy, and the joy of the Lord was their strength. They were exhorted to eat and drink, and to send portions to those who had nothing. The Feast of Tabernacles was then kept, and in such a way as it had not been kept since the days of Joshua. They entered into the joys that belonged to 'all Israel.'

Nehemiah 9; Nehemiah 10 : The people humbled themselves with fasting, and confessed their sins, separating themselves from all persons who were not of the seed of Israel. The word was read, and they worshipped. The Levites then made a solemn confession, recapitulating all the faithfulness and goodness of God towards their nation; acknowledging their sins against Him, and ending with their making a written covenant and calling upon the princes, Levites, and priests to seal it. A list is given of those who sealed, and the covenant itself is set forth, stating clearly what it was the people bound themselves by a curse and an oath to keep. They thus placed themselves again under law, not having yet learned their own weakness and utter inability to keep it. The priests and Levites were provided for, according to Numbers 18 .

Nehemiah 11 : The inhabitants of Jerusalem were few, and more were needed for its protection. Some volunteered to live there, and the people blessed them; lots were cast for others, one in ten being thus obtained.

Nehemiah 12 gives a list of the priests and Levites, and the joyful dedication of the wall of Jerusalem. Great sacrifices were offered and they rejoiced with their wives and children, for God had made them to rejoice, and the sounds of their rejoicing were heard afar off. Appointments were then made for the service of the temple.

Nehemiah 13 : Apparently a period of time elapsed between Nehemiah 12 , Nehemiah 13 . The words 'on that day' refer to what follows in the verse. Nehemiah, after being twelve years at Jerusalem, had returned to Artaxerxes, in the thirty-second year of his reign, leaving, according to the end of Nehemiah 12 all things in due order in Jerusalem. How long he remained at the court is not stated, but after a certain time he obtained leave, and returned to Jerusalem, and he proceeds to relate what had taken place during his absence.

The law forbad that the Ammonite and Moabite should ever come into the congregation of the Lord, Deuteronomy 23:3,4; and yet Eliashib the high priest, who was allied to Tobiah the Ammonite, had prepared a chamber in the temple for this man. The enemy of God had thus been received inside. Nehemiah turned out all the household stuff of Tobiah, cleansed the chamber, and restored it to its former use.

The service of the temple had been neglected; for the tithes had been withheld, so that the Levites had to go to their fields for support. The sabbath was also desecrated, work being done and things sold in Jerusalem. Nehemiah expostulated with them and caused the gates of the city to be kept shut on the sabbath day. The merchants then tarried outside the walls on the sabbath, but Nehemiah threatened them, and the evil ceased. It was also found that some had married heathen wives, and their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod and could not speak in the Jews' language. Nehemiah cursed these men, and sharply rebuked, and chastised them. One of the grandsons of Eliashib having married the daughter of Sanballat, was cast out from the priesthood. (Josephus relates that he went to Samaria, where Sanballat built a temple on Gerizim, which became a refuge for apostate Jews)

The book closes with the setting right, outwardly, of all these evils. Nothing more is said of the solemn covenant that had been sealed by so many. It had been altogether violated; and Nehemiah felt his loneliness. Again and again he says, "Remember me, O my God," speaking of the good deeds he had done, and casting himself upon the greatness of God's mercy .

The Book of Nehemiah gives the partial and outward re-establishment of some of the Jews in their own land. There was no throne of God nor throne of David, and they were still subject to the Gentiles. The decree Lo-ammi was not removed; but they were restored to the land, ready for the manifestation of their Messiah, who would come seeking fruit, and ready in grace to bless them. The prophecy of Malachi followed this return, and shows the sad moral condition of the people, and the coming of Jehovah in judgement.

The spiritual value of this book, and of Ezra, is the setting forth of the principle that, in a day of ruin, a humble godly remnant represents the whole body, and receives mercy, and enjoys the best privileges of the dispensation, though at the same time being identified with, and suffering for the sins of the whole.

For events succeeding the time of Nehemiah see ANTIOCHUS.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Nehemiah, Book of'. Morrish Bible Dictionary. 1897.

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