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Nehemiah

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(Heb. -Nechemyah', נְחֶמְיָה , comforted by Jehovah; Sept. Νεεμίας v.r. Νεεμία; Josephus, Νεεμίας , Ant. 11:5, 6), the name of three men.

1. The second named of the "children of the province," who had been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, and lived to return with Zerubbabel to Judsea (Ezra 2:2; Nehemiah 7:7). B.C. 536. He was not the same as No. 3 (see Carpzov, Introd. 1:341 sq.).

2. Son of Azbuk, of the tribe of Judah; ruler in half the town of Bethzur, in the mountains of Judah, who took a leading part in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:16). B.C. 445.

3. The son of Hachallah (Nehemiah 1:1) and brother of Hanani (Nehemiah 7:7). He was apparently of the tribe of Judah, since his fathers were buried at Jerusalem, and Hanani his kinsman seems to have been of that tribe (Nehemiah 1:2; Nehemiah 2:3; Nehemiah 7:2). Some think he was of priestly descent, because his name appears at the head of a list of priests in Nehemiah 10:1-8; but it is obvious, from Nehemiah 9:38, that he stands there as a prince, and not as a priest-that he heads the list because he was head of the nation. The Vulgate, in 2 Maccabees 1:21, calls him "sacerdos Nehemias" (comp. Rambach, Praef. in Nehemiah page 112; Carpzov, Introd. 1:338); but this is a false version of the Greek, which has ἐκέλευσε τοὺς ἱερῖς Νεεμίας, and not ἱεπεύς, which the Latin would require. The Syriac agrees with the Greek. The expression in 2 Maccabees 1:18, that Nehemiah "offered sacrifice," implies no more than that he provided the sacrifices. Others, with some probability, infer, from his station at the Persian court and the high commission he received, that he was, like Zerubbabel, of the tribe of Judah and of the house of David (Carpzov, Introductio, etc., i, 339). Malalas of Antioch (Chronogr. 6:160) singularly combines the two views, and calls him "Nehemiah the priest, of the seed of David."

While Nehemiah was cupbearer in the royal palace at Shushan, in the twentieth year of Artaexerxes Longimanus (q.v.), or B.C. 447, learning the mournful and desolate condition of the returned colony in Judsea (Nehemiah i, 2 sq.; comp. Kleinert, in the Dorpt. Beitrig. 1:243 sq.), he obtained permission of the king to make a journey to Jerusalem, and there to act as lieutenant or governor (Heb. פֶּחָה , Nehemiah 5:14. On the title of honor given to Nehemiah [Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 10:1], Tirshatha',

תַּרְשָׁתָא, see Gesen. Thesaur. s.v.; Benfey, Monatsnam. s. 196, identifies it with the Zend thvotresta, "commander." But in Nehemiah 7:65; Nehemiah 7:70, this title denotes not Nehemiah, but Zerubbabel, as is evident from Ezra 2:63-70). Being furnished with this high commission, which included letters to the satraps and subordinates, and enjoying the protection of a military escort (2:9), Nehemiah reached Jerusalem in the year B.C. 446, and remained there till B.C. 434, being actively engaged for twelve years in promoting the public good (5:14). "It is impossible to overestimate the importance to the future political and ecclesiastical prosperity of the Jewish nation of this great achievement of their patriotic governor. How low the community of the Palestine Jews had fallen is apparent from the fact that from the 6th year of Darius to the 7th of Artaxerxes there is no history of them whatever; and that even after Ezra's commission, and the ample grants made by Artaxerxes in his 7th year, and the considerable re- enforcements, both in wealth and numbers, which Ezra's government brought to them, they were in a state of abject 'affliction and reproach' in the 20th of Artaxerxes: their country pillaged, their citizens kidnapped and made slaves of by their heathen neighbors, robbery and murder rife in their very capital, Jerusalem almost deserted, and the Temple again falling into decay. The one step which could resuscitate the nation, preserve the Mosaic institutions, and lay the foundation of future independence, was the restoration of the city walls. Jerusalem being once again secure from the attacks of the marauding heathen, civil government would become possible, the spirit of the people and their attachment to the ancient capital of the monarchy would revive, the priests and Levites would be encouraged to come into residence, the tithes and first-fruits and other stores would be safe, and Judah, if not actually independent, would preserve the essentials of national and religious life.

To this great object, therefore, Nehemiah directed his whole energies without an hour's unnecessary delay. By word and example he induced the whole population, with the single exception of the Tekoite nobles, to commence building with the utmost vigor, even the lukewarm high-priest Eliashib performing his part. In a wonderfully short time the walls seemed to emerge from the heaps of burned rubbish, and to encircle the city as in the days of old. The gateways also were rebuilt, and ready for the doors to be hung upon them. But it soon became apparent how wisely Nehemiah had acted in hastening on the work. On his very first arrival, as governor, Sanballat and Tobiah had given unequivocal proof of their mortification at his appointment, and before the work was commenced had scornfully asked whether he intended to rebel against the king of Persia. But when the restoration was seen to be rapidly progressing, their indignation knew no bounds. They not only poured out a torrent of abuse and contempt upon all engaged in the work, but actually made a great conspiracy to fall upon the builders with an armed force and put a stop to the undertaking. The project was defeated by the vigilance and prudence of Nehemiah, who armed all the people after their families, and showed such a strong front that their enemies dared not attack them. This armed attitude was continued from that day forward. Various stratagems were then resorted to to get Nehemiah away from Jerusalem, and if possible to take his life." But in the face of these difficulties he rebuilt, or repaired, the city wall, hot without serious opposition from parties of Samaritans, finishing the work in fifty-two days (Nehemiah 6:15); reformed abuses, redressed grievances (chapter 5), introduced law and order (chapter 7), and revived the worship of God (chapter 8 sq.). A strange fable is told of his discovering again the holy fire (2 Maccabees 1:18 sq.). The account in 2 Maccabees 2:13 of the compilation by Nehemiah of the Old-Testament writings is disbelieved by Eichhorn (Apokr. Page 255 sq.), and is rightly estimated by Hengstenberg (Auth. d. Dan. page 241 sq.). (See ESDRAS, BOOKS OF).

It should be added that the son of Sirach, in celebrating Nehemiah's good deeds, mentions only that he "raised up for us the walls that were fallen, and set up the gates and bars, and raised up our ruins again" (Sirach 49:13). In his important public proceedings, which appear all to have happened in the first year of his government, Nehemiah enjoyed the assistance of Ezra (q.v.), who is named on several occasions as taking a prominent part in conducting affairs (Nehemiah 8:1; Nehemiah 8:9; Nehemiah 8:13; Nehemiah 12:36). Ezra had gone up to Jerusalem thirteen years before, and lived to be Nehemiah's fellow-laborer. These contemporaries are equally eminent among the benefactors of the Jewish people alike patriotic and zealous, though not uniform in character, or the same in operation. In the character of Ezra we find no indication of the self-complacency which forms a marked feature in that of Nehemiah. The former, in accordance with his priestly calling, labored chiefly in promoting the interests of religion, but the latter had most to do with the general affairs of government; the one was in charge of the Temple, the other of the state. Nehemiah refused to receive his lawful allowance as governor from the people, in consideration of their poverty, during the whole twelve years that he was in office, but kept at his own charge a table for 150 Jews, at which any who returned from captivity were welcome. Nehemiah returned to Persia B.C. 434, but soon heard of new abuses creeping in among the Jews, and he determined to visit Judaea again. The time of this second journey is indefinitely stated as "after some days" (Nehemiah 13:6-7), which many have understood as meaning a single year; but this is not long enough to account for such abuses as would require Nehemiah's presence. Prideaux (Connection, 1:520 sq.; comp. Jahn, Archaol. II, 1:272 sq.; Einleitung, 2:288 sq.) has shown sufficient reason for referring it to the second half of the reign of Darius Nothus, say B.C. 410. (But Havernick, Einleitung ins A. T. 2:324, holds a medium view, dating this visit B.C. cir. 424. See further, Michaelis on Nehemiah 13; Clericus, ad idem; Petavius, Doctrina Temp. 12:25; Cellarius, Dissertat. page 130; Jour. of Sac. Lit. January 1862, page 446.) (See SEVENTY WEEKS).

After his return to the government of Judsea, Nehemiah enforced the separation of all the mixed multitude from Israel (Nehemiah 13:1-3), and accordingly expelled Tobiah the Ammonite from the chamber which the high-priest, Eliashib, had prepared for him in the Temple (Nehemiah 13:49). Better arrangements were, also made for the support of the Temple service (Nehemiah 13:10-14), and for the rigid observance of the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-22). One of the last acts of his government was an effort to put an end to mixed marriages, which led him to "chase" away a son of Joiada, the high-priest, because he was son-inlaw to Sanballat the Horonite (Nehemiah 13:23-29). It is not unlikely that Nehemiah remained at his post till about the year B.C. 405, towards the close of the reign of Darius Nothus, who is mentioned in Nehemiah 12:22. (See DARIUS).

At this time Nehemiah would be between sixty and seventy years old, if we suppose him (as most do) to have been only between twenty and thirty when he first went to Jerusalem. That he lived to be an old man is thus quite probable from the sacred history; and this is expressly declared by Josephus, who (Ant. 11:5, 6) states that he died at an advanced age. Of the place and year of his death nothing is known. "On reviewing the character of Nehemiah, we seem unable to find a single fault (unless it be a slightly Ciceronian egotism) to counterbalance his many and great virtues. For pure and disinterested patriotism he stands unrivalled. The man whom the account of the misery and ruin of his native country, and the perils with which his countrymen were beset prompted to leave his splendid residence, and a post of wealth, power, and influence, in the first court in the world, that he might share and alleviate the sorrows of his native land, must have been pre-eminently a patriot. Every act of his during his government bespeaks one who had no selfishness in his nature. All he did was noble, generous, high-minded, courageous, and to the highest degree upright. But to stern integrity he united great humility and kindness, and a princely hospitality. As a statesman he combined forethought, prudence, and sagacity in counsel, with vigor, promptitude, and decision in action. In dealing with the enemies of his country he was wary, penetrating, and bold. In directing the internal economy of the state, he took a comprehensive view of the real welfare of the people, and adopted the measures best calculated to promote it. In dealing both with friend and foe, he was utterly free from favor or fear, conspicuous for the simplicity with which he aimed only at doing what was right, without respect of persons. But in nothing was he more remarkable than for his piety, and the singleness of eye with which he walked before God. He seems to have undertaken everything in dependence upon God, with prayer for his blessing and guidance, and to have sought his reward only from God." See Randall, Nehemiah the Tirshatha (Lond. 1874).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Nehemiah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/n/nehemiah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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