Book of Nehemiah of the Jewish Bible

The Book of Nehemiah

Book of Nehemiah

photo by Edoardo Costa

Nehemiah or the Book of Nehemiah is a historical text that forms a part of the Jewish Bible. Originally a part of the book of Ezra-Nehemiah, it was separated as an independent text during the first centuries of Christian period. The book of Nehemiah is regarded by many sources as a sequel to the Book of Ezra. The authorship of this book of Nehemiah is classically attributed to Nehemiah himself. The events described in the text occurred approximately during the latter half of 5th century B.C., and it forms the final section in the historical account of Jewish Bible.

The original account of the book of Nehemiah is presented in a first person memoir and is believed to have been written just a few years after the composition of the Book of Ezra. It speaks of how Nehemiah is informed that the kingdom of Jerusalem lacks any protective walls while he was in the Susan king’s court. This leads Nehemiah to decide to resolve and consolidate the disarrayed situation. He is appointed as the governor of Judah, after which he decides to travel to Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, Nehemiah rebuilds the walls even though he faced opposition from the enemies of Israel. Nehemiah also reforms the Jewish community in accordance with the law set by Moses. After spending 12 years in the land of Jerusalem, Nehemiah comes back to Susa but eventually revisits Jerusalem and finds the Israeli people growing into profane ways and getting married to non-Jewish wives. Nehemiah then decides to stay back in Jerusalem and see to it that the Law of Moses is enforced on the people and duly followed.

Later in the Book of Nehemiah, during the 20th year of the reign of Persian king Artaxerxes, Nehemiah, the cup-bearer to the noble King of Susa, learns that the walls of Jerusalem have been destroyed. Nehemiah prays to the Lord, remembering the sins of Israeli people and how God promised to restore the Holy Land. He asks Artaxerxes permission to leave for Jerusalem in order to rebuild the walls. The king understands and allows him to go to his mission. Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem and inspects the walls. He then starts to rebuild them with the help of the Jewish people.

The enemies of Jews then launch an attack, trying to prevent them from rebuilding the walls. These enemies of Jews included Tobiah the Ammonite, Sanballat of Samaria, Geshem the Arab, as well as forces from Ashdod. When Nehemiah notices that Jewish nobles are exploiting the poor, he cancels all mortgages and debts. Unlike earlier governors who have been oppressive and corrupt, Nehemiah was just and righteous from the beginning. Even though Sanballat conspires against Nehemiah by propagating the idea that he is secretly deciding to rebel against Artaxerxes, Nehemiah still manages to complete the wall.

Nehemiah arranged for guards on the gates of the wall and organizes to count the number of Jews present. In keeping with the Law of Moses, Nehemiah also collaborates with Ezra and Levites to organize the Feast of Booths. The people of Israel, the Levites and the priests enter into a covenantal relationship with each other.  Sign up to receive Bible Quotes from the Book of Nehemiah.