Book of Nehemiah
Book of Nehemiah
by Timothy Kenney, PhD
The book begins with Nehemiah's reception of distressing news from the homeland while he is in the royal service in Susa. This leads to his petitioning the king for support in repairing the walls and gates of Jerusalem and to his appointment as governor to carry out the task. In spite of opposition from Sanballat, governor of Samaria, and other local authorities of the region, the work is successfully completed. With the walls rebuilt, the city was repopulated with settlers from the countryside.
Nehemiah is credited also with social and religious reforms. He is presented as showing concern for the poor while maintaining a modest administration. In his second term as governor, which is not precisely dated, Nehemiah carried out a series of religious reforms having to do with Temple regulations and provisions for the priests, observance of the Sabbath, and the dissolution of mixed marriages. These reforms emphasize a tradition of religious conservatism and concern for ethnic purity that eventually leads to the Samaritan schism.
An outline would appear as thus:
- Deeds of Nehemiah - Nehemiah 1-7
- Promulgation of the Law - Nehemiah 8-13
A detailed outline of the Book of Nehemiah follows.
I. Deeds of Nehemiah - Nehemiah 1-7.
Hearing of the sad condition of Jerusalem's walls and gates, Nehemiah asked Artaxerxes to allow him to go to Jerusalem to coordinate the rebuilding project. But there was opposition to him. Ome feared it may lead the Perisans to believe Jerusalem was preparing to rebel and declare its independence (Chapter 2). Officials in other towns might have feared the Persian king was preparing to make Jerusalem a separate province and they would lose jurisdiction over it (Chapter 4).
Enemies moved from taunting the rebuilding project to planning an attack on the builders. Nehemiah always had half of his work force armed and on guard. The other half worked while holding a weapon. His strategy worked and the enemies were afraid to attack (Chapter 4).
In Chapter 5, Nehemiah instituted economic reforms. He abolished the charging of interest on loans; charging interest to fellow Israelites had also been forbidden by God. Nehemiah did not demand what former governors had demanded of the people for their food needs - he fed himself and 150 others.
In Chapter 6, enemies offered a peaceful meeting but Nehemiah saw treachery in it and refused to come. The enemies hired a prophet to prophesy Nehemiah's death, but Nehemiah did not believe him. The Wall was completed in 52 days, and Nehemiah's enemies were afraid, realizing that God had accomplished this work.
Chapter 7 provides a list of those who returned.
II. Promulgation of the Law - Nehemiah 8-13
Chapter 8 begins as Ezra reads the Law before the people from early morning to midday. Ezra made sure the Law was also explained so the people understood. The Law was the completed Pentateuch or perhaps a collection of laws from the Torah or perhaps the Book of Deuteronomy. They celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths.
In Chapter 9, Ezra offered a beautiful prayer rehearsing God's graciousness from Abraham's time to the present while at the same time enumerating the people's rebellion.
The people then renewed their covenant with God in Chapter 10.
Chapter 11 gives list of those who lived in Jerusalem. Dedication of the Wall takes place in Chapter 12.
In Chapter 13, Ezra continues the reforms, as he removed Tobiah the Ammonite from his Temple living quarters since Ammonites and Maobites were forbidden to enter the Temple. Jews also separated themselves from the foreigners living among them He ensured the Levites received their portions so they had enough to eat. Enforced the cessation of working and selling on the Sabbath and dealt with marriages to non-Jewish women.
Our next biblical article takes us to the Book of Tobit.
- Catholic Doors Ministry: An Outline of the Book of Nehemiah.
- McGoodwin, Michael. The Old Testament of the Protestant Christian Bible,
the Apocrypha, and the Pseudepigrapha. 2005.
- New World Encyclopedia. Book of Nehemiah.
- Serfes, Demetrius Rev. The Bible. In Holy Scripture in the Orthodox Church.
Boise, ID: 20 August 2000.
- The New American Bible. Wichita, KS: Devore and Sons, Inc., 1987.