A Commentary on Nehemiah
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After interceding with God Nehemiah will intercede with Artaxerxes and sets out to build a wall and ends up leaving an enduring legacy of leadership. He was an organizer and a pragmatic leader who had a top position of trust in the grandest empire of world history. He put his career on hold and took on a job that was as improbable as operating on a gnat.
Arrival―inspection―exhortation ―answering his enemies. Nehemiah had probably never seen this city before―100 years have passed since the first settlers had returned. The temple had been rebuilt but the city was barely occupied, most people lived in outlying villages. They were mixing with foreigners and were in danger of losing their identity.
This chapter presents a record of the builders and their achievements they are busy building a wall, to many this may seem unimportant. But think of it this way—what if there was no wall on the border between Mexico and the state of Texas soon there would be no distinction between the two. It was because of not wall that the Jews were facing assimilation into the culture of their pagan neighbors. In those days a city without a wall was easy pickings for any robber band. Jew’s concerned for security, had scattered among other nationalities in small villages outside Jerusalem. There they were intermarrying and gradually losing their own language, culture and most important their own religion. A wall would give them a chance to make Jerusalem a truly Jewish city, keeping it safe and controlling who came and went.
opposition—opposition—opposition—What had kept them from doing anything about the broken-down wall for nearly 100 years? One obstacle was local resistance: powerful politicians were determined to keep the Jews down. Perhaps another reason was the lack of a leader like Nehemiah. In his memoirs, which fill most of this book, he shows remarkable qualities of leadership: impassioned speech, prayer, organization, resolve, trust in God, quick and determined response to problems, unselfishness. Perhaps his years in the Persian court had been preparing him. Organizing a difficult building project and handling fierce opposition seemed to come easily to him. Nehemiah was more than a good business manager. He was a man of God. He did not act without prayer, and he did not pray without acting. His prayers punctuate the book. He recognized God’s role in all that happened and never forgot to give him credit. He was not looking for earthly status—if he had been he never would have left Persia.
protest—protest—protest—This great protest by people including women was against fellow Jews because of high interest rates, foreclosures, lack of food—they had sold everything including their daughters. Nehemiah was angry as a shopper arriving too late for the bargains. He called them on the carpet and put the fear of God in them. He made them promise to stop their gouging and give back their homes and farms—details are in the exposition.
More opposition—more opposition—more opposition—His enemies are filled with opposition, schemes and secrecy. They were engaged in a letter writing campaign—next they try to intimidate Nehemiah by threatening assassination—He could see thru these so called prophets like looking thru water in a gold fish bowl.
Organization—plan—leaders—Unless you are an advanced student these lists may be uninteresting. However, they play an important role in history of Judaism. Guard detail—singers—Levites appointed and his brother appointed captain of the citadel. Orders regarding opening and closing gates— the fate of those who couldn’t find their family records. All this and more awaits you in the exposition.
Reading—celebration—commitment—Ezra and Nehemiah worked in tandem like a four wheel drive truck with a positive lock rear-end—but each had a different style. Nehemiah was an activist and Ezra was a student, Nehemiah was outspoken, Ezra was more withdrawn. Together they were an unbeatable team.
Spiritual preparation—God’s deliverance—During this spiritual retreat they are wearing burlap and udges of dirt on their faces. They stood and confessed their sins and read from the book 3 hours a day. Everyone engaged in a long—long praise marathon then they drew up a sealed document and each signed it.
Ratifiers of the covenant—stipulations of the covenant—The document now ratified and signed—it was a binding oath—to keep and carry out all the commandments of God. This document with all of its regulations and stipulations will be discussed in detail in the exposition.
Resettlement plan—A lottery was used to determine who would live in Jerusalem. In 1990 the U.S. census revealed that for the first time a majority of Americans lived in cities having more than a million in population. Worldwide, people are flocking to mega-cities. Not so in Nehemiah’s day. The Israelites had learned that big cities like Jerusalem made prime targets for invading armies. In order to repopulate the city, leaders had to resort to a lottery system.
Register of priests and Levites—dedication of the wall—Two large choirs marched on the wall around Jerusalem. One proceeded towards the Dung gate while the other went to the left. They marched the entire wall and finally took their place in the Temple of God. Under the direction of Jezrahiah they made the rafters ring. It was a time of great jubilation.