## Author and Title Nehemiah is the central figure in the book, and it contains some of his own records, but he is not the author of the whole book. The author is probably the same as the author of Ezra (see Introduction to Ezra). ## Date For the key background dates to the book of Nehemiah, see Introduction to Ezra. Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem in 445 b.c., 13 years after Ezra arrived. He returned for a further visit sometime between 433 and 423 b.c. He may have made several journeys between Persian capitals and Jerusalem in this period of 20 years. ### Chronology of Nehemiah |Event|Month/Day|Year|Reference| |---|---|---|---| |Hanani brings Nehemiah a report from Jerusalem (20th year of Artaxerxes I)||445–444 b.c.|1:1| |Nehemiah before King Artaxerxes|1|445|2:1| |Nehemiah arrives to inspect Jerusalem walls||445|2:11| |Wall is finished|6/25|445|6:15| |People of Israel gather|7|445|7:73–8:1| |People of Israel celebrate Feast of Booths|7/15–22|445|8:14| |People of Israel fast and confess sins|7/24|445|9:1| |Nehemiah returns to Susa (32nd year of Artaxerxes I)||433–432|5:14; 13:6| ## Theme The theme of Nehemiah is the Lord’s protection of his people and the need for their faithfulness in keeping the Torah (the Mosaic law) and their faithfulness in worship. ## Purpose, Occasion, and Background The purpose and background of Nehemiah are the same as that for Ezra (see Introduction to Ezra). ## Key Themes 1. The Lord hears prayer (1:4–6). 2. The Lord works providentially, especially through powerful rulers, to bring about his greater purposes (e.g., 2:8). 3. The Lord protects his people; therefore, they do not need to be afraid (4:14). 4. The Lord is merciful and faithful to his promises despite his people’s persistence in sin (9:32–35). 5. Worship is at the center of the life of God’s people, and it includes the willing, joyful giving of their resources (10:32–39). 6. God’s people need to be on their guard against their own moral weakness (ch. 13). ## History of Salvation Summary After the exile, God is renewing his people in the land, in order to carry out what he promised to Abraham. God’s people must renew their commitment to covenant faithfulness, laying hold of God’s forgiveness and seeking to practice purity in their corporate and private lives. God in his mercy raised up Ezra the priest and teacher, and Nehemiah the governor, to lead his people in the hard work that this renewal requires. The public ceremonies of chapters 8–10 enact this renewal, confessing past unfaithfulness and recognizing that everything—including the fulfilling of Israel’s mission to bring light to the world—depends on God’s grace and steadfast commitment to his promises (9:32–38). (For an explanation of the “History of Salvation,” see the Overview of the Bible. See also History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ.) ## Literary Features Nehemiah is a sequel to Ezra. Two main actions occur: the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem and the recommitment of the returned exiles to fulfill their covenant obligations. There is something for virtually everyone—a general’s diary, a governor’s report, a civil record, a management handbook, and a memoir—all in one short book. The events covered span approximately 13 years. Part of the liveliness of the book stems from the striking character of Nehemiah, who emerges from the pages as a godly and decisive leader. The book of Nehemiah displays the same mixture of narrative and documentary material (lists, inventories, genealogies) as Ezra, but it possesses a stronger narrative flair. The rebuilding of the city wall becomes a full-fledged conflict story, replete with suspense and heroism. The covenant-renewal ceremony (chs. 8–9) is one of the grand dramas in the Bible. The title character, Nehemiah, is such a commanding figure that the overall story is also a hero story. But documentary material continually interrupts the flow of the narrative, showing the historical impulse of the author. Since much of the book is cast in first-person narrative, the book also has the flavor of a memoir. ### The Persian Empire at the Time of Nehemiah c. 450 b.c. During the time of Nehemiah, the Persian Empire had reached its greatest extent, engulfing nearly the entire Near East. In 539 b.c. the Persians under Cyrus the Great defeated the Babylonians and absorbed the lands of Israel and Judah (known as Beyond the River) into his empire. The next year he allowed the people of Judah (now called Jews) to return home and rebuild the temple of the Lord. Several waves of returning Jews continued to resettle in Judea, and Nehemiah was granted permission to rebuild Jerusalem’s ruined walls around 445 b.c. ![The Persian Empire at the Time of Nehemiah](http://static.esvmedia.org/media/esv-study-bible/images/medium/map-16-01.jpg) ## Outline 1. Nehemiah Returns to Jerusalem to Rebuild Its Walls (1:1–2:20) 1. Nehemiah learns of Jerusalem’s dilapidation (1:1–11) 2. Nehemiah gains permission to return and inspects Jerusalem’s walls (2:1–16) 3. First signs of opposition (2:17–20) 2. The Wall Is Built, Despite Difficulties (3:1–7:4) 1. The people work systematically on the walls (3:1–32) 2. Opposition intensifies, but the people continue watchfully (4:1–23) 3. Nehemiah deals with injustices in the community; Nehemiah’s personal contribution to the project (5:1–19) 4. A conspiracy against Nehemiah, but the wall is finished (6:1–7:4) 3. A Record of Those Who Returned from Exile (7:5–73) 4. The Reading of the Law, and Covenant Renewal (8:1–10:39) 1. The law is read (8:1–8) 2. The people are to be joyful (8:9–12) 3. The people keep the Feast of Booths (8:13–18) 4. A prayer of confession, penitence, and covenant commitment (9:1–38) 5. Signatories and specific commitments (10:1–39) 5. The Population of Jerusalem and the Villages; Priests and Levites (11:1–12:43) 1. Those who lived in Jerusalem and the villages of Judah (11:1–36) 2. High priests and leading Levites since the time of Zerubbabel (12:1–26) 3. Dedication of the walls (12:27–43) 6. Nehemiah Deals with Problems in the Community (12:44–13:31) 1. The administration of offerings for the temple (12:44–47) 2. Ejection of Tobiah the Ammonite from the temple (13:1–9) 3. Dealing with neglect of the offerings (13:10–14) 4. Dealing with Sabbath breaking (13:15–22) 5. The problem of intermarriage again (13:23–29) 6. Summary of Nehemiah’s temple reforms (13:30–31)