Survey of Nehemiah
Book Type: Book of History; the sixteenth book of the Old Testament; the sixteenth book of the Bible.
Author: Ezra is the most likely author, as the book was originally probably written as a single text, following the passages contained in the book of Ezra.
Audience: Nehemiah was written to the Jewish people who had recently returned to Jerusalem and the surrounding area following seventy years of exile in Babylonian captivity. The book of Ezra emphasizes the spiritual aspects of God's renewal, while the book of Nehemiah focuses more on renewal of the city and civil government. Even in the midst of Jerusalem's renewal, the attention remains on God's sovereign power to provide. He enables Nehemiah to lead people to Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the city's walls, and the ability to withstand opposition during times of difficulty.
Date: Between 457 and 444 BC.
Overview: This book consists of thirteen chapters and includes two main sections. The first section is the majority of the text: the first twelve chapters. This section concentrates on Nehemiah's first trip to Jerusalem as its appointed governor. Following a time of fasting and mourning in Babylon, God providentially allows Nehemiah to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the city (Nehemiah 1:1—2:20). The first course of action is to rebuild the city's walls (Nehemiah 3:1—7:4). Once completed, after a fifty-two-day period, Nehemiah reflects on his return under Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 7:5–73).
The end of chapter 7 transitions to the coming of Ezra, and a spiritual renewal of the people (Nehemiah 8—10). After hearing a declaration of the law of the Lord, the people repent (Nehemiah 8:13—9:37). The Jewish priests then renew the covenant with the people of God, resulting in a time of celebration (Nehemiah 9:38—10:39).
Nehemiah's next efforts focus on the resettlement of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:1—12:26). The people of Israel dedicate the walls of the city to the Lord, including much celebration (Nehemiah 12:27–47).
The second main section of the book is found in chapter 13. Years later, Nehemiah returns for a second term as governor. He is dismayed at some of the sin he finds among the people of the city. He cleanses the city from foreign gods and marriages, ending with a sincere call to the Lord: "Remember me, O my God, for good" (Nehemiah 13:31).
Key Verses (ESV):
Nehemiah 1:3: " And they said to me, 'The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.'"
Nehemiah 1:11: "'O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.' Now I was cupbearer to the king."
Nehemiah 6:15–16: "So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God."