I’m sure You’re real happy with Nehemiah, but there are a lot of people that are really mad. Are they going to kill Nehemiah or what’s going to happen?
“And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel.
And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month” (Neh 8:1-2).
“And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Neh 8:6).
Nehemiah and Ezra, with the help of Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, taught the people the laws of God. And Nehemiah said to them,
“Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10).
The second day the people began to gather olive, pine, myrtle, palm, and thick tree branches to make shelters they can live in, as it was written –
“And they found written in the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month” (Neh 8:14).
“Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner” (Neh 8:18).
“Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped theLord their God” (Neh 9:1-3).
All the Israelites were told of the lives their ancestors had lived with God, all the way back to Abraham.
The purpose of doing so kept the people’s mind off of evil and wicked things, i.e., the ways of the devil. The same with today, 1 keep your mind on Jesus at all times. God then made a covenant with the people (Neh 10:1-39).
“And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities.
And the people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.
Now these are the chief of the province that dwelt in Jerusalem: but in the cities of Judah dwelt every one in his possession in their cities, to wit, Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon’s servants “(Neh 11:1-3).
These are the people mentioned directly above – (Neh 11:4-36).
Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra (Neh 12:1-44).
“And both the singers and the porters kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son.
For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God.
And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified holy things unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron” (Neh 12:45-47).
It was also found in the book of Moses that the children of God were never to live with the Ammonites or the Moabites because they had never helped the Israelites, but hired Balaam to curse them.
“And I [Nehemiah]came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God.
And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff to Tobiah out of the chamber.
Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense.
And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.
Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place.
Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.
And I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office was to distribute unto their brethren.
Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.
In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals.
There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?
Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.
And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day.
So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.
Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.
And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.
In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab:
And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people.
And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.
Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.
Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?
And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me.
Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites.
Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business;
And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good” (Neh 13:7-31).
The Post Exilic Period
of the Old Testament
The postexilic period, cavers over 500 years, can be conveniently divided into five periods: Persian, Greek, Hasmonean, Roman and Herodian.
In 539-538 B.C. Cyrus the Persian defeated the Babylonians and reversed the policy of depopulating areas and scattering people into foreign lands.
Almost immediately thereafter he allowed the exiled Israelites to return to their homeland under the leadership of Sheshbazzar (cf. Ezra 1-2, 5:13-16; Neh 7).
The Cyrus Cylinder provides important extra-biblical confirmation. Many Jews opted to remain in the lands to which they had been exiled, though maintaining their religious and ethnic identify.
This phenomenon, known as the dispersion of the Jews, had become an irreversible social reality. However, the Old Testament exilic and postexilic narratives, with the exception of the book of Esther, focus on the challenges and crises facing the returnees.
The first major challenge was the rebuilding of the temple in the face of external opposition (Ezra 4:1-5; 5:1-6:18) and internal neglect (Hag 1:2-11).
Its restoration was a prerequisite for the reinstatement of God’s presence and blessings, and a strong priesthood was necessary to reinstitute local worship according to prescribed norms (Hag 2:11-19; Zec 3).
Stirred into action by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and with Persian sponsorship, the Perisan-appointed governor Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua successfully completed the project, dedicating the temple in 516/515 B.C. (cf. Ezra 6:15-16).
Another challenge was the threat of assimilation and idolatry (Ezra 9). With Persian endorsement Ezra returned to Jerusalem in 458 B.C. (Ezra 7:6-10).
He confronted the people, led them in confession of their unfaithfulness to God (Ezra 10) and later fulfilled his commission to teach the Book of the Law of Moses to the people (Neh 8-9).
A third significant challenge was the fortification of Jerusalem. In 445 b.c. Nehemiah, royal cupbearer to the Persian monarch, appealed to Artaxerxes I on Jerusalem’s behalf.
Artaxerxes appointed Nehemiah governor of Judea, funded his return to Jerusalem and provided building materials (2:1-9; 5:14). Despite considerable opposition,4 Nehemiah and the returnees succeeded in their mission (6:15).
The dedication of the wall was accompanied by extensive reading from the law and a call for covenant renewal. This period of revival was apparently short-lived, however.
When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, perhaps in 433/432 b.c., he discovered that the priests and people alike had become negligent in their worship.
The Persian kings’ endorsement and support of religious activity in “Yehud” (Judea) is consistent with their interest in temple communities in Babylonia, Syria, Asia Minor, Armenia, Phoenicia and elsewhere:
Temples served as regional power centers and helped maintain civil obedience and political loyalty. It is hardly coincidental that the Persians authorized the second temple’s completion shortly after their subjugation of Egypt in 526-525 B.C.
They willingly commissioned Ezra and Nehemiah a few years after quelling Egypt’s revolt in 460 b.c. The Egyptian threat to the south highlighted Persia’s reliance upon a productive and loyal “Yehud.”
Priestly governmental systems were less threatening to Persian kings than were local monarchies. Judea was ruled by both a high priest and a governor (cf. Hag 1:1,14; Zec 4), and the balance of power between the two fluctuated throughout the postexilic period.
Nehemiah played a crucial role as governor in the mid-5th century B.C., yet in Judea overall this period saw an increasing role of the priesthood and a decreasing role of the Davidic royal family. By the end of the Persian period (c. 330 B.C.) the priests had risen to a prominent position.
The Persians hoped to curry the favor and support of local deities and their priestly servants, who might intercede for the prosperity of the empire (cf. Ezra 6:9-10; 7:23).
Religious endorsement was essential to the legitimization of Persian rule in the eyes of various peoples. The Persians were so successful in this that in Babylonia their rule was not regarded as foreign domination.
Israel’s leaders and prophets recognized the constraints of their situation under Persian rule but welcomed Persian support to carry out God’s commands in their homeland.
Nevertheless, they consistently testified that God was the source of all blessing and success (Ezra 1:1; 7:6; Neh 2:8,20) and continued to look forward to a day when the Davidic branch would take root and all peoples would flock to Mount Zion to seek the Lord of hosts (Zec 3:8-10;8:20-23).