The Second Book of the Chronicles The Book of Esther


In the introduction to the Book of Ezra, we have already seen those wonderful interferences of divine providence in which Nehemiah bore so large a share. Dr. Prideaux with his usual perspicuity, has interwoven the whole of the transaction of the mission of Nehemiah with that part of the Persian history with which they are connected; which I shall give in his own words. He connects this book, as it ought to be, with the book of Ezra. See before.

"He who succeeded Ezra in the government of Judah and Jerusalem was Nehemiah, a very religious and most excellent man; one that was nothing behind his predecessor, saving his learning and great knowledge in the law of God. He came to Jerusalem in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, about four hundred and forty-five years before Christ; and by a commission from him, superseded that of Ezra, and succeeded him in the government of Judah and Jerusalem. He had in that commission, by an express clause therein inserted, full authority to repair the walls, and set up the gates of Jerusalem; and to fortify it again in that manner as it was before it was dismantled and destroyed by the Babylonians.

"He was a Jew, whose ancestors had formerly been citizens of Jerusalem; for there, he says, was the place of his fathers' sepulchres; but as to the tribe or family which he was of, no more is said but only that his father's name was Hachaliah, who seems to have been of those Jews who, having gotten good settlements in the land of their captivity, chose rather to abide in them than return into their own country, when leave was granted for it. It is most likely that Hachaliah was an inhabitant of the city of Sushan, and that it was his dwelling there that gave his son an opportunity of gaining an advancement in the king's palace; for he was one of the cup-bearers of King Artaxerxes, which was a place of great honour and advantage in the Persian court, because of the privilege it gave him of being daily in the king's presence, and the opportunity which he had thereby of gaining his favour for the obtaining of any petition which he should make to him ... No doubt it was by the favour of Queen Esther, as being of the same nation and people with her, that he obtained so honourable and advantageous a preferment in that court.

"However, neither the honour nor advantage of this place, nor the long settlement of his family out of his country, could make him forget his love for it, or lay aside that zeal which he had for the religion of his forefathers, who had formerly dwelt in it. For though he had been born and bred in a strange land, yet he had a great love for Sion and a heart thoroughly set for the advancing the prosperity of it, and was in all things a very religious observer of the law of his God; and therefore, when some came from Jerusalem, and told him of the ill state of that city, how the walls of it were still in many places broken down, and the gates of it in the same demolished state as when burnt with fire by the Babylonians, and that, by reason thereof, the remnant of the captivity that dwelt there lay open, not only to the incursions and insults of their enemies, but also to the reproach and contempt of their neighbours, as a mean and despicable people, and that they were in both these respects in great grief and affliction of heart; the good man, being suitably moved with this representation, applied himself in fasting and prayer unto the Lord his God, and earnestly supplicated him for his people Israel, and the place which he had chosen for his worship among them. And having thus implored the Divine mercy against this evil, he resolves next to make his application to the king for the redressing of it, trusting in God for the inclining of his heart thereto; and therefore, when his turn came next to wait in his office, the king, observing his countenance to be sad, which at other times used not to be so, and asking the cause thereof, he took this opportunity to lay before him the distressed state of his country; and, owning this to be the cause of great grief to him, prayed the king to send him there to remedy it ...

"Accordingly a royal decree was issued out for the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem and Nehemiah was sent thither with it, as governor of the province of Judæa, to put it into execution; and to do him the more honour, the king sent a guard of horsemen with him, under the command of some of the captains of his army, to conduct him safely to his government. And he wrote letters to all the governors on this side the river Euphrates, to further him in the work on which he was sent; and also gave his orders to Asaph, the keeper of the forests in those parts, to allow him as much timber out of them as should be needed for the finishing of it. However, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Samaritans, and other neighbouring nations round, did all they could to hinder him from proceeding therein ...

"Having, on his arrival at Jerusalem, made known to the people the commission with which he was sent, he took a view of the ruins of the old walls, and immediately set about the repairing of them, dividing the people into several companies, and assigning to each of them the quarter where they were to work, but reserving to himself the superintendence and direction of the whole, in which he laboured so effectually that all was finished by the end of the month Elul, within the compass of thirty-two days, notwithstanding all manner of opposition that was made against him, both from within and without ... When they had thus far finished the walls and set up the gates, a public dedication of them was celebrated with great solemnity by the priests and Levites, and all the people ...

"And thus Nehemiah, having executed the main of the end for which he obtained the favour of the king to be sent to Jerusalem, appointed Hanani and Hananiah to be governors of the city, and returned again unto him into Persia; for a time had been set him for his return again to court, when he first obtained to be sent from thence on this commission ... On his return to the king, and having given him an account how all things stood in that province, and what farther was needful to be done for the well regulating of it, he soon obtained to be sent back again to take care thereof ...

"Nehemiah, being returned from the Persian court with a new commission, in the twenty-first year of Artaxerxes (444 BC), forthwith set himself to carry on the reformation of the Church, and the state of the Jews, which Ezra had begun; and took along with him the advice and direction of that learned and holy scribe in all that he attempted in this work.

"The first thing that he did was to provide for the security of the city, which he had now fortified, by settling rules for the opening and shutting of the gates, and keeping watch and ward on the towers and walls; but finding Jerusalem to be but thinly inhabited, and that to make this burden more easy there needed more inhabitants to bear their share with them in it, he projected the thorough repeopling of the place: in order to which he prevailed first with the rulers and great men of the nation to agree to build them houses there, and dwell in them; and then others following their example, offered themselves voluntarily to do the same; and of the rest of the people every tenth man was taken by lot, and obliged to come to Jerusalem, and there build them houses, and settle themselves and their families in them. And when the city was fortified, and all that had their dwellings in it there well secured by walls and gates against the insults of their enemies, and the incursions of thieves and robbers, who before molested them, all willingly complied; by which means the houses, as well as the walls and gates, being again rebuilt, and fully replenished with inhabitants, it soon after this received its ancient lustre, and became again a city of great note in those parts.

"Nehemiah, finding it necessary to have the genealogies of the people well investigated and clearly slated, next examined into that matter; and this he did, not only for the sake of their civil rights, that all knowing of what tribe and family they were, they might be directed here to take their possessions; but more especially for the sake of the sanctuary, that none might be admitted to officiate, even as Levites, who were not of the tribe of Levi; or as priests, that were not of the family of Aaron ...

"Ezra, having completed his edition of the law of God, and written it out fairly and clearly in the Chaldean character, this year, on the feast of trumpets, publicly read it to the people of Jerusalem ... Nehemiah and Ezra, finding them so well disposed, applied themselves to make the best improvement they could of it for the honour of God, and the interests of religion; and, therefore, proclaimed a fast to be held the day but one after the festival was ended, to which having called all the people while the sense of these things was fresh in their minds, excited them to make a solemn confession of their sins before God, and also to enter into a solemn vow and covenant with God to avoid them for the future ... It being their ignorance which led them into these transgressions, and this ignorance having been occasioned by their not having heard the law of God read to them; to prevent this for the future, they had from this time the most learned of the Levites and scribes that were skilled in the law, to read it to them in every city; which no doubt was at first done by gathering the people together in the most wide street, where all might the better hear it; but the inconvenience of this being soon felt, especially in the winter and stormy seasons of the year, they erected houses or tabernacles to meet in, and these were the original synagogues among them. That they had no synagogues before the Babylonish captivity is plain ...

"Nehemiah, after having held the government of Judah twelve years, returned to the Persian court, either recalled thither by the king, or else going thither to solicit a new commission after the expiration of the former (32 Artax., 433 BC). During all the time that he had been in the government he managed it with great justice ... In the thirty-seventh year of Artaxerxes, (BC 428), having tarried there about five years in the execution, as it may be supposed, of his former office, at length obtained permission from the king to be sent back to Jerusalem with a new commission ...

"Many things having gone wrong among the Jews during the absence of Nehemiah, as soon as he was again settled in the government, he applied himself with his accustomed zeal to correct them. That which he first took notice of was a great profanation which had been introduced into the temple for the sake of Tobiah the Ammonite. This man ... did the utmost he could to obstruct Nehemiah in all that he did for the good of that people, and confederated with Sanballat, their greatest enemy, to carry on this purpose ...

"It appears most likely that it was Eliashib the high priest who was the author of this great profanation of the house or God. What was done, however, the text tells us, Nehemiah immediately withstood, as soon as he returned to Jerusalem; for, overruling what the high priest had ordered to be done by the authority which he had as governor, he commanded all the household stuff of Tobiah to be cast out, and the chambers to be cleansed and restored to their former use ...

"Among other corruptions that grew up during the absence of Nehemiah, one especially to be noticed was, the neglect of not carrying on the daily service of the house of God in the manner it ought; for the tithes, which were to maintain the ministers of the temple in their offices and stations, either being embezzled by the high priest or other rulers under him, or else subtracted by the laity, and not paid at all; for want of them the Levites and singers were driven from the temple, every one to his own house, there to seek for a subsistence some other way. This abuse the governor, whose piety led him always to attend to the public worship, could not be long without taking notice of and when he had thoroughly informed himself of the cause, he soon provided very effectually for its remedy ... He also took care that the Sabbath should be duly observed, and made many good orders for the preventing of the profanation of it, and caused them all to be put into effectual execution ...

"With this book the general historical books of the Old Testament end; and the succeeding accounts of the Jewish people must be sought partly in the Apocryphal books, and in Josephus."

Nehemiah means Comfort of the Lord. A Jew (either a Levite or of the tribe of Judah) who held the important office of "cupbearer" at the court of Artaxerxes, from whom he obtained a royal commission authorizing him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The book of Nehemiah (which is a continuation of Ezra, the two being regarded by the Jews as forming one book) contains an account of the progress and difficulties of the work and its final completion. The book divides into four parts: (a) 1:1-7:73, Nehemiah’s first visit to Jerusalem, and the rebuilding of the walls in spite of much opposition; (b) 8:1-10:39, religious and social reforms; (c) 11:1-13:3, lists of names, and account of the dedication of the wall; (d) 13:4-31, Nehemiah’s second visit after 12 years’ absence, and his further reforms.

Nehemiah 1. Who Was Nehemiah? Where and When Did His Narrative Begin?

Little is known about the background of Nehemiah except that he was a Jew born while the Jews were in exile. His age is not given, but it is likely that he was born after Cyrus had decreed the Jews could return to their homeland. Only a small number of the Jews in exile chose to return. Nehemiah's family must have been one of those that did not. They were probably of some influence, since Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes (see Nehemiah 2:1). Assassination was a constant threat to a king, and poisoned food or drink was one of the most effective ways to accomplish it. The cupbearer, the one who ensured that the king’s food and drink were safe, was in a position of great trust and responsibility. Even though he was in Persia enjoying power and importance, Nehemiah had not forgotten his people and homeland. When he heard of their sad condition, he fasted and prayed for his people.

Nehemiah 2:1-11. The King Sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem

The favor in which Nehemiah was held by King Artaxerxes is evident not only in that he granted him permission to return but also in that he gave him guards, an escort, and a safe conduct through the lands on his return to Judah "beyond the river," or west of the Euphrates. The king also granted him permission to use timber from the royal forests to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem as well as the gates and his own house.

Nehemiah 1:2-4. What did Nehemiah do for the Jews in Jerusalem? Why?

Nehemiah 1:8. What had the Lord promised Moses?

Nehemiah 1:11. What did Nehemiah ask of the Lord?

Nehemiah 2:4-8. What did Nehemiah ask of the King?

Nehemiah 2:10. Who Was Sanballat?

Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and the governors of other nearby areas opposed the plans of the Jews for Jerusalem and resented the protection given them by the Persian king. A deep bitterness had developed between the Samaritans and the Jews who had returned with Zerubbabel (see Notes and Commentary on Ezra 4). For Nehemiah to return with full power from the emperor to refortify Jerusalem was a great setback for the Samaritans, and they openly opposed it. Sanballat of Samaria led this group (see v. 19) and made it necessary for Nehemiah to arm those who worked on the walls of Jerusalem (see chapters 4 and 6).

Nehemiah 2:10. How did Sanballat and Tobiah receive the news about Nehemiah?

Nehemiah 2:12-16. Nehemiah's Night Journey around the Walls Nehemiah wrote in such detail about his night reconnaissance and the later reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem that we have a good idea of the actual sites of much that he reported. The accompanying map shows the estimated locations.

See Maps, "Jerusalem," for a comparison of Jerusalem in Nehemiah's time with the city in Jesus' time.

Nehemiah 2:17-18. What did Nehemiah say to the rulers in Jerusalem?

Nehemiah 2:18. How did the rulers respond?

Nehemiah 3:1-32. Who are listed in Nehemiah 3?

Nehemiah 4:7-8. What did Sanballat and Tobiah conspire to do?

Nehemiah 4:9. What did the men of Judah do?

Nehemiah 4:14. What did Nehemiah say to them? (See also Alma 46:12)

Nehemiah 4:16-18. "The Other Hand Held a Weapon"

The names of the families assigned to repair the walls and gates are given in Nehemiah 3. But the leaders of the surrounding communities were angry that the Jews were fortifying Jerusalem and resuming their former religious practices. Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, was especially angry. But the plan they laid to attack and prevent the repair of the walls, now about halfway up (see Nehemiah 4:6), was frustrated by Nehemiah, who had those who guarded and those who labored arm themselves by day and by night (see vv. 21-22). Nehemiah's encouragement to the Jews to defend their families and homes (see v. 14) is similar to the charge Moroni gave in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 43:46-47; 46:12).

Nehemiah 4:16-23. How did the workers prepare to defend themselves?

Nehemiah 5. Nehemiah Demanded Social Reforms among His People

Nehemiah's true greatness shines forth in these verses. One of the reasons the Jews were still in great poverty was the unrighteous oppression of the people by their previous rulers. Nehemiah could have glutted himself in the same manner, but instead he became angry about the over taxation (the king's tribute), usury (interest), slavery, and the confiscation of private property.

Although his predecessors "were chargeable unto the people" (Nehemiah 5:15) or, in other words, laid a heavy burden upon the people, Nehemiah showed his greatness as the governor by not accepting a salary from the taxes of the people. He was wealthy and chose to serve without remuneration.

The righteous kings in the Book of Mormon had the same sense of public morality and worked for their livelihood rather than burdening their people (see Mosiah 2:14; 29:40).

Nehemiah 5:1-6. Why did Nehemiah become very angry?

Nehemiah 5:10-11. What did Nehemiah ask the nobles to do?

Nehemiah 5:12. Why did Nehemiah call the priests?

Nehemiah 5:14-19. What did Nehemiah do that was different from what the previous governors had done? (See also Nehemiah 5:15a)

Nehemiah 6:2. Why did Sanballat and Tobiah want to meet Nehemiah?

Nehemiah 6:16. Why were all the enemies of Nehemiah and the Jews disappointed?

Nehemiah 6:17-19. Why did Tobiah send letters to the nobles in Judah and to Nehemiah?

Nehemiah 7:2. Why did Nehemiah give Hanani and Hananiah charge of Jerusalem?

Nehemiah 7:3. What did Nehemiah say to them?

Nehemiah 7:7. Whose genealogy is in Nehemiah 7?

Nehemiah 7:63-64. Why were some priests denied the priesthood?

Nehemiah 7:65. When would they receive the priesthood?

Nehemiah 8:2-3. What did Ezra read to the people? (See also Deuteronomy 31:10-13)

Nehemiah 8:8. How was the book read? (See also Nehemiah 8:8c)

Nehemiah 8:9. Why did the people weep?

Nehemiah 8:18. What event was held on the eighth day?

Nehemiah 9:3. What did the people do on the twenty-fourth day of the month?

Nehemiah 9:5-30. List several things the Jews recited that the Lord had done for them.

Nehemiah 9:32-38. Why did the people make "a sure covenant"? (Nehemiah 9:38)

Nehemiah 10:29-31, 37. What four things did the people covenant to do? (See also Nehemiah 10:29a)

Nehemiah 11:12. How was it decided who should dwell in Jerusalem?

Nehemiah 12:1. Who are those named in Nehemiah 12?

Nehemiah 12:27. What was dedicated?

Nehemiah 12:44-45. What offices were appointed in the temple?

Nehemiah 13:1-3. Why was the "mixed multitude" separated from Israel? (Nehemiah 13:3)

Nehemiah 13:4-5. What had Eliashib the priest done for Tobiah?

Nehemiah 13:7-13. What did Nehemiah do upon his return from the king?

Nehemiah 13:15-21. Why did the merchants come no more upon the Sabbath?

Nehemiah 13:23-30. What did Nehemiah do about intermarriage?

STH Typing Service -- a home-based business
Elder Jared Pixley: My Missionary Son
Favorite Recipes
Susan's Newsletter
Scripture Study Guide
Book of Mormon Project
My E-books
Bible Study
My History
History of the Church
The Family: A Proclamation to the World
B.A.R.E. Facts
My List of Links