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July 22, 2021

Nehemiah-7.22.21

Filed under: Old Testament — Adam Osborne @ 9:51 am

CHAPTER 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11| 12 | 13 | Biblical Leadership Principles | Christ Revealed | Historical Background | Historical Timeframe | Outline | The Return from Exile |

Date Written: 425-400 BC

Period Covered: 450-430 BC

Historical Timeframe:

  • 568 Jerusalem destroyed, exiles go to Babylon
  • 539 Babylon falls to Persia. Persian empire begins
  • 538 First exiles return to Jerusalem, led by Zerubbabel
  • 516 Temple completed
  • 486 Xerxes becomes king of Persia
  • 465 Artaxerxes 1 becomes king of Persia
  • 458 Ezra leads the second refugee group back to Jerusalem
  • 445-432 Book of Nehemiah written
  • 445 Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem, God had softened the heart of Artaxerxes 1, who allowed Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem. The wall was completed; he brought back the third group (last group) of exiles to build the walls
  • 433 Nehemiah returns to Babylon
  • 432 Nehemiah goes back to Jerusalem
  • 430 (?) Malachi begins his ministry
  • 331 End of Persian empire

Type: History

Vernon McGee notes about the book of Nehemiah:

WRITER: Perhaps Ezra
Nehemiah was a layman; Ezra was a priest. In the Book of Ezra, the emphasis is upon the rebuilding of the temple; in the Book of Nehemiah, the emphasis is upon the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. In Ezra, we have the religious aspect of the return; in Nehemiah, we have the political aspect of the return. Ezra is a fine representative of the priest and scribe; Nehemiah is a noble representative of the businessman. Nehemiah had an important office at the court of the powerful Persian king, Artaxerxes, but his heart was with God’s people and God’s program in Jerusalem. The personal note is the main characteristic of the book.
DATE: Chronologically, this is the last of the historical books. We have come to the end of the line as far as time is concerned. The Old Testament goes no further. The Book of Ezra picks up the thread of the story about 70 years after 2 Chronicles. The 70-year captivity is over and a remnant returns to the land of Israel. The return under Ezra takes place about 50 years after Zerubbabel. Nehemiah returns about 15 years after Ezra. These figures are approximate and are given to show the stages in the history of Israel after the captivity. This enables one to see how the “70 weeks” of Daniel fit into the picture in a normal and reasonable way. The “70 weeks” of Daniel begin with the Book of Nehemiah (not with Ezra) “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah, the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks….” The background of the events of Nehemiah is “…the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Daniel 9:25).

KEY WORD: “So” occurs 32 times. It denotes a man of action and few words. Mark this word in your Bible and notice how this ordinarily unimportant word stands out in this book.

KEY VERSES:
Nehemiah 1:4 And it came to pass when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.
Nehemiah 6:3 And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to you?

OUTLINE:
I. REBUILDING the WALLS, Chapters 1 — 7
A. Nehemiah’s prayer for remnant at Jerusalem, Chapter 1
B. Nehemiah’s request of the king, return to Jerusalem, and
review of ruins of Jerusalem, Chapter 2:1-16
C. Nehemiah’s encouragement to rebuild the walls, Chapter
2:17-20
D. Rebuilding the walls and gates, Chapter 3
E. Nehemiah’s response to opposition, Chapters 4 — 6 (Oz notes… He faces opposition from three powerful neighbors, the Samaritans, the Ammonites, and the Arabs, but manages to rebuild the walls. )
Wall completed, 6:15
F. Nehemiah’s register of people, Chapter 7
(Only 42,360 people, 7,337 servants, and 245 singers returned. Compare this with the fact that Judah alone had 470,000 warriors [1 Chronicles 21:5].)


II. REVIVAL and REFORM, Chapters 8 — 13
A. Great Bible reading led by Ezra, Chapter 8
B. Revival — the result, Chapters 9, 10
C. Reform — another result, Chapters 11 — 13


THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY: God’s chosen people were called to witness against idolatry, but too often they themselves succumed and became idolaters. God sent them to Babylon, the fountainhead of idolatry. They returned repudiating idolatry. Their restoration as an independent nation was incomplete. They were not free from this time on to the time of the Roman Empire. The New Testament opens with them under the rule of Rome.

BIBLICAL LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES FROM NEHEMIAH:

  1. Identify Your Calling (1:1-11)
  2. Pray for Everything (2:1-8)
  3. Maintain Brutal Honesty (2:9-20)
  4. Delegate and Motivate (3:1-32 ; 12:44-47 ; 13:13)
  5. Couple Prayer with Action (4:1-23)
  6. Demonstrate Integrity (5:1-13)
  7. Serve your Followers (5:14-19)
  8. Maintain Focus (6:1-14)
  9. Depend upon the Lord (6:15 to 7:4)
  10. Teach (8:1-8)
  11. Celebrate Well (8:9-18, 12:27-43)
  12. Take Ownership of Problems and Mistakes (9:1-10 to 10:27)
  13. Give Generously (10:28-39)
  14. Take the First Step (11:1-36)
  15. Repeat Vision. Repeat Vision (13:1-30)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: In the early 6th century Judah rebelled against Babylon and was destroyed (586 BC). The royal court and the priests, prophets and scribes were taken into captivity in Babylon. There the exiles blamed their fate on disobedience to God and looked forward to a future when a penitent and purified people would be allowed return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. (These ideas are expressed in the prophets Jeremiah (although he was not exiled to Babylon), Isaiah, and, especially, Ezekiel). The same period saw the rapid rise of Persia, previously an unimportant kingdom in present-day southern Iran, and in 539 BC Cyrus the Great, the Persian ruler, conquered Babylon.

THE RETURN FROM EXILE: (Oz note: remember, Jerusalem had been conquered and destroyed by Babylon in 586 BC (142 years earlier than the book of Nehemiah). Then, later, Persia conquered Babylon.

  1. FIRST: 538 BC. Ezra 1-6. Persian Ruler was Cyrus. Anyone could go and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
  2. SECOND: 458 BC. Ezra 7-10. Persian Ruler Artaxerxes. Anyone could go, Jewish magistrates and judges were allowed.
  3. THIRD: 444 BC. Nehemiah 1-13. Persian Ruler Artaxerxes. Rebuilding Jerusalem was allowed. The book of Nehemiah is actually the THIRD return to rebuild the temple and the walls. Rebuilding of the walls was done in 52 days.

CHRIST REVEALED in the book of Nehemiah:

  • Ezra called on the people to remember God and to remember the Law. He guarded the people until Christ arrives.
  • Christ is not directly referred to in Nehemiah but he typifies Christ by the life he modeled.
  • He was a courageous leader, defying the odds and encouraging the people to do Yahweh’s work.
  • He was an ardent prayer, as was Christ.
  • He was dedicated to God’s Law, an important element in Christ’s life as well.

444 B.C.

Chapter One

Nehemiah’s Prayer

The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:

In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 

  • Kislev (or Chislev) is the ninth month on the Jewish calendar, counting from Nisan. It is best known for the holiday of Chanukah, which begins on 25 Kislev. 
  • Vernon McGee: v. 1 — The use of the first person pronoun gives the impression that Nehemiah was the writer. If Ezra was the writer, he was copying from the journal of Nehemiah. This book, as was true in the Book of Ezra, has copies of letters, decrees, registers and other documents. The same man wrote both books — Ezra and Nehemiah are one book in the Hebrew canon.

Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.

  • Vernon McGee vv. 2-4 — Visitors from Jerusalem come to the palace, and Nehemiah makes inquiry of them about Jerusalem and he condition of the remnant that had returned. When he learns the sad plight of the people and that the walls and gates of Jerusalem are still in shambles, Nehemiah sits down and weeps, mourns and fasts. Then he prays before the God of heaven.

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

  • 2 Kings 25:10 The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 

  • Nehemiah responded to the news about Jerusalem by mourning, fasting, and praying for days. When we go about our daily lives, this should be our first response when facing all of life’s challenges.
  • For the walls to be in the state they were meant the people had neglected to honor and worship the Lord.
  • Jerusalem became the capital of Israel. It was in Jerusalem that Solomon built the temple and his palace. 1 Kings 6-7.
  • The bible predicted that the Jewish people would return to Israel and Jerusalem figures prominently in prophecies the end times.
    • Joel 3:1 “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
    • Jeremiah 23:3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.
    • Jeremiah 30:7 Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it.
    • Ezekiel 11:17 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’
  • Someday the Jewish temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem
    • Daniel 12:11 And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days.
    • Matthew 24:15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),
    • 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
  • Currently Jerusalem is still experiencing what Jesus called “the times of the Gentiles” in Luke 21:24: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” This period began with the Babylonian Exile and will continue through the tribulation period.
    • Revelation 11:2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.

Then I said:

“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 

  • Vernon McGee – vv. 5-11 — This is the record of Nehemiah’s prayer. “Terrible God” (v. 5 KJV) is “reverend God.” Reverend” should never be used in addressing a pastor or ordained preacher. It should be applied only to God. someone has expressed it this way:
    • Call me Mister, call me friend, A loving ear to all I lend, But do not my soul with anguish rend, PLEASE stop calling me “Reverend.”
  • Nehemiah pleads with God and confesses his sins and those of his people (vv. 6, 7). He reminds God of His promises (vv. 8, 9). Nehemiah casts himself upon the mercy and goodness of God (vv. 10, 11). “This man” refers to King Artaxerxes.
  • Daniel 9:4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments,
  • Exodus 20:6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you.

  • 1 Kings 8:28-29 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.
  • 2 Chronicles 6:40 “Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place
  • Daniel 9:17-18 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.
  • Daniel 9:20 20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill—
  • I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you = Israel’s adversities had resulted from the nation’s covenant unfaithfulness. The only reason they were still alive was because of God’s faithfulness and mercy.

We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

  • Psalms 106:6 We have sinned, even as our ancestors did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
  • Daniel 9:5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.
  • Deuteronomy 28:15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:

“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 

  • Leviticus 26:33  I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins.
  • Deuteronomy 4:25-27 After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time—if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God and arousing his anger, 26 I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. 27 The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you.
  • Deuteronomy 28:64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known.

but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

  • Leviticus 26:39 Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.
  • Deuteronomy 4:29-31 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.
  • Deuteronomy 30:2, 4 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.

10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. 

  • Deuteronomy 9:29 But they are your people, your inheritance that you brought out by your great power and your outstretched arm.”
  • Daniel 9:15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong.
  • Nehemiah was “reminding God” of who these people were. They were God’s chosen children, whom he loved, and had brought them out of Egypt with His awesome power.

11 Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

I was cupbearer to the king.

  • Isaiah 26:8 Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.
  • Hebrews 13:18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.
  • Notice that Nehemiah’s content of his prayer was more focused upon God than the people.
  • Nehemiah’s prayer revealed the character of God.
  • Nehemiah had great faith and confidence in who God was and all He had done in the past, and all He would do for his people in the future.
  • Nehemiah understood his place in God’s story and acknowledges his helplessness before God.
  • A cupbearer was a very prominent position, especially considering that Nehemiah was a foreigner. Nehemiah was faithful in small things, and God used him to make a big difference.
  • Nehemiah knew that the real problem wasn’t a broken down city, or broken down walls. The true problem was the people’s relationship with God.
  • Not only was Nehemiah called to rebuild a city, but he was also called to rebuild a community of people in shambles. Because of the exile, Jerusalem was in need of both physical and spiritual renewal.

Chapter Two [return to top]

  • Timeframe: The year now is 443.
    • 538 BC. Cyrus allows the Jews to return to Jerusalem
    • 516 BC. Temple is completed
    • 458 BC. Ezra leads a group of exiles to Jerusalem
    • 444 BC. Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem
  • As you begin to study Chapter Two, the first 10 verses, consider this:
    • It is one thing to have dreams or aspirations of great things; it’s another thing to have and implement a plan for meeting those goals.
    • When setting out to achieve new things, often we come across obstacles, some which were expected, others we did not.
    • In the chapter we will see that Nehemiah moved beyond just aspirations, and took action as he sought to restore Jerusalem. NOTE that action is a verb, you must take action.
    • We are called to do the same, even when it requires sacrifice.
    • So the main point of the first ten verses is Nehemiah’s deep concern for Jerusalem led him beyond emotion, toward preparation and action.

Nehemiah Sent to Judah

  1. In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence.
  • Ezra 7:1 Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah

 2. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid.

  • Proverbs 15:13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
  • According to most commentaries, you were NOT supposed to have a sad face in front of the King, this was not allowed. That’s why Nehemiah was very much afraid.

 3. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

  • Notice that Nehemiah was not half-hearted in his service to God. He took a risk here, being sad before the king was not allowed. We must be like Nehemiah, go “all in” not halfhearted.
  • Things that are sad for the church, should also make us sad…. and we should take action to resolve the problem.
  • 1 Kings 1:31 Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground and paid homage to the king and said, “May my lord King David live forever!” 
  • Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”
  • Dan 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change.
  • Dan 6:6, 21 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! … 21  Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever!

4. Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 

  • Vernon McGee: Here is the beginning of the use of the word “so”.

5. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” 

  • Nehemiah asks for a leave of absence that he might go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Note however that he did NOT mention Jerusalem because it might have carried negative connotations from the past. He said “the city of my fathers’ graves”.
  • The Persian rulers went to great expanse building tombs for their ancestors.
  • Nehemiah’s request to rebuild Jerusalem was bold in light of the king’s earlier decision to stop all construction on the project.
    • Ezra 4:12-16 be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. 14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, 15 in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. 16 We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.”

6 And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. 

  • The queen must concur too.

7 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, 

  • vv. 7-9 — Nehemiah makes further request for material assistance and protection, as a government official, along the route. An honor guard from the king accompanies Nehemiah.

8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

  • Nehemiah modeled both praying and planning.
    • PRAYING: He prayed before telling the king what his problems were.
    • PLANNING: Vs 6. [So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.] Nehemiah didn’t push too hard, he gave the king the time needed, to help the king feel good about what he was doing.
  • Ezra 5:5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.
  • Ezra 7:6, 9, 28  this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. 9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 28  and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.

Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls

9 Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 

  • VS 9. Some have criticized Nehemiah for allowing the protection from the King because Ezra would not allow it (Ezra 8:22-23). However, Nehemiah was not showing a lack of faith as some have suggested; no, he was showing his TRUST that this was part of God’s divine plan for protection from his enemies.

10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.

  • The three leading enemies of Israel are grieved that Nehemiah has come to help his people. Here we go, the opposition has started. You will see this all through the book of Nehemiah.
  • We can be sure that as we pursue God’s purposes in our lives, we will face obstacles and that there will be individuals who oppose our efforts. We are called to persevere with concern for the purposes of God over the purposes of men.

As we now move to Chapter Two, verses 11 to 20, we start thinking how we handle obstacles and challenges in our lives. As you study the rest of this chapter, focus on the beauty of God’s work in our lives. As we go about our lives, are we optimistic, depending upon God and his sovereignty, or are we of little faith, and pessimistic? How we respond to those struggles reveals much about our faith.

11 So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days

  • three days: Nehemiah rested after his journey. Probably “planning” too.
  • vv. 11-16 — Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem, immediately makes a secret inspection of the damage, and estimates the extent of the job.
  • Ezra 8:32 We came to Jerusalem, and there we remained three days.

12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. 

  • Most likely, Nehemiah took only a few men so as to avoid detection. Most likely Nehemiah limited the men also because some of the people were probably sympathetic to Sanballet and Tobiah. Other commentaries said that they were guards who were responsible for Nehemiah’s safety.
  • Nehemiah retained a bold confidence because God had given him the passion to complete the work.

13 I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 

  • The commentaries explain that Nehemiah made his way, one gate at a time, in a counter-clockwise direction.
  • VERSE 13 Dung Gate From the Valley Gate to the Dung Gate was a distance of about 1,500 feet (Neh 3:13). This was the southernmost gate, leading to the Hinnom Valley. It is probably to be identified as the Potsherd Gate mentioned in Jer 19:2.
  • were broken down. The gates and walls of Jerusalem were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 bc (2 Kgs 25:8–12).
    • 2 Kings 25:8-12 In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 And he burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 10 And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. 12 But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.
  • King’s Pool – Possibly the Pool of Siloam. The Pool of Siloam was fed by an aqueduct created during the reign of Hezekiah that brought water from the Gihon spring.
  • 2 Chronicles 26:9 Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate and at the Valley Gate and at the Angle, and fortified them.

14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. 

  • no room: notice the condition of the walls, crumpled and destroyed, lots of debris, no room for men or animals to pass. Sometimes unexpected obstacles get in our path. Don’t give up, keep on going.
  • The Fountain Gate reportedly led to a water spring.
  • Nehemiah had to detour because of all the rubble. From there he proceeded on foot.

15 Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 

  • the valley The Kidron Valley, east of the city.
  • 2 Samuel 15:23 And all the land wept aloud as all the people passed by, and the king crossed the brook Kidron, and all the people passed on toward the wilderness.
  • Jeremiah 31:40 The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the LORD. It shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.”

16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.

  • In verses 11 to 16, Nehemiah came in and inspected the reality of the situation.
  • He wanted to see with his eyes what God was calling him to do.
  • Once he examined and knew what the reality was, he cast a vision for what the future could look like.
  • Nehemiah’s final inspection of the walls provided him further important information to finalize his plans.
  • At this point, Nehemiah again emphasized that the project was entirely on his request; the officials still did not know where he had gone or what he was doing.

17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” 

  • vv. 17, 18 — Then Nehemiah calls together the leaders of Israel and reveals his plan to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem. The people are encouraged to begin the undertaking.
  • Psalms 44:13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us.
  • Psalms 79:4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us.
  • Jeremiah 24:9  I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a reproach, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them.
  • Ezekiel 5:14-15 Moreover, I will make you a desolation and an object of reproach among the nations all around you and in the sight of all who pass by. 15 You shall be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and a horror, to the nations all around you, when I execute judgments on you in anger and fury, and with furious rebukes—I am the LORD; I have spoken—
  • Ezekiel 22:4 You have become guilty by the blood that you have shed, and defiled by the idols that you have made, and you have brought your days near, the appointed time of your years has come. Therefore I have made you a reproach to the nations, and a mockery to all the countries.

18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. 

  • Nehemiah found his purpose and calling to rebuild Jerusalem from the Lord his God.
  • Notice that Nehemiah said “Let us rise up and build”….Nehemiah made himself part of those he wished to enlist in the project. Good leaders lead by example and roll up their shirtsleeves along with the rest of them.
  • Nehemiah drew them a mental picture, showing them how they were in danger because they did not have any protection since the walls were destroyed.
  • Nehemiah also painted the vivid picture of Jerusalem in ruins along with its burned gates, thus appealing to the people’s sense of loyalty and obligation toward the city of their ancestors. Only then would Jerusalem’s citizens no longer be a disgrace.
  • 2 Samuel 2:7 Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 

  • The 3 enemies use the weapon of ridicule to deter the people from attempting the Herculean project of rebuilding the walls and gates.
  • Geshem … was a powerful chieftain of Qedar in Northwest Arabia. He was somewhat under the control of the Persians but had great freedom to govern over a confederation of Arab tribes that included Edom and the southern part of Judah.

20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”

  • Notice that Nehemiah didn’t mention the king’s approval of his work, instead, he voiced his confidence in the God of heaven.
  • For the sake of the workers, Nehemiah’s response to this first oppositional strategy was important. His answers had three parts:
    1. He did not speak of his own authority, or even the king’s authority, but of his trust in the “God of heaven”.
    2. Nehemiah advised his people to ignore the ridicule and threats and simply work.
    3. He refused to compromise. He denied his opponents a share in the work, the land, or the worship of the Jewish community.
  • Ezra 4:3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”

LESSONS LEARNED CHAPTER TWO:

  • Because he heard from God, Nehemiah could speak for God.
  • Because he heard from God, his vision was clear, compelling, and included everyone.
  • His vision was right on, and so was his method for reaching his vision.
  • Nehemiah wasn’t trusting his own leadership or the skills of the people.
  • He was trusting in God alone.
  • Any vision of God is going to come with some opposition.
  • It’s not always as easy as it seems to live the vision God has given to you.
  • Nehemiah would experience opposition to his God-centered vision.

NOTES CHAPTER TWO:

Verse 10: Sanballat the Horonite  – or Sanballat I – was a Samaritan leader and official of the Achaemenid Empire of Greater Iran who lived in the mid to late 5th century BC and was a contemporary of Nehemiah.

He is best known from the Book of Nehemiah, which casts him as one of the chief opponents of the Jewish governor Nehemiah during the latter’s efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and carrying out his reforms among the Jews. In Jewish tradition, he was called “the Horonite,” (another possible “the Harranite”) and was associated with Tobiah the Ammonite and Geshem the Arabian. His home was evidently at Samaria.

According to Nehemiah, when he and his escort arrived in Jerusalem, their return aroused the enmity of Sanballat and his allies. They were aggrieved that the welfare of the Jews should be fostered. When Nehemiah actually disclosed his intention of building the walls of Jerusalem they laughed him to scorn, and said, “Will ye rebel against the king?” Nehemiah resented their insinuation, and told them that they had no right in Jerusalem, nor any interest in its affairs. As soon as Sanballat and his associates heard that Nehemiah and the Jews were actually building the walls, they were angry; and Sanballat addressed the army of Samaria with a contemptuous reference to “these feeble Jews.” Tobiah appeased him by saying that a fox (or a jackal) climbing on the wall they were building would break it down. Nehemiah and his builders, the Jews, vigorously hurried the work, while Sanballat and his associates organized their forces to fight against Jerusalem. Nehemiah prepared to meet the opposition and continued the work on the walls. Five different times Sanballat and his confederates challenged Nehemiah and the Jews to meet them for a parley in the plain of Ono. Nehemiah was equal to the emergency and attended strictly to his work. Then Sanballat, with Jews in Jerusalem who were his confederates, attempted to entrap Nehemiah in the Temple; but the scheme failed. Sanballat’s Jewish allies, however, kept Sanballat and Tobiah informed as to the progress of the work in Jerusalem. With the hand of the Lord upon Nehemiah along with Nehemiah’s far-sighted policy and his shrewdness, he was kept out of the hands of these neighbor-foes. In his reforms, so effectively carried out, he discovered that one of the grandsons of the current high priest Eliashib had married a daughter of this Sanballat, and was thus son-in-law of the chief enemy of the Jews. Nehemiah also found that Eliashib had leased the storerooms of the temple to Tobiah, thus depriving the Levites of their share of the offerings in Nehemiah’s absence. The high priest (and/or possibly his son Jehoida and the unnamed grandson) was driven out of Jerusalem on the ground that he had defiled the priesthood (Nehemiah 13:28).

VERSE 10: Tobiah the Ammonite

Opposition to Nehemiah’s rebuilding effort

Tobiah was an Ammomite official (possibly a governor of Ammon, possibly also of Jewish descent). He incited the Ammonites to hinder Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild Jerusalem.  He, along with Sanballat the Horonite and Geshem the Arabian, resorted to a stratagem and, pretending to wish a conference with Nehemiah, invited him to meet them at Ono, Benjamin. Four times they made the request, and every time Nehemiah refused to come. Their object was to frighten him from completing the restoration of Jerusalem’s walls and to do him some kind of harm.

Tobiah also had married a daughter of Shecaniah, a Judahite leader, and had given his son, Jehohanan, in marriage to the daughter of Meshullam, another Judahite leader, for ostensibly political purposes. Because of this, he somehow gained enough of a Judahite coalition to use the Judahites themselves to send letters to Nehemiah, telling him of Tobiah’s “good deeds” in an apparent attempt to weaken Nehemiah’s resolve to keep Tobiah out of the rebuilding effort. Tobiah meanwhile sent intimidating letters directly to Nehemiah.

Acquisition of the temple storerooms

Additionally, Tobiah exploited his relationship with High Priest Eliashib, whose grandson had married the daughter of Sanballat. He persuaded Eliashib to lease the storerooms of the temple to him, so that he could conduct business in the newly constructed temple. These storerooms had been intended for the Israelites’ grain offerings, incense, temple articles, and the tithes of grain, new wine and oil meant for the work of the temple and the temple workers themselves. Upon hearing this, Nehemiah, who was then in Babylon serving Artaxerxes I of Persia, requested permission to return to Judah. After returning, he promptly threw all of Tobiah’s belongings out of the temple room, purified the room, and put back all that had originally been there.

LASTLY….Lesson from the life of Nehemiah. Don’t pray to be comfortable in our circumstances; pray to be available and ready to do the will of God in every situation.

Chapter Three [return to top]

COMMENTS BEFORE CHAPTER THREE and FOUR: like the earlier reconstruction efforts under Zerubbabel and Ezra, Nehemiah’s rebuilding corps faces opposition both from without and within. As the walls begin to rise, so does opposition from leaders in surrounding provinces. For each problem, Nehemiah seeks – and finds – a God-honoring solution: Ridicule is handled with prayer; threats of violence are dealt with by adequate preparation; discouragement is met with a personal example in faith in God’s power.

A MAIN POINT in this chapter could be “God’s people must be faithful to the work He has called them to do.”

  • Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.

Rebuilding the Wall

NOTE 1: This chapter focuses on the rebuilding of the Jerusalem walls, and the 10 gates. The 10 gates of Jerusalem are:

(1) the Sheep Gate (vv. 1, 32); (2) the Fish Gate (v. 3); (3) the Jeshanah (or Old) Gate (v. 6); (4) the Valley Gate (v. 13); (5) the Dung Gate (v. 14); (6) the Fountain Gate (v. 15); (7) the Water Gate (v. 26); (8) the Horse Gate (v. 28); (9) the East Gate (v. 29); (10) and the Inspection (or Muster) Gate (v. 31). Since the gates were the most vulnerable sections of ancient walls, these were the most important segments of the project.

1 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel.

  • Two things to notice here…the Sheep Gate:
    • The Sheep Gate was the gate were the sacrifices were held. So, it made sense that the priest take care of this area.
    • Notice that they “consecrated” this area…they set it apart for God.
  • John 5:2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.
  • Jeremiah 31:38 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate.
  • Zechariah 14:10 The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses.
  • The Tower of Hananeel (or Hananel; (God) is gracious”) is a tower in the walls of Jerusalem, adjoining the Tower of Meah (or Hammeah: “the Tower of the Hundred”) to the east connecting to the “sheep gate”. It is mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1 and Nehemiah 12:39 It is located on the northern wall section of the old city, near the northeastern corner, a point of the city always requiring special fortification and later the sites successively of the Hasmonean Baris and of the Antonia Fortress.

2 And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.

  • Ezra 2:34 The sons of Jericho, 345.

3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

  • 2 Chronicles 33:14 Afterward he built an outer wall for the city of David west of Gihon, in the valley, and for the entrance into the Fish Gate, and carried it around Ophel, and raised it to a very great height. He also put commanders of the army in all the fortified cities in Judah.
  • Zephaniah 1:10 “On that day,” declares the Lord, “a cry will be heard from the Fish Gate a wail from the Second Quarter, a loud crash from the hills.

4 And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired.

5 And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.

6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

7 And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River.

8 Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall.

9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired.

10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired.

11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens.

12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.

13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.

14 Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

15 And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king’s garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the city of David.

  • John 9:7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing

16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool, and as far as the house of the mighty men.

  • 2 Kings 20:20 The rest of the deeds of Hezekiah and all his might and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?
  • Isaiah 22:10 and you counted the houses of Jerusalem, and you broke down the houses to fortify the wall.

17 After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district.

18 After him their brothers repaired: Bavvai the son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah.

19 Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress.

  • 2 Chronicles 26:9 Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate and at the Valley Gate and at the Angle, and fortified them.

20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai repaired another section from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.

21 After him Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired another section from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib.

22 After him the priests, the men of the surrounding area, repaired.

23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house.

24 After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress

25 and to the corner. Palal the son of Uzai repaired opposite the buttress and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh

  • Jeremiah 32:2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah.
  • Jeremiah 33:1 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard:
  • Jeremiah 37:21 So King Zedekiah gave orders, and they committed Jeremiah to the court of the guard. And a loaf of bread was given him daily from the bakers’ street, until all the bread of the city was gone. So Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

26 and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower.

  • Ezra 2:43 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth,
  • 2 Chronicles 27:3 He built the upper gate of the house of the Lord and did much building on the wall of Ophel.

27 After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel.

28 Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house.

  • 2 Kings 11:16 So they laid hands on her; and she went through the horses’ entrance to the king’s house, and there she was put to death.
  • 2 Chronicles 23:14 Then Jehoiada the priest brought out the captains who were set over the army, saying to them, “Bring her out between the ranks, and anyone who follows her is to be put to death with the sword.” For the priest said, “Do not put her to death in the house of the Lord.”
  • Jeremiah 31:40 The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord. It shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.”

19 After them Zadok the son of Immer repaired opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, repaired.

30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah repaired opposite his chamber.

31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate, and to the upper chamber of the corner.

32 And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired.

NOTEWORTHY ITEMS TO REMEMBER IN CHAPTER THREE:

  • The 32 verses in Chapter Three offer just a snapshot of the group that worked on the wall.
  • Nehemiah organized those working on the wall to rebuild a section “near their home”.
  • Goldsmiths, perfumers, and priests were all building the wall together, but building was not their primary skill set.
  • What we should learn from this is sometimes God calls us to work outside our comfort zone. God equips each of us with spiritual gifts to do the work of his ministry, but, sometimes, we are to step outside our comfort zone and we should do so with zeal and an ignited spirit for God’s work.
  • ANOTHER GREAT reading about people working together is 1 Corinthians 12:27-27. The “one body, and has many members” lesson from Paul.

Chapter Four [return to top]

Notes on Chapter Four and Chapter Five: The Samaritan army makes the work of building the walls increasingly difficult, resulting in half the men provide security duty while the other half build. Nehemiah discovers that people are in bondage to one another, having borrowed money to pay taxes, and he calls them to repent.

Opposition to the Work – 443 B.C.


Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives.

  • vv. 1-3 — As the work progresses, the enemy continues to use the weapon of ridicule. They make light of the zeal of the workmen and laugh at their workmanship, saying that even a nimble fox could knock down the wall.
  • vv. 4-6 — Nehemiah ignores their sarcasm and prays to God, but continues to build.
  • Psalms123:3-4 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. 4  Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.
  • Psalms 79:12 Return sevenfold into the lap of our neighbors the taunts with which they have taunted you, O Lord!
  • Proverbs 3:34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.

5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.

  • Psalms 83:3-5 They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones. 4  They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!” 5  For they conspire with one accord; against you they make a covenant—

6 So we rebuilt the wall until all of it was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

7 When Sanballat and Tobiah, together with the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites, heard that the repair to the walls of Jerusalem was progressing and that the gaps were being closed, they were furious, 

  • vv. 7-9 — When the enemy sees that the wall is going up in spite of their ridicule, they become angry and decide to try to destroy the wall. Nehemiah continues to pray and build.

8 and all of them conspired to come and fight against Jerusalem and create a hindrance.

9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

  • Psalms 50:15 and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

10 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.”

  • 10 — Opposition comes next from within their own ranks — discouragement in the presence of the huge undertaking and the threat of the enemy making a surprise attack. Nehemiah arms the workmen.

11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

  • Numbers 14:9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”
  • Deuteronomy 1:29 Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them.
  • Deuteronomy 10:17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe
  • 2 Sam 10:12 Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.”


The Work Resumes


15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.

  • Job 5:12 He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.

16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

  • Exodus 14:14, 25 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” 25  clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”
  • Deuteronomy 1:30 The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes,
  • Deuteronomy 3:22 You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.’
  • Deuteronomy 20:4 for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’
  • Joshua 23:10 One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you.


21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand.

  • 23 — Nehemiah injects a humorous note by adding that they did not take off their clothes during this trying experience — except, of course, when they took a bath!

Chapter Five [return to top]

Notes on Chapter Four and Chapter Five: The Samaritan army makes the work of building the walls increasingly difficult, resulting in half the men provide security duty while the other half build. Nehemiah discovers that people are in bondage to one another, having borrowed money to pay taxes, and he calls them to repent.

Notes on Chapter Five and Chapter Six: With progress continuing on the rebuilding of the walls, Nehemiah’s opponents shift their attacks from direct confrontation to subtle conspiracy. Sanballat and Geshem repeatedly try to sidetrack Nehemiah from his God-given assignment. Even a false prophet arises to lead Nehemiah into a potentially fatal trap-only to have his plan foiled by Nehemiah’s keen discernment. In spite of loan sharks, espionage, deceit, and attempted assassination, Nehemiah and his dedicated band of bricklayers complete the city walls in less than two months-a feat even Israel’s enemies perceive is “accomplished by God“. And now come new responsibilities for Nehemiah. As governor, he appoints, delegates, organizes, and utilizes the new leadership in the newly built city.

MAIN POINTS TO CATCH, VERSES 5:1-13:

  • We are called to respond when we see the gap between what is and what should be.
  • Anytime a nation turns its attention toward a large undertaking like a war or building project, other areas tend to suffer.
  • In Israel’s case, much of the focus had turned to rebuilding the wall, as well as defending that work, so it’s not surprising that an issue like caring for the poor was neglected.
  • Add this to a famine, and Nehemiah suddenly had a serous issue to deal with, this time coming from inside his camp.
  • Nehemiah’s example challenges us to confront sin courageously and make personal sacrifices for the good of others.

Nehemiah Stops Oppression of the Poor


5 Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 1-5 — Some of their own brethren take advantage of the hard lot of others and give “help” by taking mortgages at excessive interest and also by buying their sons and daughters into slavery. This display of covetousness is the same as the idolatry which sent them into captivity.
  • Isaiah 5:7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!
  • Leviticus 25:35-37 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.
  • Deuteronomy 15:7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother,

2 For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” 3 There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” 4 And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards. 5 Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”

  • Isaiah 58:7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
  • Exodus 21:7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.
  • Leviticus 25:29 “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption.


6 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. 7 I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother.” And I held a great assembly against them

  • Vernon McGee: 6-11 — Nehemiah is very angry when this is called to his attention, and he forces these greedy brethren to restore what they had taken.
  • Exodus 22:25 “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.
  • Leviticus 25:36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.
  • Ezekiel 22:12 In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take interest and profit and make gain of your neighbors by extortion; but me you have forgotten, declares the Lord God.

8 and said to them, “We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations, but you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us!” They were silent and could not find a word to say.

  • Leviticus 25:48 then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him,

9 So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?

  • Leviticus 25:36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you.
  • 2 Samuel 12:14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”
  • Romans 2:24  For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
  • 1 Peter 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

10 Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest. 11 Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.” 12 Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.” And I called the priests and made them swear to do as they had promised.

  • Ezra 10:5 Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.
  • Jeremiah 34:8-9 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to make a proclamation of liberty to them, 9 that everyone should set free his Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no one should enslave a Jew, his brother.

13 I also shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.

  • Matthew 10:14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.
  • Acts 13:51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium.
  • Acts 18:6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
  • 2 Kings 23:3 And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant.

FINAL COMMENTARY NOTES VERSES 1-13. The business men were legal in their business interactions, loaning money and charging interest, they were not breaking the law. BUT, due to the current situation, where all the men were trying to rebuild the temple walls, the business men were taking advantage of the poor and demanding payment in light of the severe economic situation.

INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS ON CHAPTER FIVE, VERSES 14 TO 19:

  • Despite the power he was given, Nehemiah treated people in a way that honored God.
  • In Nehemiah’s day, internal injustices threatened to compromise the rebuilding task. Nehemiah had to deal with these problems quickly and decisively.
  • As we serve God, we may also be called on to address injustices that come to our attention.
  • Stepping up to serve the Lord does not give us permission to mistreat others.
  • Indeed, as we will see in verses 14 to 19, as we serve God, we need to make fair treatment of others a priority.


Nehemiah’s Generosity
14 Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 14-19 — Nehemiah, on a leave of absence from his position as cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, had refused to accept the salary formerly paid to the governor of Israel, which came from taxing the people. His example should have been an inspiration and example to his brethren.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:4, 15 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.

  • 2 Corinthians 11:9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:13 For in what were you less favored than the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

16 I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us.

  • 2 Samuel 9:7 And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”
  • 1 Kings 18:19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

18 Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. 19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.

  • 1 Kings 4:22 Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal,

Chapter Six [return to top]

Notes on Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, and Chapter Eight. Nehemiah experiences more opposition from the neighboring foes, yet the wall is completed incredibly in just 52 days. Nehemiah gives the genealogy of Jews who have returned to Jerusalem and they celebrate the completion of the work.

Conspiracy Against Nehemiah


6 Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm.

  • Vernon McGee vv. 1-3 — The enemies (Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem) hear that the wall is completed, but Nehemiah honestly admits the report is a bit exaggerated (the gates are not set up). The enemy reverses the opposition. Since they could not stop the work, they now propose to get together with Nehemiah and work out a compromise. However, their intention is not to promote the welfare of Nehemiah. This is the satanic method of “when you can’t beat them, join them.” Today it is called the ecumenical movement. Nehemiah properly turns it down and for the 14th time inserts the little word “so” that tells us much.
  • Proverbs 26:24-25 Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; 25  when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart;
  • Psalms 37:12, 32 The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, 32 The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.

3 And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” 4 And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.

  • Vernon McGee: v. 4 — The enemy approaches Nehemiah 4 times. It is interesting to note (v. 2) the name of the village where they proposed to meet — Ono. That is Nehemiah’s answer, “O, no!”

5 In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 5-7 — On the 5th approach to Nehemiah, they insert a subtle pressure to force him to meet with them. They circulate a false report that Nehemiah is attempting to rebel against Persia and set up a separate state. Gashmu (the gossip) is spreading the report (v. 6).

6 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. 7 And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” 8 Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” 9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

  • Vernon McGee vv. 9-14 — The enemy then hires false prophets to make Nehemiah and the people afraid.

10 Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” 11 But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” 12 And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.

  • Ezekiel 12:22 “Son of man, what is this proverb that you have about the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing’?

13 For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. 14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.

  • Ezekiel 13:17 “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own hearts. Prophesy against them

INTRODUCTION TO CHAPTER SIX, VERSE 15, to CHAPTER SEVEN, VERSE 5:

  • The wall is finished but opposition still existed.
  • The best defense was for God’s people to continue to follow Him in faithfulness.
  • As we read the end of Chapter Six, we learn that the rebuilding of the wall was complete. However, this didn’t solve all their problems.
  • They still faced opposition.
  • Israel had to continue to be vigilant in following the Lord in faithfulness.


The Wall Is Finished


15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.

  • Vernon McGee vv. 15-19 — Without fanfare of trumpets, great ceremony or ribbon cutting, the wall is finished. The brief, expressive word “so” tells the story — “So the wall was finished” (v. 15). The enemy still persists in its opposition by circulating letters to the nobles of Judah, as Tobiah had evidently married a daughter of one of the nobles.

16 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.

  • Psalms 126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

17 Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them. 18 For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as his wife. 19 Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.

Chapter Seven [return to top]

Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 1-4 — Nehemiah, having finished the wall, gives Hanani and Hananiah charge of Jerusalem. He instructs them to keep the gates closed at certain times to prevent the enemy from entering. “Eternal vigilance” is the price of Christian liberty.
  • Exodus 18:21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.

3 And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” 4 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.


Lists of Returned Exiles

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 5-73 — This is a repetition of the genealogy given in Ezra 2. Unnecessary though this may seem to us, it is repeated because it is important to God and He challenges us to read it. “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance” (Psalm 112:6). God never forgets the faithful. This chapter comes from the book of eternity.

5 Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it:

6 These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town.

  • Ezra 2:1 Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town.

7 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel: 8 the sons of Parosh, 2,172. 9 The sons of Shephatiah, 372. 10 The sons of Arah, 652. 11 The sons of Pahath-moab, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,818. 12 The sons of Elam, 1,254. 13 The sons of Zattu, 845. 14 The sons of Zaccai, 760. 15 The sons of Binnui, 648. 16 The sons of Bebai, 628. 17 The sons of Azgad, 2,322. 18 The sons of Adonikam, 667. 19 The sons of Bigvai, 2,067. 20 The sons of Adin, 655. 21 The sons of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, 98. 22 The sons of Hashum, 328. 23 The sons of Bezai, 324. 24 The sons of Hariph, 112. 25 The sons of Gibeon, 95. 26 The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, 188. 27 The men of Anathoth, 128. 28 The men of Beth-azmaveth, 42. 29 The men of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, 743. 30 The men of Ramah and Geba, 621. 31 The men of Michmas, 122. 32 The men of Bethel and Ai, 123. 33 The men of the other Nebo, 52. 34 The sons of the other Elam, 1,254. 35 The sons of Harim, 320. 36 The sons of Jericho, 345. 37 The sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 721. 38 The sons of Senaah, 3,930. 39 The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, namely the house of Jeshua, 973.

  • 1 Chronicles 24:7 The first lot fell to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah,

40 The sons of Immer, 1,052.

  • 1 Chronicles 24:14 the thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab,


41 The sons of Pashhur, 1,247. 42 The sons of Harim, 1,017.

  • 1 Chronicles 24:8 The first lot fell to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah,

43 The Levites: the sons of Jeshua, namely of Kadmiel of the sons of Hodevah, 74.

  • Ezra 2:40 The Levites: the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, 74.
  • Ezra 3:9 And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers.

44 The singers: the sons of Asaph, 148. 45 The gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, 138. 46 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, 47 the sons of Keros, the sons of Sia, the sons of Padon, 48 the sons of Lebana, the sons of Hagaba, the sons of Shalmai, 49 the sons of Hanan, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, 50 the sons of Reaiah, the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, 51 the sons of Gazzam, the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, 52 the sons of Besai, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephushesim, 53 the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, 54 the sons of Bazlith, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, 55 the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temah, 56 the sons of Neziah, the sons of Hatipha. 57 The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Sophereth, the sons of Perida, 58 the sons of Jaala, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, 59 the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the sons of Amon. 60 All the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants were 392.
61 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not prove their fathers’ houses nor their descent, whether they belonged to Israel:

  • Ezra 2:59 The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel:

62 the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, 642. 63 Also, of the priests: the sons of Hobaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by their name). 64 These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 65 The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food until a priest with Urim and Thummim should arise.


Totals of People and Gifts


66 The whole assembly together was 42,360, 67 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337. And they had 245 singers, male and female. 68 Their horses were 736, their mules 245, 69 their camels 435, and their donkeys 6,720. 70 Now some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 basins, 30 priests’ garments and 500 minas of silver. 71 And some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave into the treasury of the work 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 minas of silver. 72 And what the rest of the people gave was 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 minas of silver, and 67 priests’ garments. 73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel, lived in their towns. And when the seventh month had come, the people of Israel were in their towns

  • Ezra 3:1 When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem.

Chapter Eight [return to top]

443 BC

Note 1: The first half of the book of Nehemiah teaches valuable lessons about working for God; the second half emphasizes worshiping God. Beginning with Chapter 8 the account becomes biographical rather than autobiographical (no longer is it in the first person, “I”). Now it centers on the spiritual rather than physical wellbeing of the people. The public reading and explanation of God’s Word brings a sweeping revival to the city. Rejoicing at the sound of God’s precious laws a preached by Ezra the priest, the people respond with prayers and confession, worship to God, and a fresh resolve to live godly lives in keeping with their commitment.

Note 2: Ezra and his assistants read from “the book of the law of God, translating and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was read.” (Nehemiah 8:8). After their years of exile, many of the Jews no longer understood Hebrew, requiring interpretation an explanation in Aramaic – the language of the common people.

Vernon McGee: II. REVIVAL and REFORM, Chapters 8 — 13

Ezra Reads the Law
1 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 1-6 — Ezra stands upon a pulpit of wood before the water gate. (The Word of God is spiritual water.) Ezra reads in the Law of Moses from morning until noon.
  • Ezra 3:1 When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem.

2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.

  • Deuteronomy 31:11-12 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law,
  • Leviticus 23:24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.

3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.

  • Judges 3:20 And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” And he arose from his seat.

6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

  • 1 Corinthians 14:16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying?
  • Lamentations 3:41 Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven:
  • 1 Timothy 2:8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;
  • Exodus 4:31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.
  • Exodus 12:27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ ” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.
  • 2 Chronicles 20:18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord.

7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 7, 8 — Ezra evidently reads a portion and then the Levites, scattered in the crowd, explain it to the people. (Note: The method used here is still God’s method. The Word is to be read distinctly and explained so that the people can understand it.)
  • Leviticus 10:11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses.”
  • Deuteronomy 33:10 They shall teach Jacob your rules and Israel your law; they shall put incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar.
  • 2 Chronicles 17:7 In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah;
  • Malachi 2:7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.

8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
This Day Is Holy
9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 9-12 — Many people are overcome with emotion as they had never before heard the Word of God. They weep. Nehemiah urges the people not to weep but to rejoice. Here is the source of Christian strength, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (8:10).
  • Ezra 2:63 The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.
  • Leviticus 23:24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation.
  • Numbers 29:1 “On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work.
  • Deuteronomy 16:14 You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns.
  • Ecclesiastes 3:4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

  • Esther 9:19 Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the rural towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts of food to one another.
  • Revelation 11:10  and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.

11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
Feast of Booths Celebrated
13 On the second day the heads of fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law. 14 And they found it written in the Law that the Lord had commanded by Moses that the people of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month,

  • Leviticus 23:34, 42 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the Lord. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths,
  • Deuteronomy 16:13 You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress.

15 and that they should proclaim it and publish it in all their towns and in Jerusalem, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.”

  • Leviticus 23:4 These are the appointed feasts of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.
  • Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths.
  • Leviticus 23:40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.

16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim.

  • Deuteronomy 22:8 “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.
  • 2 Kings 14:13  And Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and came to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for four hundred cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate.

17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.

  • 2 Chronicles 30:21 And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord.

18 And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.

  • Deuteronomy 31:10 And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths,
  • Leviticus 23:36 For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the Lord. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.

Chapter Nine [return to top]

Notes for Chapter Nine, Chapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, and Chapter Twelve. Nehemiah records the remnant of the Jews’ formal repentance of past sins and promise to keep God’s commandments. He also provides list of overseers and priests, and the walls of Jerusalem are dedicated.

Vernon McGee: Revival — the result, Chapters 9, 10

The People of Israel Confess Their Sin
 Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 1-3 — The ingredients and order of revival are important. Reading the Word of God (studying and understanding it) is essential and basic. Fasting, sackcloth, and ashes reveal their attitude and sincerity. Confession and worship follow.
  • Joshua 7:6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads.
  • 1 Samuel 4:12  A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with dirt on his head.
  • 2 Samuel 1:2 And on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage.
  • Job 2:12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.

2 And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.

  • Ezra 10:11 Now then make confession to the Lord, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.”

3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God. 4 On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 4-38 — This is a great prayer of confession — praise and adoration of God as Creator (vv. 5, 6); praise and adoration because of His providential dealings with Israel; recitation and reminder of their long history. (Stephen recited this same history in Acts 7, but it led to murder, not to revival; to his condemnation, not to their confession.) Note the confession of their sins (vv. 34-38).

5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.

  • 1 Chronicles 29:13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.


6  “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.

  • 2 Kings 19:15, 19 15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 19 So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”
  • Psalms 86:10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
  • Isaiah 37:16, 20 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 20 So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”
  • Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Exodus 20:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
  • Revelation 14:7 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
  • Deuteronomy 10:14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.
  • 1 Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!
  • Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2
  • Psalms 36:6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord.

7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham.

  • Genesis 11:31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there.
  • Genesis 17:5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.

  • Genesis 15:18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,
  • Joshua 23:14 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.


9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea,

  • Exodus 2:25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
  • Exodus 14:10 When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord.

10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day.

  • Exodus 18:11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people.”
  • Jeremiah 32:20 You have shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day.

11 And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters.

  • Exodus 14:21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
  • Exodus 15:5 The floods covered them they went down into the depths like a stone.

12 By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.

  • Exodus 13:21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

13 You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments,

  • Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying,
  • Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

14 and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant.

  • Genesis 2:3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

  • Exodus 16:14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground.
  • Exodus 17:6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.
  • Deuteronomy 1:8 See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’
  • Numbers 14:30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments.

  • Psalms 106:6 Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
  • Deuteronomy 31:27 For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord. How much more after my death!

17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

  • Psalms 78:11 They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them.
  • Numbers 14:4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”
  • Joel 2:13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies,

  • Exodus 32:4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go.

  • Psalms 106:45 For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,

20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst.

  • Numbers 11:17 And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.
  • Exodus 16:15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.
  • Exodus 17:6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

  • Deuteronomy 2:7 For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” ’
  • Deuteronomy 8:4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.

22 “And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan.

  • Numbers 21:21 Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, 22 “Let me pass through your land. We will not turn aside into field or vineyard. We will not drink the water of a well. We will go by the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.”

23 You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess.

  • Genesis 22:17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,

24 So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would.

  • Joshua 1:2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.
  • Psalms 44:2,3 you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; 3  for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.

25 And they captured fortified cities and a rich land, and took possession of houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in your great goodness.

  • Numbers 13:27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.
  • Deuteronomy 6:11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full,
  • Deuteronomy 32:15 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.
  • Hosea 3:5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

26 “Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies.

  • Judges 2:11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals.
  • 1 Kings 14:9 but you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back,
  • Psalms 50:17 For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you.
  • 1 Kings 18:14 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here” ’; and he will kill me.”

27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies.

  • Judges 2:14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.
  • Psalms 106:41 he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them.
  • Psalms 106:44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry
  • Judges 2:18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.

28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies.

  • Judges 3:11 So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died.
  • Psalms 106:43 Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity.

29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.

  • Leviticus 18:5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.
  • Romans 10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.
  • Galatians 3:12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

30 Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.

  • 2 Kings 17:13 Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.”
  • 2 Chronicles 36:15 The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place.
  • Jeremiah 7:25 From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day.
  • Acts 7:51 You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
  • 1 Peter 1:11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
  • Isaiah 5:5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.

31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

  • Jeremiah 4:27 For thus says the Lord, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.

32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day.

  • Exodus 34:6,7 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
  • 2 Kings 17:3 Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria. And Hoshea became his vassal and paid him tribute.

33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.

  • Psalms 119:137 Righteous are you, O Lord, and right are your rules.
  • Daniel 9:14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.
  • Psalms 106:6 Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
  • Daniel 9:5, 6, 8 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.

34 Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. 35 Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. 36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.

  • Deuteronomy 28:48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.
  • Ezra 9:9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.

37 And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress.

  • Deuteronomy 28:33, 51 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually, 51 It shall eat the offspring of your cattle and the fruit of your ground, until you are destroyed; it also shall not leave you grain, wine, or oil, the increase of your herds or the young of your flock, until they have caused you to perish.

38  “Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.

  • 2 Kings 23:3 And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant.
  • 2 Chronicles 29:10 Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not now be negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers and make offerings to him.”
  • Ezra 10:3 Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law.

Chapter Ten [return to top]

443 BC

Vernon McGee: Chapter 10 — The people make and sign a covenant to serve God. Reform — another result, Chapters 11 — 13

The People Who Sealed the Covenant
  “On the seals are the names of Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8 Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah; these are the priests. 9 And the Levites: Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10 and their brothers, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11 Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13 Hodiah, Bani, Beninu. 14 The chiefs of the people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, 15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, 18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, 19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, 24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, 25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah.
The Obligations of the Covenant
28 “The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding,

  • Ezra 2:36-43 The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, 973. 37 The sons of Immer, 1,052. 38 The sons of Pashhur, 1,247. 39 The sons of Harim, 1,017. 40 The Levites: the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the sons of Hodaviah, 74. 41 The singers: the sons of Asaph, 128. 42 The sons of the gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, and the sons of Shobai, in all 139. 43 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth,
  • Ezra 9:1 After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.

29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and his statutes.

  • Deuteronomy 29:12 so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord your God, which the Lord your God is making with you today,
  • Psalms 119:106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules.
  • 2 Kings 23:3 And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant.
  • 2 Chronicles 34:31 And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.

30 We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.

  • Exodus 34:16 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.
  • Deuteronomy 7:3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons,
  • Ezra 9:12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’

31 And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.

  • Exodus 20:10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
  • Leviticus 23:3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.
  • Deuteronomy 5:12 “ ‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.
  • Exodus 23:10 For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield,
  • Leviticus 25:4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.
  • Deuteronomy 15:1 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release.


32 “We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the showbread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed feasts, the holy things, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.

  • Leviticus 24:5 You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf.
  • 2 Chronicles 2:4 Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it to him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him, and for the regular arrangement of the showbread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the Lord our God, as ordained forever for Israel.

34 We, the priests, the Levites, and the people, have likewise cast lots for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at times appointed, year by year, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the Law.

  • Isaiah 40:16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
  • Leviticus 6:12 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings.

35 We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord;

  • Exodus 23:19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
  • Leviticus 19:23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden.
  • Numbers 18:12 All the best of the oil and all the best of the wine and of the grain, the firstfruits of what they give to the Lord, I give to you.

36 also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks;

  • Exodus 13:2, 12, 13 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the Lord’s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.
  • Leviticus 27:26, 27 “But a firstborn of animals, which as a firstborn belongs to the Lord, no man may dedicate; whether ox or sheep, it is the Lord’s. 27 And if it is an unclean animal, then he shall buy it back at the valuation, and add a fifth to it; or, if it is not redeemed, it shall be sold at the valuation.
  • Numbers 18:15, 16 Everything that opens the womb of all flesh, whether man or beast, which they offer to the Lord, shall be yours. Nevertheless, the firstborn of man you shall redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. 16 And their redemption price (at a month old you shall redeem them) you shall fix at five shekels in silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs.

37 and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor.

  • Leviticus 23:17 You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord.
  • Numbers 15:19 and when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall present a contribution to the Lord.
  • Numbers 18:12 All the best of the oil and all the best of the wine and of the grain, the firstfruits of what they give to the Lord, I give to you.
  • Deuteronomy 18:4 The firstfruits of your grain, of your wine and of your oil, and the first fleece of your sheep, you shall give him.
  • Deuteronomy 26:2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there.
  • Leviticus 27:30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.
  • Numbers 18:21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting,

38 And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes. And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse.

  • Numbers 18:26 Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, ‘When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe.
  • 1 Chronicles 9:26  for the four chief gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted to be over the chambers and the treasures of the house of God.
  • 2 Chronicles 31:12 And they faithfully brought in the contributions, the tithes, and the dedicated things. The chief officer in charge of them was Conaniah the Levite, with Shimei his brother as second,

39 For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.”

  • Deuteronomy 12:6, 11 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 11 then to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the Lord.
  • 2 Chronicles 31:12 And they faithfully brought in the contributions, the tithes, and the dedicated things. The chief officer in charge of them was Conaniah the Levite, with Shimei his brother as second,

Chapter Eleven [return to top]

443 BC

Overview Chapters 11, 12, and 13: With the walls in place and the spiritual condition of the nation revived, Nehemiah now sets about the task of consolidating and organizing the population. One-tenth of the people are chosen by lot to relocate within the city walls, while the rest remain in the suburb. The walls are formally dedicated and temple officers commissioned to oversee the functions of national worship. After an extended leave of absence, Nehemiah returns from Babylon to find Tobiah living in a temple storeroom, and the people displaying a shocking disregard for God’s laws concerning marriage and the Sabbath. Assuming again the role of reformer, Nehemiah labors to restore national purity.

Vernon McGee: Chapter 11 — The rulers cast lots to see who is to dwell in
Jerusalem and who is to live elsewhere in the land.

The Leaders in Jerusalem
 Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns.

  • Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple
  • Matthew 27:53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.

  • Judges 5:9 My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel who offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless the Lord.


3 These are the chiefs of the province who lived in Jerusalem; but in the towns of Judah everyone lived on his property in their towns: Israel, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants.

  • 1 Chronicles 9:2, 3 Now the first to dwell again in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants. 3 And some of the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh lived in Jerusalem:
  • Ezra 2:43 The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth,
  • Ezra 2:55 The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Hassophereth, the sons of Peruda,

4 And in Jerusalem lived certain of the sons of Judah and of the sons of Benjamin. Of the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, son of Zechariah, son of Amariah, son of Shephatiah, son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez;

  • 1 Chronicles 9:3 And some of the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh lived in Jerusalem:
  • Genesis 38:29 But as he drew back his hand, behold, his brother came out. And she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore his name was called Perez.

5 and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, son of Col-hozeh, son of Hazaiah, son of Adaiah, son of Joiarib, son of Zechariah, son of the Shilonite. 6 All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 valiant men.
7 And these are the sons of Benjamin: Sallu the son of Meshullam, son of Joed, son of Pedaiah, son of Kolaiah, son of Maaseiah, son of Ithiel, son of Jeshaiah, 8 and his brothers, men of valor, 928. 9 Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer; and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second over the city.
10 Of the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin,

  • 1 Chronicles 9:10 Of the priests: Jedaiah, Jehoiarib, Jachin,

11 Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub, ruler of the house of God, 12 and their brothers who did the work of the house, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, son of Pelaliah, son of Amzi, son of Zechariah, son of Pashhur, son of Malchijah, 13 and his brothers, heads of fathers’ houses, 242; and Amashsai, the son of Azarel, son of Ahzai, son of Meshillemoth, son of Immer, 14 and their brothers, mighty men of valor, 128; their overseer was Zabdiel the son of Haggedolim.
15 And of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, son of Bunni; 16 and Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chiefs of the Levites, who were over the outside work of the house of God;

  • 1 Chronicles 26:29 Of the Izharites, Chenaniah and his sons were appointed to external duties for Israel, as officers and judges.

17 and Mattaniah the son of Mica, son of Zabdi, son of Asaph, who was the leader of the praise, who gave thanks, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brothers; and Abda the son of Shammua, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun. 18 All the Levites in the holy city were 284. 19 The gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their brothers, who kept watch at the gates, were 172. 20 And the rest of Israel, and of the priests and the Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, every one in his inheritance. 21 But the temple servants lived on Ophel; and Ziha and Gishpa were over the temple servants. 22 The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, son of Hashabiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Mica, of the sons of Asaph, the singers, over the work of the house of God. 23 For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a fixed provision for the singers, as every day required.

  • Ezra 6:8, 9 Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God. The cost is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River. 9 And whatever is needed—bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as the priests at Jerusalem require—let that be given to them day by day without fail,
  • Ezra 7:20 And whatever else is required for the house of your God, which it falls to you to provide, you may provide it out of the king’s treasury.

24 And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was at the king’s side in all matters concerning the people.

  • Genesis 38:30 Afterward his brother came out with the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.
  • 1 Chronicles 18:17 and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were the chief officials in the service of the king.
  • 1 Chronicles 23:28 For their duty was to assist the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord, having the care of the courts and the chambers, the cleansing of all that is holy, and any work for the service of the house of God.


Villages Outside Jerusalem
25 And as for the villages, with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its villages, and in Dibon and its villages, and in Jekabzeel and its villages,

  • Joshua 14:15 Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.) And the land had rest from war.

26 and in Jeshua and in Moladah and Beth-pelet, 27 in Hazar-shual, in Beersheba and its villages, 28 in Ziklag, in Meconah and its villages, 29 in En-rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, and Azekah and its villages. So they encamped from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom. 31 The people of Benjamin also lived from Geba onward, at Michmash, Aija, Bethel and its villages, 32 Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, 33 Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34 Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35 Lod, and Ono, the valley of craftsmen.

  • 1 Chronicles 4:14 Meonothai fathered Ophrah; and Seraiah fathered Joab, the father of Ge-harashim, so-called because they were craftsmen.

36 And certain divisions of the Levites in Judah were assigned to Benjamin.

Chapter Twelve [return to top]

443 BC

Priests and Levites
 These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,

  • Ezra 2:1, 2 Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. 2 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel:

2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3 Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4 Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah,

  • Luke 1:5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

5 Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, 6 Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the chiefs of the priests and of their brothers in the days of Jeshua.

  • Ezra 3:3 They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening.
  • Haggai 1:1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest:
  • Zechariah 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.


8 And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. 9 And Bakbukiah and Unni and their brothers stood opposite them in the service. 10 And Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, 11 Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.
12 And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers’ houses: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; 13 of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; 14 of Malluchi, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; 15 of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; 16 of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; 17 of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai; 18 of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; 19 of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; 20 of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; 21 of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel.
22 In the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, the Levites were recorded as heads of fathers’ houses; so too were the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian. 23 As for the sons of Levi, their heads of fathers’ houses were written in the Book of the Chronicles until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib.

  • 1 Chronicles 9:14 Of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, of the sons of Merari;

24 And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch.

  • Ezra 3:11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.

25 Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates. 26 These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra, the priest and scribe.

  • Ezra 7:6, 11 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him. 11 This is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel:


Dedication of the Wall
27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

  • Deuteronomy 20:5 Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Is there any man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it.
  • 1 Chronicles 25:6 They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king.
  • 2 Chronicles 1:13 So Solomon came from the high place at Gibeon, from before the tent of meeting, to Jerusalem. And he reigned over Israel.
  • 2 Chronicles 7:6 The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the Lord that King David had made for giving thanks to the Lord—for his steadfast love endures forever—whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood.

28 And the sons of the singers gathered together from the district surrounding Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; 29 also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. 30 And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.
31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. One went to the south on the wall to the Dung Gate. 32 And after them went Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah, 33 and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, 35 and certain of the priests’ sons with trumpets: Zechariah the son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, son of Asaph;

  • Numbers 10:2, 8 “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp. 8 And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations.

36 and his relatives, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them.

  • 1 Chronicles 23:5 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the Lord with the instruments that I have made for praise.”

37 At the Fountain Gate they went up straight before them by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east.
38 The other choir of those who gave thanks went to the north, and I followed them with half of the people, on the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall, 39 and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Gate of Yeshanah, and by the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate; and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard.

  • 2 Kings 14:13 And Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Jehoash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and came to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for four hundred cubits, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate.
  • Jeremiah 32:2 At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah.

40 So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half of the officials with me; 41 and the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; 42 and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. 43 And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
Service at the Temple
44 On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered.

  • 2 Chronicles 31:11, 12 Then Hezekiah commanded them to prepare chambers in the house of the Lord, and they prepared them. 12 And they faithfully brought in the contributions, the tithes, and the dedicated things. The chief officer in charge of them was Conaniah the Levite, with Shimei his brother as second,

45 And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. 46 For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.

  • 1 Chronicles 25:1 David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was:

47 And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron.

  • Numbers 28:21, 24, 26 a tenth shall you offer for each of the seven lambs; 24 In the same way you shall offer daily, for seven days, the food of a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. It shall be offered besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering. 26 “On the day of the firstfruits, when you offer a grain offering of new grain to the Lord at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work,

Chapter Thirteen [return to top]

  • 432 BC

Notes on Chapter Thirteen: Nehemiah removes Tobiah from the Temple, a leader who had been living there. Nehemiah helps the Levites suffering neglect and prays that the work is preserved.

Vernon McGee: Chapter 13 — Nehemiah, who had returned to Persia, comes again
to Jerusalem and institutes reforms.

Nehemiah’s Final Reforms
 On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people. And in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God,

  • Deuteronomy 31:11, 12 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law,
  • 2 Kings 23:2 And the king went up to the house of the Lord, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord.
  • Isaiah 34:16 Seek and read from the book of the Lord: Not one of these shall be missing; none shall be without her mate. For the mouth of the Lord has commanded, and his Spirit has gathered them.
  • Deuteronomy 23:3, 4 No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, 4 because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.

2 for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing.

  • Numbers 22:5 sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor, which is near the River in the land of the people of Amaw, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me.
  • Joshua 24:9, 10 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel. And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand.
  • Numbers 23:11 And Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have done nothing but bless them.”
  • Numbers 24:10 And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. And Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have blessed them these three times.
  • Deuteronomy 23:5 But the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you.

3 As soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent.
4 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah, 5 prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests.

  • Numbers 18:21, 24 To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, 24 For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel.”

6 While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king 7 and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8 And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. 9 Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.

  • 2 Chronicles 29:5 and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place.


10 I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 10-14 — The Levites had not been paid. Nehemiah forces the rulers to see that the Levites receive their portion.
  • Malachi 3:8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.
  • Numbers 35:2 Command the people of Israel to give to the Levites some of the inheritance of their possession as cities for them to dwell in. And you shall give to the Levites pasturelands around the cities.

11 So I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations. 12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses. 13 And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouses Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah of the Levites, and as their assistant Hanan the son of Zaccur, son of Mattaniah, for they were considered reliable, and their duty was to distribute to their brothers.

  • 2 Chronicles 31:12 And they faithfully brought in the contributions, the tithes, and the dedicated things. The chief officer in charge of them was Conaniah the Levite, with Shimei his brother as second,
  • 1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for his service.
15 In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 15-22 — The Sabbath day is observed. Men of Tyre bring fish to sell in Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. Nehemiah forces them to leave and orders the gates of Jerusalem to be closed on the Sabbath.
  • Exodus 20:10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
  • Jeremiah 17:21 Thus says the Lord: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem.

16 Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! 17 Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? 18 Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”

  • Jeremiah 17:21 Thus says the Lord: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem.


19 As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day.

  • Leviticus 23:32 It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”
  • Jeremiah 17:21 Thus says the Lord: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem.

20 Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.
23 In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab.

  • Vernon McGee: vv. 23-31 — Intermarriage among the heathen is still practiced. Nehemiah uses extreme means (v. 25) to force them not to intermarry. (Verse 28 would be humorous if it were not so serious.) Note the humility and dedication of Nehemiah in his desire to please and to serve God (vv. 14, 31).
  • Ezra 9:2 For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.”

24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.

  • Ezra 10:5 Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.

26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin.

  • 1 Kings 11:1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,
  • 2 Samuel 12:24 Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him
  • 1 Kings 11:4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.

27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?”

  • Ezra 10:2  And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.


28 And one of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me. 29 Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.

  • Malachi 2:4, 11, 12 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!


30 Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; 31 and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits.
Remember me, O my God, for good.

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