From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

(See Ezra ; MALACHI.)

1. Son of Hachaliah, seemingly of Judah, as his kinsman Hanani was so ( Nehemiah 1:2); and Jerusalem was "the place of his fathers' sepulchres" ( Nehemiah 2:3). Probably he was of David's lineage, as his name varied appears in it, "Naum" ( Luke 3:25), and his kinsman's name too, Hananiah, son of Zerubbabel ( 1 Chronicles 3:19); his "fathers' sepulchres" would be those of David's royal line. Cupbearer of Artaxerxes (Longimanus) according to his own autobiography, at Susa or Shushan, the principal Persian palace; Ecbatana was the royal summer residence, Babylon the spring, Persepolis the autumn, and Susa the winter. In Artaxerxes' 20th year Hanani with other Jews came from Jerusalem, reporting that the remnant there were in great affliction, the wall broken down, and the gates burned. Sorrow at the news drove him to fasting in expression of sadness, and prayer before the God of heaven, who alone could remedy the evil.

His prayer ( Nehemiah 1:4-11) was marked by importunate continuity, "day and night" (compare  Isaiah 62:6-7;  Luke 18:7), intercession for Israel, confession of individual and national sin, pleading that God should remember His promises of mercy upon their turning to Him, however far cast out for transgression; also that He should remember they are His people redeemed by His strong hand, therefore His honour is at stake in their persons; and that Nehemiah and they who pray with him desire to fear God's name ( Isaiah 26:8; contrast  Psalms 66:18; compare Daniel 9,  Leviticus 26:33-39;  Deuteronomy 4:25-31); lastly he asks God to dispose Artaxerxes' heart to "mercy" ( Proverbs 21:1). "Let Thine ear ... Thine eyes be open ... hear the prayer," is an allusion to Solomon's prayer ( 1 Kings 8:28-29). After four months ( Nehemiah 1:1;  Nehemiah 2:1), from Chisleu to Nisan, of praying and waiting, in Artaxerxes' 20th year Nehemiah with sad countenance ministered as his cupbearer.

The king noticed his melancholy ( Proverbs 15:13) and asked its cause. Nehemiah was "sore afraid," but replied it was for the desolation of the city "the place of his fathers' sepulchres." Artaxerxes said, "for what dost thou ... request?" Nehemiah ejaculated his request to God first, then to the earthly king. There seemed no interval between the king's question and Nehemiah's answer, yet a momentous transaction had passed between earth and heaven that decided the issue in behalf of Nehemiah ( Isaiah 65:24). Artaxerxes, "according to the good hand of Nehemiah's God upon him," granted him leave to go to Jerusalem for a time, and letters to the provincial governors beyond the Euphrates to convey him forward, and to Asaph to supply timber for the palace gates, etc. As "governor" ( Pechah , also Tirshatha' ) he had an escort of cavalry, and so reached Jerusalem, where he stayed inactive three days, probably the usual term for purification after a journey.

Notwithstanding Ezra's commission in Artaxerxes' seventh year (457 B.C.), after the dead period from the sixth of Darius to that year, a period in which there is no history of the returned Jews ( Ezra 6:15-7; Ezra 6:1, etc.) and only the history of the foreign Jews in Esther, and notwithstanding the additional numbers and resources which Ezra had brought, Nehemiah now, in Artaxerxes' 20th year, in his secret ride of observation by night found Jerusalem in deplorable plight ( Nehemiah 2:12-16; compare  Isaiah 64:9-12). (See Ezra .) The account is given in the first person, which often recurs; he forms his secret resolution to none but God in whose strength he moved. How the greatest movements for good often originate with one individual! He next enlisted in the restoration the nobles, priests, and rulers. But his continual dependence was "the hand of his God good upon him" ( Nehemiah 2:8;  Nehemiah 2:18), a phrase common to Ezra also ( Ezra 7:6;  Ezra 7:9;  Ezra 7:28; compare  Ezra 5:5), and marking their joint fellowship in God.

Where a good work is there will be opposition; so Sanballat the Horonite, and the slave Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian mocked the work, and alleged it was rebellion against the king; Nehemiah told them he would persevere in reliance upon "the God of heaven," but "ye have no right in Jerusalem." Psalm 123 was eventually written at this time in reference to their "scorn" while "at ease themselves"; Nehemiah's "hear, O our God, for we are despised" ( Nehemiah 4:3-4) answers to Israel's "unto Thee lift I up mine eyes, our soul is filled with the contempt," etc. His great work was the restoration of the city walls as the first step toward civil government, the revival of the national spirit, and the bringing back of the priests and Levites to reside with a feeling of security for their persons and for the tithes and offerings.

Messiah's advent was associated by Daniel ( Daniel 9:25-27) with the command to "restore and build Jerusalem"; and Jeremiah too had foretold "the city shall be built to the Lord from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner, and the measuring line shall go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb ... to Gath" ( Jeremiah 31:39). Each repaired over against his house (Nehemiah 3), teaching that in the spiritual building we must each begin with our own home and neighbourhood and circle; then charity beginning at home will not end there. "Shallum repaired, he and his daughters" ( Nehemiah 3:12; compare  Romans 16:1;  Romans 16:3-5;  Romans 16:6;  Romans 16:12). Even Eliashib the half hearted high priest repaired. The Tekoite "nobles (alone) put not their necks to the work of their Lord" (compare  Judges 5:23); but generally "the people had a mind to work" ( Nehemiah 4:6), so that soon "all the wall was joined." The 42 stations of restoration (chapter 3) answer to the 42 stations of Israel's pilgrim march in the desert (Numbers 33).

Sanballat's party then "conspired to fight against Jerusalem and hinder it." Nehemiah used means, "setting a watch day and night," at the same time "praying unto our God" to bless the means. He had not only to contend with adversaries plotting to attack when the Jews should "not know nor see," but with his own men complaining "the strength of the bearers is decayed, and there is much rubbish, so that we are not able to build" ( Nehemiah 4:8-11). Moreover, the Jews dwelling among the adversaries again and again kept him in alarm with warnings, "from all places (from whence) ye shall return unto us (I.E. From Whence Ye Can Come Out To Us) they will set upon you." L. De Dieu takes Asher not "from whence" but "truly" (as in  1 Samuel 15:20): "yea, from all places, truly (yea) return to us," leaving off your work, for the foes are too many for you; counsel of pretended friends (compare  Nehemiah 4:12 with  Nehemiah 6:17-19).

But Nehemiah, by setting the people by families with weapons in the lower as well as the higher places of the wall, and encouraging them to "remember the Lord," baffled the enemy; thenceforward half wrought and half held the weapons, the builders and the bearers of burdens wrought with one hand and with the other held a weapon. Nehemiah had the trumpeter next him to give alarm, so as to gather the people against the foe wherever he should approach; none put off their clothes all the time ( Nehemiah 4:23). Nehemiah also remedied the state of debt and bondage of many Jews by forbidding usury and bond service, and set an example by not being chargeable all the twelve years that he was governor, as former governors had been, on the Jews; "so did not I," says he, "because of the fear of God" (Nehemiah 5). Nay, more, he daily entertained 150 Jews, besides those that came from among the pagan. His prayer often repeated is "think upon me, my God, for good according to all that I have done for this people" ( Nehemiah 5:19;  Nehemiah 13:14; compare  Hebrews 6:10;  Acts 10:4;  Matthew 10:42).

While he pleads his efforts, not feigning a mock humility, he closes with "remember me, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of Thy mercy" ( Nehemiah 13:22-31), the publican's and the dying thief's prayer. Sanballat in vain tried to decoy him to a conference (Nehemiah 6). Nehemiah replied, "I am doing a great work, I cannot come down" ( Luke 9:62). Then Shemaiah, suborned by Sanballat, tried to frighten him to flee into the temple, where he was detained by a vow ( 1 Samuel 21:7), in order to delay the work and give an appearance of conscious guilt on the part of Nehemiah; but neither he nor the prophetess Noadiah could put him in fear, "should such a man as I (The Governor Who Ought To Animate Others) flee!" Fearing God ( Nehemiah 6:9;  Nehemiah 6:14;  Nehemiah 5:15) I have none else to fear ( Isaiah 28:16). His safeguard was prayer; "strengthen my hands, my God, think Thou upon" my enemies ( Nehemiah 6:9;  Nehemiah 6:14). So David repelled the false friends' counsel to "flee" ( Psalms 11:1).

Nehemiah's foes were "much cast down when they perceived that this work was wrought of our God."  Psalms 126:2 is Israel's song at the time: "then said they among the pagan, the Lord hark done great things Jot them ... turn again our captivity (reverse our depression by bringing prosperity again) as the streams of the S. (As The Rain Streams In The Negeb Or Dry S. Of Canaan Return, Filling The Wadies And Gladdening The Parched Country) ; they that sow in tears shall reap in joy." The Jews kept the Passover "with joy" on the dedication of God's house, the foundation of which had been laid amidst "loud weeping" mingled with shouts of joy ( Ezra 3:11-13;  Ezra 6:22). Psalm 125 belongs to the same period, encouraging the godly to persevere, "for they that trust in Jehovah shall be as Mount Zion which cannot be removed," for they have "Jehovah round about" them "as the mountains are round about Jerusalem," and "the sceptre (rod) of the wicked (Persia, The World Power Then) shall not (always) remain upon the lot of righteous" Israel, lest, patient faith giving way ( Psalms 73:13), God's people should relieve themselves by unlawful means ( Isaiah 57:16); "putting forth the hands" is said of presumptuous acts, as in  Genesis 3:22.

"Turners aside unto their own crooked ways" were those who held correspondence with Tobiah, as Shemaiah and the nobles of Judah ( Nehemiah 6:10-14;  Nehemiah 6:17-19;  Nehemiah 13:4, Eliashib). The wall having been built and the doors set up (Nehemiah 7), Nehemiah gave charge of Jerusalem to Hanani and Hananiah, "a faithful man who feared God above many," and set "every one in his watch over against his house." Next he found a register of the genealogy of those who first returned from Babylon, 42,360, and took the census; see Ezra 2, which is drawn from the same document. Nehemiah took the register in a later form than that given by Ezra, for the number of those who could not prove their pedigree is reduced by subsequent searches from 652 in  Ezra 2:60 to 642 in  Nehemiah 7:62. The tirshatha in  Ezra 2:63 is Zerubbabel 90 years before, in Nehemiah Nehemiah himself. The items vary, the sum total 42,360 is the same,  Ezra 2:64;  Nehemiah 7:66; Ezra has 200, Nehemiah 245, singers, the number being augmented by his time.

In offerings, the drams of gold in sum are 61,000 in Ezra, but in Nehemiah ( Nehemiah 7:70-72)  Nehemiah 7:20;  Nehemiah 7:000 from the chief fathers, 20,000 from the people, and 1,000 from the tirshatha. Only 100 priests' garments were needed in "setting up the house of God" at its foundation ( Ezra 2:68-69); but at its dedication after complete renovation 530 were given by the tirshatha and 67 by the people ( Nehemiah 7:70;  Nehemiah 7:72). The occasions of Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 are palpably distinct, though each embodied from a common document sanctioned by Haggai and Zechariah (Zerubbabel's helpers) as much as suited their distinct purposes.

Ezra's reading of the law to the assembled people followed: Nehemiah 8 (He Had Just Returned From Persia With Nehemiah) , 445 B.C. Nehemiah comforted them when weeping at the words of the law: "weep not, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" ( Isaiah 61:3;  Matthew 5:4;  Psalms 51:12-13); "send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared" ( Luke 14:13); and the keeping of the feast of tabernacles more formally according to the law than the earlier one in  Ezra 3:4 at the setting up of the altar, indeed with greater enthusiasm of all as one man (Not Excepting  1 Kings 8:2 ;  1 Kings 8:65 ) than had been since Joshua's days, reading the law not merely the first and eighth days (As Enjoined In  Leviticus 23:35-36 ) , but every day of the feast ( Nehemiah 8:18). The 119th Psalm doubtless was written (Probably By Ezra) at this time, expressing such burning love to the law throughout. A fast followed.

The law awakened a sense of sin (Nehemiah 9); so first they put away strangers, as Israel must be a separate people, and read the law a fourth of the day, and another fourth confessed sin and worshipped, the Levites leading; then they made a covenant to walk in God's law, not to intermarry with pagan, to keep the sabbath, and to pay a third of a shekel each for the service of God's temple, to bring the firstfruits and firstborn, and not to "forsake the house of our God," (Nehemiah 10) the princes, Levites, and priests sealing it. The reason for taking the census in  Nehemiah 7:4-5, etc., now appears, namely, to arrange for so disposing the people who were "few" in the "large" but scantily built city as to secure its safety and future growth in houses (Nehemiah 11). Of the census the heads of Judah and Benjamin dwelling at Jerusalem are given, also of priests and Levites there; but merely the names of the villages and towns through the country (Nehemiah 11, compare 1 Chronicles 9).

Then the heads of the courses of priests, and the corresponding names at the time of the return from Babylon, with a few particulars of the priests' and Levites' genealogy ( Nehemiah 12:1-26). The rulers were to dwell at Jerusalem; of the people one of ten by lot were to dwell there and nine in other cities (Nehemiah 11). In Nehemiah 12 the high priests are given from the national archives down to Jaddua, and the Levites down to his contemporary Darius the Persian, Codomanus. (See Jaddua ; DARIUS.) The dedication of the walls by Nehemiah, the princes, priests, and Levite singers in two companies, followed ( Nehemiah 12:27-47);  Nehemiah 12:2 Maccabees alleges that the temple too was now dedicated after its repair by funds gathered from the people. This will explain Nehemiah's contributions including "priests' garments" ( Nehemiah 7:70) after the census, besides other gifts.

Finally, in Artaxerxes' 32nd year (434 B.C.) Nehemiah severed from Israel all the mixed multitude (Nehemiah 13), Ammonites and Moabites, and boldly cast out Tobiah from the chamber in the temple which Eliashib his connection had assigned him, and restored to it, after its cleansing, the temple vessels, meat offerings, and frankincense which had been previously kept there. Firmly he reproved the rulers for breaking their covenant ( Nehemiah 10:39 ff), saying "why is the house of God forsaken?" and insisting that the Levites' portions should be given them, for the neglect of this duty had driven the Levites to their country fields. Nehemiah caused Judah to bring the tithes to the temple treasuries (In Which Malachi Supported Him,  Malachi 3:8 ) , and appointed Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and the Levite Pedaiah, as "faithful" treasurers, to distribute unto their brethren. (See Malachi .)

Also he "testified against" those selling victuals and treading winepresses, and contended with the nobles for trafficking with Tyrian and other waresmen on the sabbath, one great cause of God's past judgment on the nation ( 2 Chronicles 36:21;  Leviticus 26:34-35;  Leviticus 26:43). So, he closed the gates from sabbath eve to the end of the sabbath, and drove away the merchants lodging outside the wall. His last recorded act is his contending with, cursing, smiting, and plucking the hair off, some of those who formed intermarriages with pagans, the source of Solomon's apostasy, and his chasing away Joiada's son, Eliashib's grandson, for marrying the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite. Zeal for the purity of God's worship, priesthood, and people, makes the act praiseworthy as one of faith, whatever exception may be taken to the manner. The Antitype combined holy firmness and rigor of act with calm dignity of manner ( John 2:13-17;  Psalms 59:9;  Matthew 21:12-13).

The language of Malachi ( Malachi 2:4-5;  Malachi 2:10-12), Nehemiah's supporter, is in undesigned harmony with  Nehemiah 13:27;  Nehemiah 13:29, "transgress against our God in marrying strange wives," "defiled ... the covenant of the priesthood." After Artaxerxes' 32nd year we know no more of Nehemiah. Like Moses, he left a splendid court, to identify himself with his countrymen in their depression. Disinterestedly, patriotic, he "came to seek the welfare of the children of Israel" ( Nehemiah 2:10). Courageous and prompt as a soldier in a crisis requiring no ordinary boldness, at the same time prudent as a statesman in dealing alike with his adversaries and with the Persian autocrat, rallying about him and organizing his countrymen, he governed without fear or partiality, correcting abuses in high places, and himself setting a bright example of unselfishness and princely liberality, above all walking in continual prayerfulness, with eyes ever turned toward God, and summing up all his work and all his hope in the humble prayer at the close, "remember me, O my God, for good."

2. A chief who returned with Zerubbabel ( Ezra 2:2).

3. Son of Azbuk, ruler of half Bethzur, repaired the wall ( Nehemiah 3:16).

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

 Ezra 2:2 Nehemiah 7:7 Nehemiah 3:16

Nehemiah and Ezra were one book in the ancient Hebrew and Greek OT, and probably were not divided until after the Interbiblical—Period (see Ezra for more details). Jewish tradition says Ezra or Nehemiah was the author. Because of the close connection between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah, one person might have written or compiled all three books. Those who follow this argument refer to the author as the Chronicler.

The literary style of Nehemiah is similar to that in Ezra. There are many lists ( Nehemiah 3:1;  Nehemiah 10:1-27;  Nehemiah 11:1;  Nehemiah 12:1-26 ). The author/compiler wove Ezra's and Nehemiah's stories together, Ezra being featured in  Nehemiah 8:1 .

The book has four major sections: the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls ( Nehemiah 1-7 ), the Great Revival ( Nehemiah 8-10 ), population and census information ( Nehemiah 11-12 ), and the reforms of Nehemiah ( Nehemiah 13:1 ). Nehemiah made two visits from King Artaxerxes to Jerusalem ( Nehemiah 2:1-6;  Nehemiah 13:6-7 ). His first, 445 B.C., was to repair the walls; they were in a state of disrepair almost a century after the first arrival from Exile in 538 B.C. The second was a problem-solving trip in the thiry-second year of Artaxerxes ( Nehemiah 13:6 ),  432 B.C. Nehemiah was a contemporary of Ezra and Malachi, and also Socrates in Greece (470-339 B.C.), and only a few decades later than Gautama Buddha in India (560-480 B.C.) and Confucius in China (551-479 B.C.).

Nehemiah held the distinguished position of cupbearer to the king ( Nehemiah 1:11 ). This was an office of trust; tasting the king's wine and food, the cupbearer stood between the king and death. That Nehemiah, a Jew and a captive, served this Gentile king in such a strategic capacity was an unusual credit and honor to this man of strong character.

Nehemiah's Memoirs include first person accounts ( Nehemiah 1:1-7:5;  Nehemiah 12:27-47;  Nehemiah 13:4-31 ), and the other material uses the third person pronoun ( Nehemiah 8-10 ). Thus his story is both autobiographical and biographical. Visitors to Susa informed him of the delapidation of Jerusalem's walls. He was so upset that he cried and mourned for days” ( Nehemiah 1:4 ). He prayed a confession ( Nehemiah 1:5-11 ). His grief became apparent to Artaxerxes who permitted him to go to Jerusalem.

Nehemiah's first act there was to inspect the walls at night ( Nehemiah 2:15 ). He then called an assembly and convinced the people of the need for a building program. He was an excellent leader who demonstrated engineering knowledge and brilliant organizing ability ( Nehemiah 3:1 ). The work began.

Trouble arose from without and from within. Sanballat and his friends tried to stop the work, but without success ( Nehemiah 4:1 ). Trouble from within was economic. Building the walls caused a labor shortage; farms were mortgaged, and high rates of interest were charged. Nehemiah said, “The thing you are doing is not good” ( Nehemiah 5:9 NRSV). He corrected the problem and even gave financial aid to those in need (  Nehemiah 5:1 ). Again Sanballat and other non-Jews made several attempts to lure Nehemiah away from the job and shut it down. They failed. Nehemiah proved to be a person of strong will and unusual boldness. “So the wall was finished in fifty and two days” ( Nehemiah 6:15 ). The dedication of the wall is described later in  Nehemiah 12:27-43 .

The theological climax of the Book of Nehemiah and of the life of Ezra is the Great Revival ( Nehemiah 8-10 ). It was a grand experience. It warrants close study for revival attempts today. People assembled. They requested Ezra to read from the book of the law of Moses ( Nehemiah 8:1 ). The book was probably the Pentateuch (Torah) or some part of it. Ezra read, and others helped by giving “the sense, so that the people understood the reading” ( Nehemiah 8:8 NRSV). This probably included translating the Hebrew scripture into Aramaic, the commonly spoken language.

A great celebration occurred, and they observed the Feast of Tabernacles. Results were impressive: “They made confession and worshiped the Lord” ( Nehemiah 9:3 NRSV) and “separated themselves from all strangers” (  Nehemiah 9:2 ) that is, they divorced their foreign spouses. They prayed a long prayer of confession ( Nehemiah 9:6-37 ). The people responded, “Because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it” ( Nehemiah 9:38 ). The signers and terms of the covenant were then recorded ( Nehemiah 10:1 ).

Nehemiah was dissatisfied with the small size of the population of Jerusalem. He made an ingenious proposal: to “cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in the holy city Jerusalem, while nine-tenths remained in the other towns” ( Nehemiah 11:1 NRSV). Nehemiah's last chapter cites his reforms made during his second visit to Jerusalem in 432 B.C. He threw out a Gentile who was permitted to live in the Temple; he restored the practice of tithing to support the Levites; he corrected sabbath wrongs by those who bought and sold on the sabbath; and he dealt forthrightly with those who had married foreigners, those not in covenant relation with God.

Nehemiah was indeed an outstanding person. His theology was very practical; it affected every area of life. Note his prayers and how practical they were ( Nehemiah 1:4-11;  Nehemiah 2:4;  Nehemiah 4:4-5 ,Nehemiah 4:4-5, 4:9;  Nehemiah 5:19;  Nehemiah 6:9 ,Nehemiah 6:9, 6:14;  Nehemiah 13:14 ,Nehemiah 13:14, 13:22 ,Nehemiah 13:22, 13:29 ,Nehemiah 13:29, 13:31 ). He boldly asked, “Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people” ( Nehemiah 5:19 NRSV; compare   Nehemiah 13:14 ,Nehemiah 13:14, 13:31 ). His faith was practical: “And the king granted me what I asked, for the gracious hand of my God was upon me” ( Nehemiah 2:8 NRSV; compare   Nehemiah 2:18 for a practical application of this concept). He believed “the God of heaven is the one who will give us success” (  Nehemiah 2:20 NRSV) and that “our God will fight for us” (  Nehemiah 4:20 NRSV). He had respect for the sabbath, the Temple and its institutions, the Levites, and tithing.

Nehemiah was an unusual person. Nehemiah was a man of action; he got things done. He knew how to use persuasion but also force. One may properly call him the father of Judaism. Because of Nehemiah, Judaism had a fortified city, a purified people, a dedicated and unified nation, renewed economic stability, and a new commitment to God's law.


I. God's Work Must Be Done ( Nehemiah 1:1-7:33 ).

A. God's leaders must be informed of needs in God's work ( Nehemiah 1:1-3 ).

B. God's leaders must be responsive spiritually to needs in God's work and must pray ( Nehemiah 1:4-11 ).

C. God's leaders must enlist the aid of others, sometimes outside the family of God ( Nehemiah 2:1-9 ).

D. God's leaders likely will encounter opposition ( Nehemiah 2:10 ).

E. God's leaders must exercise caution and discretion along with careful planning ( Nehemiah 2:11-16 ).

F. God's leaders must inform and challenge God's people to work ( Nehemiah 2:17-20 ).

G. God's work demands hard work, good organization, plenty of cooperation, and good records to give credit where credit is due ( Nehemiah 3:1-32 ).

H. God's leaders will pray in the face of ridicule and insult ( Nehemiah 4:1-9 ).

I. God's leaders may expect opposition from within as well as from without ( Nehemiah 4:10-12 ).

J. God's leaders must encourage weary workers with practical, prayerful faith ( Nehemiah 4:13-15 ).

K. God's work gets done by hard work and committed workers ( Nehemiah 4:16-23 ).

L. God's work is slowed by internal problems of unfairness ( Nehemiah 5:1-5 ).

M. God's leaders must confront profiteering problem causers ( Nehemiah 5:6-13 ).

N. God's leaders at times can be sacrificially generous to meet a pressing need ( Nehemiah 5:14-19 ).

O. God's leaders know opposition can be very personal and must deal with it head on ( Nehemiah 6:1-14 ).

P. God's help and the cooperation of many workers bring success ( Nehemiah 6:15-16 ).

Q. God's work can have traitors within ( Nehemiah 6:17-19 ).

R. God's leaders will enlist others and give them clear instructions ( Nehemiah 7:1-5 ).

S. God's leaders need to keep and use good records ( Nehemiah 7:6-73 ).

II. God's Way Must Include Revival and Reformation ( Nehemiah 8:1-13:31 ).

A. God's people want to hear God's Word ( Nehemiah 8:1-3 ).

B. God's Word must be read and then interpreted ( Nehemiah 8:4-8 ).

C. God's way calls for joyous celebration ( Nehemiah 8:9-12 ).

D. God's way prescribes formal expressions of joyous worship ( Nehemiah 8:13-18 ).

E. God's way elicits confession ( Nehemiah 9:1-5 ).

F. God's people give practical expression to prayerful repentance ( Nehemiah 9:6-37 ).

G. God's people are willing to commit themselves ( Nehemiah 9:38 ).

H. God's people will sign pledges of commitment ( Nehemiah 10:1-27 ).

I. God's people must give practical expressions of commitment ( Nehemiah 10:28-39 ).

J. God's people must be willing to make some changes ( Nehemiah 11:1-2 ).

K. God's work requires good records ( Nehemiah 11:3-12:26 ).

L. God's work should be dedicated and celebrated ( Nehemiah 12:27-47 ).

M. God's people must be a separated people ( Nehemiah 13:1-9 ).

N. God's work, including His finance program, must not be neglected ( Nehemiah 13:10-14 ).

O. God's day must be respected ( Nehemiah 13:15-22 ).

P. God's way demands purity in marriage and in ministers ( Nehemiah 13:23-31 ).

D. C. Martin

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

Nehemiah 1 . One of the twelve heads of the Jewish community (  Ezra 2:2 =   Nehemiah 7:7 ), 1E  Esther 5:8   Nehemiah 2:1-20 . One of those who helped to repair the wall of Jerusalem (  Nehemiah 3:16 ). 3. See the following article.

NEHEMIAH. Son of Hacaliah and cupbearer to king Artaxerxes. Our sole source of information regarding this great Jewish patriot is the book that bears his name. According to this, in the 20th year of Artaxerxes ( i.e ., as usually understood, of Artaxerxes i. Longimanus, 464 424), b.c. 445 444, Nehemiah is at Susa, the chief city of Elam and the winter residence of the Persian court. Here, in consequence of a report that reaches him regarding the ruined condition of Jerusalem and its people, Nehemiah is, on his own initiative, appointed governor ( pechah ) of the province of Judæa by the king. He is granted a limited leave of absence by the latter, furnished with royal letters and an escort to assure his safe passage; and also with a royal rescript to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forests, commanding that he shall be furnished with sufficient supplies of timber. On arriving at Jerusalem, having satisfied himself as to the ruinous condition of the city walls, he energetically begins the task of rebuilding them, and, in spite of much opposition from without (from Sanballat and others), he, with the aid of the entire Jewish population drawn from the outlying villages, successfully accomplishes his undertaking within two months (  Nehemiah 1:1-11;   Nehemiah 2:1-20;   Nehemiah 3:1-32;   Nehemiah 4:1-23;   Nehemiah 5:1-19;   Nehemiah 6:1-19;   Nehemiah 7:1-73 ). All this, according to the usually accepted chronology, happened in the year 444. The wall was ‘finished’ on the 25th day of the 6th month (  Nehemiah 6:16 ), and on the first day of the following month the events of the religious reform described in chs. 8 10 apparently began. The Book of the Law was read by Ezra in the presence of Nehemiah before the people in solemn assembly; the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated (  Nehemiah 8:18 ); national confession of sin was made (ch. 9); and the ‘covenant’ was sealed, the people pledging themselves to observe its obligations (ch. 10). In   Nehemiah 12:27-43 a description of the solemn dedication of the completed walls is given. If 2Ma 1:19 can be relied on as preserving a true tradition, the dedication took place on the 25th of Chislev (December), i.e . three months after the completion, and two months after the reading of the Law and the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.

The exact sequence of these events is uncertain. Some would place the reading of the Law, etc., subsequent to the Dedication, in the following year. Rawlinson proposed to place the Dedication 12 years later, in Nehemiah’ s second governorship. But this view is improbable.

Shortly after these events, it would seem, Nehemiah returned to the Persian court, and was absent from Jerusalem for some years.

How long exactly Nehemiah’s first governorship lasted, and for how great an interval he was absent from Jerusalem, are uncertaio. In  Nehemiah 5:14 it seems to he stated definitely that he was goveroor in the first instance for 12 years. But in   Nehemiah 13:6 Nehemiah says: ‘But all this time I was not at Jerusalem: for in the two-and-thirtieth year of Artaxerxes, king of Babylon, I went unto the king, and, after certain days, asked I leave of the king.’ On the whole it seems probable that   Nehemiah 5:14 means that during the twelve years Nehemiah, though absent on court duty, was actually governor, ruling by deputies; and that in the 32nd year of the king’s reign he again secured leave of absence, and came to Jerusalem (b.c. 433). The evils he found on his return must have taken some considerable time to develop.

On his return to Jerusalem in 433 Nehemiah found various abuses and internal disorders rampant in the community. Eliashib ‘the priest’ had provided Tobiah with quarters in one of the Temple-chambers ( Nehemiah 13:4 f.), the Levites had not received their dues, the Sabbath was openly desecrated in and around Jerusalem (  Nehemiah 13:15 f.), and, in spite of Ezra’s great puritanical movement, mixed marriages were still common, and the children of such marriages spoke ‘half’ in their mothers’ foreign speech (  Nehemiah 13:23 f.). Possibly information as to these developments had impelled Nehemiah to return. At any rate, on his arrival he asserted himself with characteristic vigour, and inaugurated drastic measures of reform. One characteristic sentence vividly illustrates this relentless zeal: ‘And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son-in-law to San-ballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me’ (  Nehemiah 13:28 ). ‘Thus cleansed I them’ he proceeds ‘from every thing strange, and appointed wards for the priests and for the Levites, every one to his work: and for the wood offering at times appointed, and for the first-fruits’ (  Nehemiah 13:30 ).

The Book of Nehemiah (see next article) is composite in character, and the narrative is in part fragmentary. Hence the actual course of events is by no means always clear and certain. Some scholars are of opinion that the Artaxerxes referred to is Artaxerxes ii. Mnemon (reigned b.c. 404 358), and suppose that Nehemiah was governor for the 12 years 384 372, and again at a later period. Josephus places Nehemiah in the time of Xerxes.

The personality of Nehemiah, as revealed in his memoirs, is in many respects strangely attractive. He appears as a gifted and accomplished man of action, well versed in the ways of the world, and well equipped to meet difficult situations. The combination of strength and gracefulness, the generosity, fervent patriotism, and religious zeal of the man contributed to form a personality of striking force and power. He is a unique figure in the OT, and rendered services of incalculable value to the cause of Judaism. Even his limitations reveal a certain strength ( e.g . his naïve prayer: ‘Remember unto me, O my God, for good all that I have done for this people’). Like all great men, he has become the subject of legend (cf. 2Ma 1:18 f.). But he deserves in every respect the eulogium pronounced upon him by ben-Sira ( Sir 49:13 ) and by Josephus, who ( Ant . XI. v. 8) says of him: ‘He was a man of good and righteous character, and very ambitious to make his own nation happy; and he hath left the walls of Jerusalem as an eternal monument of himself.’

G. H. Box.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

As governor of Jerusalem and author of a book, Nehemiah is an important character in the biblical record of Israel’s reconstruction after the captivity in Babylon. All that we know of Nehemiah comes from the book that he wrote ( Nehemiah 1:1).

Circumstances of the time

When Persia conquered Babylon and released the captive peoples (539 BC), many Jews returned to Palestine. One of their first achievements, in spite of some early setbacks, was the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. But the city wall remained in ruins, and only when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem as governor in 445 BC was it rebuilt. This was more than ninety years after the first group of people had returned from captivity ( Nehemiah 2:1; cf.  Ezra 1:1-4). (For events leading up to the time of Nehemiah see Ezra .)

Nehemiah was a man of forceful character who had the ability to motivate people. He was a good organizer and leader, but more importantly he was a man of prayer who trusted God, feared God and obeyed his commandments ( Nehemiah 1:4;  Nehemiah 2:4;  Nehemiah 4:20;  Nehemiah 5:15;  Nehemiah 6:11;  Nehemiah 7:2;  Nehemiah 13:17;  Nehemiah 13:25;  Nehemiah 13:30). He was fearless in dealing with opponents ( Nehemiah 4:14;  Nehemiah 4:20;  Nehemiah 6:8;  Nehemiah 6:11;  Nehemiah 13:8), yet sympathetic and self-sacrificing in helping the needy ( Nehemiah 5:11;  Nehemiah 5:14-18).

Most of the book of Nehemiah seems to have come from the personal records that Nehemiah kept during his governorship of Jerusalem. The book is therefore largely in the first person. Nehemiah had two periods as governor of Jerusalem, an earlier period lasting twelve years and a later period of unknown length ( Nehemiah 5:14;  Nehemiah 13:6-7).

Summary of Nehemiah’s book

Nehemiah first became governor as a result of a visit to Persia by some Jews from Jerusalem. At that time Nehemiah held a trusted position in the Persian palace, and the Jews no doubt hoped he could persuade the king to support them against the attacks of their opponents (1:1-3). Being a man of prayer, Nehemiah prayed about the matter for four months before asking the king for help. The king responded by giving him authority, materials and finance to go to Jerusalem to repair the city and rebuild its walls (1:4-2:10). It was probably at this time that Nehemiah was appointed governor.

After surveying the damage, Nehemiah outlined his plans to the people, gained their support, and organized a building program in which people of all kinds participated (2:11-3:32). When opponents tried to stop the work, Nehemiah presented the matter to God, but at the same time made arrangements to strengthen the defence of the city (4:1-23). He also acted decisively to stop the rich in Jerusalem from taking advantage of the poor, who were suffering added hardship because of the current difficulties (5:1-19). Outside enemies tried by various means to stop the work, but without success. In the end the wall was finished (6:1-7:73).

Before the wall was dedicated, Ezra read and explained parts of the law of Moses, first to the people and then to the leaders. After that the people celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (8:1-18).

After further confession, the people swore to God an oath of obedience, which their leaders put in writing and signed on their behalf (9:1-10:39). An added arrangement before the dedication ceremony was to increase Jerusalem’s security by increasing its population. Many people from country areas came to live in the city (11:1-12:26). Ezra and Nehemiah then led the people in an impressive dedication ceremony (12:27-13:3).

At the end of twelve years service, Nehemiah returned to Persia for a time. Without his strong leadership the people weakened and old enemies gained influence in the city. Upon arriving back in Jerusalem, Nehemiah dealt fearlessly with the enemies (13:4-9) and corrected Jerusalem’s social and religious disorders with his usual decisiveness (13:10-31).

Easton's Bible Dictionary [5]

  • The son of Hachaliah ( Nehemiah 1:1 ), and probably of the tribe of Judah. His family must have belonged to Jerusalem ( Nehemiah 2:3 ). He was one of the "Jews of the dispersion," and in his youth was appointed to the important office of royal cup-bearer at the palace of Shushan. The king, Artaxerxes Longimanus, seems to have been on terms of friendly familiarity with his attendant. Through his brother Hanani, and perhaps from other sources ( Nehemiah 1:2;  2:3 ), he heard of the mournful and desolate condition of the Holy City, and was filled with sadness of heart. For many days he fasted and mourned and prayed for the place of his fathers' sepulchres. At length the king observed his sadness of countenance and asked the reason of it. Nehemiah explained it all to the king, and obtained his permission to go up to Jerusalem and there to act as Tirshatha , Or governor of Judea. He went up in the spring of B.C. 446 (eleven years after Ezra), with a strong escort supplied by the king, and with letters to all the pashas of the provinces through which he had to pass, as also to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests, directing him to assist Nehemiah. On his arrival he set himself to survey the city, and to form a plan for its restoration; a plan which he carried out with great skill and energy, so that the whole was completed in about six months. He remained in Judea for thirteen years as governor, carrying out many reforms, notwithstanding much opposition that he encountered (  Nehemiah 13:11 ). He built up the state on the old lines, "supplementing and completing the work of Ezra," and making all arrangements for the safety and good government of the city. At the close of this important period of his public life, he returned to Persia to the service of his royal master at Shushan or Ecbatana. Very soon after this the old corrupt state of things returned, showing the worthlessness to a large extent of the professions that had been made at the feast of the dedication of the walls of the city ( Nehemiah 12 . See EZRA). Malachi now appeared among the people with words of stern reproof and solemn warning; and Nehemiah again returned from Persia (after an absence of some two years), and was grieved to see the widespread moral degeneracy that had taken place during his absence. He set himself with vigour to rectify the flagrant abuses that had sprung up, and restored the orderly administration of public worship and the outward observance of the law of Moses. Of his subsequent history we know nothing. Probably he remained at his post as governor till his death (about B.C. 413) in a good old age. The place of his death and burial is, however, unknown. "He resembled Ezra in his fiery zeal, in his active spirit of enterprise, and in the piety of his life: but he was of a bluffer and a fiercer mood; he had less patience with transgressors; he was a man of action rather than a man of thought, and more inclined to use force than persuasion. His practical sagacity and high courage were very markedly shown in the arrangement with which he carried through the rebuilding of the wall and balked the cunning plans of the 'adversaries.' The piety of his heart, his deeply religious spirit and constant sense of communion with and absolute dependence upon God, are strikingly exhibited, first in the long prayer recorded in ch. 1:5-11, and secondly and most remarkably in what have been called his 'interjectional prayers', those short but moving addresses to Almighty God which occur so frequently in his writings, the instinctive outpouring of a heart deeply moved, but ever resting itself upon God, and looking to God alone for aid in trouble, for the frustration of evil designs, and for final reward and acceptance" (Rawlinson). Nehemiah was the last of the governors sent from the Persian court. Judea after this was annexed to the satrapy of Coele-Syria, and was governed by the high priest under the jurisdiction of the governor of Syria, and the internal government of the country became more and more a hierarchy.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Nehemiah'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

    Nehemi'ah. (Consolation Of The Lord).

    1. Son of Hachaliah, and apparently of the tribe of Judah. All that we know certainly concerning him is contained in the book which bears his name. We first find him at Shushan, the winter residence of the kings of Persia, in high office as the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes Longimanus.

    In the twentieth year, of the king's reign, that is, B.C. 445, certain Jews arrived from Judea, and gave Nehemiah a deplorable account of the state of Jerusalem. He immediately conceived the idea of going to Jerusalem, to endeavor to better their state, and obtained the king's consent to his mission. Having received his appointment as governor of Judea, he started upon his journey, being under promise to return to Persia within a given time. Nehemiah's great work was rebuilding, for the first time since their destruction by Nebuzar-adan, the walls of Jerusalem, and restoring that city to its former state and dignity as a fortified town.

    To this great object, therefore, Nehemiah directed his whole energies without an hour's unnecessary delay. In a wonderfully short time, the walls seemed to emerge from the heaps of burnt rubbish, end to encircle the city as in the days of old. It soon became apparent how wisely Nehemiah had acted in hastening on the work. On his very first arrival, as governor, Sanballat and Tobiah had given unequivocal proof of their mortification at his appointment; but when the restoration was seen to be rapidly progressing, their indignation knew no bounds. They made a great conspiracy to fall upon the builders, with an armed force and put a stop to the undertaking. The project was defeated by the vigilance and prudence of Nehemiah.

    Various stratagems were then resorted to get Nehemiah away from Jerusalem, and if possible to take his life; but that which most nearly succeeded was the attempt to bring him into suspicion with the king of Persia, as if he intended to set himself up as an independent king as soon as the walls were completed. The artful letter of Sanballat so-far wrought upon Artaxerxes, that he issued a decree stopping the work till further orders. If is probable that at the same time, he recalled Nehemiah, or perhaps his leave of absence had previously expired.

    But after a delay, perhaps of several years, he was permitted to return to Jerusalem land to crown his work, by repairing the Temple and dedicating the walls. During his government, Nehemiah firmly repressed the exactions of the nobles, and the usury of the rich, and rescued the poor Jews from spoliation and slavery. He refused to receive his lawful allowance as governor from the people, in consideration of their poverty, during the whole twelve years, that he was in office, but kept at his own charge a table for 150 Jews, at which any who returned from captivity were welcome.

    He made most careful provision for the maintenance of the ministering priests and Levites, and for the due and constant celebration of divine worship. He insisted upon the sanctity of the precincts of the Temple being preserved inviolable, and peremptorily, ejected the powerful Tobiah from one of the chambers, which Eliashib had assigned to him.

    With no less firmness and impartiality, he expelled from all sacred functions, those of the high priest's family, who had contracted heathen marriages, and rebuked and punished those of the common people, who had likewise intermarried with foreigners; and lastly, he provided for keeping holy, the Sabbath day, which was shamefully profaned, by many both Jews and foreign merchants, and by his resolute conduct, succeeded in repressing the lawless traffic on the day of rest. Beyond the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, to which Nehemiah's own narrative leads us, we have no account of him whatever.

    2. One of the leaders, of the first expedition from Babylon to Jerusalem, under Zerabbabel.  Ezra 2:2;  Nehemiah 7:7.

    3. Son of Azbuk, and ruler of the half part of Beth-zur, who helped to repair the wall of Jerusalem.  Nehemiah 3:18.

    People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

    Nehemiah ( Nç'He-Mî'Ah ), Comforted Of Jehovah. 1. A Jew of piety and zeal, born during the exile; but his family and tribe are not known. Raised to the office of cup-bearer to the Persian monarch, Nehemiah did not forget his desolated country, and was commissioned, at his own request, to visit Jerusalem and rebuild the city; which he accomplished under the most perplexing difficulties. The twentieth year of Artaxerxes, when Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, is usually fixed in b.c. 444; others, with some degree of probability, fix it to b.c. 451  Nehemiah 1:1;  Nehemiah 7:2. Nehemiah was made Tirshatha = "governor" of Judea, under Artaxerxes Longimanus.  Nehemiah 8:9;  Nehemiah 10:1;  Nehemiah 12:26. He is also called the Pechah, whence the modern Pasha, a governor of a province.  Nehemiah 12:26. Nehemiah was governor of Jerusalem twelve years,  Nehemiah 5:14-19; and then returned to the Persian court, where he remained "certain days."  Nehemiah 13:6. After nine or ten months he returned to Jerusalem, as governor, the second time; and corrected the abuses which had crept in during his absence.  Nehemiah 13:7-31;  Malachi 2:9-17;  Malachi 3:6-12. He remained in power till the restoration of affairs in Jerusalem, probably about ten years; and died at an advanced age, probably in that city.

    Nehemiah, Book of, is the 16th in the order of the books of the Old Testament. It supplements the book of Ezra. It relates Nehemiah's great work of rebuilding Jerusalem and the reclamation of the customs and laws of Moses, which had fallen into disuse. The account of the walls and gates in chap. 3 is among the most valuable documents for the settlement of the topography of ancient Jerusalem. The registers and lists of names are also of value. Nehemiah is the author of the first seven chapters, and part of the twelfth and thirteenth. The change from the use of the first person to that of the third in the remaining chapters, and the fact that some names in the lists were not extant till after Nehemiah's death, point to some other hand as their author, 2. One who returned in the first expedition from Babylon under Zerubbabel.  Ezra 2:2;  Nehemiah 7:7. 3. The son of Azbuk, who helped to repair the gates of Jerusalem.  Nehemiah 3:16.

    American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

    The son of Hachaliah was born at Babylon during the captivity. He was, according to some, of the race of the priests; according to others, of the royal family of Judah. He sustained the office of cupbearer to the Persian king Artazerzes Longimanus. Touched with the calamitous state of the colony of Jews, which had formerly returned to Jerusalem, he besought the king of Persia to permit him to go to Jerusalem and aid in rebuilding it. He was accordingly sent thither as governor, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, about 444 B. C. He directed his attention chiefly to rebuilding the walls of the city.

    The enmity of the Samaritans, under which the colony had formerly suffered, was now increased; and under Sanballat, the governor of the country, they cast all possible hindrances in the way of the Jews. They even went so far as to attack the laborers at their work; so that Nehemiah had to cause them to labor with arms in their hands; yet in one year their task was completed. In this great work and in his whole administration, his pious zeal and disinterestedness, his love for the people and city of god, and his prayerful reliance on divine aid were crowned with success. He had the cooperation of faithful friends, especially of Ezra,  Nehemiah 8:1,9,13   12:36 , and instituted many excellent civil improvements. About 432 B. C., though perhaps not for the first time, he returned to his post at the court of Babylon,  Nehemiah 2:6   5:14   13:6; but after a few years, was recalled to Jerusalem to reform certain growing irregularities neglect of the temple service, breaches of the Sabbath, marriages with the heathen, etc. He required of those Jews who had married heathen wives, that they should either abandon them, or else they quit the country. This voluntary exile of a number of discontented priests may have given occasion to the building of the temple on Mount Gerizim, and the establishment of the Samaritan worship. See SANBALLAT.

    The book of Nehemiah contains the history of all these transactions, written by himself near the close of his long life, B. C. 434. It is a sort of a continuation of the book of Ezra, and was called by some of the fathers the Second Book of Ezra. Some portions of it,  Ezra 8:1-9:15   10:44 , appear to be compilations from public registers, etc. With it the historical books of the Old Testament close.

    Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [9]

    professes himself the author of the book which bears his name, in the very beginning of it, and he uniformly writes in the first person. He was of the tribe of Judah, and was probably born at Babylon during the captivity. He was so distinguished for his family and attainments, as to be selected for the office of cup bearer to the king of Persia, a situation of great honour and emolument. He was made governor of Judea, upon his own application, by Artaxerxes Longimanus; and his book, which in the Hebrew canon was joined to that of Ezra, gives an account of his appointment and administration through a space of about thirty-six years to A.M. 3595, at which time the Scripture history closes; and, consequently, the historical books, from Joshua to Nehemiah inclusive, contain the history of the Jewish people from the death of Moses, A.M. 2553, to the reformation established by Nehemiah, after the return from captivity, being a period of one thousand and forty-two years.

    Morrish Bible Dictionary [10]

    1. Son of Hachaliah and a captive in Persia: he was cupbearer to king Artaxerxes, and was permitted to return and rebuild Jerusalem. He is called the Tirshatha, or governor.  Nehemiah 1:1;  Nehemiah 8:9;  Nehemiah 10:1;  Nehemiah 12:26,47 . See Nehemiah, Book Of

    2. A chief man who returned from exile.   Ezra 2:2;  Nehemiah 7:7 .

    3. Son of Azbuk: he helped to repair the wall of Jerusalem.   Nehemiah 3:16 .

    Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [11]

    The Tirshatha or Governor under the Persian king; a well known faithful character in the church after the return of the people from Babylon. (See the Book of  Nehemiah 1:1 -  Nehemiah 13:31.) His name if derived from Nacham, signifies the comfort of the Lord. Nacham, or Nehem, and Jah.

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

    (Heb. -Nechemyah', נְחֶמְיָה , Comforted by Jehovah; Sept. Νεεμίας v.r. Νεεμία ; Josephus, Νεεμίας , Ant. 11:5, 6), the name of three men.

    1. The second named of the "children of the province," who had been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, and lived to return with Zerubbabel to Judsea ( Ezra 2:2;  Nehemiah 7:7). B.C. 536. He was not the same as No. 3 (see Carpzov, Introd. 1:341 sq.).

    2. Son of Azbuk, of the tribe of Judah; ruler in half the town of Bethzur, in the mountains of Judah, who took a leading part in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem ( Nehemiah 3:16). B.C. 445.

    3. The son of Hachallah ( Nehemiah 1:1) and brother of Hanani ( Nehemiah 7:7). He was apparently of the tribe of Judah, since his fathers were buried at Jerusalem, and Hanani his kinsman seems to have been of that tribe ( Nehemiah 1:2;  Nehemiah 2:3;  Nehemiah 7:2). Some think he was of priestly descent, because his name appears at the head of a list of priests in  Nehemiah 10:1-8; but it is obvious, from  Nehemiah 9:38, that he stands there as a prince, and not as a priest-that he heads the list because he was head of the nation. The Vulgate, in  2 Maccabees 1:21, calls him "Sacerdos Nehemias" (comp. Rambach, Praef. In Nehemiah page 112; Carpzov, Introd. 1:338); but this is a false version of the Greek, which has Ἐκέλευσε Τοὺς Ἱερῖς Νεεμίας , and not Ἱεπεύς , which the Latin would require. The Syriac agrees with the Greek. The expression in  2 Maccabees 1:18, that Nehemiah "offered sacrifice," implies no more than that he provided the sacrifices. Others, with some probability, infer, from his station at the Persian court and the high commission he received, that he was, like Zerubbabel, of the tribe of Judah and of the house of David (Carpzov, Introductio, etc., i, 339). Malalas of Antioch (Chronogr. 6: 160) singularly combines the two views, and calls him "Nehemiah the priest, of the seed of David."

    While Nehemiah was cupbearer in the royal palace at Shushan, in the twentieth year of Artaexerxes Longimanus (q.v.), or B.C. 447, learning the mournful and desolate condition of the returned colony in Judsea (Nehemiah i, 2 sq.; comp. Kleinert, in the Dorpt. Beitrig. 1:243 sq.), he obtained permission of the king to make a journey to Jerusalem, and there to act as lieutenant or governor (Heb. פֶּחָה ,  Nehemiah 5:14. On the title of honor given to Nehemiah [ Nehemiah 8:9;  Nehemiah 10:1], Tirshatha',

    תַּרְשָׁתָא , see Gesen. Thesaur. s.v.; Benfey, Monatsnam. s. 196, identifies it with the Zend Thvotresta, "commander." But in  Nehemiah 7:65;  Nehemiah 7:70, this title denotes not Nehemiah, but Zerubbabel, as is evident from  Ezra 2:63-70). Being furnished with this high commission, which included letters to the satraps and subordinates, and enjoying the protection of a military escort (2:9), Nehemiah reached Jerusalem in the year B.C. 446, and remained there till B.C. 434, being actively engaged for twelve years in promoting the public good (5:14). "It is impossible to overestimate the importance to the future political and ecclesiastical prosperity of the Jewish nation of this great achievement of their patriotic governor. How low the community of the Palestine Jews had fallen is apparent from the fact that from the 6th year of Darius to the 7th of Artaxerxes there is no history of them whatever; and that even after Ezra's commission, and the ample grants made by Artaxerxes in his 7th year, and the considerable re- enforcements, both in wealth and numbers, which Ezra's government brought to them, they were in a state of abject 'affliction and reproach' in the 20th of Artaxerxes: their country pillaged, their citizens kidnapped and made slaves of by their heathen neighbors, robbery and murder rife in their very capital, Jerusalem almost deserted, and the Temple again falling into decay. The one step which could resuscitate the nation, preserve the Mosaic institutions, and lay the foundation of future independence, was the restoration of the city walls. Jerusalem being once again secure from the attacks of the marauding heathen, civil government would become possible, the spirit of the people and their attachment to the ancient capital of the monarchy would revive, the priests and Levites would be encouraged to come into residence, the tithes and first-fruits and other stores would be safe, and Judah, if not actually independent, would preserve the essentials of national and religious life.

    To this great object, therefore, Nehemiah directed his whole energies without an hour's unnecessary delay. By word and example he induced the whole population, with the single exception of the Tekoite nobles, to commence building with the utmost vigor, even the lukewarm high-priest Eliashib performing his part. In a wonderfully short time the walls seemed to emerge from the heaps of burned rubbish, and to encircle the city as in the days of old. The gateways also were rebuilt, and ready for the doors to be hung upon them. But it soon became apparent how wisely Nehemiah had acted in hastening on the work. On his very first arrival, as governor, Sanballat and Tobiah had given unequivocal proof of their mortification at his appointment, and before the work was commenced had scornfully asked whether he intended to rebel against the king of Persia. But when the restoration was seen to be rapidly progressing, their indignation knew no bounds. They not only poured out a torrent of abuse and contempt upon all engaged in the work, but actually made a great conspiracy to fall upon the builders with an armed force and put a stop to the undertaking. The project was defeated by the vigilance and prudence of Nehemiah, who armed all the people after their families, and showed such a strong front that their enemies dared not attack them. This armed attitude was continued from that day forward. Various stratagems were then resorted to to get Nehemiah away from Jerusalem, and if possible to take his life." But in the face of these difficulties he rebuilt, or repaired, the city wall, hot without serious opposition from parties of Samaritans, finishing the work in fifty-two days ( Nehemiah 6:15); reformed abuses, redressed grievances (chapter 5), introduced law and order (chapter 7), and revived the worship of God (chapter 8 sq.). A strange fable is told of his discovering again the holy fire ( 2 Maccabees 1:18 sq.). The account in  2 Maccabees 2:13 of the compilation by Nehemiah of the Old-Testament writings is disbelieved by Eichhorn (Apokr. Page 255 sq.), and is rightly estimated by Hengstenberg (Auth. d. Dan. page 241 sq.). (See Books Of Esdras).

    It should be added that the son of Sirach, in celebrating Nehemiah's good deeds, mentions only that he "raised up for us the walls that were fallen, and set up the gates and bars, and raised up our ruins again" ( Sirach 49:13). In his important public proceedings, which appear all to have happened in the first year of his government, Nehemiah enjoyed the assistance of Ezra (q.v.), who is named on several occasions as taking a prominent part in conducting affairs ( Nehemiah 8:1;  Nehemiah 8:9;  Nehemiah 8:13;  Nehemiah 12:36). Ezra had gone up to Jerusalem thirteen years before, and lived to be Nehemiah's fellow-laborer. These contemporaries are equally eminent among the benefactors of the Jewish people alike patriotic and zealous, though not uniform in character, or the same in operation. In the character of Ezra we find no indication of the self-complacency which forms a marked feature in that of Nehemiah. The former, in accordance with his priestly calling, labored chiefly in promoting the interests of religion, but the latter had most to do with the general affairs of government; the one was in charge of the Temple, the other of the state. Nehemiah refused to receive his lawful allowance as governor from the people, in consideration of their poverty, during the whole twelve years that he was in office, but kept at his own charge a table for 150 Jews, at which any who returned from captivity were welcome. Nehemiah returned to Persia B.C. 434, but soon heard of new abuses creeping in among the Jews, and he determined to visit Judaea again. The time of this second journey is indefinitely stated as "after some days" ( Nehemiah 13:6-7), which many have understood as meaning a single year; but this is not long enough to account for such abuses as would require Nehemiah's presence. Prideaux (Connection, 1:520 sq.; comp. Jahn, Archaol. II, 1:272 sq.; Einleitung, 2:288 sq.) has shown sufficient reason for referring it to the second half of the reign of Darius Nothus, say B.C. 410. (But Havernick, Einleitung ins A. T. 2:324, holds a medium view, dating this visit B.C. cir. 424. See further, Michaelis on Nehemiah 13; Clericus, ad idem; Petavius, Doctrina Temp. 12:25; Cellarius, Dissertat. page 130; Jour. of Sac. Lit. January 1862, page 446.) (See Seventy Weeks).

    After his return to the government of Judsea, Nehemiah enforced the separation of all the mixed multitude from Israel ( Nehemiah 13:1-3), and accordingly expelled Tobiah the Ammonite from the chamber which the high-priest, Eliashib, had prepared for him in the Temple (Nehemiah 13:49). Better arrangements were, also made for the support of the Temple service ( Nehemiah 13:10-14), and for the rigid observance of the Sabbath ( Nehemiah 13:15-22). One of the last acts of his government was an effort to put an end to mixed marriages, which led him to "chase" away a son of Joiada, the high-priest, because he was son-inlaw to Sanballat the Horonite ( Nehemiah 13:23-29). It is not unlikely that Nehemiah remained at his post till about the year B.C. 405, towards the close of the reign of Darius Nothus, who is mentioned in  Nehemiah 12:22. (See Darius).

    At this time Nehemiah would be between sixty and seventy years old, if we suppose him (as most do) to have been only between twenty and thirty when he first went to Jerusalem. That he lived to be an old man is thus quite probable from the sacred history; and this is expressly declared by Josephus, who (Ant. 11:5, 6) states that he died at an advanced age. Of the place and year of his death nothing is known. "On reviewing the character of Nehemiah, we seem unable to find a single fault (unless it be a slightly Ciceronian egotism) to counterbalance his many and great virtues. For pure and disinterested patriotism he stands unrivalled. The man whom the account of the misery and ruin of his native country, and the perils with which his countrymen were beset prompted to leave his splendid residence, and a post of wealth, power, and influence, in the first court in the world, that he might share and alleviate the sorrows of his native land, must have been pre-eminently a patriot. Every act of his during his government bespeaks one who had no selfishness in his nature. All he did was noble, generous, high-minded, courageous, and to the highest degree upright. But to stern integrity he united great humility and kindness, and a princely hospitality. As a statesman he combined forethought, prudence, and sagacity in counsel, with vigor, promptitude, and decision in action. In dealing with the enemies of his country he was wary, penetrating, and bold. In directing the internal economy of the state, he took a comprehensive view of the real welfare of the people, and adopted the measures best calculated to promote it. In dealing both with friend and foe, he was utterly free from favor or fear, conspicuous for the simplicity with which he aimed only at doing what was right, without respect of persons. But in nothing was he more remarkable than for his piety, and the singleness of eye with which he walked before God. He seems to have undertaken everything in dependence upon God, with prayer for his blessing and guidance, and to have sought his reward only from God." See Randall, Nehemiah the Tirshatha (Lond. 1874).

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

    - hḗ - mı̄´a , ne - hem - i´a ( נהניה , neḥemyāh , "comforted of Yah"):

    1. Family

    2. Youth

    3. King's Cupbearer

    4. Governor of Judea

    5. Death


    Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah, is the Jewish patriot whose life is recorded in the Biblical work named after him. All that we know about him from contemporary sources is found in this book; and so the readers of this article are referred to the Book of Nehemiah for the best and fullest account of his words and deeds. See Ezra-Nehemiah .

    1. Family:

    All that is known of his family is that he was the son of Hacaliah ( Nehemiah 1:1 ) and that one of his brothers was called Hanani ( Nehemiah 1:2;  Nehemiah 7:2 ); the latter a man of sufficient character and importance to have been made a ruler of Jerusalem.

    From  Nehemiah 10:1-8 some have inferred that he was a priest, since Nehemiah comes first in the list of names ending with the phrase, "these were the priests." This view is supported by the Syriac and Arabic versions of   Nehemiah 10:1 , which read: "Nehemiah the elder, the son of Hananiah the chief of the priests"; and by the Latin Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) of 2 Macc 1:21, where he is called "Nehemiah the priest," and possibly by 2 Macc 1:18, where it is said that Nehemiah "offered sacrifices, after that he had builded the temple and the altar."

    The argument based upon  Nehemiah 10:1-8 will fall to the ground, if we change the pointing of the "Seraiah" of the   Nehemiah 10:2 and read "its princes," referring back to the princes of   Nehemiah 10:1 . In this case, Nehemiah and Zedekiah would be the princes; then would come the priests and then the Levites.

    Some have thought that he was of the royal line of Judah, inasmuch as he refers to his "fathers' sepulchres" at Jerusalem ( Nehemiah 2:3 ). This would be a good argument only if it could be shown that none but kings had sepulchers at Jerusalem.

    It has been argued again that he was of noble lineage because of his position as cupbearer to the king of Persia. To substantiate this argument, it would need to be shown that none but persons of noble birth could serve in this position; but this has not been shown, and cannot be shown.

    2. Youth:

    From the fact that Nehemiah was so grieved at the desolation of the city and sepulchers of his fathers and that he was so jealous for the laws of the God of Judah, we can justly infer that he was brought up by pious parents, who instructed him in the history and law of the Jewish people.

    3. King's Cupbearer:

    Doubtless because of his probity and ability, he was apparently at an early age appointed by Artaxerxes, king of Persia, to the responsible position of cupbearer to the king. There is now no possible doubt that this King his king was Artaxerxes, the first of that name, commonly called Longimanus, who ruled over Persia from 464 to 424 BC. The mention of the sons of Sanballat, governor of Samaria, in a letter written to the priests of Jerusalem in 407 BC, among whom Johanan is especially named, proves that Sanballat must have ruled in the time of Artaxerxes I rather than in that of Artaxerxes II.

    The office of cupbearer was "one of no trifling honor" (Herod. iii. 34). It was one of his chief duties to taste the wine for the king to see that it was not poisoned, and he was even admitted to the king while the queen was present ( Nehemiah 2:6 ). It was on account of this position of close intimacy with the king that Nehemiah was able to obtain his commission as governor of Judea and the letters and edicts which enabled him to restore the walls of Jerusalem.

    4. Governor of Judea:

    The occasion of this commission was as follows: Hanani, the brother of Nehemiah, and other men of Judah came to visit Nehemiah while he was in Susa in the 9th month of the 20th year of Artaxerxes. They reported that the Jews in Jerusalem were in great affliction and that the wall thereof was broken down and its gates burned with fire. Thereupon he grieved and fasted and prayed to God that he might be granted favor by the king. Having appeared before the latter in the 1st month of the 21st year of Artaxerxes, 444 BC, he was granted permission to go to Jerusalem to build the city of his fathers' sepulchers, and was given letters to the governors of Syria and Palestine and especially to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, ordering him to supply timber for the wall, the fortress, and the temple. He was also appointed governor of the province of which Jerusalem was the capital.

    Armed with these credentials and powers he repaired to Jerusalem and immediately set about the restoration of the walls, a work in which he was hindered and harassed by Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and others, some of them Jews dwelling in Jerusalem. Notwithstanding, he succeeded in his attempt and eventually also in providing gates for the various entrances to the city.

    Having accomplished these external renovations, he instituted a number of social reforms. He appointed the officers necessary for better government, caused the people to be instructed in the Law by public readings, and expositions; celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles; and observed a national fast, at which the sins of the people were confessed and a new covenant with Yahweh was solemnly confirmed. The people agreed to avoid marriages with the heathen, to keep the Sabbath, and to contribute to the support of the temple. To provide for the safety and prosperity of the city, one out of every ten of the people living outside Jerusalem was compelled to settle in the city. In all of these reforms he was assisted by Ezra, who had gone up to Jerusalem in the 7th year of Artaxerxes.

    5. Death:

    Once, or perhaps oftener, during his governorship Nehemiah returned to the king. Nothing is known as to when or where he died. It is certain, however, that he was no longer governor in 407 BC; for at that time according to the Aramaic letter written from Elephantine to the priests of Jerusalem, Bagohi was occupying the position of governor over Judea. One of the last acts of Nehemiah's government was the chasing away of one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib, because he had become the son-in-law to Sanballat, the governor of Samaria. As this Joiada was the father of Johanan ( Nehemiah 12:22 ) who, according to the Aramaic papyrus, was high priest in 407 BC, and according to Josephus ( Ant. , XI, viii. 1) was high priest while Bagohi (Bogoas) was general of Artaxerxes' army, it is certain that Nehemiah was at this time no longer in power. From the 3rd of the Sachau papyri, it seems that Bagohi was already governor in 410 BC; and, that at the same time, Dalayah, the son of Sanballat, was governor in Samaria. More definite information on these points is not to be had at present.


    The only early extra-Biblical data with regard to Nehemiah and the Judea of his times are to be found: (1) in the Egyptian papyri of Elephantine ("Aramaische Papyri und Ostraka aus einer judischen Militar-Kolonie zu Elephantine," Altorientalische Sprachdenkmaler des 5. Jahrhunderts vor Chr ., Bearbeitet von Eduard Sachau. Leipzig, 1911); (2)in Josephus, Ant. , XI, vi, 6-8; vii, 1,2; (3) in   Sirach 49:13 , where it is said: "The renown of Nehemiah is glorious; of him who established our waste places and restored our ruins, and set up the gates and bars"; (4) and lastly in  2 Maccabees 1:18-36,2:13; in the latter of these passages it speaks of 'the writings and commentaries of Nehemiah; and how he, founding a library, gathered together the acts of the kings and the prophets and of David and the epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts.'

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [14]

    Nehemi´ah (comforted of Jehovah). Three persons of this name occur in Scripture; one, the son of Azbuk , respecting whom no more is known than that he was ruler in Beth-zur, and took a prominent part in repairing the wall of Jerusalem [BETH-ZUR]. Another is mentioned among those who accompanied Zerubbabel on the first return from captivity. Nothing further is known of this man, though some writers hold him, without valid reasons, to be the same with the well-known Jewish patriot.

    Nehemiah, whose genealogy is unknown, except that he was the son of Hachaliah , and brother of Hanani . Some think he was of priestly descent, because his name appears at the head of a list of priests in; but it is obvious, from , that he stands there as a prince, and not as a priest—that he heads the list because he was head of the nation. Others with some probability infer, from his station at the Persian court and the high commission he received, that he was, like Zerubbabel, of the tribe of Judah and of the house of David.

    While Nehemiah was cupbearer in the royal palace at Shushan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, or 444 years [[B.C. [Artaxerxes]]] he learned the mournful and desolate condition of the returned colony in Judæa. This filled him with such deep and prayerful concern for his country, that his sad countenance revealed to the king his 'sorrow of heart;' which induced the monarch to ascertain the cause, and also to vouchsafe the remedy, by sending him, with full powers, to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and 'to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.' Being furnished with this high commission, and enjoying the protection of a military escort , Nehemiah reached Jerusalem in the year B.C. 444, and remained there till B.C. 432, being actively engaged for twelve years in promoting the public good . The principal work which he then accomplished was the rebuilding, or rather the repairing, of the city wall, which was done 'in fifty and two days' , notwithstanding many discouragements and difficulties, caused chiefly by Sanballat, a Moabite of Horonaim, and Tobiah, an Ammonite, who were leading men in the rival and unfriendly colony of Samaria . These men, with their allies among the Arabians, Ammonites, and Ashdodites , sought to hinder the refortifying of Jerusalem, first by scoffing at the attempt; then by threatening to attack the workmen—which Nehemiah averted by 'setting a watch against them day and night,' and arming the whole people, so that 'every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon' and finally, when scoffs and threats had failed, by using various stratagems to weaken Nehemiah's authority, and even to take his life . But in the midst of these dangers from without, our patriot encountered troubles and hindrances from his own people, arising out of the general distress, which was aggravated by the cruel exactions and oppression of their nobles and rulers . These popular grievances were promptly redressed on the earnest and solemn remonstrance of Nehemiah, who had himself set a striking example of retrenchment and generosity in his high office . It appears also that some of the chief men in Jerusalem were at that time in conspiracy with Tobiah against Nehemiah. The wall was thus built in 'troublous times' and its completion was most joyously celebrated by a solemn dedication .

    Having succeeded in fortifying the city, Nehemiah turned his attention to other measures in order to secure its good government and prosperity. He appointed some necessary officers (; also ) and excited among the people more interest and zeal in religion by the public reading and exposition of the law , by the unequaled celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles , and by the observance of a national fast, when the sins of the people and the iniquities of their fathers were publicly and most strikingly confessed (Nehemiah 9), and when also a solemn covenant was made by all ranks and classes 'to walk in God's law,' by avoiding intermarriages with the heathen, by strictly observing the Sabbath, and by contributing to the support of the temple service (Nehemiah 10). But the inhabitants of the city were as yet too few to defend it and to ensure its prosperity; and hence Nehemiah brought one out of every ten in the country to take up his abode in the ancient capital, which then presented so few inducements to the settler, that 'the people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem' (; also ).

    In these important public proceedings, which appear all to have happened in the first year of his government, Nehemiah enjoyed the assistance of Ezra, who is named on several occasions as taking a prominent part in conducting affairs . Ezra had gone up to Jerusalem thirteen years before according to some, or thirty-three years according to others; but on either reckoning, without supposing unusual longevity, he might well have lived to be Nehemiah's fellow-laborer [EZRA].

    Nehemiah, at the close of his successful administration, 'from the twentieth year even to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king' , returned to Babylon in the year B.C. 432, and resumed, as some think, his duties as royal cupbearer.

    He returned, however, after a while, to Jerusalem, where his services became again requisite, in consequence of abuses that had crept in during his absence. His stay at the court of Artaxerxes was not very long (certainly not above nine years); 'for after certain days he obtained leave of the king and came to Jerusalem' .

    After his return to the government of Judaea, Nehemiah enforced the separation of all the mixed multitude from Israel and accordingly expelled Tobiah the Ammonite from the chamber which the high-priest, Eliashib had prepared for him in the temple . Better arrangements were also made for the support of the temple service , and for the rigid observance of the Sabbath . One of the last acts of his government was an effort to put an end to mixed marriages, which led him to 'chase' away a son of Joiada the high-priest, because he was son-in-law to Sanballat the Horonite . His second administration probably lasted about ten years, and terminated about the year B.C. 405, towards the close of the reign of Darius Nothus, who is mentioned in [DARIUS]. At this time Nehemiah would be between sixty and seventy years old, if we suppose him (as most do) to have been only between twenty and thirty when he first went to Jerusalem. Of the place and year of his death nothing is known.

    The Nuttall Encyclopedia [15]

    A Jew of the captivity, of royal degree and in high favour, being king's cup-bearer at the court of Artaxerxes, the Persian king; received a commission from the king to repair to Jerusalem and restore the Jewish worship, and ruled over it for 12 years, till he saw the walls of the city amid much opposition restored; returned afterwards to superintend the reform of the worship, of which the book of the Old Testament named after him relates the story.