Book of the Week 16: Nehemiah

Hebrew Name: Nacham’Yah

Human Author: Nehemiah                                                  

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 13

Basic Facts

  1. Nehemiah is the sixteenth book of the Bible.
  2. It is possible that Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book, sometimes called the book of Esdras.
  3. The book of Nehemiah is named after the man named Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king of Persia who was called by God to rebuild Jerusalem.
  4. The Hebrew name for the book of Nehemiah is Nacham’Yah, a Hebrew name meaning “God comforts” or “comforted by God.”
  5. In the Greek Septuagint, Nehemiah is part of the book of II Esdras, which is not found in our English Bible.

Story of the Book

The book of Nehemiah begins with Nehemiah in exile. Nehemiah receives a report that Jerusalem is lying in ruins and prays to God concerning the state of Jerusalem. God is gracious with Nehemiah and moves king Artaxerxes to allow Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild it. Nehemiah leads a wave of Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem. Through lots of opposition, Nehemiah leads the returned exiles in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Ezra reads the Law to the people, and the exiles repent of their sins. The exiles swear an oath to obey God’s Law, and Nehemiah lists the people who sign the oath and agree to live in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns. The book ends with the final reforms of Nehemiah in which the people expel foreigners from their midst, and Nehemiah consecrates the Levite priests for Temple service. Nehemiah closes with a prayer that God would remember his efforts to reform the nation and return the people to following the Lord diligently.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Nehemiah

The message of Nehemiah is one of restoration and repentance. Christ is foreshadowed in Nehemiah in a way that is similar to the story of Ezra. Among the returned exiles to Judah and Jerusalem was a man named Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the heir to the royal line of king David and ultimately an ancestor of Christ (Matthew 1:1-17). Jeremiah 23:5-8 predicted that the people of Israel would be returned to their native land, and there would then come a righteous branch from David who would execute righteousness and justice in the land. Jesus is that righteous branch in the royal line of David who was established forever in fulfillment of II Samuel 7:16. Nehemiah’s ministry brings about the beginning of a partial fulfillment of Jeremiah 23:5-8 as the waves of exiles return from Mesopotamia to Judah and Jerusalem and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Nehemiah’s reforms help to keep the bloodline of kings and priests pure until the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is born in Bethlehem. Nehemiah and Ezra take the exiles from the lands in which they were scattered and return them back to the promised land. The exiles establish the Temple and rebuild Jerusalem in anticipation of a more complete fulfillment when the reign of Christ would be established forever.