Book of Nehemiah

Book of Nehemiah
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The Book of Nehemiah is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, it concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, a Jew who is a high official at the Persian court, and the dedication of the city and its people to God's laws (torah). The events take place in the second half of the 5th century BCE, and together with the Book of Ezra, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew bible[1]

The original core of the book, the first-person memoir, may have been combined with the core of the Book of Ezra around 400 BCE. Sceptics also argue that further editing continued into the Hellenistic era[citation needed], but this view is debated[citation needed].

The book tells how Nehemiah, at the court of the king in Susa, is informed that Jerusalem is without walls and resolves to restore them. The king appoints him as governor of Judah and he travels to Jerusalem. There he rebuilds the walls, despite the opposition of Israel's enemies, and reforms the community in conformity with the law of Moses. After an absence in Susa he returns to find that the Israelites have been backsliding, taking non-Jewish wives, and stays to enforce the Law.



For the bible text see Bible Gateway (opens at NIV version)

The book has 13 chapters, mostly in the first person -- these passages are called the Nehemiah Memorandum. It also includes numerous lists, but unlike the Book of Ezra it contains no quoted documents.

  • 1. In the 20th year of Artaxerxes (the king of Persia), Nehemiah, cup-bearer to the king in Susa (the Persian capital), learns that the wall of Jerusalem is destroyed. He prays to God, recalling the sins of Israel and God's promise of restoration in the land, and asks Artaxerxes for leave to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls; the king is receptive and extends aid to his mission.
  • 2. Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem, carrying letters of authorisation from the king; he inspects the walls.
  • 3. Nehemiah and the Jews (including the 'High Priest' Eliashib), begin rebuilding Jerusalem.
  • 4. The enemies of the Jews - Sanballat of Samaria, Tobiah the Ammonite, Geshem the Arab, and the men of Ashdod - plot to attack Jerusalem, and the Jews work with weapons in their hands.
  • 5. Nehemiah sees that the Jewish nobles are oppressing the poor, and forces the cancellation of all debt and mortgages; while previous governors have been corrupt and oppressive, he has been righteous and just.
  • 6. Sanballat accuses Nehemiah of planning rebellion against Artaxerxes, and he is opposed even by Jewish nobles and prophets, but the wall is completed.
  • 7. Nehemiah appoints officials and sets guards on the wall and gates; he plans to register the Jews, and finds the Census of those who had returned earlier.
  • 8. Nehemiah assembles the people and has Ezra read to them the law-book of Moses; Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites institute the Feast of Booths, in accordance with the Law.
  • 9. The Jews assemble in penance and prayer, recalling their past sins, God's help to them, and his promise of the land.
  • 10. The priests, Levites and people enter into a covenant, agreeing to separate themselves from the surrounding peoples and to keep the Law.
  • 11. Jerusalem is repopulated from the Jews living in the towns and villages of Judah and Benjamin.
  • 12. A list of priests and Levites who returned in the days of Cyrus (the first returnees from Babylon); Nehemiah, aided by Ezra, oversees the dedication of the walls and rebuilt city.
  • 13. After 12 years Nehemiah returns to Susa; he later comes back to Jerusalem, and finds that there has been backsliding in his absence. He takes measures to enforce his earlier reforms and asks for God's favour.

Historical background

The book is set in the 5th century. Judah is one of several provinces within the larger satrapy (a large administrative unit) within the Persian empire. The capital of the empire is at Susa. Nehemiah is a cup-bearer to king Artaxerxes II - an important official position.

At his own request Nehemiah is sent to Jerusalem as governor of Yehud, the official Persian name for Judah. Jerusalem had been conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and Nehemiah finds it still in ruins. His task is to rebuild the walls and to re-populate the city. He faces opposition from three powerful neighbours, the Samaritans, the Ammonites, and the Arabs, as well as the city of Ashdod, but manages to rebuild the walls. He then purifies the Jewish community by enforcing its segregation from its neighbours and enforces the laws of Moses.

Textual history

Ezra-Nehemiah, grouped as a single book with the title "Ezra", was accepted into the canon of scripture around the middle of the 2nd century BCE, when it was translated into Greek.[2] They were first divided into separate books by the early Christian scholar Origen, in the 3rd century CE, and the separation became entrenched in the 5th century CE when it was followed by Jerome in his Latin translation of the Bible.[3] It was not until the Middle Ages that the separation was introduced into Jewish Bibles.[4]

Composition and date

The combined book Ezra-Nehemiah of the earliest Christian and Jewish period was known as Ezra and was probably attributed to him; according to a rabbinic tradition, however, Nehemiah was the real author but was forbidden to claim authorship because of his bad habit of disparaging others.[5]

The Nehemiah Memorial, chapters 1-7 and 11-13, may have circulated as an independent work before being combined with the Ezra material to form Ezra-Nehemiah.[6] Determining the composition of the Memorial depends on the dates of Nehemiah's mission: It is commonly accepted that "Artaxerxes" was Artaxerxes I (there were two later kings of the same name), and that Nehemiah's first period in Jerusalem was therefore 445-433 BCE;[7] allowing for his return to Susa and second journey to Jerusalem, the end of the 5th century BCE is therefore the earliest possible date for the Memorial.[8] The Nehemiah Memorial is interrupted by chapters 8-10, which concern Ezra. These have sometimes been identified as another, separate work, the Ezra Memorial (EM), but other scholars believe the EM to be fictional and heavily altered by later editors. Both the Nehemiah and Ezra material are combined with numerous lists, Censuses and other material.

The first edition of the combined Ezra-Nehemiah may date from the early 4th century;[9] further editing continued well into the following centuries.


External links

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  • Book of Nehemiah —     Book of Nehemiah     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Book of Nehemiah     Also called the second Book of Esdras (Ezra), is reckoned both in the Talmud and in the early Christian Church, at least until the time of Origen, as forming one single book… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Book of Nehemiah — noun an Old Testament book telling how a Jewish official at the court of Artaxerxes I in 444 BC became a leader in rebuilding Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity • Syn: ↑Nehemiah • Instance Hypernyms: ↑book • Part Holonyms: ↑Hagiographa,… …   Useful english dictionary

  • NEHEMIAH — (Heb. נְחֶמְיָה; YHWH has comforted : fifth century B.C.E.), cupbearer of artaxerxes I and later governor of Judah. Nothing is known of the parentage of Nehemiah except that he was the son of Hacaliah. Two other persons of that name are mentioned …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Nehemiah (disambiguation) — Nehemiah may refer to: Nehemiah, a biblical figure Book of Nehemiah, a book of the Bible Rabbi Nehemiah, a Rabbi who lived circa 150 C.E. Renaldo Nehemiah (born 1959), American athlete Skip James (1902–1969), American blues musician, born… …   Wikipedia

  • BOOK OF THE COVENANT — (Heb. Sefer ha Berit), name derived from Exodus 24:7 ( And he took the book of the covenant, and read it aloud to the people.… ), and usually taken to refer to the legal, moral, and cultic corpus of literature found in Exodus 20:22–23:33. This… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Nehemiah — For other uses, see Nehemiah (disambiguation). Nehemiah (pronounced /ˌniːəˈmaɪə/ or /ˌniːhəˈmaɪə/; נְחֶמְיָה, Comforted of/is the LORD (YHWH), Standard Hebrew Nəḥemya, Tiberian Hebrew Nəḥemyāh) is the central figure of the Book of Nehemiah, which …   Wikipedia

  • Nehemiah — /nee euh muy euh/, n. 1. a Hebrew leader of the 5th century B.C. 2. a book of the Bible bearing his name. Abbr.: Neh. 3. a male given name. Also, Douay Bible, Nehemias /nee euh muy euhs/ (for defs. 1, 2). * * * flourished 5th century BC Jewish… …   Universalium

  • Book of Ezra — The Book of Ezra is a book of the Bible in the Old Testament and Hebrew Tanakh. It is the record of events occurring at the close of the Babylonian captivity. At one time, it included the Book of Nehemiah, and the Jews regarded them as one volume …   Wikipedia

  • Nehemiah — noun an Old Testament book telling how a Jewish official at the court of Artaxerxes I in 444 BC became a leader in rebuilding Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity • Syn: ↑Book of Nehemiah • Instance Hypernyms: ↑book • Part Holonyms:… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Nehemiah Hayyun — Nehemiah Hiyya ben Moses Hayyun (ca. 1650 – ca. 1730) was a kabalist from Bosnia. His parents, of Sephardic descent, lived in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where probably he was born, although in later life he pretended that he was a Palestinian emissary… …   Wikipedia

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