INTRODUCTION TO Nehemiah
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Before analyzing the test of any book of the Bible, it is well to learn the historical background.
Also, it is best to make a "skyscraper" view of its general contents. Accordingly, this introduction is divided into two parts: background and survey.
- Author. Nehemiah
- Most of the book is written in the first person. Ezra may have acted as editor.
- Nehemiah was looking back in time when he wrote this historical account. In a few places he wrote in the third person for uniformity of style.
- Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book in the ancient Hebrew and Greek OT and were probably not divided until after the Interbiblical—Period (between the Old and New Testaments). The authors, Ezra and Nehemiah wove their stories together, Ezra being featured in Nehemiah 8. In the time of Jesus and the apostles Ezra and Nehemiah were two books.
- Nehemiah son of Hacaliah was cupbearer to the King Artaxerxes I in the citadel of Susa, the winter residence of the Persian kings.
- An Elephantine papyri (a collection of ancient Jewish manuscripts dating from the 5th century BC) was discovered which mentions Johanan (12:22-23) as high priest in Jerusalem, and the sons of Sanballat (Nehemiah's great enemy) as governors of Samaria in 408 B.C. These papyri also establish that Nehemiah had ceased to be the governor of Judea before that year, for Bagoas is mentioned as holding that position. (The Wycliffe Bible Commentary)
- Nehemiah was found among the dead sea scrolls. The dead sea scrolls text is the same as the text of ancients books written hundreds of years after the scrolls were buried by the Essenes.
- Date and Place of Writing. cira. 420 B.C.
- Nehemiah wrote it after his time as governor ceased.
- Nehemiah probably wrote it in Jerusalem.
- The only book of the Old Testament written after this one is Malachi. Many of Malachi's mentioned evils are in Nehemiah's book.
- The book covers a period of at least twenty years, December 445 to 425 B.C.
The book is addressed to no one in particular.
- Occasion and Purpose
The Jews had begun returning by edict of the king to Jerusalem when the Persians defeated Babylon. The conditions they found Jerusalem in was of a destroyed city that had been empty for over a generation. The Lord God laid on the heart of Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
- Form and Style
Nehemiah is a historical book, last in the Old Testament.
Most of the book is an eyewitness account, written in the first person.
- Place Among the Old Testament Books
Nehemiah is the last of the historical books and before the poetic books (i.e. Psalms).
Nehemiah gives the account of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. After building the walls, Nehemiah continues to organize the people, taking a registration and appointing garekeepers, Levites, and other officials (7). Ezra leads the city in worship and Bible instruction as the people promise to serve God faithfully. (10-11) Nehemiah closes with the listing of the clans and their leaders, the dedication of the new wall of Jerusalem, and the purging of sin from the land (12-13). (NIV Life Application Bible)
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