Nehemiah 1:1-2:20 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Hear My Prayer for Israel
Comments for Study 1

Nehemiah 1:1-2:20
Memory Verse: 4

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I. Nehemiah's Prayer (1:1-11)

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>1. Who wrote this book?

* Nehemiah 1:1 "The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa,"

* "Nehemiah son of Hacaliah" -Nehemiah means “Yah comforts or encourages." Nehemiah held the distinguished position of cupbearer to the king (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.

* "month of Kislev" -The name of the ninth month of the Jewish calendar after the Exile, apparently borrowed from the Babylonian name Kisliwu.

* "in the twentieth year -The twentieth reign of Artaxerxes, December 444-445 B.C. A generation before this event Easter was crowned queen in the citadel of Susa. (479-478)

* "citadel" -The fortified acropolis and palace complex. It is distinguished from the surrounding city in Esther 3:15; 4:1-2,6; 8:15. Several archaeological investigations have been made at the site since the mid 19th century. During his reign Xerxes had made extensive renovations in the palace structures.

* "Susa" -The winter residence of the Persian kings. Located about 125 miles North of the Persian Gulf (then called the Lower Sea). Susa lies 200 miles north-east of Babylon and was the ancient capital of Elam. The three other capitals of Persia were Ecbatana (Ezra 6:2), Babylon and Persepolis. One of Daniel's visions was set in Susa (Dan. 8:2). Nehemiah also served there. See map "The Assyrian Empire in 721 B.C."

>What was he concerned about? (2)

* Nehemiah 1:2 "Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem."

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>What was life like for those who returned to Jerusalem? (3)

* Nehemiah 1:3 "They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire."

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>2. How did Nehemiah react to the news about the Jewish remnant who went back?

* Nehemiah 1:4 "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven."

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>What does this show about him?

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>What did he know was the reason for what had happened God's people? (5-7)

* Nehemiah 1:5-7 "Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses."

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>What did he know about God?

* "O LORD"

* "God of heaven"

* "the great and awesome God"

* "who keeps his covenant of love"

* "with those who love him and obey his commands"

>3. What did God promise Israel? (8-9)

* Nehemiah 1:8-9 "Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.'"

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>What was he planning to do based on this fact? (10-11)

* Nehemiah 1:10-11 "They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man." I was cupbearer to the king."

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>What can be learned from him?

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II. Artaxerxes Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem (2:1-10)

>4. Why was Nehemiah afraid? (1-2)

* Nehemiah 2:1-2 "In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid,"

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>What was the bold statement he made?

* Nehemiah 2:3 "but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"

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>How is sharing the gospel similar?

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>5. What kind of prayer must have Nehemiah made?

* Nehemiah 2:4 "The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven,"

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>Why was his request risky? (5)

* Nehemiah 2:5 "and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it."

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>How was his faith blessed?

* Nehemiah 2:6 "Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time."

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>6. What else did he ask for? (7-8)

* Nehemiah 2:7-8 "I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests."

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>How did the Lord honor his faith? (9)

* Nehemiah 2:9 "So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me."

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>Who didn't like what Nehemiah was seeking to do?

* Nehemiah 2:10 "When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites."

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III. Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem's Walls (2:11-20)

>7. Why might Nehemiah tell anyone in Jerusalem and the area surrounding it what he intended to do when he arrived? (11-12)

* Nehemiah 2:11-12 "I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days I set out during the night with a few men. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on."

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>What did he do after three days during the night? (13-15)

* Nehemiah 2:13-15 "By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate."

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>Why might it be wise to sometimes not let others know what our plans are even if they are for God's kingdom? (16; Matt. 7:6, 21:27)

* Nehemiah 2:16 "The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work."

* Matthew 7:6 "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."

* Matthew 21:27 "So they answered Jesus, "We don't know." Then he said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

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>8. What did Nehemiah finally announce? (17)

* Nehemiah 2:17 "Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace."

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>How might some react to this news?

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>9. Who did Nehemiah credit for his success so far? (18)

* Nehemiah 2:18 "I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, "Let us start rebuilding." So they began this good work."

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>How did the workers respond?

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>10. What did their neighbors say?

* Nehemiah 2:19 "But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. "What is this you are doing?" they asked. "Are you rebelling against the king?"

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>How did Nehemiah respond?

* Nehemiah 2:20 "I answered them by saying, "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it."

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>What can be learned? (Matt. 10:22, 24:9-13)

* Matthew 10:22 "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."

* Matthew 24:9-13 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."

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