Date: Fifth Century B.C.
This book is in some ways a parallel account to the one given by Ezra. Nehemiah was a trusted servant in the court of the Persian king but was committed to his nation and his own people. When he heard of the problems they faced, he requested permission to go to Palestine to help them. His specific concern was the rebuilding of the walls. Without walls, Jerusalem was helpless. Nehemiah must have been a man of immense energy and personal charisma because within 52 days the task was accomplished.
However, Nehemiah found more than just broken walls. He found broken lives. Discouragement had set in, God’s commandments were being transgressed, and religious laxity, even among the priests, was common. The situation was not much better than it was before the nation had gone into exile. Realizing that something had to be done, Nehemiah took concrete steps to remedy the situation. The result was a reformation that brought the people, the aliens who lived in the land, and the priests back in line religiously and morally.
As a person, Nehemiah was a marked contrast to Ezra, who worked along with him. Ezra was a rather quiet, scholarly type who wanted to reason things out. Nehemiah was a man of action who literally threw people out into the street if the occasion demanded it. Together they got the job done.
Theological Themes in the Book of Nehemiah
Two things are significant in this book. First, there is the ever-present danger of backsliding. We must always be on the alert. If spiritual attrition could happen in Israel, it can happen in anybody. Second, God uses people, and they don’t all have to be alike. Ezra and Nehemiah were different personality types, but God used them both. He will use us, too, if we let him.
Outline for the Book of Nehemiah
- Jerusalem’s walls rebuilt Nehemiah 1:1-7:53
- The people’s repentance Nehemiah 8:1-10:39
- The nation reformed Nehemiah 11:1-13:31