Nehemiah 1–4: Arise & Build

Read the Bible in 2011Week 48: Tuesday

“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.

 “Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol, that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.”
Nehemiah 1:1–3

Tuesday’s Bible reading is Nehemiah 1–4. As you read Nehemiah, I thought it might be helpful to have a chart of the sequence of some major events in the return of the exiles to Jerusalem. These dates are from Dr. Gleason Archer’s A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, a standard and respected work. Within each chapter he discusses his reasoning as well as that of other scholars.1

When you look at the dates you can see better understand the long ordeal of the exiles, and why Nehemiah wept when he heard the news from Judah and the depth and fervency of his prayer to God for help.

Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem and after surveying the conditions, he provides the encouragement and leadership needed to rebuild the city wall.

Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work.
Nehemiah 2:17–18

So they begin to build. As you read notice their prayers and notice how Nehemiah encourages them.

When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.”
Nehemiah 4:10

If Barnabas was called Son of Encouragement in the New Testament, surely Nehemiah is his counterpart in the Old Testament! Derek Kidner called this book, “one of the liveliest pieces of writing in the Bible.”2 As you read of the dire straits of the exiles and see how God strengthened them to finish their work, may God encourage you through His Word.

The Exiles Return to Israel
Date Event
586 B.C.
Burning of Jerusalem and destruction of Temple
538 B.C. Cyrus: Rebuild Temple (2 Chronicles 36:22–23)
538 B.C.
Exiles return under Zerubbabel (Ezra 2–3)
536 B.C.
Foundation of Second Temple laid (Ezra 3:8)
—16 Years—
Building stopped by enemy discouragement (Ezra 4)
520 B.C. Haggai & Zechariah prophesy (Ezra 5:1–2)

Building of Temple resumes
516 B.C.
Temple Finished: 70 years after 586 B.C. destruction
Jeremiah 29:10
457 B.C.
Artaxerxes I: Rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 7)

Ezra’s return
445 B.C. Artaxerxes I: Rebuild Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2)

Nehemiah’s return
435 B.C.
Malachi prophesies

“For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.’”
Jeremiah 29:10

Dr. Archer dates God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:10 from the destruction of Solomon’s temple in 586 B.C. to the finishing of the building of the second temple in 516 B.C. After discussing other choices, he writes:

“…the latter [586 B.C. to 516 B.C. ] seems to be definitely favored by Zechariah 1:12: “Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Jehovah of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation, these threescore and ten years?” (ASV). Since this utterance must have been given in 519 B.C., we can only conclude that, from the standpoint of the angel at least, the seventy years were not yet up; and the gracious promise in Jeremiah 29:10 was not to be fulfilled until the temple itself was restored.”3

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Gleason L. Archer, Jr., “Postexilic Historical Books: 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther,” A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 404–421; “Postexilic Prophets: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi,” A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 422–432.
2Derek Kidner, Ezra and Nehemiah, as quoted by eHow. My copy of this book is not available to me at the moment.
3Gleason L. Archer, Jr., “Jeremiah and Lamentations,” A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p. 363.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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