Only a few people might be familiar with Nehemiah, but he was instrumental in the rebuilding and reestablishment of Jerusalem during the 5th century BC, following the Babylonian exile. Nehemiah was governor of Persian Judea under Artaxerxes I of Persia. His return to Jerusalem was probably preceded Ezra’s by a couple of years.
Nehemiah was a real historical figure based on some scholars and the Nehemiah Memoir is historically reliable for them. Let us know more about Nehemiah and the major events that happened in his life.
Name: Nehemiah meaning “Yahweh comforts”
Family: Hacaliah (Father), Hanani (Brother)
Major Events in Nehemiah’s Life
Nehemiah was born in Persia while the Israelites were captives of the Persians. Nehemiah was made the cupbearer to Artaxerxes’ 20th year as king of Persia. It was a very high political position where he spoke to the king and request favors from him.
Nehemiah learned about how bad the state of Judah was by seeing the walls of Jerusalem were broken down. With this, he used his political influence and position to request of Artaxerxes to return to Judah and rebuild the walls and fortifications. Artaxerxes granted his request and even gave him letters to help with safe passage and was allowed to use the timber from the king’s fortress to help with the walls of Jerusalem.
In 445 B.C., Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem and he was made the provincial governor of Judah. He surveyed the damage to the entire city immediately on his well-known night journey around the walls. He asked for the help of the people to repair the breaches in the wall quickly and urged them to set up guards that would defend against the constant threat of those opposing their efforts which included the armies of Samaria, the Ashdodites, and the Ammonites.
Nehemiah, as governor, did not take advantage of the food and lot allotments that were allowed because of his position. Because for him, there was already such a great burden on the people of his province. Nehemiah also asked the other nobles and officials to forgive all of the people’s outstanding debts and ordered them to return all the land and money that had been taken from the people as taxes so they will be able to feed themselves and their families as well.
In just 52 days, because of hurried work of repairing and rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls and gates, it was completed. Nehemiah also compiled a record and genealogy of all the nobles, officials, and people who were living in Judah. He also assisted Ezra to promulgate the law of Moses and enforced the divorce of Jewish men from their non-Jewish wives.
After 12 years of being governor where he ruled with justice and righteousness, Nehemiah returned to the king in Susa. After some time there, he went back to Jerusalem and found out that people had fallen back to their evil ways. He was greatly angered because of this, that’s why he purified the Temple and the priests and Levites and he enforced the observance of the law of Moses.
Some of the lessons we can learn from the life of Nehemiah are being selfless, dedication to prayer, having courage and faith in God, perseverance, and being disciplined in work. It’s because he did not only pray but he also took action. Nehemiah assessed, planned, organized, led, and worked together with the people to be able to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. And even with danger and treachery, he still trusted God, which is the character and attitude we should possess in all the things we do.