Nehemiah 1:1-4

Background of Nehemiah




606     586                                                        445

B. C.   B. C.                                                    B. C.[2]




   70 year

|  captivity  |


                       536       516

                       B. C.[5]   B. C.[6]         |[7]

|[8]            |           |  TEMPLE  |  71 Years                                                           |

                          |                   |

                     Started        Finished



                                                                                        B. C.






                               |[11]  The Book of Ezra            [12]|Neh.  |



The Vision of Nehemiah


The vision of Nehemiah for the prophecy of Israel and Jerusalem did not include anything for him.  Nehemiah wasn't thinking of promoting himself to any high position, even though he will be accused of this.  The vision itself was not something thought up by Nehemiah, but came straight from the Word of God.  Nehemiah wanted for Jerusalem exactly what God wanted for Jerusalem.

This is the kind of vision we need today.  We don't need to envision some scene of greatness for us or those around us.  But we need to see what Christ sees for us and pray and work (God's way) for that result.  Many people (pastors and church leaders) have a vision, but many times these visions have nothing to do with honoring God or His people or doing His will.  They envision a great building, or a great congregation, or a great majestic work, in order that the builder of that work will have the praise of people.  This kind of thing is not of God.

God will bless the vision we have that comes from His Word to His people.  God will work in many mysterious ways to fulfill His promises.  Let us receive the blessings of God because we have the vision from God's Word and take His promises to ourselves that we might see the fulfilling of those promises, hence the vision.


Verse 1-4, The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

I.    The time and place.

A.  Month - Chisleu is the last of November or first of December.

B.   Twentieth year of Artaxerxes I (2:1)  464-423 B. C.

1.   This is 445 B. C.

2.   Ezra ends in 457 B. C.  Therefore, Nehemiah takes place about 12 years later.

C.   Shushan the Palace.

1.   Located in Babylon according to Daniel 8:2.

2.   Esther 1:2 - The place of Ahasuerus reign.


II.   Background of Nehemiah.

A.  II Chronicles 36:22,23 - in 536 B. C., Cyrus, King of Persia decreed that all Jews who wanted to could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of God and set up the walls of the city (Ezra 4:12).

1.   Building the temple took 20 years.

a.   Cyrus reigned from 559 - 529 B. C. He ruled over the Jews from 536-529 B. C. and work on the temple progressed during his reign (seven years).

b.   Ezra 4:6 - This Ahasuerus reigned from 529 - 522 B. C. and stopped the work (Ezra 4:21) for seven years.

c.   Ezra 5 and 6 - The work started again in the second year (520 B. C.) of Darius I (522 - 486 B. C.) and was completed in the sixth year of his reign (Ezra 6:15), 516 B. C.

2.   From 516 B. C. (the completion of the temple) to 445 B. C. (start of the Book of Nehemiah) is a period of 71 years when very little, if any, work was done to rebuild Jerusalem to its previous greatness.

a.   We don't know why the work on Jerusalem was stopped.

b.   There is a 59 year break between Ezra 6:22 and 7:1 (516 -457 B. C.)

c.   The people seemed to be willing to work (Neh. 2:18, 4:6), but lacked a leader.

d.   Every church needs a leader.  If the pastor is not the leader, then somebody else will be.

B.   Nehemiah is a descendant of those Jews who chose to stay in Babylon in 536 B. C.

1.   Neh. 7:7 - The Nehemiah that came with Zerubbabel in 536 B. C. is not the Nehemiah of this book.

2.   We don't know the genealogy of Nehemiah.


Verse 2, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

I.    Asking and Receiving.

A.  What was Nehemiah's preconceived ideas about Jerusalem and its inhabitants?

1.   He knew they were the people of God.

2.   He expected God to bless them more than the people still living in Babylon.

3.   He expected to hear that everything was going fine with them, and that Jerusalem was a beautiful, well kept, well fortified city which was the principal city of the area.

B.   Who did Nehemiah ask?

1.   He didn't waste his time asking people who didn't know.

2.   These people had just come from Judah, so they would have firsthand information concerning the condition of Israel.

3.   Nehemiah's brother is Hanani (Neh. 7:2).

a.   This Hanani is not a priest (Levi).  If he were, he would not be in charge of Jerusalem, but would be in his place as a Levite.

b.   Ezra 10:18-20 - Nehemiah's brother is not this Hanani, (verse 20) because he is not a priest, and the time sequence is wrong.

C.   What did Nehemiah ask? 

1.   Concerning the Jews that had escaped.  Nehemiah was first of all concerned with the people.  This is as it should be.  Our first concern should be for people, not possessions.

2.   Concerning Jerusalem.  Nehemiah was concerned about the condition of the city because this would be another insight into the spiritual condition of the people living there.


II.   Nehemiah's concern.

A.  Like Moses going to look after his brethren (Ex. 2:11), Nehemiah asked his brother about the Jews in Judah.

B.   Even though Nehemiah did not live in Jerusalem, God gave him a spirit of holiness for his Godly inheritance.


Verse 3, And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

I.    Answer.

A.  This was not what Nehemiah expected to hear.

1.   Affliction and reproach.

a.   Affliction because they had no protection from outsiders.  (Thieves could take all they had.)

b.   Reproach - because of the decayed condition of their dwellings.  Picture the rubble that surrounded the city. (2:14)

2.   Wall broken down and gates burned with fire - just like the Chaldeans (Babylonians) left them some 141 years ago.


Verse 4, And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

C.   Reaction - Note work of Holy Spirit conviction.

1.   Heard - No reaction possible until hearing brings understanding.

2.   Sad - The news so devastated him, he was powerless to continue.

3.   Wept - Mourn - A grown man so hurt, as if mourning for a dead friend.

4.   Days - It continued for days, not just for right then.

5.   Fasted - Not like the fasting of the Pharisees (to be seen of men {Matt. 6:16-18}) but his mourning took away his appetite and he did not want to eat.

6.   Prayed - Not before men, but before the God of Heaven.

a.   This is the very first thing he did.

b.   May God help us to pray before we worry or do anything about our problem.

c.   Matt. 6:6 - When we pray in secret, God will reward openly.

[1]II Kings 25:1-10,  Jeremaih 39:2,8.

[2]Nehemiah 1:1.

[3]20 Years.

[4]141 Years.

[5]Ezra 1:1.

[6]The Temple is finished.

[7]There is 91 years from 536 B. C. to 445 B. C.

[8]70 Year Captivity.

[9]There is 59 years from the time the temple is finished until Ezra returns.

[10]12 years

[11]The Book of Ezra is from 536 B. C. until 456 B. C.

[12]The Book of Nehemiah takes place about the year 445 B. C.