Nehemiah is informed of Jerusalem’s desperate condition. He confesses the sins of the people and begs God for mercy.
Nehemiah hears about the state of affairs in Jerusalem: “Jerusalem’s wall is full of breaches, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.” (v. 3)
III. Important Verses
vv. 2-3: Hanani, one of my brothers, together with some men of Judah, arrived, and I asked them about the Jews, the remnant who had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. They replied, “The survivors who have survived the captivity there in the province are in dire trouble and disgrace; Jerusalem’s wall is full of breaches, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.”
vv. 8-9: [God,} Be mindful of the promise You gave to Your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you turn back to Me, faithfully keep My commandments, even if your dispersed are at the ends of the earth, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I have chosen to establish My name.’
1b-3. Nehemiah is informed of Jerusalem’s dire situation
4-11a. Nehemiah’s prayer
11b. Nehemiah’s unique position
The book of Nehemiah begins with a prayer on behalf of Jerusalem. One might ask, Is the book of Nehemiah and individual book of the Hebrew Bible, or is it an inseparable part of the book called “Ezrah-Nehemiah.” Collins writes: “The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally counted as one book, under the name of Ezra, and were still regarded as a unit in Hebrew Bibles down through the Middle Ages. In the Greek tradition, they were distinguished as two books from the third century C.E., and in the Latin from the translation of Jerome’s Vulgate in the fourth century.” (428) Today the two books are still classified as one book in the Hebrew Bible, but are often given their own headings.
In regards to the date and setting of the work, Klein writes: “Because Ezra and Nehemiah recount the rebuilding of the Temple and the work of Ezra and Nehemiah after their return to Judah, it is universally granted that the books were composed in Palestine. The date for the present shape of the books must be later than the events they recount: the dedication of the Temple in 515 B.C.E., the return of Ezra in 458 B.C.E. (or 398 B.C.E.; see H.2), and the governorship of Nehemiah, 445–433 B.C.E., and his second visit to Jerusalem, no later than 424 B.C.E. How many years elapsed after these dates until the basic shape of the books evolved depends on the compositional theory presupposed. Among recent commentators, Williamson (Ezra Nehemiah WBC, xxxvi) dates the final form of the books to about 300; Clines (Ezra Nehemiah Esther NCBC, 13–14) puts it “within a few decades” of the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, or about 400 B.C.E. Japhet (1982: 89, n. 55), who notes that the last king mentioned (in 12:26) is Darius II (423–404) or Artaxerxes II (403–359), if Ezra came during his reign, and who believes that the last high priest mentioned, Jaddua, served under these Persian kings, assigns the book to the first quarter of the 4th century.” (“Ezra-Nehemiah, Books of” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, pp. 731-742)
VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Klein, Ralph W. “Ezra-Nehemiah, Books of” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, pp. 731-742.
Photo taken from http://www.nd.edu/~daune/near_east_arch/gamla/gamla_breachedwall2.jpg