Nehemiah: Building Walls

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Nehemiah Building Walls

Restoration of the Walls of Jerusalem, Restoration of God's People.

Background: Record of a third return under Nehemiah, 444-425 BC
Theme: God establishes the returnees from exile
Outline: Restoration of the Wall and Restoration of the People
Key Verse: "They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read." (Neh 8:8, NIV)

Chapter Index


The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource and is referred to as the BKC.


The city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and the walls and gates torn down. This ended the books of Second Kings and Second Chronicles. After seventy years of exile declared by Jeremiah, Cyrus the Persian allowed the Jews (about 50,000 of them) to return to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple (in 538 BC). This return and a second return under Ezra (458 BC) are recorded in the book of that name. Ezra is still active as Nehemiah leads a third return from exile to repair the defenses of the city of Jerusalem.

I. Restoration of the Wall (1-6)

1:5 God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, is a great description of the loyalty of God and his relationship to his people of all ages. Why should we love and obey God? This is one good reason. It is also a line of reasoning to use in witnessing to the unsaved who have no covenant with God.

1:6 Nehemiah probably did not himself commit all the sins he is confessing (he probably never worshipped idols) yet as a member of the nation he accepted responsibility for the sins of his people. We have much to confess for our nation, even if we are not the ones who have personally committed the specific sins. One difference is that Nehemiah was able to call his people ‘your servants’; in our prayers for our nation this is not the case.

2:1-4a Four months would pass before God revealed the opportunity to Nehemiah. Not long in terms of the plan of God, but it would seem long to us when we pray. We should pray in faith, confidence, and patient perseverance.

2:7-8a Which decree was the specific decree prophesied by Daniel is a disputable matter, and is important in arguments concerning the timing of end time events. Refer to Daniel in both this commentary (BKC) and my Study Guide to the Old Testament Prophets for details.

6:5-7 Why was the letter unsealed? This would permit anyone who handled it to read it before it was delivered to Nehemiah. It would perhaps start rumors before Nehemiah even read it. It was, literally, an open letter.

II. Restoration of the People (7-13)

8:8 It is not clear whether they were simply preaching and teaching or also translating. Hebrew had been the native tongue of Jews before the exile, but the younger generations had grown up with Aramaic in captivity. Either way, this is similar to our responsibility to make the Word clear and give the meaning so our children and others we teach can understand it.

8:18 This was a systematic reading through of the revealed Word of God (at least a portion of it). This may encourage us to follow their example by reading from beginning to end the whole Word. We think it a sacrifice to spend a short time (perhaps) every day, or to listen for an hour on a Sunday morning. They spent an entire week dedicated to this task.


1. What were the distractions?

2. How did Nehemiah resist the tempting enemies? What were the 'snares' or ways he could have been entrapped?

3. What is the purpose of the reading of the Word in this book?

4. How would we 'give the meaning' of the Word to our children?

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Updated March 2012

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