God is not mocked or thwarted. His plans and purposes are big. Only in retrospect and study of the Bible can we begin to understand His actions and impact on people, kings, and nations. ◊
The Bible is full of names of various people in human history. We generally think they are special to even get noted in the Scriptures.
In fact, some are very special and of great impact. Think Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul to name a few.
And some are actually special in their contrasted evil and roles as villains in Biblical history. Think Cain, Pharaoh of Egypt, Delilah, Haman, Jezebel, and King Herod to name a few.
Either way, these people are real and we can relate to their predicaments and emotions, if not always their choices and actions.
We get a dose of this reality in the 7th chapter of Nehemiah which literally identifies the families representing over 42,000 Hebrews who were then residing within the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem.
It’s enough to make a skeptic question any thoughts that the Bible is made-up literature and not aligned with real history.
People Connections in the Bible
Let’s put this whole story in historical context. Recall Abraham (circa 2000 BC) was the father of the Jewish people. His descendants were Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses (circa 1500 BC). Moses led masses of Hebrew slaves (estimates range from 600,000 to 2 million) out ot Egypt and into the Middle East land promised to Abraham’s future generations.
Those same people, then the 12 tribes of Israel (the new name for Jacob), were led by various judges, then later, kings (Saul, David, and Solomon). The nation eventually settled in the land and then divided into Northern and Southern Kingdoms with capital cities of Samaria and Jerusalem and a myriad of less than noble Kings.
Recall that the Northern Kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC. Despite warnings by their own prophets, the Southern Kingdom fell as well, over 100 years later, to the Babylonian nation.
In 605 BC, the people of Jerusalem were initially deported to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. By the way, young future prophets, Daniel and Ezekiel, were in that first group of Hebrews sent away. Ultimately over 20,000 (about 25% of the population) were forced to live in Babyon. The rest were scattered throughout the region. The city of Jerusalem and its temple and protective walls were completely destroyed by the Babyonians after a brutal siege and assault in 586 BC.
The Hebrew people of Israel were in exile for 70 years before being allowed to return to their homeland by Cyrus, the Persian King. And not incidentally, this same Cyrus, a pagan king, was literally mentioned in a prophetic word by the prophet Isaiah over 150 years earlier:
“This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. Isaiah 45:1)
The historian Josephus says that Cyrus was informed of the biblical prophecies written about him (Antiquities of the Jews, XI.1.2). The natural person to have shown Cyrus the scrolls was Daniel, a high-ranking official in Persia.1
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. (Ezra 1:2)
Yes, the people connections throughout the Bible and documented human history are uncanny and fascinating to study!
The People in Nehemiah 7
Now in 444 BC, over 90 years after Cyrus’ decree allowing the return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, the temple has been rebuilt but the city is still not fully populated. With Nehemiah’s bold leadership, the city’s protective wall has been rebuilt and restored.
In Nehemiah chapter 7, he assembles the nobles and officials and the common people for registration by families:
Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt. So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return. This is what I found written there:
These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town, in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum and Baanah):
The list of the men of Israel… (Nehemiah 7:4-5)
And it’s quite a list. The rest of the chapter is the listing of all of these families.
So Why Does It Matter?
It matters because we can see that God is not mocked nor thwarted. God’s will is done and will be done in timing and manners that we do not know nor fully understand. He works through His created people to achieve what He is unveiling over the course of human history and eternity.
His plans and purposes are bigger than anyone can even fathom. Only in retrospect and study of His Word, the Bible, can we begin to understand by connecting the dots on His actions and impact on people, kings, and nations.
In doing so we can see that He has reconciled the world back to Himself through Jesus and lives within us today to help, comfort, sustain, and protect, for His purposes, through the real and tangible Holy Spirit.
Do you understand God in human history?
I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things. – Isaiah 45:7
1 Who Was Cyrus in the Bible? – Got Questions? https://www.gotquestions.org/Cyrus-Bible.html