The walls have been rebuilt and the people are now settling in a coordinated plan. What can we derive by reading apparently non-essential details? Only historic, instructive, and spiritual context. ◊
The Bible can be read as a sequential book, but the naive and uninitiated will abandon the reading effort probably somewhere in the Book of Leviticus, certainly well into the Book of Numbers.
This is unfortunate because the Bible read and studied in its totality is so good and so rich. Yes, the Word of God is substantially deep in meaning and purpose, emotionally moving in it’s message of a loving Creator for His Creation, practically instructive for life lived in both primitive settings or in sophisticated social structures, and spiritually relevant for soul-searching humans of any generation.
The Practical Nehemiah
The Book of Nehemiah is one of those books in the Bible that when read sequentially can seem like a simple historical narrative of the rebuilding of the city walls of Jerusalem led by a man named Nehemiah who loved his homeland. With whole sections of the text literally listing names of people and their roles.
True, but in fact, this entire Old Testament book of 13 chapters can be read and understood at 3 different levels:
- Historic – the Jewish post-Babylonian exile history ~ 535 BC to 434 BC.
- Instructive – lessons in collaboration and unity of the Jewish people under Nehemiah’s human leadership.
- Spiritual – a foreshadowed picture (Nehemiah) of the ways and means of the Holy Spirit to help us restore and recover our human psyche as God intended.
Keep that in mind as you wade through the text.
Nehemiah Chapters 1-10 Summarized
The Book of Nehemiah is made up of memoirs of Nehemiah (Chapters 1-7, 11-13) and Jewish chronicled history from Ezra 1-10 (Nehemiah 8-10). Here is a summary of the chapters thus far with links to past explanatory BV posts. The titles assigned to each chapter are my own:
- The Sorrow – Nehemiah is cupbearer to the ruling king of Persia. He hears about the struggles of his fellow Jews to rebuild Jerusalem. In deep sorrow he prays and confesses sins on behalf of the Jews and petitions God to remember His promises and not forsake them.
- The Request – Nehemiah gets permission and support from the king to help rebuild Jerusalem. He surveys the damage and then meets with the leaders of Jerusalem and proposes to rebuild the walls around the city. While there is local opposition from surrounding neighbors, the rebuilding begins.
- The Rebuilding – While this chapter mundanely lists the various gates and sections of the wall rebuilt by specific Jewish people and priests, the parallel is made that while belief in God may already be restored, the broken walls reflect the restoration and rebuilding of the rubble of our still broken lives.
- The Opposition – Just as our spiritual enemy mocks us as we pull ourselves out of a sordid past, the neighboring leaders (Sanballat and Tobiah) threaten and mock the Jews as they rebuild Jerusalem. Like a model of the Holy Spirit as our advocate, Nehemiah prays for the Jews and stands as defender.
- The Disaffection – Nehemiah realizes that some Jews have become slaves to fellow Jews due to financial difficulties. He urges lenders to model his own behavior and cancel debts and not practice usury. Like the Holy Spirit, he intercedes to correct and chastise wrongdoing as well as comfort and restore.
- The Enemy – Again like our spiritual enemy, Sanballat and other evil-doers scheme to spread lies, destroy his reputation, and even try to kill Nehemiah. Nehemiah boldly and deftly models the Godly approach to relentless opposition and forges forward to bring the project to completion.
- The People – Nehemiah establishes a protective guard around the gates of the now walled city. While a listing of all the returning people and families is noted, a historic recounting of their Jewish heritage is presented here to give context to real lives and generations that were impacted by the hand of God.
- The Reading – In commemoration of the completion of the walls, the Jews in Jerusalem gather and Ezra the priest reads the law, with teachers on hand to help explain to the people. The Jews worship and weep. The Jews observe the Feast of Tabernacles, not done since the days of Joshua 800 years prior.
- The Reminding – The Jews continue to gather and now confess their errant ways. Prior to their rededication to the Lord their God, they hear a summary of Israel’s history, deliverance from Egypt, and their perpetual disobedience. The people are convicted in their hearts and renew their covenant with God.
- The Recommitment – Another list of the people who sign the covenant is given here. The promise now is in the recommitment of their children to not intermarry, to adhere to the laws concerning the Sabbath, financial matters, and regulations concerning offerings and temple administration.
Nehemiah 11 – the Reopening of Jerusalem
And now there is a lottery of sorts to bring one tenth of the people in the surrounding areas to live inside the city:
Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 11:1-2)
The practical recolonization of a rebuilt and secure Jerusalem is now orchestrated by Nehemiah and the Jewish leaders. The city and families will grow from this point on until the advent and days of Jesus Christ over 450 years later.
Do you read and appreciate the Bible and its historic, instructive, and spiritual levels?
And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem. – Nehemiah 11:2