It was after this that the enemies made attempts to stop the rebuilding work. Four times they tried to allure Nehemiah away from his project, but he informed them that he was unable to take time off from the great work that he was doing. Thereafter Sanballat sent an open letter that contained false charges and suggested that they meet for counsel. Nehemiah replied: “Things such as you are saying have not been brought about, but it is out of your own heart that you are inventing them.” Trying still another trick, Tobiah and Sanballat hired a Jew to frighten Nehemiah into wrongfully hiding in the temple. Nehemiah, however, did not give way to fear, and the repair work came to a successful completion on the twenty-fifth day of Elul (August-September), just fifty-two days after construction work began. Nevertheless, Tobiah continued to send intimidating letters to Nehemiah.—Neh. chap. 6.
With the wall completed, Nehemiah directed his attention to the work of organizing the temple servants. Next he placed two men in command of the city, one of these being his brother Hanani. Nehemiah also gave instructions regarding the opening and the closing of the city gates and the guarding of them.—Neh. 7:1-3.
At this time Jerusalem’s population was quite small. This seemingly was why God put it into Nehemiah’s heart to assemble the nobles, deputy rulers and people to get them enrolled genealogically, for the information procured thereby could have served as a basis for taking steps to increase the population of Jerusalem. Apparently while Nehemiah was giving consideration to this genealogical enrollment, he found the record of those who had returned from Babylonian exile with Zerubbabel.—Neh. 7:4-7.
LAW OBSERVANCE RESTORED
It was probably at Nehemiah’s direction that an assembly was held in the public square near the Water Gate. Although Ezra the priest evidently took the lead in giving instruction in the Law, Nehemiah also shared therein. (Neh. 8:1-12) Next the eight-day festival of booths was held. Two days later the Israelites convened again. During this assembly a general confession of Israel’s sin was made. Thereafter a written confession contract was drawn up. This confession contract or “trustworthy arrangement” was attested by the princes, Levites, and priests. Nehemiah, the “Tirshatha [governor]” was the first to attest it by seal. (Neh. 8:13–10:1) All the people agreed to refrain from intermarriage with foreigners, to observe the sabbaths and to support the temple service. Next, one person out of every ten was selected by lot to dwell permanently in Jerusalem.—Neh. 10:28–11:1.
It was after this that the wall of Jerusalem was inaugurated. For the occasion Nehemiah appointed two large thanksgiving choirs and processions to make a tour of the wall in opposite directions. This was done and all met at the temple to offer sacrifices. Additionally, men were appointed to be in charge of the contributions for the priests and Levites.—Neh. 12:27-47.
About twelve years later, in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah left Jerusalem. Upon his return, he found deplorable conditions among the Jews. Eliashib the high priest had made a dining hall in the courtyard of the temple for the use of Tobiah, the very man who earlier had viciously opposed the work of Nehemiah. Immediately Nehemiah took action. He threw all of Tobiah’s furniture outside the dining hall and instructed that the dining hall be cleansed.
Additionally, Nehemiah took measures to ensure the contributions for the Levites and enforced strict sabbath observance. He also administered discipline against those who had taken foreign wives, their sons by these women not even being able to speak the Jewish tongue: “And I began to find fault with them and call down evil upon them and strike some men of them and pull out their hair and make them swear by God: ‘You should not give your daughters to their sons, and you should not accept any of their daughters for your sons or yourselves.’”
Nehemiah’s ‘finding fault’ with these men doubtless was his reproving and rebuking them by means of God’s law, exposing their wrong action. These men were bringing the restored nation into disfavor with God, after God had kindly repatriated them from Babylon to restore true worship at Jerusalem. Nehemiah ‘called down evil upon them,’ meaning that he recited the judgments of God’s law against such violators. He “struck” them, probably not personally, but ordered them flogged as an official judicial action. He ‘pulled out [a portion of] their hair.’ This was a symbol of moral indignation and ignominy before the people. (Compare Ezra 9:3.) Nehemiah then chased away the grandson of High Priest Eliashib, who had become a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite.—Neh. 13:1-28.
NEHEMIAH AN OUTSTANDING EXAMPLE
Nehemiah stands out as a sterling example of faithfulness and devotion. He was unselfish, leaving behind a prominent position as cupbearer in the courtyard of Artaxerxes to undertake the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. As there were many enemies, Nehemiah willingly exposed himself to danger in behalf of his people and true worship. Not only did he direct the work of repairing the wall of Jerusalem, but he also had an active personal share in the task. He wasted no time, was courageous and fearless, relied fully on Jehovah and was discreet in what he did. Zealous for true worship, Nehemiah knew God’s law and applied it. He was concerned about building up the faith of his fellow Israelites. He showed himself to be a man who manifested a proper fear of Jehovah God. Though enforcing God’s law zealously, he did not domineer over others for selfish benefit, but showed concern for the oppressed. Never did he demand the bread due the governor. Instead, he provided food for a considerable number of persons at his own expense. (Neh. 5:14-19) Appropriately Nehemiah could pray: “Do remember me, O my God, for good.”—Neh. 13:31.
NEHEMIAH, BOOK OF
A book of the Hebrew Scriptures that primarily relates events occurring shortly before and during Nehemiah’s governorship in Judah. (Neh. 5:14; 13:6, 7) The opening words of this inspired account identify the writer as “Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah” (Neh. 1:1), and much of it is written in the first person.
TIME COVERED AND TIME OF WRITING
The month of Chislev (November-December) of a certain twentieth year is the reference point with which the historical narrative begins. (Neh. 1:1) As evident from Nehemiah 2:1, this twentieth year must be that of Artaxerxes’ reign. Obviously, the twentieth year in this case is not reckoned as starting in Nisan (March-April), for Chislev of the twentieth year could not then precede Nisan (mentioned at Nehemiah 2:1) of the same twentieth year. So it may be that Nehemiah used his own count of time, reckoning the lunar year as beginning with Tishri (September-October), which month Jews today recognize as the beginning of their civil year. Another possibility is that the Persians, unlike the Babylonians, may have reckoned the reigns of their kings as starting in the fall or on the actual date that the monarch ascended the throne. This could be so even though the Babylonian scribes continued to reckon the years of the Persian king’s reign on their customary basis of a Nisan-to-Nisan count, as their cuneiform tablets show they did.
Reliable historical evidence and the fulfillment of Bible prophecy (see ARTAXERXES No. 3) point to 455 B.C.E. as the year in which Nisan of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes’ reign fell. Accordingly, the Chislev preceding Nisan of that twentieth year would