NEHEMIAH DISCOVERED what God had known for centuries (well, since the beginning of time, actually): His people were a stubborn lot.
After returning from a visit to the Persian king Artaxerxes to report on the work that had been done in Jerusalem, Nehemiah discovered that the reforms he and Ezra the priest had instituted, a return to the Law given to Moses, had already been forgotten. Jerusalem was open for business on the Sabbath, with people buying, selling, and working through their day of rest.
PERSEVERANCE IN the face of opposition is one of the lessons from our reading today. The Samaritans, Ammonites, and Arabs in Nehemiah’s day tried to discourage the Jews through threats, political pressure, and even a conspiracy to assassinate Nehemiah.
With the work completed, Ezra led the people in a reading of the Law and a restoration of the Feast of Tabernacles, which, we were surprised to learn, hadn’t been observed since the Exodus!
NEARLY ONE hundred years after Cyrus issued his decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem, the walls of the Holy City still had not been rebuilt.
Nehemiah, cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes, was granted permission to return to Judah for twelve years and oversee the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem. We discuss the opposition to Nehemiah, from without and within, and how he directed his crews to work while prepared to defend themselves.