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.
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.
THE SECOND group to return from Babylon to Jerusalem was led by Ezra the priest, who secured permission from the Persian king Artaxerxes in 458 B.C. It was a four-month journey, which the Jews undertook without an armed guard, something that was unheard of in a time when caravan raiders were likely to prey on unsuspecting travelers — especially a group loaded down with more than 30 tons of gold and silver!
THE PROPHESIED return of the exiles from Babylon is the focus of our study today.
Under the leadership of Zerbbabel, who led the first group back to Jerusalem in 538 B.C., and with the encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. We discuss the return of the people and the overwhelming emotions of the elders who wept when they saw the foundation of the new temple — something they probably didn’t think they would live to see.