Thursday, March 14, 2013

Introduction to Nehemiah

Time for a History Lesson: 
The book of Nehemiah has a very interesting history. At one point in time, there was no separation between the book of Ezra and the book of Nehemiah. They were both combined into one book called “Ezra.” As time proceeded, the scribes determined that Ezra and Nehemiah should be separated since they deal with two distinctly different stories (although these stories occur back to back). The book of Nehemiah then gained its independent position in the canon of Scripture.
Chronologically, the book of Nehemiah occurs near the end of the Old Testament period. The Old Testament details God’s interaction with man, beginning in 4,000 B.C. at creation, and stretching 3,600 years to the last prophecy of the Old Testament era in Malachi, approximately 400 B.C. The events of the book of Nehemiah take place at the end of this period, occurring less than 50 years before the writing of the book of Malachi and after the writing of all other Old Testament books. Chronologically this places Ezra and Nehemiah at the tail-end of the storyline in the Old Testament. 
Historically, as the Old Testament winds down, the book of Daniel tells how the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and carried the Jews away into captivity (600 B.C.).  However, soon after, the Persians invaded and defeated the Babylonians(540 B.C.). The book of Esther then tells how that God used a Jewish queen of Persia to save His people from certain destruction (500 B.C.). After Esther, two Jewish leaders, Ezra and Nehemiah, return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and provide a place for God’s people to return (450 B.C.).
The book of Nehemiah covers the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the restoration of worshiping God in the temple. It is a grand tale full of highs and lows, as we will see over the next several weeks.
Keep in mind as we move through the book of Nehemiah, Whom the story is really about. The books of Scripture are often named after the author or a major character in the storyline, but ultimately the story of Scripture is the truth of how our God moves and interacts in the lives of men for their good and for His glory. Don’t miss Him as we read the story together.
Food For Thought: When was the book of Nehemiah written? How many books of the Old Testament are older than it?