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?