“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace . . .”
In 520 BC, nearly sixteen years after permission to build the temple had been given, the house of YHWH still lay in the initial stages of construction, with only some of the foundation stones to show for over a decade of effort. Seeing this neglect, YHWH stirred up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to tell the people to return and build the temple. Four years later the temple in Jerusalem was completed, but very little progress had been made in building the walls of the ancient citadel. The remnant of people who dwelt there were still being harassed by their enemies.
Years later, back in Shushan, the winter palace of the Persian kings, our hero Nehemiah is the cupbearer to King “Artaxerxes.” Nehemiah hears of the plight of his brethren in Jerusalem and sets out to do something about it. After pouring his heart out to YHWH in prayer, Nehemiah petitions Artaxerxes to allow him to go up and repair the walls of Jerusalem. Artaxerxes grants his request, and we learn later that Nehemiah also becomes governor (Tirshatha) of Jerusalem for twelve years (Nehemiah 5:14).
As we saw in the previous chapter, many scholars today identify the Persian Artaxerxes in both the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as Artaxerxes Longimanus. But if you’ve taken a serious look at the information I’ve provided in the previous chapters on Ezra’s place in the Second Temple era, you have a better perspective on why I say such a conclusion is based upon virtually no biblical evidence. But what about the book of Nehemiah? Continue reading