This Work Was Wrought of God
Read Time: 9 Minutes
When we align ourselves with the one true God we do not have to work so hard but we work smart. The work that Nehemiah and the remnant of the Children of Israel did to erect the wall around Jerusalem was extraordinary. This is about 3500 yards (about 3200 meters) of wall*. This is 35 football fields long. I would definitely say the people had a mind to work.
:15 So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul,
in fifty and two days.
:16 And it came to pass,
that when all our enemies heard thereof,
and all the heathen that were about us saw these things,
they were much cast down in their own eyes:
for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.
Fifty-two days!! That is 67.3 yards or 73.64 meters a day! When we are working for God it is most evident. What a great witness. The heathens recognized that the God of Israel had returned to His people. Actually God never left, the people had stopped believing and trusting in Him.
:17 Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto
and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.
:18 For there were many in Judah sworn unto him,
because he was the son in law of Shechaniah
the son of Arah;
and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah.
:19 Also they reported his good deeds before me,
and uttered my words to him.
And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.
Many were reporting all the good works to Tobiah, a very influential and well-connected man. I am sure Tobiah had heard of the works that God had done for the Children of Israel in the past. He was doing everything he could to thwart this effort. If he could get Nehemiah--the spearhead of this operation--to fear and not trust in God this would fail.
:1 Now it came to pass,
when the wall was built,
and I had set up the doors,
and the porters
and the singers
and the Levites were appointed,
:2 That I gave my brother Hanani,
and [even] Hananiah the ruler of the palace, [temple]
charge over Jerusalem:
for he was a faithful man,
and feared [revered] God above many.
:3 And I said unto them,
Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot;
and while they stand by,
let them shut the doors,
and bar them:
and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
every one in his watch,
and every one to be over against his house.
:4 Now the city was large and great:
but the people were few therein,
and the houses were not builded.
:5 And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles,
and the rulers,
and the people,
that they might be reckoned by genealogy.
And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first,
and found written therein,
:6 These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity,
of those that had been carried away,
whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away,
and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah,
every one unto his city;
Nebuchadnezzar carried away the first inhabitants of Jerusalem in 497 B.C. it is now 43 years later, 454 B.C. That is enough time for the teenagers that were taken captive to have grandchildren. They must have clung to the Word of God they knew and not let it die out of their hearts. They didn't let the world in to corrupt their love for God or commitment to Him. Over time, however, the Word gets lost and changed if there is no written text to constantly refer to. In their case the word is written in Hebrew which was no longer understood by many of them because they have been in Babylon for 43 years. We see this evidenced when Ezra read the scrolls of the law before the people in chapter 8 and gave the sense of it. We also get a good idea of when this occurred from reading the corresponding book of Ezra. When reading Nehemiah we are under the impression that after the genealogy was found and written they read the law before the people but Ezra tells us that this 'seventh month' happened in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia (also call Darius the Mede in Daniel 5:31)-426 B.C., another 28 years after the wall around Jerusalem was finished.
:1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man
into the street that was before the water gate;
and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses,
which the LORD had commanded to Israel.
:2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men
and all that could hear with understanding,
upon the first day of the seventh month.
:3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday,
before the men and the women,
and those that could understand;
and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
:4 And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood,
which they had made for the purpose;
and beside him stood Mattithiah,
on his right hand;
and on his left hand, Pedaiah,
:5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people;
(for he was above all the people;)
and when he opened it, all the people stood up:
:6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God.
And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands:
and they bowed their heads,
and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
:7 Also Jeshua,
and the Levites,
caused the people to understand the law:
and the people stood in their place.
:8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly,
and gave the sense,
and caused them to understand the reading.
After the people were taught and made to understand the law that Moses had written they had a profound reaction--they wept for they realized that they had not been doing the Word of God.
:9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, [governor]
and Ezra the priest the scribe,
and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people,
This day is holy unto the LORD your God;
For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
:10 Then he said unto them,
Go your way,
eat the fat,
and drink the sweet,
and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared:
for this day is holy unto our Lord:
neither be ye sorry;
for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
:11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying,
Hold your peace,
for the day is holy;
neither be ye grieved.
Instead of being grieved because of their transgressions they should rejoice for now the law can be observed. The people did as Nehemiah had said and also in the law they read that the congregation should make booths (small covered temporary structures). They did so and kept this feast 7 days. Once again the people were being taught the Word of God as it had been given to Moses and the prophets and they worked to adhere to it. God honored their commitments and strengthened them against their adversaries which we will see in Ezra.
We have another lapse in time in Nehemiah as it corresponds to the events in Ezra. In chapter 9 God records the separation of the Children of Israel from the strangers that they have married in 404 B.C. The same event happens in Ezra 9 and 10. This transpires after Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem after being away for 12 years. It is estimated that he left in 419 B.C. and returns in 407 B.C. The two verses that mention his absence are Nehemiah 5:14 and 13:6.
:14 Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah,
from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king,
that is, twelve years,
I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor.
:6 But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem:
for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king,
and after certain days obtained I leave of the king:
The Book of Ezra records the rebuilding of the Temple and we will be reading that in the next few weeks.
A few years after Nehemiah returns from Shushan the people separate themselves from the strangers in the land. They had married outside of the Children of Israel which had told them not to do because they lead them astray. They put off the strange wives and separate themselves from the Ammonites and Moabites in Chapters 9 and 13.
In Chapter 9 verses 4 and following God tells us of the Levites standing up before the people praising God and recounting the wonderful things He had done for them.
:5 Then the Levites, Jeshua,
Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever:
and blessed be thy glorious name,
which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
:6 Thou, even thou, art LORD alone;
thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens,
with all their host,
the earth, and all things that are therein,
the seas, and all that is therein,
and thou preservest them all;
and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.
:7 Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram,
and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees,
and gavest him the name of Abraham;
:8 And foundest his heart faithful before thee,
and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites,
and the Perizzites,
and the Jebusites,
and the Girgashites,
to give it, I say, to his seed,
and hast performed thy words ;
for thou art righteous:
:9 And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt,
and heardest their cry by the Red sea;
This prayer and praise to God reinforces to the people that God performed His Word. He always does what He says He will do. We would do good remember that as well. I encourage you to continue reading and notice the great things God has done. We see God is a gracious and merciful God. Even though the people would murmur and not believe while wandering in the wilderness God still took care of them. I mean really took care of them:
:21 Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness,
so that they lacked nothing;
their clothes waxed not old,
and their feet swelled not.
Because of all of this and God's great goodness they renew their commitment to God.
:36 Behold, we are servants this day,
and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof
and the good thereof,
behold, we are servants in it:
:37 And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins:
also they have dominion over our bodies,
and over our cattle,
at their pleasure,
and we are in great distress.
:38 And because of all this we make a sure covenant,
and write it;
and our princes,
seal unto it.
Because the people had walked away from God in the past and been overrun by Babylon they had to serve foreign kings and are now in distress because of them. They pledged themselves to God looking for His protection and care.
This is another great prayer that starts out with
- praise to God (:5) -Blessing God
- then exalts His accomplishments (:6-:31) - Exodus to Numbers
- reminds God of His promises (:31, :32) - God is gracious and merciful and takes care of His people
- outlines the problem and requests deliverance (:32-:38) - they have walked away and are now ruled by strange kings who take their abundance for their own so they pledge themselves to him indirectly requesting protection and prosperity in the land God had given them
Those who sealed this covenant are mentioned chapter 10 and reinstated administration of the tithe. In chapter 11 they set up the representatives from the outlying cities that were to live in Jerusalem. In chapter 12 the priests and Levites are recorded that return with Zerubbabel for the dedication of the wall. During this feast Nehemiah set up the priests and Levites in the duties of singers, those who praise God, musicians and those who give thanks and spread them throughout Jerusalem.
:43 Also that day they offered great sacrifices,
for God had made them rejoice with great joy:
the wives also
and the children rejoiced:
so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.
That must have been a great party. All throughout Jerusalem people singing and praising God and making music. So much so that it was heard in distant areas.
In chapter 13 we see the reformation of the people (once again). Keeping God's people on track with His Word is a constant endeavor. It is true in our own lives as well. While Nehemiah was gone one of the priests, Eliashib, had made an alliance with Tobiah and made a great room for him and gave him of the tithes that were supposed to go to the Levites and those that take care of the temple. When Nehemiah retuned he kicked Tobiah out and straightened everyone out regarding the tithes. It must have been rather distressing for Nehemiah when he returned and saw the corruption that had begun to filter in already. He cries unto God:
:14 Remember me,
O my God,
and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God,
and for the offices thereof.
There were also people selling merchandise on the Sabbath that he stopped. He went so far as to lock the gates on the Sabbath. The people were still marrying the strangers to point that their children couldn't speak Hebrew.
This is the end chronologically of the Old Testament. The book of Ezra runs concurrently with Nehemiah and focuses on the building of the temple.
The children of Israel had trouble staying committed to God's Word all throughout the Old Testament. The challenge is no less real to us today. However, we have many advantages over them. We have the written Word so that we may always read it. Not everyone had a copy of the scriptures then. The most important difference is that we have Christ in us the hope of glory. It is seed within us that cannot be lost; it is incorruptible. They had spirit upon them conditionally. They were under a law that could not make them whole. We have been made whole and Jesus Christ was our Passover Lamb once and for all.
We can learn from the Old Testament and keep our heads in the Word of God. Let our children marry Believers and speak the Word to ourselves first and then others.
* The length of the wall was estimated by measuring the map in
figure 120 on page 616 of The New Bible Dictionary.
Douglas, J.D. The New Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962.