Book summary

1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah remind God’s people — who are returning from exile — of their ancestry and inspire them with a more positive view of history than the previous books tell.

The book of Nehemiah follows on from Ezra and covers the 4th wave of the return to Zion. Nehemiah himself served as a cupbearer to Artaxerxes I, king of Persia, but despaired at the state of Jerusalem’s city walls. Artaxerxes let Nehemiah return and work on rebuilding them.

Chapters 1-7 — Fourth wave, led by Nehemiah

Ch 1-2 — Nehemiah’s mission

Ch 1 — Nehemiah’s prayer
  • They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. (Neh. 1:3-4)

Ch 2 — Artaxerxes sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem
  • So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me. (Neh. 2:9)

Ch 3:1 to 7:3 — Construction of the wall

Ch 3 — Construction begins
  • Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them. (Neh. 3:1-2)

Ch 4:1 to 6:14 — Construction faces opposition
  • When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble — burned as they are?” (Neh. 4:1-2)

  • But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. (Neh. 4:7-9)

Ch 6:15 to 7:3 — Construction finishes despite opposition
  • So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. (Neh. 6:15-16)

Ch 7:4-73 — List of the exiles who returned

  • Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt. So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return. This is what I found written there: (Neh. 7:4-5)

Chapters 8-10 — Ezra leads a revival

Ch 8 — Ezra reads from the Book of the Law

  • So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. (Neh. 8:2-3)

  • Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. (Neh. 8:6)

Ch 9:1-37 — The Israelites confess their sins

  • On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. (Neh. 9:1-2)

Ch 9:38 to 10:39 — The agreement of the people

  • … all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord. (Neh. 10:29)

Chapters 11-13 — Redistribution and final reforms

Ch 11-12 — Redistribution of God’s people

  • Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem. (Neh. 11:1-2)

Ch 13 — Nehemiah’s final reforms

  • Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy. (Neh. 13:22)

  • I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves. (Neh. 13:25)