Nehemiah is mostly written in the first person and therefore believed to be chiefly the work of Nehemiah. The other parts are thought to be either written or compiled by Ezra. Hence, it is easy to see the two books have some overlap and similarities.
Nehemiah was written around 430 BC covering events that took place 444-432 BC. The book focuses on two main events: (1) rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem; (2) reestablishment of the covenant with God. In both endeavors resistance is faced from without and within. However, under Nehemiah’s leadership and with God’s help, the people accomplish their noble goals.
Nehemiah Learned of The State of Jerusalem
The book opens with Nehemiah in Shushan (Susa) the winter capital of the Persian kings. Here he received news the walls of Jerusalem were in disrepair and the people suffered “in great distress and reproach.” The condition of the walls may be traced back to Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the city and/or subsequent events.
Nehemiah Appealed To God For Help
On hearing of Jerusalem’s condition, Nehemiah went into mourning and spent many days fasting and praying (1:4). One of his prayers or a compilation of his prayers over this time is recorded in 1:5-11.
His prayer opens with praise to the “great and awesome God” who is merciful and faithful. He asked for the Lord to give attention to his prayer. He confessed not only his personal sinfulness, but that of his family and the nation. This shows us that to a degree we are identified with the larger group of God’s people, but still personally responsible.
Nehemiah recalls God’s promises from the Law regarding unfaithfulness and restoration of Israel. It is the latter that Nehemiah is especially interested in and seeks God to fulfill – seeing that though captives had returned to the land, they were not “restored.” The New American Commentary notes: “Nehemiah was a man of faith, and we can find two sources of his steadfast trust in God. The first… his deep understanding of who God is. The second… his thorough knowledge of God’s word” (170).