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Reference: Nehemiah


The son of Hachaliah was born at Babylon during the captivity. He was, according to some, of the race of the priests; according to others, of the royal family of Judah. He sustained the office of cupbearer to the Persian king Artazerzes Longimanus. Touched with the calamitous state of the colony of Jews, which had formerly returned to Jerusalem, he besought the king of Persia to permit him to go to Jerusalem and aid in rebuilding it. He was accordingly sent thither as governor, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, about 444 B. C. He directed his attention chiefly to rebuilding the walls of the city. The enmity of the Samaritans, under which the colony had formerly suffered, was now increased; and under Sanballat, the governor of the country, they cast all possible hindrances in the way of the Jews. They even went so far as to attack the laborers at their work; so that Nehemiah had to cause them to labor with arms in their hands; yet in one year their task was completed. In this great work and in his whole administration, his pious zeal and disinterestedness, his love for the people and city of god, and his prayerful reliance on divine aid were crowned with success. He had the cooperation of faithful friends, especially of Ezra, Ne 8:1,9,13; 12:36, and instituted many excellent civil improvements. About 432 B. C., though perhaps not for the first time, he returned to his post at the court of Babylon, Ne 2:6; 5:14; 13:6; but after a few years, was recalled to Jerusalem to reform certain growing irregularities - neglect of the temple service, breaches of the Sabbath, marriages with the heathen, etc. He required of those Jews who had married heathen wives, that they should either abandon them, or else they quit the country. This voluntary exile of a number of discontented priests may have given occasion to the building of the temple on Mount Gerizim, and the establishment of the Samaritan worship. See SANBALLAT.

The book of Nehemiah contains the history of all these transactions, written by himself near the close of his long life, B. C. 434. It is a sort of a continuation of the book of Ezra, and was called by some of the fathers the Second Book of Ezra. Some portions of it, Ezr 8-9; 10:44, appear to be compilations from public registers, etc. With it the historical books of the Old Testament close.

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comforted by Jehovah. (1.) Ezr 2:2; Ne 7:7. (2.) Ne 3:16.

(3.) The son of Hachaliah (Ne 1:1), and probably of the tribe of Judah. His family must have belonged to Jerusalem (Ne 2:3). He was one of the "Jews of the dispersion," and in his youth was appointed to the important office of royal cup-bearer at the palace of Shushan. The king, Artaxerxes Longimanus, seems to have been on terms of friendly familiarity with his attendant. Through his brother Hanani, and perhaps from other sources (Ne 1:2; 2:3), he heard of the mournful and desolate condition of the Holy City, and was filled with sadness of heart. For many days he fasted and mourned and prayed for the place of his fathers' sepulchres. At length the king observed his sadness of countenance and asked the reason of it. Nehemiah explained it all to the king, and obtained his permission to go up to Jerusalem and there to act as tirshatha, or governor of Judea. He went up in the spring of B.C. 446 (eleven years after Ezra), with a strong escort supplied by the king, and with letters to all the pashas of the provinces through which he had to pass, as also to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests, directing him to assist Nehemiah. On his arrival he set himself to survey the city, and to form a plan for its restoration; a plan which he carried out with great skill and energy, so that the whole was completed in about six months. He remained in Judea for thirteen years as governor, carrying out many reforms, notwithstanding much opposition that he encountered (Ne 13:11). He built up the state on the old lines, "supplementing and completing the work of Ezra," and making all arrangements for the safety and good government of the city. At the close of this important period of his public life, he returned to Persia to the service of his royal master at Shushan or Ecbatana. Very soon after this the old corrupt state of things returned, showing the worthlessness to a large extent of the professions that had been made at the feast of the dedication of the walls of the city (Ne 12. See Ezra). Malachi now appeared among the people with words of stern reproof and solemn warning; and Nehemiah again returned from Persia (after an absence of some two years), and was grieved to see the widespread moral degeneracy that had taken place during his absence. He set himself with vigour to rectify the flagrant abuses that had sprung up, and restored the orderly administration of public worship and the outward observance of the law of Moses. Of his subsequent history we know nothing. Probably he remained at his post as governor till his death (about B.C. 413) in a good old age. The place of his death and burial is, however, unknown. "He resembled Ezra in his fiery zeal, in his active spirit of enterprise, and in the piety of his life: but he was of a bluffer and a fiercer mood; he had less patience with transgressors; he was a man of action rather than a man of thought, and more inclined to use force than persuasion. His practical sagacity and high courage were very markedly shown in the arrangement with which he carried through the rebuilding of the wall and balked the cunning plans of the 'adversaries.' The piety of his heart, his deeply religious spirit and constant sense of communion with and absolute dependence upon God, are strikingly exhibited, first in the long prayer recorded in ch. 1:5-11, and secondly and most remarkably in what have been called his 'interjectional prayers', those short but moving addresses to Almighty God which occur so frequently in his writings, the instinctive outpouring of a heart deeply moved, but ever resting itself upon God, and looking to God alone for aid in trouble, for the frustration of evil designs, and for final reward and acceptance" (Rawlinson). Nehemiah was the last of the governors sent from the Persian court. Judea after this was annexed to the satrapy of Coele-Syria, and was governed by the high priest under the jurisdiction of the governor of Syria, and the internal government of the country became more and more a hierarchy.

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1. Son of Hachaliah, seemingly of Judah, as his kinsman Hanani was so (Ne 1:2); and Jerusalem was "the place of his fathers' sepulchres" (Ne 2:3). Probably he was of David's lineage, as his name varied appears in it, "Naum" (Lu 3:25), and his kinsman's name too, Hananiah, son of Zerubbabel (1Ch 3:19); his "fathers' sepulchres" would be those of David's royal line. Cupbearer of Artaxerxes (Longimanus) according to his own autobiography, at Susa or Shushan, the principal Persian palace; Ecbatana was the royal summer residence, Babylon the spring, Persepolis the autumn, and Susa the winter. In Artaxerxes' 20th year Hanani with other Jews came from Jerusalem, reporting that the remnant there were in great affliction, the wall broken down, and the gates burned. Sorrow at the news drove him to fasting in expression of sadness, and prayer before the God of heaven, who alone could remedy the evil.

His prayer (Ne 1:4-11) was marked by importunate continuity, "day and night" (compare Isa 62:6-7; Lu 18:7), intercession for Israel, confession of individual and national sin, pleading that God should remember His promises of mercy upon their turning to Him, however far cast out for transgression; also that He should remember they are His people redeemed by His strong hand, therefore His honour is at stake in their persons; and that Nehemiah and they who pray with him desire to fear God's name (Isa 26:8; contrast Ps 66:18; compare Daniel 9, Le 26:33-39; De 4:25-31); lastly he asks God to dispose Artaxerxes' heart to "mercy" (Pr 21:1). "Let Thine ear ... Thine eyes be open ... hear the prayer," is an allusion to Solomon's prayer (1Ki 8:28-29). After four months (Ne 1:1; 2:1), from Chisleu to Nisan, of praying and waiting, in Artaxerxes' 20th year Nehemiah with sad countenance ministered as his cupbearer.

The king noticed his melancholy (Pr 15:13) and asked its cause. Nehemiah was "sore afraid," but replied it was for the desolation of the city "the place of his fathers' sepulchres." Artaxerxes said, "for what dost thou ... request?" Nehemiah ejaculated his request to God first, then to the earthly king. There seemed no interval between the king's question and Nehemiah's answer, yet a momentous transaction had passed between earth and heaven that decided the issue in behalf of Nehemiah (Isa 65:24). Artaxerxes, "according to the good hand of Nehemiah's God upon him," granted him leave to go to Jerusalem for a time, and letters to the provincial governors beyond the Euphrates to convey him forward, and to Asaph to supply timber for the palace gates, etc. As "governor" (pechah, also tirshatha') he had an escort of cavalry, and so reached Jerusalem, where he stayed inactive three days, probably the usual term for purification after a journey.

Notwithstanding Ezra's commission in Artaxerxes' seventh year (457 B.C.), after the dead period from the sixth of Darius to that year, a period in which there is no history of the returned Jews (Ezr 6:7-15;Ezr 6:1, etc.) and only the history of the foreign Jews in Esther, and notwithstanding the additional numbers and resources which Ezra had brought, Nehemiah now, in Artaxerxes' 20th year, in his secret ride of observation by night found Jerusalem in deplorable plight (Ne 2:12-16; compare Isa 64:9-12). (See EZRA.) The account is given in the first person, which often recurs; he forms his secret resolution to none but God in whose strength he moved. How the greatest movements for good often originate with one individual! He next enlisted in the restoration the nobles, priests, and rulers. But his continual dependence was "the hand of his God good upon him" (Ne 2:8,18), a phrase common to Ezra also (Ezr 7:6,9,28; compare Ezr 5:5), and marking their joint fellowship in God.

Where a good work is there will be opposition; so Sanballat the Horonite, and the slave Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian mocked the work, and alleged it was rebellion against the king; Nehemiah told them he would persevere in reliance upon "the God of heaven," but "ye have no right in Jerusalem." Psalm 123 was eventually written at this time in reference to their "scorn" while "at ease themselves"; Nehemiah's "hear, O our God, for we are despised" (Ne 4:3-4) answers to Israel's "unto Thee lift I up mine eyes, our soul is filled with the contempt," etc. His great work was the restoration of the city walls as the first step toward civil government, the revival of the national spirit, and the bringing back of the priests and Levites to reside with a feeling of security for their persons and for the tithes and offerings.

Messiah's advent was associated by Daniel (Da 9:25-27) with the command to "restore and build Jerusalem"; and Jeremiah too had foretold "the city shall be built to the Lord from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner, and the measuring line shall go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb ... to Gath" (Jer 31:39). Each repaired over against his house (Nehemiah 3), teaching that in the spiritual building we must each begin with our own home and neighbourhood and circle; then charity beginning at home will not end there. "Shallum repaired, he and his daughters" (Ne 3:12; compare Ro 16:1,3-6,12). Even Eliashib the half hearted high priest repaired. The Tekoite "nobles (alone) put not their necks to the work of their Lord" (compare Jg 5:23); but generally "the people had a mind to work" (Ne 4:6), so that soon "all the wall was joined." The 42 stations of restoration (chapter 3) answer to the 42 stations of Israel's pilgrim march in the desert (Numbers 33).

Sanballat's party then "conspired to fight against Jerusalem and hinder it." Nehemiah used means, "setting a watch day and night," at the same time "praying unto our God" to bless the means. He had not only to contend with adversaries plotting to attack when the Jews should "not know nor see," but with his own men complaining "the strength of the bearers is decayed, and there is much rubbish, so that we are not able to build" (Ne 4:8-11). Moreover, the Jews dwelling among the adversaries again and again kept him in alarm with warnings, "from all places (from whence) ye shall return unto us (i.e. from whence ye can come out to us) they will set upon you." L. De Dieu takes asher not "from whence" but "truly" (as in 1Sa 15:20): "yea, from all places, truly (yea) return to us," leaving off your work, for the foes are too many for you; counsel of pretended friends (compare Ne 4:12 with Ne 6:17-19).

But Nehemiah, by setting the people by families with weapons in the lower as well as the higher places of the wall, and encouraging them to "remember the Lord," baffled the enemy; thenceforward half wrought and half held the weapons, the builders and the bearers of burdens wrought with one hand and with the other held a weapon. Nehemiah had the trumpeter next him to give alarm, so as to gather the people against the foe wherever he should approach; none put off their clothes all the time (Ne 4:23). Nehemiah also remedied the state of debt and bondage of many Jews by forbidding usury and bond service, and set an example by not being chargeable all the twelve years that he was governor, as former governors had been, on the Jews; "so did not I," says he, "because of the fear of God" (Nehemiah 5). Nay, more, he daily entertained 150 Jews, besides those that came from among the pagan. His prayer often repeated is "think upon me, my God, for good according to all that I have done for this people" (Ne 5:19; 13:14; compare Heb 6:10; Ac 10:4; Mt 10:42).

While he pleads his efforts, not feigning a mock humility, he closes with "remember me, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of Thy mercy" (Ne 13:22-31), the publican's and the dying thief's prayer. Sanballat in vain tried to decoy him to a conference (Nehemiah 6). Nehemiah replied, "I am doing a great work, I cannot come down" (Lu 9:62). Then Shemaiah, suborned by Sanballat, tried to frighten him to flee into the temple, where he was detained by a vow (1Sa 21:7), in order to delay the work and give an appearance of conscious guilt on the part of Nehemiah; but neither he nor the prophetess Noadiah could put him in fear, "s

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1. One of the twelve heads of the Jewish community (Ezr 2:2 = Ne 7:7), 1Es 5:8 Ne 2. One of those who helped to repair the wall of Jerusalem (Ne 3:16). 3. See the following article.


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Nehemiah, Nehemi'ah Book of.

This is the latest of the historical books of the O.T. It commences with the twentieth year of Artaxerxes: this is an important date, because of 'the seventy weeks' of Dan. 9, which run from the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This commission was given to Nehemiah; the command to build the temple was given by Cyrus. Ezr 1:1. See SEVENTY WEEKS.

Neh. 1: Nehemiah had God's interests at heart. He heard at Shushan the desolate state of Jerusalem, and he wept and mourned, and prayed. He occupied a post of honour at the court as the king's cupbearer.

Neh. 2; Neh. 3: Artaxerxes the king noticed Nehemiah's sad countenance, and inquired the cause. On being informed, he graciously desired Nehemiah to express his wishes. Nehemiah, after prayer to God, asked to be sent to build Jerusalem, and that he might have timber for the purpose, and letters to the governors. All was granted, and an escort was deputed to accompany him.

On arriving at Jerusalem, Nehemiah was opposed by Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite, who were grieved that a man had come "to seek the welfare of the children of Israel." But this only the more stirred up the energy of Nehemiah, and the work of rebuilding the wall proceeded.

Neh. 4: The enemies first mocked him, and then plotted with others to attack him. But being aware of it, he armed the people, and kept part of them ready to repel the attack; and those that worked had a sword as well as a trowel. With Nehemiah was a trumpeter to sound an alarm. Cf. Nu 10:9.

Neh. 5: Nehemiah also took up the cause of his distressed brethren. The poor had been compelled to mortgage their lands and vineyards to their richer brethren, who made them pay interest, which was contrary to the law. Nehemiah sharply rebuked the rich for this, and bound them by oath to release the persons and lands. He set them an example by feeding a hundred and fifty at his table, and by not taking any stipend as governor.

Neh. 6 is significant of the separate path necessary to be maintained by God's people. Nu 23:9. Their enemies tried to entice Nehemiah to a conference on various pleas; but in faith he returned the noble answer, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?" They pretended that he was building the city in order to revolt from the king of Persia, saying that he had appointed prophets to say of him at Jerusalem, "There is a king in Judah." He denied the accusations: they had feigned them in their own hearts. He would not meet them. To add to his distress there were some in Jerusalem who had formed an alliance with Tobiah, and had correspondence with him, reporting the good deeds of Tobiah to him, and sending his words to Tobiah. They thus sought to put him in fear. His devotedness to God's interests, and obedience to His word, saved him from all the wiles of the adversary. In fifty-two days the wall and gates were finished, and the enemies perceived that the work was wrought of God.

Neh. 7: Levites were appointed to their stations, and the charge of the city gates was given to Hanani brother to Nehemiah, and to Hananiah, ruler of the palace, or fortress. A register is given of those who had returned with Zerubbabel, amounting to 42,360, besides their servants. Oblations were then made by Nehemiah and all the people.

Neh. 8: In the seventh month they assembled as one man and kept the Feast of Trumpets. Then the law was read, and great pains were taken that the people should understand it. The people wept when they heard what the law enjoined; but the Levites instructed them rather to rejoice, for the day was holy, and the joy of the Lord was their strength. They were exhorted to eat and drink, and to send portions to those who had nothing. The Feast of Tabernacles was then kept, and in such a way as it had not been kept since the days of Joshua. They entered into the joys that belonged to 'all Israel.'

Neh. 9; Neh. 10: The people humbled themselves with fasting, and confessed their sins, separating themselves from all persons who were not of the seed of Israel. The word was read, and they worshipped. The Levites then made a solemn confession, recapitulating all the faithfulness and goodness of God towards their nation; acknowledging their sins against Him, and ending with their making a written covenant and calling upon the princes, Levites, and priests to seal it. A list is given of those who sealed, and the covenant itself is set forth, stating clearly what it was the people bound themselves by a curse and an oath to keep. They thus placed themselves again under law, not having yet learned their own weakness and utter inability to keep it. The priests and Levites were provided for, according to Num. 18.

Neh. 11: The inhabitants of Jerusalem were few, and more were needed for its protection. Some volunteered to live there, and the people blessed them; lots were cast for others, one in ten being thus obtained.

Neh. 12 gives a list of the priests and Levites, and the joyful dedication of the wall of Jerusalem. Great sacrifices were offered and they rejoiced with their wives and children, for God had made them to rejoice, and the sounds of their rejoicing were heard afar off. Appointments were then made for the service of the temple.

Neh. 13: Apparently a period of time elapsed between Neh. 12, Neh. 13. The words 'on that day' refer to what follows in the verse. Nehemiah, after being twelve years at Jerusalem, had returned to Artaxerxes, in the thirty-second year of his reign, leaving, according to the end of Neh. 12 all things in due order in Jerusalem. How long he remained at the court is not stated, but after a certain time he obtained leave, and returned to Jerusalem, and he proceeds to relate what had taken place during his absence.

The law forbad that the Ammonite and Moabite should ever come into the congregation of the Lord, De 23:3-4; and yet Eliashib the high priest, who was allied to Tobiah the Ammonite, had prepared a chamber in the temple for this man. The enemy of God had thus been received inside. Nehemiah turned out all the household stuff of Tobiah, cleansed the chamber, and restored it to its former use.

The service of the temple had been neglected; for the tithes had been withheld, so that the Levites had to go to their fields for support. The sabbath was also desecrated, work being done and things sold in Jerusalem. Nehemiah expostulated with them and caused the gates of the city to be kept shut on the sabbath day. The merchants then tarried outside the walls on the sabbath, but Nehemiah threatened them, and the evil ceased. It was also found that some had married heathen wives, and their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod and could not speak in the Jews' language. Nehemiah cursed these men, and sharply rebuked, and chastised them. One of the grandsons of Eliashib having married the daughter of Sanballat, was cast out from the priesthood. (Josephus relates that he went to Samaria, where Sanballat built a temple on Gerizim, which became a refuge for apostate Jews)

The book closes with the setting right, outwardly, of all these evils. Nothing more is said of the solemn covenant that had been sealed by so many. It had been altogether violated; and Nehemiah felt his loneliness. Again and again he says, "Remember me, O my God," speaking of the good deeds he had done, and casting himself upon the greatness of God's mercy.

The Book of Nehemiah gives the partial and outward re-establishment of some of the Jews in their own land. There was no throne of God nor throne of David, and they were still subject to the Gentiles. The decree Lo-ammi was not removed; but they were restored to the land, ready for the manifestation of their Messiah, who would come seeking fruit, and ready in grace to bless them. The prophecy of Malachi followed this return, and shows the sad moral condition of the people, and the coming of Jehovah in judgement.

The spiritual value of this book, and of Ezra, is the setting forth of the principle that, in a day of ruin, a humble godly remnant represents the whole body, and receives mercy, and enjoys th

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(consolation of the Lord).

1. Son of Hachaliah, and apparently of the tribe of Judah. All that we know certainly concerning him is contained in the book which bears his name. We first find him at Shushan, the winter residence of the kings of Persia, in high office as the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes Longimanus. In the twentieth year of the king's reign, i.e. B.C. 445, certain Jews arrived from Judea, and gave Nehemiah a deplorable account of the state of Jerusalem. He immediately conceived the idea of going to Jerusalem to endeavor to better their state, and obtained the king's consent to his mission. Having received his appointment as governor of Judea, he started upon his journey, being under promise to return to Persia within a given time. Nehemiah's great work was rebuilding, for the first time since their destruction by Nebuzar-adan, the walls of Jerusalem, and restoring that city to its former state and dignity as a fortified town. To this great object therefore Nehemiah directed his whole energies without an hour's unnecessary delay. In a wonderfully short time the walls seemed to emerge from the heaps of burnt rubbish, end to encircle the city as in the days of old. It soon became apparent how wisely Nehemiah had acted in hastening on the work. On his very first arrival, as governor, Sanballat and Tobiah had given unequivocal proof of their mortification at his appointment; but when the restoration was seen to be rapidly progressing, their indignation knew no bounds. They made a great conspiracy to fall upon the builders with an armed force and put a stop to the undertaking. The project was defeated by the vigilance and prudence of Nehemiah. Various stratagems were then resorted to get Nehemiah away from Jerusalem and if possible to take his life; but that which most nearly succeeded was the attempt to bring him into suspicion with the king of Persia, as if he intended to set himself up as an independent king as soon as the walls were completed. The artful letter of Sanballat so-far wrought upon Artaxerxes that he issued a decree stopping the work till further orders. If is probable that at the same time he recalled Nehemiah, or perhaps his leave of absence had previously expired. But after a delay, perhaps of several years he was permitted to return to Jerusalem land to crown his work by repairing the temple and dedicating the walls. During his government Nehemiah firmly repressed the exactions of the nobles and the usury of the rich, and rescued the poor Jews from spoliation and slavery. He refused to receive his lawful allowance as governor from the people, in consideration of their poverty, during the whole twelve years that he was in office but kept at his own charge a table for 150 Jews, at which any who returned from captivity were welcome. He made most careful provision for the maintenance of the ministering priests and Levites and for the due and constant celebration of divine worship. He insisted upon the sanctity of the precincts of the temple being preserved inviolable, and peremptorily ejected the powerful Tobiah from one of the chambers which Eliashib had assigned to him. With no less firmness and impartiality he expelled from all sacred functions those of the high priest's family who had contracted heathen marriages, and rebuked and punished those of the common people who had likewise intermarried with foreigners; and lastly, he provided for keeping holy the Sabbath day, which was shamefully profaned by many both Jews and foreign merchants, and by his resolute conduct succeeded in repressing the lawless traffic on the day of rest. Beyond the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, to which Nehemiah's own narrative leads us, we have no account of him whatever.

2. One of the leaders of the first expedition from Babylon to Jerusalem under Zerabbabel.

Ezr 2:2; Ne 7:7

3. Son of Azbuk and ruler of the half part of Beth-zur, who helped to repair the wall of Jerusalem.

Ne 3:18

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NEHEMIAH professes himself the author of the book which bears his name, in the very beginning of it, and he uniformly writes in the first person. He was of the tribe of Judah, and was probably born at Babylon during the captivity. He was so distinguished for his family and attainments, as to be selected for the office of cup bearer to the king of Persia, a situation of great honour and emolument. He was made governor of Judea, upon his own application, by Artaxerxes Longimanus; and his book, which in the Hebrew canon was joined to that of Ezra, gives an account of his appointment and administration through a space of about thirty-six years to A.M. 3595, at which time the Scripture history closes; and, consequently, the historical books, from Joshua to Nehemiah inclusive, contain the history of the Jewish people from the death of Moses, A.M. 2553, to the reformation established by Nehemiah, after the return from captivity, being a period of one thousand and forty-two years.