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Literature / Book of Nehemiah

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One of the books of the Old Testament that chronicles the events of God's people Israel after the period of the Babylonian exile. Following the period of the first return of God's people, Nehemiah, the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, hears about the distress of his people in Jerusalem due to the city being defenseless, and Nehemiah bravely requests permission from the king to help his people rebuild the wall.


This book contains examples of:

  • Chronic Villainy: After finishing the wall of Jerusalem and setting up the reforms for his people when his term as governor ended after 12 years, Nehemiah returns to being the cupbearer to the king. He is again given leave to see how things are faring with his people, and... alas, they have backslidden, forgetting how to live according to God's laws. Nehemiah has to stay and reinforce the reforms that he had set up earlier, getting tough on those who were rebellious.
  • Evil Cripple: Nehemiah deals with one in the form of Shemaiah, the crippled son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who tries to make Nehemiah sin against his God by hiding himself in the house of God to protect himself from those that Shemaiah claims are out to kill him. Nehemiah sees what Shemaiah is really up to and calls him out on it.
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  • Get Out!: Nehemiah's message to the traveling merchants hanging outside Jerusalem on the Sabbath: "If you do so again, I will send you away by force.”
  • Good Is Not Soft: As good as Nehemiah was as a governor, he was not above using force to deal with both his own people and those of the travelers seeking to do business on a Sabbath, which is unlawful according to the Word of God.
  • The Great Wall: The first half of Nehemiah is basically him working with the people of Jerusalem to get the wall around their city rebuilt. Their enemies don't like it and so they use all kinds of ploys to defeat its completion, but with the help of God, their plots fail and the wall is completed.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: Implied in Nehemiah's initial interaction with King Artaxerxes in chapter 2, as the king sees him sad and makes Nehemiah worry due to the Persian custom that being sad in the presence of the king as a court official meant you were totally displeased with the king, possibly to the point of rebellion, and that would mean a death sentence. Fortunately the king was benevolent enough to understand that Nehemiah's sadness had nothing to do with him, and so that gave Nehemiah the opportunity to explain the situation and to make his petition known.
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  • Heroic Ambidexterity: The people of Jerusalem who were rebuilding the wall were spoken of as having a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other to protect themselves from their enemies while they were working.
  • Heroic BSoD: Nehemiah in the first chapter of the book goes through this after hearing the news about Jerusalem from Hanani, one of his relatives, which leads to the situation of his going before the king to petition a leave of absence to deal with the problem.
  • Idle Rich: Chapter 3 speaks about the noblemen among the people of Israel that would not put their shoulders to the work of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.
  • Loan Shark: Nehemiah had to deal with his own people being this toward their own people, lending essential commodities at an interest and forcing them to sell their children into slavery just to pay back the loans.
  • Long List: As with the Book of Ezra, this book also contains a long list of people who have returned from the exile.
  • Malicious Slander: When the wall surrounding Jerusalem was near completion, Sanballat and Geshem try to lure Nehemiah away from his work to have "a little chat", and Nehemiah keeps telling them that he's busy and can't answer their summons. They get to the point of deciding to spread some of this about Nehemiah, that he was planning rebellion against the king by declaring himself to be king and that he has set up prophets to make the proclamation. Nehemiah responds that he isn't and that they're just making stuff up about him to discourage him and his workers.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Nehemiah in chapter 13 takes his own people to task because of their marriages with the people of other nations, reminding them of the sin King Solomon committed with his mixed marriages.
  • Prayer of Malice: When Jerusalem's enemies spoke of doing harm to God's people while they were in the process of rebuilding the wall, Nehemiah prayed for disaster to fall upon their enemies and protection for his own people.
    Hear, O our God, that we are despised. Turn their reproach back upon their own head, and give them as spoil in a land of captivity: No longer cover their iniquity nor blot out their sin, which is before You since they have made insults against the builders. (Nehemiah 4:4-5)
  • Sequel: To the Book of Ezra, as these books were originally written as one book. Ezra even shows up in this book to explain the Law of God to the returning Jews in a group ceremony.
  • Sinister Minister: Noadiah the false prophetess, who was hired by Tobiah and Sanballat along with other false prophets to frighten Nehemiah and his people, to get them to stop working on rebuilding the city wall.
  • Tears of Remorse: The people of God cried these when they heard the Law of God being spoken to them, realizing their guilt in their nation not obeying it and causing the destruction of their Temple, until they were told to cheer up and rejoice because "the joy of the Lord is your strength".

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