Nehemiah (book of the Bible)

Nehemiah . ( נְחֶמְיָה , Nəḥemya , “Comforted by the Lord”) is a book from the Tanach , the Old Testament of the Bible . In the Catholic Bible it is located between Ezra and Tobit .


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  • 1 Probable biography of Nehemiah
  • 2 Division of the original book
  • 3 Its author and date
  • 4 Chronology and topics covered
  • 5 Argument
  • 6 Historical value
  • 7 Objectives of the book
  • 8 religious aspects
  • 9 See also
  • 10 Sources

Probable biography of Nehemiah

Nehemiah is a biblical character , considered by some exegetes to be the author of the book that bears his name. He probably belonged to the Tribe of Judah , and his family must have been a native of Jerusalem . He lived during the Persian domination of Judea , and was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes I , from whom he obtained permission to govern the Hebrew country in order to solve the serious state of the cult. He completed the works of the scribe Ezra before returning to serve in the Persian court.

Division of the original book

Originally, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were a single work that was artificially divided in later times. Both books form a thematic and stylistic unit with I and II Chronicles .

Its author and date

Tradition attributes the authorship of the book to Nehemiah himself, governor of Judea , although this theory cannot be verified by technical means. It is almost certain that it was originally written by the same hand as Ezra , although changes of order, additions and subtractions have disordered both books in such a way that this statement is also very difficult to demonstrate. There are parts of the book written in the first person as if they had been written by Nehemiah himself (Neh. 1-7, 12: 27-47 and 13), but there are also entire chapters where he is mentioned in the third person (Neh. 8, 9 and 10),

It is traditionally said (which means without any evidence) that Nehemiah wrote in the first person, and that Ezra completed some fragments (those that speak of him in the third person). Admitting this, there is still speculation that if the editors were both, the “editorial coordinator” was Nehemiah himself and is held responsible for the entire book, except for Neh. 12:11 and Neh. 12: 22-23, of unknown origin and author (possibly later additions). It is known that the ordering, revision and correction of the text occurred in times after the writing of the book.

If in fact the author was Nehemiah, then the book was written between 431 and 430 a. C. , when the real man had returned to Jerusalem a second time after his visit to Persia .

Chronology and topics covered

As it is said, I Chronicles , II Chronicles , Ezra and Nehemiah constitute a thematic unit. The author of the first two does not correspond to the author or authors of the last two, although they did belong to the same literary school and almost certainly were part of the Temple service personnel .

Specifically, Ezra and Nehemiah relate the events that occurred in a whole century, from 538 BC. C. (decree of Cyrus the Great ) until the end of Nehemiah’s activity ( 432 ).

Nehemiah’s part deals especially with the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Neh. 1-13).

In 445 Nehemiah arrives in the city and deals with rebuilding the walls. His term as governor lasts until 433 . About 424 the second mission of Nehemiah unfolds.

Despite the prolixity of both books and the long period they occupy, they do not contain the slightest mention of the period between 516 and 448 BC .


The book of Nehemiah has four parts, namely:

  • The account of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and the fact that Nehemiah had found those who had returned from Babylon (chs. 1-7).
  • A description of religious practices among Jews during this period (8-10).
  • A census of Jerusalem’s population growth, a tally of the male adult population, a record of the names of the heads of households, and the lists of priests and Levites (11 and 12: 1-26).
  • The dedication of the Jerusalem wall, the temple arrangement, and the reforms carried out by Nehemiah (12:27 to 13).

This book concludes the strict historical narrative part of the Old Testament , if Esther’s book is not considered in this section. The prophet Malachi was possibly a contemporary of Nehemiah.

Historical value

Nehemiah’s historical value is undeniable. The author is a competent and honest historian when it comes to the history of his people, and the sources he drew on continue to be valid today. Although he slightly misrepresents certain events, this is due to his evident affiliation to the Davidic party , but this does not detract from the certainty with which he draws up a historical portrait of the period under consideration.

Objectives of the book

As an employee of the Jerusalem Temple , the author of Nehemiah tries to demonstrate that the only logical form of government for Israel is theocracy .

Therefore, the canon known as ” deuteronomic history ” —which was already finished when he begins to compose Nehemiah—, formed by the books of Deuteronomy , Joshua , Judges , I and II Samuel and I and II Kings .

Nehemiah aims to refine and deepen the Deuteronomic history and activities highlighting the designs of God in the events he narrates. Thus, he makes David the most important figure in the entire Bible , because he considers him the perfecter of the laws of the legislator Moses .

The author leaves without effect the racial and religious distinctions between Israel and the northern tribes, which he calls together with a single name (“Israel”) to thereby symbolize Davidic and messianic unity, and highlights linguistic, historical homogeneity and cultural that unites the people of God .

The pointed aspects are especially visible in Neh. 11: 4 and 12:44.

Religious aspects

Nehemiah is a messianic book , and therefore follows the Jewish religious reformers who understood that God is proposing a new step towards the Messiah .

None of the protagonists will be able to restore the Royal House of David , but it is evident that they are going in the right direction. Jewish political autonomy has been lost, because the characters are fervent Jews but also officials loyal to their Persian bosses .

Those who have been freed by Cyrus of Babylon where they were held captive , now gather around the Temple and adopt an isolationist and legalistic attitude. There is a danger of falling into esotericism , but the prophets will maintain order and hope

A radical intellectual rise of the Hebrew people is observed in Nehemiah: while the lazy and mediocre complain about the difficult situation, the Jewish nobility will draw closer to God , many synagogues will be opened , schools of scribes that follow the teachings of the prophets Ezekiel and Ezra and the Sanhedrin or council of elders will establish an evolved judicial reform.

It is, from every point of view, the song of glory and unity of a people that had been seen on the brink of annihilation by Hellenism (see I Maccabees ).


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