Basic events: It is 445 BC, 13 years after Ezra’s reforms and 93 years after Jews under Cyrus the Great first returned from Exile in 538 BC. Artaxerxes is ruling in his 20th year and Nehemiah, a Jew, is serving as his cupbearer in the capital, Susa, where Esther’s beauty pageant had been held under Xerxes, Artaxerxes’s father. Nehemiah’s brother, Hanani, comes to Susa and informs him of the city’s defenseless condition (Neh 1:1); Persian kings had allowed rebuilding of the Temple but not the city walls, which were broken down. Artaxerxes appoints Nehemiah governor and authorizes him to go and rebuild the walls. He goes and leads the people to rebuild the walls and they succeed despite opposition. Along with Ezra, he also leads the people to renew their pledge of covenant faithfulness to God and reform their ways in worship and daily living under His law (e.g., stop excessive rates of lending to the poor, observe the sabbath and holy days, stop intermarrying with heathen, support Temple service financially).
I. God Leads Nehemiah to Jerusalem to Rebuild Walls (1:1-2:20).
A. Nehemiah in Persia learns of Jerusalem’s trouble, and prays to God (1:1-11).
B. King Artaxerxes sees Nehemiah’s grief, appoints him governor, and grants him safe-passage and supplies to return and rebuild the walls (2:1-9).
C. Non-Israelite officials around Jerusalem are disturbed at aid coming for Israelites (2:10).
II. Nehemiah & the People Rebuild the Walls in 52 Days despite Opposition (2:11-6:19)
A. Nehemiah Plans The Work and Meets Opposition (2:11-20)
B. The Rebuilding Begins (3:1-31).
C. External Opposition: Enemies Plot and the People Pray (4:1-14)
D. The People Return to Work, Half on the Walls, Half on Guard with Weapons (4:15-23)
E. Internal Conflict: Nehemiah Rebukes Unlawful Lending/Usury, People Repent (5:1-13)
F. Nehemiah Recounts His Selfless Financial Practices as Governor (5:14-19)
G. External Opposition: Nehemiah Rebuffs Multiple Efforts to Intimidate Him (6:1-14).
H. The Rebuilding is Completed in 52 days (6:15-19).
III. The People Renew the Covenant, Dedicate the Wall, and Jerusalem is Re-Established (7:1-13:31)
A. Nehemiah Registers/Enrolls the Exiles that Returned Originally (7:1-73)
B. The People Renew the Covenant (8:1-13:31)
– The People hear the Law and Observe the Feast of Booths (8:1-18; Lev 23:37-40)
– The People Confess their Sins (9:1-37)
– The People Ratify the Covenant (9:38-10:39)
C. The Dedication of the Walls (11:1-13:31)
– Record of people in Jerusalem (11:1-20), the Towns & Villages (11:20-36); the Priest & Levites (12:1-26)
– The Dedication Ceremony (12:27-43)
– The Provisions for the Clergy (12:44-47)
D. Nehemiah’s Final Reforms (13:1-31)