To better understand what is happening in the Book of Nehemiah, let’s look at a small timeline of events leading up to Chapter 1.
- Israel disobeys God (again). Jeremiah has prophesied that God will purge Israel of its sin by giving them over to captivity.
- 605 B.C. Babylonian conquest begins. Daniel is exiled.
- 597 B.C. Ezekiel is exiled.
- 586 B.C. Captivity begins. More than 50,000 Jews are taken to Babylon. Lamentations is written.
- 539 B.C. Babylon conquered by Persia. Daniel is given a position in Persian court.
- 538 B.C. Cyrus allows Israel to begin returning to Judah.
- 515 B.C. The Temple is rebuilt as encouraged by Haggai and Zechariah. Malachi is written.
- 480 B.C. Esther becomes queen of the Persian Empire.
- 458 B.C. Another group of exiles returns led by Ezra.
- 445 B.C. Last group returns to Jerusalem with Nehemiah and rebuilds walls.
The major characters at this time are Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple, Ezra brought back the preaching of the word, and Nehemiah was responsible for the rebuilding of the city walls and acting as governor.
We will find that Nehemiah wears many hats in this history. He is an intercessor in going to the king of Persia. He coordinates a massive move of people, supplies and equipment as they return to Judah. He engineers the plan to rebuild the walls. He acts as a military leader when trouble comes up. And finally, he acts as governor to restore peace and civility.