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1:1-2:10 NEHEMIAH RETURNS TO JERUSALEM
Thirteen years had now passed since Artaxerxes issued his decree giving Ezra authority to go to Jerusalem and reform Israel (Ezra 7:7; Nehemiah 2:1). Ezra’s work had some early success, but when the Jews tried to strengthen Jerusalem’s defences by rebuilding the city wall, their enemies accused them of planning to rebel against Persia. They reported the matter to Artaxerxes, with the result that the king issued a decree commanding that the work stop immediately (Ezra 4:7-23).
Meanwhile in Persia, Nehemiah, a Jewish official in the king’s palace, had risen to the trusted rank of cupbearer (GNB: wine steward; see 1:11). When the Jews heard that one of their own people was in a position to speak to the king, they came to Persia to see him. In particular they told him of the distress that the Jews’ opponents had created in Jerusalem through carrying out the king’s decree (1:1-3; cf. Ezra 4:23). That decree allowed the king to reverse his decision at a later date if he desired (Ezra 4:21), and the Jewish representatives from Jerusalem no doubt hoped that Nehemiah could persuade the king to become favourable to them again.
But Nehemiah was not a mere opportunist. He was a man of God and a man of prayer. He knew that his people’s troubles were largely a result of their sins, and in a spirit of humble confession he brought the matter before God and asked his help (4-11).
For four months Nehemiah prayed about the matter. He was therefore fully prepared when an opportunity arose for him to speak to the king about it. The result was that he received permission to return and carry out the reconstruction work he had planned. He was also given the necessary building materials (2:1-8). This was probably the time when he was appointed governor of Jerusalem (see 5:14).
Circumstances surrounding Nehemiah’s return were different from those that had surrounded Ezra’s return, and Nehemiah felt it wise to accept the king’s offer of an armed escort (9; cf. Ezra 8:21-23). Officials who previously controlled the Jerusalem district were hostile when they found they had lost this area to Nehemiah. Besides being Jewish, he had authority from the Persian king that made him independent of them (10).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Nehemiah 1". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany