the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Grant's Commentary on the Bible Grant's Commentary
by L.M. Grant
The Book of Ezra records the return to Jerusalem of Zerubbabel with a company of the Jews in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia (Ezra 1:1; Ezra 3:1); then of Ezra himself leading another group back to Jerusalem in the reign of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:1; Ezra 8:31). This was in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:8), so that it was 13 years later that Nehemiah was commissioned by King Artaxerxes to go to Judah (Nehemiah 2:1-8).
Ezra, being a priest, was particularly concerned about the house of God in Jerusalem, while Nehemiah was concerned about the wall of the city. Thus, the prophecy of Haggai connects especially with the work of Ezra and the prophecy of Zechariah has much in common with the work of Nehemiah, for the city is specially prominent in this case. How vitally important are both of these, for the temple speaks of the relationship of the people to God, while the wall indicates their separation from the world.
The name Nehemiah means "comforted of Jah," and he needed this comfort in the face of the much opposition he encountered, for a wall of separation being built between the people of God and the world is certainly not appreciated by the world, and sometimes even resisted by the Lord's people themselves, Thus, Nehemiah found opposition from both without and within. But his energy of faith and decisive action is remarkable. We are surely impressed by his spontaneous prayers as he worked. Nehemiah was not fitted for the work Ezra did, but neither was Ezra competent to do the work Nehemiah was called to do. God furnished each with the capacity for his special work.