Easton's Bible Dictionary
comforted by Jehovah.
The son of Hachaliah ( Nehemiah
1:1 ), and probably of the tribe of Judah. His family must have belonged to
Jerusalem ( Nehemiah
2:3 ). He was one of the "Jews of the dispersion," and in his youth was appointed
to the important office of royal cup-bearer at the palace of Shushan. The king,
Artaxerxes Longimanus, seems to have been on terms of friendly familiarity with
Through his brother Hanani, and perhaps from other sources ( Nehemiah
1:2 ; 2:3
), he heard of the mournful and desolate condition of the Holy City, and was filled
with sadness of heart. For many days he fasted and mourned and prayed for the
place of his fathers' sepulchres. At length the king observed his sadness of countenance
and asked the reason of it. Nehemiah explained it all to the king, and obtained
his permission to go up to Jerusalem and there to act as tirshatha, or governor
of Judea. He went up in the spring of B.C. 446 (eleven years after Ezra), with
a strong escort supplied by the king, and with letters to all the pashas of the
provinces through which he had to pass, as also to Asaph, keeper of the royal
forests, directing him to assist Nehemiah. On his arrival he set himself to survey
the city, and to form a plan for its restoration; a plan which he carried out
with great skill and energy, so that the whole was completed in about six months.
He remained in Judea for thirteen years as governor, carrying out many reforms,
notwithstanding much opposition that he encountered ( Nehemiah
13:11 ). He built up the state on the old lines, "supplementing and completing
the work of Ezra," and making all arrangements for the safety and good government
of the city.
At the close of this important period of his public life, he returned to Persia
to the service of his royal master at Shushan or Ecbatana. Very soon after this
the old corrupt state of things returned, showing the worthlessness to a large
extent of the professions that had been made at the feast of the dedication of
the walls of the city ( Nehemiah
12 . See EZRA).
Malachi now appeared among the people with words of stern reproof and solemn warning;
and Nehemiah again returned from Persia (after an absence of some two years),
and was grieved to see the widespread moral degeneracy that had taken place during
his absence. He set himself with vigour to rectify the flagrant abuses that had
sprung up, and restored the orderly administration of public worship and the outward
observance of the law of Moses.
Of his subsequent history we know nothing. Probably he remained at his post as
governor till his death (about B.C. 413) in a good old age. The place of his death
and burial is, however, unknown. "He resembled Ezra in his fiery zeal, in his
active spirit of enterprise, and in the piety of his life: but he was of a bluffer
and a fiercer mood; he had less patience with transgressors; he was a man of action
rather than a man of thought, and more inclined to use force than persuasion.
His practical sagacity and high courage were very markedly shown in the arrangement
with which he carried through the rebuilding of the wall and balked the cunning
plans of the 'adversaries.' The piety of his heart, his deeply religious spirit
and constant sense of communion with and absolute dependence upon God, are strikingly
exhibited, first in the long prayer recorded in Nehemiah
1:5 - 11
, and secondly and most remarkably in what have been called his 'interjectional
prayers', those short but moving addresses to Almighty God which occur so frequently
in his writings, the instinctive outpouring of a heart deeply moved, but ever
resting itself upon God, and looking to God alone for aid in trouble, for the
frustration of evil designs, and for final reward and acceptance" (Rawlinson).
Nehemiah was the last of the governors sent from the Persian court. Judea after
this was annexed to the satrapy of Coele-Syria, and was governed by the high priest
under the jurisdiction of the governor of Syria, and the internal government of
the country became more and more a hierarchy.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
consolation; repentance of the Lord
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(consolation of the Lord)
(1) Son of Hachaliah, and apparently of the tribe of Judah. All that we know certainly
concerning him is contained in the book which bears his name. We first find him
at Shushan, the winter residence of the kings of Persia, in high office as the
cupbearer of King Artaxerxes Longimanus.
In the twentieth year of the kings reign, i.e. B.C. 445, certain Jews arrived
from Judea, and gave Nehemiah a deplorable account of the state of Jerusalem.
He immediately conceived the idea of going to Jerusalem to endeavor to better
their state, and obtained the kings consent to his mission. Having received his
appointment as governor of Judea, he started upon his journey, being under promise
to return to Persia within a given time. Nehemiahs great work was rebuilding,
for the first time since their destruction by Nebuzar-adan, the walls of Jerusalem,
and restoring that city to its former state and dignity as a fortified town. To
this great object therefore Nehemiah directed his whole energies without an hours
unnecessary delay. In a wonderfully short time the walls seemed to emerge from
the heaps of burnt rubbish, end to encircle the city as in the days of old. It
soon became apparent how wisely Nehemiah had acted in hastening on the work.
On his very first arrival, as governor, Sanballat and Tobiah had given unequivocal
proof of their mortification at his appointment; but when the restoration was
seen to be rapidly progressing, their indignation knew no bounds. They made a
great conspiracy to fall upon the builders with an armed force and put a stop
to the undertaking. The project was defeated by the vigilance and prudence of
Nehemiah. Various stratagems were then resorted to get Nehemiah away from Jerusalem
and if possible to take his life; but that which most nearly succeeded was the
attempt to bring him into suspicion with the king of Persia, as if he intended
to set himself up as an independent king as soon as the walls were completed.
The artful letter of Sanballat so-far wrought upon Artaxerxes that he issued a
decree stopping the work till further orders. If is probable that at the same
time he recalled Nehemiah, or perhaps his leave of absence had previously expired.
But after a delay, perhaps of several years he was permitted to return to Jerusalem
land to crown his work by repairing the temple and dedicating the walls.
During his government Nehemiah firmly repressed the exactions of the nobles and
the usury of the rich, and rescued the poor Jews from spoliation and slavery.
He refused to receive his lawful allowance as governor from the people, in consideration
of their poverty, during the whole twelve years that he was in office but kept
at his own charge a table for 150 Jews, at which any who returned from captivity
were welcome. He made most careful provision for the maintenance of the ministering
priests and Levites and for the due and constant celebration of divine worship.
He insisted upon the sanctity of the precincts of the temple being preserved inviolable,
and peremptorily ejected the powerful Tobiah from one of the chambers which Eliashib
had assigned to him. With no less firmness and impartiality he expelled from all
sacred functions those of the high priests family who had contracted heathen marriages,
and rebuked and punished those of the common people who had likewise intermarried
with foreigners; and lastly, he provided for keeping holy the Sabbath day, which
was shamefully profaned by many both Jews and foreign merchants, and by his resolute
conduct succeeded in repressing the lawless traffic on the day of rest. Beyond
the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, to which Nehemiahs own narrative leads us,
we have no account of him whatever.
(2) One of the leaders of the first expedition from Babylon to Jerusalem under
Zerabbabel. ( Ezra
2:2 ; Nehemiah
(3) Son of Azbuk and ruler of the half part of Beth-zur, who helped to repair
the wall of Jerusalem. ( Nehemiah
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
ne-he-mi'-a, ne-hem-i'-a (nechemyah, "comforted of Yah"):
Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah, is the Jewish patriot whose life is recorded in
the Biblical work named after him. All that we know about him from contemporary
sources is found in this book; and so the readers of this article are referred
to the Book of Nehemiah for the best and fullest account of his words and deeds.
All that is known of his family is that he was the son of Hacaliah (Nehemiah 1:1)
and that one of his brothers was called Hanani (Nehemiah 1:2; 7:2); the latter
a man of sufficient character and importance to have been made a ruler of Jerusalem.
From Nehemiah 10:1-8 some have inferred that he was a priest, since Nehemiah comes
first in the list of names ending with the phrase, "these were the priests." This
view is supported by the Syriac and Arabic versions of 10:1, which read: "Nehemiah
the elder, the son of Hananiah the chief of the priests"; and by the Latin Vulgate
(Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) of 2 Macc 1:21, where he is called "Nehemiah
the priest," and possibly by 2 Macc 1:18, where it is said that Nehemiah "offered
sacrifices, after that he had builded the temple and the altar."
The argument based upon Nehemiah 10:1-8 will fall to the ground, if we change
the pointing of the "Seraiah" of the 3rd verse and read "its princes," referring
back to the princes of 10:1. In this case, Nehemiah and Zedekiah would be the
princes; then would come the priests and then the Levites.
Some have thought that he was of the royal line of Judah, inasmuch as he refers
to his "fathers' sepulchres" at Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:3). This would be a good
argument only if it could be shown that none but kings had sepulchers at Jerusalem.
It has been argued again that he was of noble lineage because of his position
as cupbearer to the king of Persia. To substantiate this argument, it would need
to be shown that none but persons of noble birth could serve in this position;
but this has not been shown, and cannot be shown.
From the fact that Nehemiah was so grieved at the desolation of the city and sepulchers
of his fathers and that he was so jealous for the laws of the God of Judah, we
can justly infer that he was brought up by pious parents, who instructed him in
the history and law of the Jewish people.
3. King's Cupbearer:
Doubtless because of his probity and ability, he was apparently at an early age
appointed by Artaxerxes, king of Persia, to the responsible position of cupbearer
to the king. There is now no possible doubt that this King his king was Artaxerxes,
the first of that name, commonly called Longimanus, who ruled over Persia from
464 to 424 BC. The mention of the sons of Sanballat, governor of Samaria, in a
letter written to the priests of Jerusalem in 407 BC, among whom Johanan is especially
named, proves that Sanballat must have ruled in the time of Artaxerxes I rather
than in that of Artaxerxes II.
The office of cupbearer was "one of no trifling honor" (Herod. iii.34). It was
one of his chief duties to taste the wine for the king to see that it was not
poisoned, and he was even admitted to the king while the queen was present (Nehemiah
2:6). It was on account of this position of close intimacy with the king that
Nehemiah was able to obtain his commission as governor of Judea and the letters
and edicts which enabled him to restore the walls of Jerusalem.
4. Governor of Judea:
The occasion of this commission was as follows: Hanani, the brother of Nehemiah,
and other men of Judah came to visit Nehemiah while he was in Susa in the 9th
month of the 20th year of Artaxerxes. They reported that the Jews in Jerusalem
were in great affliction and that the wall thereof was broken down and its gates
burned with fire. Thereupon he grieved and fasted and prayed to God that he might
be granted favor by the king. Having appeared before the latter in the 1st month
of the 21st year of Artaxerxes, 444 BC, he was granted permission to go to Jerusalem
to build the city of his fathers' sepulchers, and was given letters to the governors
of Syria and Palestine and especially to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest,
ordering him to supply timber for the wall, the fortress, and the temple. He was
also appointed governor of the province of which Jerusalem was the capital.
Armed with these credentials and powers he repaired to Jerusalem and immediately
set about the restoration of the walls, a work in which he was hindered and harassed
by Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and others, some of them Jews dwelling
in Jerusalem. Notwithstanding, he succeeded in his attempt and eventually also
in providing gates for the various entrances to the city.
Having accomplished these external renovations, he instituted a number of social
reforms. He appointed the officers necessary for better government, caused the
people to be instructed in the Law by public readings, and expositions; celebrated
the Feast of Tabernacles; and observed a national fast, at which the sins of the
people were confessed and a new covenant with Yahweh was solemnly confirmed. The
people agreed to avoid marriages with the heathen, to keep the Sabbath, and to
contribute to the support of the temple. To provide for the safety and prosperity
of the city, one out of every ten of the people living outside Jerusalem was compelled
to settle in the city. In all of these reforms he was assisted by Ezra, who had
gone up to Jerusalem in the 7th year of Artaxerxes.
Once, or perhaps oftener, during his governorship Nehemiah returned to the king.
Nothing is known as to when or where he died. It is certain, however, that he
was no longer governor in 407 BC; for at that time according to the Aramaic letter
written from Elephantine to the priests of Jerusalem, Bagohi was occupying the
position of governor over Judea. One of the last acts of Nehemiah's government
was the chasing away of one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib, because
he had become the son-in-law to Sanballat, the governor of Samaria. As this Joiada
was the father of Johanan (Nehemiah 12:22) who, according to the Aramaic papyrus,
was high priest in 407 BC, and according to Josephus (Ant., XI, viii.1) was high
priest while Bagohi (Bogoas) was general of Artaxerxes' army, it is certain that
Nehemiah was at this time no longer in power. From the 3rd of the Sachau papyri,
it seems that Bagohi was already governor in 410 BC; and, that at the same time,
Dalayah, the son of Sanballat, was governor in Samaria. More definite information
on these points is not to be had at present.
The only early extra-Biblical data with regard to Nehemiah and the Judea of his
times are to be found:
|(1) in the Egyptian papyri of Elephantine ("Aramaische Papyri
und Ostraka aus einer judischen Militar-Kolonie zu Elephantine," Altorientalische
Sprachdenkmaler des 5. Jahrhunderts vor Chr., Bearbeitet von Eduard Sachau. Leipzig,
(2) in Josephus, Ant, XI, vi, 6-8; vii, 1, 2;
(3) in Ecclesiasticus 49:13, where it is said: "The renown of Nehemiah is glorious;
of him who established our waste places and restored our ruins, and set up the
gates and bars"; (4) and lastly in 2 Macc 1:18-36 and 2:13; in the latter of these
passages it speaks of 'the writings and commentaries of Nehemiah; and how he,
founding a library, gathered together the acts of the kings and the prophets and
of David and the epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts.'
R. Dick Wilson
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, cupbearer of king artaxerxes longimanus, ezra, governor of judea, nehemiah, restored jerusalem, tirshatha