Israel’s Story in Nehemiah

The following is an excerpt from volume 1 of The Lutheran Bible Companion on the happenings in Israel during the time of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah Travels to Jerusalem and Serves

Summary Commentary for Nehemiah Chapters 1–2

Nehemiah recalls the report about Jerusalem that prompted his decision to travel there and assist God’s people. On behalf of those struggling in Jerusalem, Nehemiah fasts and prays with great empathy as guided by God’s Word. Nehemiah asks for an opportunity to help rebuild his homeland, and the king answers favorably, because God is guiding the matter. The Word moves Nehemiah’s heart to begin plans for rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls.

Summary Commentary for Nehemiah Chapters 3–4

The Judeans eagerly begin work on the walls and gates of Jerusalem under Nehemiah’s able leadership. When obstacles arise, Nehemiah encourages ever more vigilant service by reminding the workers that “our God will fight for us.

Summary Commentary for Nehemiah Chapters 5–7

Governor Nehemiah addresses the problems caused by excessive interest rates and taxes and sets an example of generosity for the leaders. However, false prophets attempt to deceive Nehemiah and bring about his death. God’s people must always test claims of prophetic authority against the sure Word of prophecy: Holy Scripture (Dt 18:20–22; 1 Jn 4:1–3). Nehemiah appoints faithful colleagues to ensure good progress on the next phase of the work and catalogs the status of the community.

Nehemiah’s Governance Increases Preaching of the Word

Summary Commentary for Nehemiah Chapters 8–10

Nehemiah’s efforts result in an opportunity for Ezra and others to teach God’s Word to the Judeans. The Word moves their hearts, who sanctify the day of celebration by Word and faith. By studying Scripture, the Judeans learn that they had overlooked celebrating a key feast: the Feast of Booths. The people confess the Lord’s enduring mercy promised in the covenant. They were saved by God’s grace, not by their obedience. They offer thanks to the Lord for the blessings of the covenant and the atonement provided through the sacrifices.

Summary Commentary for Nehemiah Chapters 11–13

For the sake of security and good order, a number of people willingly agree to occupy Jerusalem, which was only beginning to be restored. With careful organization, the priests and Levites lead the people in worship and in dedicating the city walls. Nehemiah confronts ongoing issues of the Law and holiness, even losing his composure when people violate the covenant (13:25). The book ends with practical measures he enacts. 

Specific Law Themes in Nehemiah

The book opens with Nehemiah’s distress over the exiles who returned to Jerusalem but had not been able to restore the community. As he prays about the situation, he painfully recalls the reasons for the community’s failures and exile, which originally led to Jerusalem’s destruction. After Nehemiah faces opposition from outside the community, he discovers an example of corruption within the community, which will again lead to their destruction: illegal marriage. The people continue to break faith with their Lord.

Specific Gospel Themes in Nehemiah

Nehemiah recalls God’s grace and providence in calling Israel His people and preserving them despite their failures. Like Ezra, he focuses on the blessings connected with God’s Word and the temple sacrifices and feasts. He sees God’s hand guiding the people through history to be the remnant for renewal of the covenant.

Excerpt adapted from Lutheran Bible Companion, Volume 1, pp. 440–441. Copyright © 2014. Published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture: ESV®.

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