Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Nehemiah - "Rebuilding Jerusalem"|
Chapter: Nehemiah 11
Passage: Nehemiah 11:1-35
A. Find Out:
1. What change did they bring about? v.1,2
2. Who lived where? v.3,4
3. How many were in each of the groups named? v.4-19
4. Who lived in the surrounding towns? v.20
5. What further roles are mentioned? v.21-24
6. What appears the p0int of v.25-35
1. What strikes you about those who lived in Jerusalem ?
2. What does the nature of this chapter imply?
This chapter comprises one of those apparently uninspiring records that appear from time to time in Scripture, but let's see what it says to us. First it records the recognition and administration that saw that Jerusalem needed repopulating (v.1,2)
It starts out by referring to ‘provincial leaders' who came to live in Jerusalem (v.3a) while recognising that many others lived in the surrounding areas (v.3b). Those provincial leaders are presumably the relatively few mentioned from Judah (v.4-6) – just 468 – and from Benjamin (v.7-9) – some 928 men.
But then we find that a total of 1192 priests came there (v,10-14), but only 284 Levites (v.15-18) who worked for the Temple, but we've already been told that a number of priests and Levites lived outside the city and that is reiterated in v.20. We also note 172 men who lived in the city, designated ‘gatekeepers' (v.19)
Administrative leaders are mentioned – chief of the Levites and lead singers (v.22,23) as is the king's representative for the people (v.24). We then get a long list of villages and towns of Judah (v.25-30) and of Benjamin (v.31-35) and a note that Levites of Judah also spread into Benjamin.. These long lists tell us two things. First that record keeping was important to these people and second, that people and places are important in God's economy.
1. I and my family and my home are important & significant to God.
2. Am I aware of people and places around me, as being important?
Chapter: Nehemiah 12
Passage: Nehemiah 12:1-43
A. Find Out:
1. Who are next listed? v.1,7b,8,12,22-24,25
2. What was next going to happen and who were called up for it? v.27
3. Who also were called up from where? v.28,29
4. Who led by doing what? v.30
5. Who got who to go where? v.31a
6. Where did the two choirs go? v.31b-39
7. Where did they end up and with whom? v.40-43
1. How far back do these lists go? (See table at beginning)
2. Who is at the heart of the dedication of the walls of the city?
3. What does that say about all this?
Again records kept of who went to Jerusalem and who were involved in re-establishing it. The list goes back about 80 years to when Zerubbabel and Jeshua were rebuilding the Temple (v.1) The lists include the priests who led and the Levites who also were part of it then (v.1,7b), first the leading priests (v.1c-7a), then the Levites (v.8,9), then the heads of the priestly families – different from the leaders (v.10-21) and then the family heads of the Levites (v.22,23) and Levite leaders (v.24). Also recorded are the officials who were the gatekeepers and who also guarded the storerooms alongside the gates (v.25). All of these served through the period of rebuilding the temple and rebuilding the walls (v.26). Why are they recorded? To honour them for their service to God, we suggest.
This is then followed by those involved in the ceremonial of dedicating the wall – giving thanks to God for it. The Levites (v.27) and the singers (v.28) are brought in and priests and Levites lead a ceremony of ritual cleansing (v.30). Nehemiah himself then takes a lead and has the leaders go up on the walls (v.31) together with two choirs (v.31,38) who process in opposite directions around the wall and then process to the Temple (v.40) together with the priests (v.41-43)
1. Dedication is an act of thanksgiving to God.
2. Is praise and thanksgiving a key element of our lives?
Chapter: Nehemiah 12/13
Passage: Nehemiah 12:44 - 13:3
A. Find Out:
1. What were collected for who? v.44
2. That enabled them to do what? v.45
3. Whose practice were they following? v.46
4. So what did Israel do at that time? v.47
5. What did they hear in the reading of the Law? v.1
6. Why had that been? v.2
7. So what did they do? v.3
1. What do the closing verses of Ch.12 tell us about life in Jerusalem ?
2. What was the point being made in 13:1-3?
3. How might 2 Cor 6:15-17 shed light here?
We have just seen the dedication of the completely restored walls of the city which had included choirs of singers, and now the account turns to the provision made for those singers and for those who ministered in and around the Temple.
The Law required giving to the priests and Levites to enable them to get on and focus solely on serving in the Temple in Jerusalem , and so now they make sure that men are appointed to collect and store that provision (v.44) for them, and their service clearly pleased the people. This service and provision included those who simply served around the Temple, and at the gates and who were singers for the Temple (v.45) and in this they were following the practice that David had followed of appointing singers for the Temple (v.46) to provide ongoing praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.
But while this was going on, at the same time, having heard what the Law said about not marrying Ammonites or Moabites (v.1) because of their past history with Israel (v.2) there was a separating out of those who were foreigners and they were excluded from all of the life and administration carried out by Israel as the people of God (v.3). In these ways they sought to ensure they completely followed the Law.
1. God has rules for good reasons.
2. God's rules help us see how to live best according to His design.
Chapter: Nehemiah 13
Passage: Nehemiah 13:4-14
A. Find Out:
1. Who, in what role, had done what? v.4,5
2. Where had Nehemiah been? v.6
3. When did he hear about this and what did he do? v.7-9
4. What else did he hear about and do about it? v.10,11
5. When then happened & what did Nehemiah do to facilitate it? v.12,13
6. What did he ask of the Lord? v.14
1. How had Eliashib's activity hindered the work of the Temple ?
2. What was particularly galling about it?
3. What was the end outcome of Nehemiah's changes?
So much of what we have been learning about in the recent pages of this book has to do with bringing order back into running the Temple . Now it appears that Nehemiah had returned to the king (v.6), presumably to report back to him, and while he was gone, Tobiah – presumably the same one as who had collaborated with others against Nehemiah previously – had used his influence somehow to get Eliashib the priest, who had been put in charge of the storerooms of the Temple (v.4,5), to let him use some of those rooms, presumably for his own business. That would have meant they could no longer be used to store the food meant for the Levites serving in and around the Temple.
When he gets back, Nehemiah hears about this (v.7) and threw all Tobiah's things out of the main room (v.8) and had the room ceremonially cleaned (v.9) so it could be returned to its proper use.
Perhaps it had been because of this, but Nehemiah also learns that the Levites had not been ‘paid' their supplies and they and the singers had returned to their own homes (v.10). So Nehemiah reinstates them (v.11) and provision for the Levites is reinstated (v.12) and new officials put in charge of the food supplies (v.13). Nehemiah concludes this section by asking for the Lord's blessing for having acted in this way and ensuring the proper function of the Temple (v.14)
1. Actions have consequences and small things cane have big effects.
2. How might my actions to day affect those around me?
Chapter: Nehemiah 13
Passage: Nehemiah 13:15-22
A. Find Out:
1. What wrong did Nehemiah see and what did he do about it? v.15
2. What similar thing did he see going on? v.16
3. So what did he do about that? v.17,18
4. How did he deal with the problem? v.19
5. How did he have to persevere with it? v.20,21
6. What final thing did he do to ensure it worked? v.22
1. How did Nehemiah correct by warnings?
2. But how did he also correct by actions?
3. What, ultimately, was the problem?
These verses finish (v.22b) in the same way that the previous block finished (v.14) with a direct appeal to the Lord. These things being dealt with were specifically things to do with honouring the Lord. The previous section (v.1-13) had been about honouring Him by making provision for the Levites so the Temple would be properly serviced. Now he deals with the matter of the Sabbath not being observed.
First he finds Jews in Judah carrying out their agricultural business on the Sabbath (v.15) and he simply warns them against doing it. But then he finds traders actually in Jerusalem trading on the Sabbath (v.16). This time he rebukes the leaders of the people (v.17), reminding them that it was just such behaviour that had brought about the Exile and the previous destruction of Jerusalem (v.18).
But words were not enough. It also needed action, so first of all he had the gates of the city shut immediately before Sabbath began and only opened after it ended (v.19), putting his own men as guards. When outside traders turned up and waited for the gates to open on the Sabbath, he went out and told them to go (v.20,21) and so they eventually stopped coming on the Sabbath. To ensure this was maintained he instructed the Levites to take over guarding the gates on the Sabbath (v.22).
1. Keeping the Sabbath was about honouring the Lord.
2. Failure to keep it was a sign of disregarding the Lord.
Chapter: Nehemiah 13
Passage: Nehemiah 13:23-27
A. Find Out:
1. What had men of Judah done? v.23
2. With what consequence? v.24
3. What was Nehemiah's response? v.25
4. What bad example did he refer to? v.26
5. How did he refer to their actions? v.27
1. How was Israel 's future at risk?
2. Why was Solomon a warning to this people?
Before we note the detail of the content we must overcome our 21 st century misunderstandings of the OT history of Israel . One of the strongest requirements of the Lord for Israel was not to marry foreigners. There was no way that Israel could remain the people of God if they took on board the ways of other peoples, and Solomon had been a classic example of a man who took many foreign wives and was led astray from God by them (v.26)
Thus Nehemiah now finds that (presumably in the years since the first return after the Exile) men of Judah had married women from the local pagan nations (v.23) with the result that their resulting children now spoke those languages but not the language of the people of God (v.24). They had lost their identity and could no longer be called God's chosen people.
This horrifies Nehemiah and he is so moved that he even turns to violence and violent denunciations of these men (v.25) and reminds them what had happened to foolish Solomon (v.26).
He describes their activity as ‘terrible wickedness' and charges them with being ‘unfaithful to God'. We may be slow to understand this but this involved the very identity and future of Israel . Israel were still God's chosen people and still had a part to play in His plans and so anything which threatened their existence, as this clearly did, was to be strongly opposed. Hence Nehemiah's strong response.
1. Israel were called to be a unique light to the rest of the world.
2. We too, as Christians, as called to be a light to the world.
Chapter: Nehemiah 13
Passage: Nehemiah 13:28-31
A. Find Out:
1. What relational problem needed remedying? v.28
2. Why had it been wrong? v.29
3. So what did Nehemiah do? v.30
4. What further procedures did he establish? v.31
1. What actually was the problem spoken of here?
2. What was Nehemiah trying to achieve?
At various times in this book, we are faced with the problem of either mixed marriages or mixing with foreign peoples (see 2:20, 7:64,65, 10:28,30, 13:1-3,4,7,23-27 and now 13:28) The Law declared that a priest may only marry from God's people (Lev 21:14). The Lord had warned His people generally against intermarrying with foreign women who would lead His people astray (Ex 34:15,16) and indeed against marrying foreign wives generally (Deut 7:3,4) This was repeated later on (Josh 23:12,13).
Thus we come to the end of the record of this time when the walls had been rebuilt and Nehemiah (and Ezra) had gone about a period of restoring the Law and the practices required of it – especially in respect of those who served in and maintained the Temple.
Earlier on we were told about Eliashib the priest who had become too close to Tobiah, who had been against Nehemiah all the way through, and had even let him use rooms in the temple. Now we find that one of his grandsons had married a daughter of Sanballat. Sanballat was a Babylonian name suggesting his origin was either from there or from a foreign family taken to Babylon (mixing peoples was a technique to adulterate their identity). Sanballat was another of those who had been against Nehemiah throughout and was also therefore an enemy of God. For one of the priests to marry into his family was breaking all the prohibitions of the Law. As a final act of purification Nehemiah expelled him from the priesthood and checked and purified the rest.
1. God's laws were not optional for Israel . He had good reasons.
2. Disobedience would hinder the blessing of Go
RECAP - "People & Purification" - Nehemiah 11-13
In this final group of 7 studies we have seen:
- Jerusalem being repopulated 11:1-20
- Other officials living in the city 11:21-24
- The surrounding villages 11:25-36
- A record of the exiles who had returned 12:1-26
- The dedication of the walls 12:27-43
- Provision for the Singers and the Levites 12:44-47
- Foreigners excluded in accordance with the Law 13:1-3
- Eliashib consorting with the enemy 13:4-5
- Nehemiah correcting him 13:6-9
- Nehemiah making sure the Levites are cared for 13:10-14
- Nehemiah stopping misuse of the Sabbath 13:15-22
- Nehemiah stopping mixed marriages 13:23-27
- Nehemiah expelling a priest for marrying a foreigner 13:28
- Nehemiah's final purification of the priest 13:29,30
These final chapters might be subdivided:
Chapter 11: The people who repopulate the city
Chapter 13: Reforms – putting right what was wrong.
1. People are important and significant in God's economy
2. There are right ways of doing things in God's kingdom
3. Right involves caring for and providing for others
4. Holiness is about doing and being in a godly way.
Thank the Lord for the example of Nehemiah, a man of character, a man given over to the will of God who was concerned with all aspects of the life of the city of God , which reflected on the honour of the Lord.
Part 1: What brought about the Rebuilding of Jerusalem
Part 2: Building, Opposition and Difficulties
Part 3: The Law, Repentance & Dedication
Part 4: Settling in and Bringing Reforms
As we come to the end of this series of studies, the following are some of the things we may wish to think about:
1. The Honour of God through His People
God had brought the destruction of Jerusalem but that did not mean He no longer cared for it or for His people. The state of the household of God reflects on the Lord and the world thinks more or less of Him because of us (Jn 17:20-23). Thus when Nehemiah hears of the state of Jerusalem he is devastated. What do we think of the state of the Church today and what do we feel about it? Are we moved by that?
2. Working to Build the Household of God
If the Church is God's household (Eph 2:19, 1 Tim 3:15) then, in the light of what we said above, we should each one be working to build and strengthen this household. Where we work together as ‘the body of Christ' (another analogy of the Church), then the enemy will seek to oppose us and stop unity and we should seek the Lord to press on for that goal. Where difficulties occur we should seek the Lord for His wisdom to know how to overcome.
3. The Work of the Word of God
The word of God expresses with will of God, and the will of God reflects the design of God, the way he has made us to work. If this is so, and it is, then it is important that we teach His word and ensure each member of the body is conversant with God's desires for us as a people and as individuals. Where we find that conflicts with present behaviour or attitudes, then repentance is called for and maybe even fresh dedication to the Lord.
4. In Line with God's Design
The New Testament clearly lays out how to become a child of God and what happens when we encounter the Lord and are saved. What follows is a lifelong experience of working in harmony with the Lord as He seeks to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is a life that is to be filled with the Spirit and led by the Spirit, but if we fail to live that way, then we resort to following the ‘laws' or ‘rules' (instructions) we find right the way throughout the New Testament. We live by God's will, not ours.