Q: In Neh, what is some of the value of having this book in the Bible?
A: While Nehemiah is historically important to chronicle this period of Jewish history, it is far more important for what it teaches on godly leadership. Here is one lesson on leadership for each chapter of Nehemiah.
1. How do you react when things are not as they should be?
2. How do you set priorities and plan?
3. How do you work together and lead?
4. How do you deal with opposition?
5. How do you deal with problems believers cause?
6. How do you deal with threats?
7. How do you strategically place people in positions?
8. How well do you yield the stage to others?
9. How do you encourage confession?
10. How do you build consensus?
11. How do you build teamwork and unity?
12. How do you dedicate your work and your life, and others to God?
13. How and when do you strongly rebuke?
Q: In Neh, what is an outline of the book?
A: Looking at six different outlines, they differ greatly. For example, should chapters 5-6 be combined as a third level heading, or is Nehemiah 5:1-14-19 a second level heading? Nehemiah 13 is a first level section in four outlines, and a third level section in The New Geneva Study Bible. Here is my outline of Nehemiah - Leading the Rebuilding.
I External Rebuilding
..1 The Calamity and One Man's Response
..2:1-10 Entering the Field
..2:11-20 Assessing the Condition
..3 Rebuilding the Gates of God's People
..4 Nehemiah Handles the Opposition
..5 Financial Obstacles to Rebuilding
..6 Opposition to Rebuilding
II Internal Rebuilding
..7 Recognizing God's People
..8-10 Revival Worship
....8 Hearing God's Word
....9 Renewing a Covenant with God
....10 Accountability to Each Other
..11 Living Revival: In Jerusalem and the land
..12 Appointing Others: Bringing back the Levites
..13 Maintaining Revival: Cleanse from Foreign Things
Q: In Neh, what can we learn about solving seemingly insurmountable problems?
A: Here is a way given by pastor Adrian Rogers in a radio broadcast on Sept. 16, 2011. You can order a tape on this or other topics at Love Worth Finding, at www.lwf.org.
Focus on the problem
Nehemiah asked for, and the king gave: permission, provision, and protection
Find the facts
Form a fellowship
Fortified their faith
Face the foe
Fulfilled their function
Q: Were Neh and Ezra originally one book?
A: At one time Jews placed them as one book. However, they originally were two books, as they have different authors and slightly different lists of returnees. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 and the Believers Bible Commentary p.488 for more extensive answers.
Q: In Neh 1:1, when was this time?
A: This was November-December 444 B.C. The twentieth year means the twentieth year of the reigning king, in this case, Artaxerxes I.
The skeptical Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.459 says that this could either be under Artaxerxes I (444 B.C.) or Artaxerxes II (385/384 B.C.), though he mentions that Josephus says Nehemiah arrived about 440 B.C., which would be under Artaxerxes I. However Persia and the Bible p.242 says, "It is certain that Nehemiah (Neh. 1:1; 2:1) served as the cupbearer of Artaxerxes I, who ruled from 464 to 424 B.C., because an Elephantine papyrus (Cowley #30) dated to 407 B.C., mentions the sons of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria and adversary of Nehemiah." The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.677 and The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.570 also mention this.
Q: In Neh 1:1, what do we know about the city of Susa?
A: See the question on Susa near the start of the discussion on Esther for the answer.
Q: In Neh 1:3, why was it surprising that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down?
A: Of course all the walls were destroyed when the Babylonians took Jerusalem in 7/18/596 B.C. However, some work had gone on to rebuild the walls. However, the decree of King Artaxerxes I halted that work.
Q: In Neh 1:4, how should we react when things are not as they should be?
A: We are neither to be in the flesh and lose control of our temper, nor be passive and stoic. Nehemiah was very disturbed by this news, and he went to the Lord in prayer. Nehemiah did not just pray one time about this, but he prayed day and night (Nehemiah 1:6).
Q: In Neh 1:5-10, what are the distinctives of his prayer?
A: Nehemiah did not start out with his problems, nor even with the sins of his people, but rather with who God was. Then Nehemiah mentioned how God related to His people, and confessed how they were wicked in not obeying God. After acknowledging God's justice in the discipline they received, and claiming God's promise to restore them, Nehemiah did not take God hearing people's prayers for granted but asked God to be attentive to his prayer. Finally, he prayed his request to have success with the king.
Q: In Neh 1:11, what was a cupbearer, and what is the evidence of what a cupbearer did?
A: A cupbearer not only drank out of the king's cup to check for poison, he was a security chief for the king. Here is evidence of what a Persian cupbearer did according to Persia and the Bible p.259-260.
Xenophon's Cyropaedia 1.3.9 says that cupbearers before giving the cup would draw off some of the liquid, pour it into their left hand, and swallow it down, so that if they put poison in, they would not profit by it. It also indicates that the cupbearer might be the one who determined who was allowed to see the king.
Tobit 1:22 says, "Now Ahikar was cupbearer, keeper of the signet, and in charge of administration of the accounts, for Esarhaddon [an Assyrian king] had appointed him second to himself."
The Jewish Babylonian Talmud (Baba Qamma 92b) says, "The wine belongs to the master but credit for it is due to his cupbearer."
Q: In Neh 1:11, was Nehemiah a eunuch?
A: Some cupbearers were eunuchs; however not all cupbearers were. The only manuscripts that say Nehemiah was a eunuch were Nehemiah in the Codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. However, Persia and the Bible p.262 says these were mistranslations. Hebrew had a word for eunuch which was saris, but that word was never used of Nehemiah.
Also, Haman was a high official in the king's court in Esther's time, and he was no eunuch, as he was accused of molesting the queen.
Q: In Neh 1:11 why did Nehemiah delay a few months in asking the king about returning to Jerusalem?
A: The king moved around to various territories and among the four different capitals, and perhaps King Artaxerxes was absent for a while. See The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.684 for more info.
Of course, Nehemiah was also praying extensively, and he might have had some reluctance, as the next question discusses.
Q: In Neh 1:11 and Neh 2:4, why would someone normally be very reluctant to ask Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem?
A: For a century since the return of the exiles, nobody had successfully completed building Jerusalem's walls, so why did Nehemiah have the gall to think he would be the one? In addition, Ezra 4:23 shows that Artaxerxes I was the same one who commanded that the building of the walls stop immediately. At this time, Artaxerxes had been king for 20 years, and up to now nobody had told the king that he was in error, or given him any reason to reverse his decree.
If Nehemiah had wanted, he could have found all kinds of excuses to not do God's will and approach the king. As we are serving God, we should not be looking for excuses not to serve either.
Q: Did Neh 2 occur before Neh 1?
A: No, just like January does not occur before December of the same winter. According to The NIV Study Bible p.695, in Nehemiah 1, Kislev in the 20th year of Artaxerxes would be November-December 446 B.C.. Nisan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes would be March-April 445 B.C. Remember, the Persian calendar years of reign did NOT start on either January 1st or the same as the Jewish religious year.
Q: In Neh 2, how do you plan and set priorities?
A: The American World War II general Dwight D. Eisenhower spearheaded the planning of the largest military operation up to that time: D-Day. He said "plans are useless, but planning is essential." In other words, a strict plan on a piece of paper is useless in the drastically changing circumstances of war, but the planning process, both strategic and tactical is essential to victory. Nehemiah probably had planned to bring up the topic with the king, but the opportunity unexpectedly arose when the king asked him why he looked sad.
Planning with no information or with bad information is useless. Thus, before you plan, like Nehemiah you first have to "inspect the wall".
Planning often involves four types of things: people, resources, processes, and quality to meet the requirements in time.
1. People are essential to any plan. Not just the number of people, but the experience and abilities, and your ability to keep them working and motivated. In software, one experienced, highly motivated person can more productive than three people who are being trained while they work.
2. Resources include money, tools of production, and the means to acquire more as time goes on. The allocation of resources is as important as the number of resources. In software, the calendar time to accomplish a job does not go down proportionally to the number of people you put on the project; it often goes down proportional to the square root of the number of people you put on the project. Thus four experienced people, with normal inefficiencies and time spent in constant communication, can produce something in half the time as one experienced person.
3. Process, methods, and alternatives must be evaluated with assorted time estimates, risks, and uncertainties. In software development one has to ask how "heavy" a process a desired. Generally, people give three different answers for the percentage of total time spent in analysis and design: < 5%, 20%, and 60%.
4. Quality, durability, maintainability, reliability, and sustainability of both the end products and the tools used. One can spend all the time creating great tools to use and never get the job done. Or, one can concentrate on the job and wonder why the efficiency is so low. In software, the number of developers per quality assurance people can range from 5 to 1 to 2/3, depending on the importance of reducing the number of bugs. Furthermore, all bugs are not the same.
5. Time to complete the project is important, but time to complete individual milestones can be important for reducing risks and demonstrating functionality (in order to get additional funding. Often everything desired cannot be done, and one must prioritize requirements and have deadlines and due-dates.
These five categories can be considered almost like a set of algebraic equations. You can fix up to any four of the five, but at least one category is constrained by your choices in the other four categories.
Q: In Neh 2:1, how do you pronounce "Artaxerxes" and when did he reign?
A: According to The New International Dictionary of the Bible, (roughly ar-ta-ZURK-sez) the accent is on the third syllable, and all vowels are short except for the long e at the end. Crudens Concordance says "AR-taks-ERKS-ez",
He ruled Persia from 465 B.C. to 12/424 B.C. He died a natural death, which was rare for Persian kings. According to Persia and the Bible p.278, his wife, Damaspia, died the same day.
Q: In Neh 2:1, when was this time?
A: This was around March-April 444 B.C.
Q: In Neh 2:2-3, why was it a serious thing that Nehemiah looked sad?
A: Showing negative emotions might cost the cupbearer his life, as The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.675 says. As a cupbearer, Nehemiah was entrusted with the king's life. If Nehemiah was not happy with the king, the king, if simply suspecting that Nehemiah might not be pleased with him being king, could have Nehemiah executed as a safety measure. Working for royalty had its disadvantages.
Q: In Neh 2:2-3, if a Christian were in Nehemiah's position, how could he or she be expected to have the courage needed?
A: While I have not been in this situation myself, here are some helpful things taken from scripture.
1. Know God. God is all-powerful, and He can direct the heart of the king however He pleases (Proverbs 21:1).
2. Pray to God, acknowledging both individual and corporate sin.
3. Trust in God. Realize that the success of the outcome is not your responsibility. It is God's responsibility, so you do not have that worry. Rather, your responsibility is to be obedient, stay close to God, do your best, and not worry about the results.
4. Realize that God's kingdom, and your eternal life, are so much more important than your earthly life.
Q: In Neh 2:3-20, what preparations did Nehemiah make?
A: Here is what Nehemiah did, and what we should do:
1. Pray day and night (Nehemiah 1:6).
2. Speak courteously (Nehemiah 2:7).
3. Plan how long something will take (Nehemiah 2:6).
4. Letters were needed to help handle the opposition, and secure resources (Nehemiah 2:7,9).
5. Do your research. Nehemiah knew the names of the men in charge of the forest (Nehemiah 2:8).
6. Acknowledge God's help and thank him for it (Nehemiah 2:8).
7. Execute the plan (Nehemiah 2:9).
See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.676 for more info.
Q: In Neh 2:4-8, what is the significance of this proclamation?
A: This was not a decree for the exiles to return or a decree to rebuild the Temple, but to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This decree "started the clock" on the prophecy of Seventy Weeks in Daniel 9:25.
Q: In Neh 2:13-16, why did Nehemiah inspect the walls before telling anyone of his mission?
A: He did not want interference from others, and Nehemiah did not want others to unduly influence his evaluation. Sometimes when a manager wants to get a picture he knows is accurate, he will look at the situation first-hand as well as talk with his subordinates. Also, the sooner everyone knew of Nehemiah's plans, the sooner opposition would start. Sometimes it is fine to do things secretly without telling anyone.
Q: In Neh 2:19, Sanballat was a Horonite, but what was a Horonite?
A: It was probably someone from the village of Beth Horon ("Beth" means House [of]). Beth Horon was only about 15 miles (24 kilometers) northeast of Jerusalem.
Q: In Neh 2:19, do we have any extra-Biblical evidence of Tobiah the Ammonite and Sanballat governor of Samaria?
A: According to The NIV Study Bible p.696 and Persia and the Bible p.267-268, the name Tobiah was associated with the region of the Ammonites in non-Biblical texts. Eleven miles (18 kilometers) west of Amman, Jordan is the Caverns of the Prince, which apparently were the center of the Tobiads. On two halls are inscriptions of the name "Tobiah" in Aramaic. However, we do not know which ruler this name represents, as there were multiple rulers named Tobiah in 590 B.C, 520 B.C, 440 B.C, 270 B.C., and 200 B.C. See Persia and the Bible p.268 for more info.
Persia and the Bible p.267 says that Tubiama appears in the Murashu banking documents in Nippur, and this might have been the same Tobias.
The Zeno papyrii from Gerza, Egypt, also refer to Tobias a governor of Amman. This Tobias might be a descendant of the Tobias in the Bible, according to Can Archaeology prove the Old Testament? p.44.
A papyrus in Elephantine, southern Egypt (Cowley #30) dated 407 B.C. speaks of the sons of Sanballat. See Persia and the Bible p.242, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.677, and The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.570 for more info.
Q: In Neh 2:19, who were the governors of Samaria after Sanballat?
A: According to The Expositor's Bible Commentary p.768, here are some of the governors of Samaria, and the source from where we found their name.
|Sanballat II||c.435||380||Samaria papyrii|
Q: In Neh 3, why did they scrupulously record who fixed which gate?
A: This record honored the people who worked very hard here. It is good to honor people who work hard for the Lord, as Philippians 2:29 and 1 Timothy 5:17 show.
The NIV Study Bible p.697 adds that this is one of the most important chapters in the Bible for understanding the topography of ancient Jerusalem.
Q: In Neh 3, what is the function of a gate?
A: Gates allow people to pass in and out, but that is not their main purpose, as people can pass even more freely through large gaps in the wall. Rather, gates primarily are there so that they can be shut at night to keep out bandits and robbers, and shut anytime when there is an enemy outside.
The body of Christ needs a gate. It needs something to keep Christians "in" God's kingdom, and prevent those who do not want to belong to Christ from coming in, masquerading as Christians. Praise God that the body of Christ already has a gate, and that gate is Jesus Christ. John 10:2-3,7-9 shows us that all who come must come by the gate, and there is no other gate.
Q: In Neh 3:1, why did the high priest himself work on the Temple?
A: Besides setting an example, it was proper for the high priest to lay some of the bricks. The NIV Study Bible p.697 says that the Sumerian king himself would carry bricks for building a temple.
Q: In Neh 3:4 is this the same as Uriah the Hittite, whom David had killed?
A: No, because Uriah the Hittite lived long before and was never said to be the son of Hakkoz. There also was a Uriah the priest in 2 Kings 16:10-16 and Isaiah 8:2, and this could be the same one.
Regardless of whether someone was descended of Uriah the Hittite, or simply had his name, how should a believer react when a Christian leader falls, even to the point of murder? A believer can be disappointed, but he has a choice of how to deal with this disappointment. Disappointment can lead to apathy, or even bitterness. Disappointment can also serve as a reminder that our hope and worship are in God, and not human leaders.
Q: In Neh 4, how should we deal with opposition?
A: When you are opposed in doing something, first make sure it is not because the other person is right and you should not be doing it. If that is the case, you should stop doing it and thank them for their opposition.
If you think you are right, then determine how important it is to fight. Life is too short to fight every possible battle; focus on the important ones. On the unimportant battles, simply state your position, and say you do not think it worth spending time arguing over.
For the battles you choose to engage in, you can negotiate, fight, flee, or temporarily retreat to gather allies and reinforcements. When you fight, be it in business, politics, or even in ministry, fight fair, fight in a way that glorifies God, and when you are in the right, fight well.
Q: In Neh 4:1,7 (KJV), what does "wroth" mean?
A: This King James Version word means wrath or great anger.
Q: In Neh 4:1,7, how should we react when people become very angry with us?
A: Remember, almost no one is unreasonable in their own eyes. With the restrictions of their assumptions, prejudices, and limited information, almost everyone does what they themselves think is reasonable, at least until emotions take over. First we should try to see why they are angry.
Mistake: If they are mistaken in being angry, we should calmly set things right and explain the true situation. Do not just forget it if your brother has something against you, but resolve it before offering gifts to God (Matthew 5:23-24), especially if it is a person in authority, as Proverbs 16:14 shows.
Actual wrong: If we genuinely wrong that person, we should go to them, ask forgiveness, and make restitution as appropriate. For example, if you have stolen, return what you have stolen, plus extra.
Weak Conscience: If a person correctly perceives you as doing something they incorrectly think is evil, then refrain from doing it for the sake of their conscience (1 Corinthians 8; Romans 14:14-15), but do not allow what you think of as OK to be spoken of as evil (Romans 14:16).
Evil perception: Sometimes the difference cannot be resolved, such as you are serving God and they do not want people to serve God. Do not let them be a danger, discouragement, or a distraction, to you or others.
In all cases, remember that a soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), and it is honorable to avoid strife (Proverbs 20:3).
Q: In Neh 4:1-4, how does Satan use discouragement to attack believers?
A: Sanballat I the Samaritan was the Jews' enemy to the north; Tobiah II the Ammonite was the Jews' enemy to the east, and Geshem was the enemy of the Jews in the south. You can remember how enemies tried to discourage the Jews by the acronym "FAILS".
Finances and Greed
...Circumstances of financial hardship (Nehemiah 5:1-3)
...Individual demoralizing leaders laying heavy financial burdens (Nehemiah 5:15)
...Groups profiting from others' financial hardship (Nehemiah 5:3-8)
...Bribery (Ezra 4:4)
...Failing to pay wages The Levites were not paid properly in Nehemiah 13:10-13.
...Morale: Showing rage (Nehemiah 4:1,3,7)
...Individual: Tobiah tried to intimidate Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:19) and they made the people afraid to build (Ezra 4:4)
...Group: Openly threatening a surprise attack (Nehemiah 4:11-12)
...Morale: Trying to make Nehemiah fear, and set an example for others to fear (Nehemiah 6:13-14)
...Individual: Planning to secretly meet (and probably harm) Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:2,4)
...Group: Secretly planning to fight against Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:8-9)
... Pretended help (Ezra 4:1-3)
...Past: Using humor to mock and scorn the quality and usefulness of what they already did (Nehemiah 4:1,3)
...Future: Ridicule and questioning if they would succeed, the usefulness of their efforts, if they would finish in an extremely short time (Nehemiah 4:2)
...Accusations of revolt (Nehemiah 2:19; 6:5-7; Ezra 4:6,12,13)
...Religious: False prophets (Nehemiah 6:10,14)
...Individual: Spying, and giving Nehemiah positive information (Nehemiah 6:1,17-19) Tobiah's man Eliashib living in the Temple (Nehemiah 13:4-7)
...Group: Opposition of discouraged brothers (Nehemiah 4:10-23)
Unfortunately, these same techniques can work today, unbelievers keep their focus on God and what He wants them to do. See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.315-216 for more info.
Q: In Neh 4:5 and Neh 13:29, did Nehemiah have a proper attitude in not wanting their sins to be forgiven?
A: This was not a Christ-like attitude, but then again Christ had not come and taught this yet. We are to forgive others. Nehemiah's was sharing his attitude, as David did in the imprecatory Psalms, but we have a higher standard since Christ came.
Q: In Neh 4:9, why did they set a guard here, instead of asking the Persians for protection?
A: The Persian king had already provided cavalry in Nehemiah 2:9, and Nehemiah might be reluctant to ask for them again. In addition, Nehemiah or some one else would have to leave Jerusalem, make the long journey back to speak with the king again.
Q: In Neh 4:16 (KJV), what does "wrought" mean?
A: This means "took part in" or "worked".
Q: In Neh 5, how do you deal with problems believers might cause?
A: See the discussion on Nehemiah 4 for how to deal with opposition in general. As for problems with believers, the Bible gives numerous examples from which we can learn.
Peter opposed the apparent believer Simon Magus (not the other way around) in Acts 8:9-24. Simon on the surface appeared to be a believer, as he was baptized and intellectually believed. Superficially, Simon might have appeared to be simply a believer who was overly generous. Peter knew better, and rebuked him, offering him hope of repentance. Unfortunately, Church history tells us that Simon Magus later started his own false religion and went to Rome and had a statue made to himself.
Greek-speaking Christians in Acts 6:1-6 had a legitimate complaint about the distribution of food to their widows. The church at that time was not really set up to deal with it. Rather than ignoring the problem, the apostles, met and corrected the problem by appointing deacons, apparently both Jewish and Greek-speaking, to deal fairly with this issue.
Poor Jews had a legitimate grievance against their greedy kinsmen in Nehemiah 5:1-13. While a food distribution problem was due to oversight, this problem was due to intentional greed. Nehemiah rebuked them rather than merely corrected them.
Arguments over ministry regrettably occur even among mature believers, such as Paul and Barnabas arguing over John Mark in Acts 15:26-41. If two people both pray and love God, why can't they get along? Despite the fact of their weakness in this, God used this disagreement for His glory. While Paul, Silas, and later Timothy evangelized much of Greece and Asia Minor, church history tells us that Barnabas and Mark were not idle either, but evangelized much of Egypt.
Judaizers in Acts 15:1-2 were teaching false things. Paul and Barnabas debated vigorously with them, and then they all decided to go to the apostles in Jerusalem to decide the question. After settling the issue, the apostles sent men to Antioch to spread the decision. Apparently some Judaizers still refused to accept, as Philippians 3:2 shows. Titus 1:10-11 says that they must be silenced and not allowed to upset whole congregations.
Paul opposed Peter and was right to rebuke him in Galatians 2:11-14. Sometimes when an "upstart Christian" opposes you, she or he might be right and you need to change.
Envious believers in Philippians 1:15-18 preached Christ out of envy and rivalry to stir up trouble for Paul. They were still preaching the true gospel, so Paul simply rejoiced.
Schismatic believers formed parties and quarreled in 1 Corinthians 3:3-11. Paul's rebuke of them is interesting. He did not address the points of doctrine or conduct that they might have claimed separated them, but rather focused solely on their divisive spirit.
Euodia and Syntache needed the apostle Paul himself to tell them to stop arguing in Philippians 4:1-2. Paul also asked a man who was with them to mediate and help them get along. Sometimes believers who cannot agree need another Christian to mediate, as 1 Corinthians 3:3-6 shows. Titus 3:10-11 says to warn a divisive person two times, and after that have nothing to do with them. (Make sure you are not the one being divisive yourself, though.)
Prideful bickering among the disciples was rebuked by Jesus, who gave an example of being a servant of others in Mark 9:33-37 and Luke 9:46-48. 3 John 9 rebukes Diotrephes, who liked to put himself first.
Wrong attitudes caused the disciples to wrongly rebuke others who were preaching about Christ in Mark 9:38-41 and Luke 9:49-50. In contrast to this, Jesus said to pray for more workers for the harvest in Luke 10:2.
Disorderly tongue-speakers were disrupting the church in 1 Corinthians 14:1-33,39-40. Paul did not rebuke them, but rather showed them the right focus and gently corrected them on what was wrong without discouraging them.
"Super-apostles" were out to get Paul and destroy his credibility in 2 Corinthians 10:9-11:15. Paul wrote against them vigorously, reminding them of his authority. False prophets tried to scare Nehemiah in Nehemiah 6:10-14 and contradict God's word in Jeremiah 28.
We should cause problems for heretics who are in the church yet deny the faith. John directly rebuked those who held to soul-perishing heresies in 1 John 1:6,10 and 2 John 7-11. Peter rebuked heretics in 2 Peter 2:1-3, Jude rebuked "intruders" in Jude 4,8, James rebuked in James 2:1-4, and Paul rebuked in Philippians 3:2 and other places. In fact, it seems there are not many New Testament writers that did not rebuke heretics, if you count Jesus rebuking the Sadducees and Pharisees in the gospels. We also are to rebuke those who persist in sin in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 and 1 Timothy 5:20.
Yet, while 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 shows we are to watch the primary things, in which a person is not saved if they do not believe, Romans 14 clearly proves we are to have a different response to secondary things, such as eating and days to the Lord. We are not to allow what we consider right to be spoken of as evil, but sometimes we refrain from doing things to not cause problems by stumbling our weaker brethren.
A terrible war was barely avoided in Joshua 22:10-34. The 9 1/2 tribes appeared to themselves "right" given their assumptions of the 2 1/2 tribes, but they were quick to distrust and slow to communicate with the 2 1/2 tribes. The 2 1/2 tribes built a major structure, and was mistakenly thought by others to be an idol altar, without consulting or informing the other Israelites.
Gideon fought against the Israelite cities that refused to help his army in Judges 8:5-17. While Gideon was wrong to be so severe, we should point out to the Christian community Christian organizations and alleged Christian organizations that defiantly refuse to support God's people doing God's will. For example, when the Southern Baptist Convention was considering meeting in Chicago, many liberal churches, including a number of United Methodist ones, publicly asked the southern Baptists not to come if they were going to continue to do their evangelistic campaigns.
Civil wars occurred with Abimelech in Judges 9:26-57, Jephthah in Judges 12:4-6, David and Saul's house in 2 Samuel 3:1, and against the Benjamites in Judges 20. In all these cases except the last, an ungodly leader in power was the cause. Jeremiah 23:1 declares woe against shepherds who destroy and scatter God's flock. 2 Timothy 3:1-4 says we are to having nothing to do with those who have the form of godliness but deny its power. Presumably, having nothing to do with them includes being in churches where they would be our leader. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 says we are not to associate with an unrepentant person who is sexually immoral, immoral, greedy, an idolater, a reviler, a drunkard or a robber if they call themselves a believer. In the last case, Judges 20, people did not do this and refused to own up to the evil of one of their own.
Cowardly Israelites bound Samson over to the Philistines in Judges 15:11-13. Samson's response is interesting and appropriate here. Samson made them promise not to harm him themselves, and then Samson submitted himself to them, in effect submitting himself to God's hands. He did this rather than physically harm the cowards among his own people. Fear also kept many disciples from associating with Paul at first in Acts 9:26.
Jesus said we are not to make light of somebody having something against us but "leave our gift on the altar" while we make up with that person in Matthew 5:23-24. A general method for dealing with believers who need rebuke is given in Matthew 18:15-17. First go to the person privately, and then return with two or three witnesses if necessary. If he still will not listen, then go before the church. Finally if the person still does not repent, then treat him as a tax-collector or sinner.
In summary, problems with believers seem fairly common back in the days of the apostles, so it should be no surprise that sometimes there are problems today. We are in fact supposed to cause problems in certain circumstances, but let's be careful not to cause any problems when we are not supposed to do so.
Q: In Neh 5:3 (KJV), what is a dearth?
A: This means a shortage, and this shortage was because of famine.
Q: In Neh 5:4,6,10, what is usury?
A: This is lending at high interest, or in this case, lending to Israelites for interest when an Israelite was not to charge another Israelite interest according to Exodus 22:25 and Leviticus 25:35.
Q: In Neh 5:4,6,10, just how high was the interest, and how heavy were the taxes?
A: Here is a summary of the economic situation according to Persia and the Bible p.274-275.
Interest: Under Cyrus I and Cambyses, interest rates were 20% per year. However, around 400 B.C. interest rates were 40 to 50 % per year. The House of Murashu in Nippur charged interest rates of 40% per year. At these interest rates, no one would not want to take out any loans unless they were truly desperate. In Nehemiah 5:11, the Jews were apparently charging each other 1 percent per month.
Taxes: The Persian kings were easy-going on subjects' local administration and religion, but very severe on taxes. The Persian kings received 20,000,000 darics (14,560 talents or about 450 tons) per year in taxes. According to Herodotus, the fifth satrapy, which was Syria and Palestine, paid the smallest amount. They only paid 350 talents per year. Other satrapies also had to make additional "contributions in kind" which the fifth satrapy did not have to pay. When Alexander the Great captured Susa, he found 9,000 talents (270 tons) of gold and 40,000 talents (1,200 tons) of silver just piled up.
Inflation: One study showed that the price of dates doubled between the time of Darius I and Darius II. (Artaxerxes I was between these two kings.)
Land: Much fertile land was given to either the Persians or to military colonists. Thus the people had less land to pay heavy taxes, higher interest rates, and higher prices.
Q: In Neh 5:15, who were the governors before Nehemiah?
A: The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.711 and Persia and the Bible p.265 give a reconstruction by Avigad of the governors of Judah.
538 B.C. Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:8; 5:14)
515 B.C. Zerubbabel (Haggai 1:1,14)
? Elnathan (bulla and seal)
? Yeho-ezer (jar impression)
? Ahzai (jar impression)
445-432 B.C. Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:14; 12:26)
407 B.C. Bahohi (Bagoas) (Cowley Papyrus #30:1)
330 B.C. Yehezqiyah (coins)
There might have been other governors too.
Q: In Neh 5:19; 13:31; 15:14, when should we pray for God to remember us?
A: We can pray this as often as we wish. This apparently was something on Nehemiah's heart. Christians often pray to God to watch over us. David prayed for God to listen to Him in Psalm 5:1-2; 4:6; 13:3.
Q: In Neh 6:2, was Nehemiah right to think they were going to harm him?
A: Probably so, but regardless, Nehemiah saw no benefit in taking any chances. Nehemiah did not see anything they would give him that he wanted to accept, and he certainly would not see any decrease in risk in going out to meet them.
Q: In Neh 6:6, was Nehemiah's opponent named "Gashmu" or "Geshem" in Neh 2:19?
A: Both are the same person. This curious difference shows the reliability of the name here in Nehemiah. According to both Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.233 and When Critics Ask p.217, the Arabic language has names end in "u" for nominative, "i" for genitive, and "a" for accusative. Nehemiah 6:6 has the Arabic pronunciation when the name is in the nominative case. However, Hebrew and Aramaic-speaking people usually omitted all the short-vowel case endings, which would make the name "Geshem".
Persia and the Bible p.268-269 mentions that the Arabic name Jasuma, meaning bulky or stout, is found in various Arabic inscriptions including Safaitic, Lihyanite, Thamudic, and Nabataean.
Q: In Neh 6:6 and Neh 2:19, who was Geshem?
A: The NIV Study Bible p.697 says that an inscription in Dedan in Northwest Arabia mentions Geshem, who was over a large amount of land an involved in the spice trade. Persia and the Bible p.269 says this inscription in Lihyanite Arabic reads, "Jasm son of Sahr and Abd, governor of Dedan."
Several silver vessels at Tell el-Maskutah near Ismailia say in Aramaic "Geshem son of Shahar" and "Qainu son of Geshem". See Persia and the Bible p.269 for more info.
Geshem would be suspicious of a new political power arising, especially given Solomon's famous trading activities in centuries past.
Q: In Neh 6:9, how should we answer false accusations?
A: We should not be silent, because many people interpret silence as either agreement or inability to answer. Nehemiah said the charge was false, but Nehemiah did not waste any time here detailing why it was wrong, since they did not give any details why they claimed the charge was true.
If Nehemiah had provided evidence why the charge was wrong, then they could debate Nehemiah's evidence. However, since they did not have any evidence either, there was nothing to debate.
In summary, when charges are baseless and without any evidence, we should say they are wrong, but not waste too much time going into detail to defend ourselves when there are no reasons given for the charges.
Q: In Neh 6:10, why did Shemaiah try to make Nehemiah fearful?
A: Humanly speaking, Nehemiah appeared to be in a precarious position. If he secluded himself out of fear, everyone would know that. Then the people would be afraid too, if they saw that Nehemiah was afraid. If you are told to flee like Nehemiah, perhaps you might meditate on Psalm 11. See also the discussion on Nehemiah 13:14 for more info.
Q: In Neh 6:13, when it is a sin to fear?
A: First understand that there are two kinds of fear.
Fearing the Lord is a good thing that we are to do (Nehemiah 7:2; Proverbs 1:7: 8:13, etc.). It means to honor, respect, and be in awe of a holy and all-powerful God.
Other fear is not good, as the fear of man can be a snare (Proverbs 29:25). Fear is a choice, and 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God has not given us a spirit of fear. 1 John 4:18 tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. It is a sin to fear when your emotions overpower your good judgment, and you are not trusting in God.
However, being cautious and taking precautions are OK.
Q: In Neh 6:19, how should we deal with threats?
A: You can remember one way to deal with threats by the acronym "PAPER".
Pray to God for wisdom, protection, and that your responses will be glorifying God.
Analyze the threat. Gather intelligence and seek out wise counselors to answer the following questions. How serious is the person making the threat? Do they present this as serious, and if so, could they be bluffing? What are the consequences to them, if they carry out the threat. If the threatened thing actually occurs, how seriously will it affect you? Can you even have adequate prevention and /or response and what would it be?
Prepare for the threat in different ways. For most threats, you can at least take steps that do not have much cost and provide some means of prevention or response. Then, perhaps you might want to take costlier measures, too. You might need to mobilize some or all of what you have to deal with the threat. Even if there is no immediate threat, you can "further fortify the city" as David did. How strong a defense do you need? How quickly do you need to be able to employ your defense?
Enlist subordinates to deal with the threat. Perhaps now is good to form alliances. David was skillful at even enlisting Philistine soldiers, who formerly were his enemies, in his army. If you are a king, and an enemy has an army on your border, now might be good to enlist an enemy of both of you as a "co-belligerent" and suggesting that now might be a good time for them to invade your attacker's territory.
Respond to the threat appropriately. Responses can range from capitulation, negotiation, communicating that you will not be moved, a counter-threat, publishing the threat to the world, to a pre-emptive strike. If your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) is certain death, perhaps you might want to negotiate a little more patiently.
Q: In Neh 7:1-2, how do you strategically appoint people to positions?
A: Sometimes you need to decide whether one candidate should be hired/appointed, or between two or more candidates. First, you need to pray that God will give you wisdom and keep you from serious mistakes. Then you have to know what you want, yet still be open to serendipity. One subjective way of looking at candidates if to picture in your mind how this person might work out in the next few years.
Here is an analytical way of deciding between different people. This list pertains both to qualifications for a position, and for "disqualifications" for a position. Remember, it is not capabilities, experience, and so forth that are important, but relevant capabilities experience, etc. You can remember this as the "REACH" method.
Relationships: How well will they like others in the group? How will others get along with them? Do they provide variety and make your group more diverse in a good way? Do they have valuable relationships through networking? Will they serve others well, and could they lead others well?
Experience: What track record do they have of training, doing the task, leading others, and teaching others?
Attitude: What is their self-image, and their view of their identity in regards to the task at hand. Is their attitude positive and enthusiastic? Will they be dedicated, loyal, and dependable? Do they accept authority readily, and are they teachable? What vision do they have for the endeavor? How well they react when part of their vision is overruled?
Capability: Knowledge of the theory, applied knowledge, intelligence, creativity, how fast and error-free they can perform. Are there any unanticipated benefits or liabilities with this applicant? More important than the mechanical abilities are judgment and style. The millionaire Henry Ford once claimed that it was simple to hire smart people to surround him. What he needed was people with good judgment and style.
Handicaps are something everyone has. If you find someone with no shortcomings, then you have not looked very hard at him or her yet. When you see some limitations, are they so serious that all their strengths do not matter, or can you live with them? Be careful not to propagate your own handicaps. Many people unconsciously hire and promote people that they think are like them. This provides an ingrown group, as the strengths do not help much, since they are shared by all, and the limitations are added.
Q: In Neh 7:2, how do you pronounce "Hanani"?
A: It is pronounced as "ha-NA-ni" with a dot over the first "a", the second "a" is long, and a short "I", according to The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.749.
Q: In Neh 7:7, what are the differences with Ezr 2:2?
A: Nehemiah has the names Seriah, Reelaiah, and Rehum, while Ezra has Azariah, Raamiah, and Nehum. Remember that the Jews spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, and the different pronunciations might be due to that. Nehemiah also has Nahamani, which is absent in Ezra. This likely is a scribal error. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.656 also suggests that twelve men is more likely, as they would symbolize the twelve tribes.
Q: In Neh 7:7-12, why are many numbers different from Ezr 2:1-70?
A: See the discussion on Ezra 2:1-70 for the answer.
Q: In Neh 7:32, why was Ai inhabited here, since it was totally destroyed in Joshua 8:28?
A: It was totally destroyed around 1403 B.C.. However, at this time, around 538 B.C., it had been rebuilt, either on the identical site or else close by. See When Critics Ask p.217-218 for more info.
Q: In Neh 7:64, why were these people wanting to be registered as priests?
A: While we are not sure, there was a famine at that time, and being a priest would guarantee you food. Today some people want to become religious ministers for various reasons.
Q: In Neh 7:70, Ezr 8:27, and 1 Chr 29:7, is there any extra-Biblical evidence of drachmas at this time?
A: Yes. Archaeologists have found several "drachmas" from Persian times in Beth Zur (Khirbet et-Tubeiquah), south of Jerusalem and 4 1/2 miles (7 km) north of Hebron. See Can Archaeology Prove the Old Testament? p.44 for more info.
The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.620-621 also mentions this, but adds that these drachmas were not minted in Greece, but in Judah in the "drachma style". It mentions an article that says that the Jews were permitted to mint their own silver coins with the name of the province "Yehud" in archaic Hebrew script.
However, The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.620-621 also mentions a second theory. The Hebrew word here, darkemonim, and a similar word in Ezra 8:27 and 1 Chronicles 29:7, adarkonim, might refers to the Persian daric, which was a gold coin named after the Persian word for gold: dari. A soldier would be paid one of these per month for his wages.
Q: In Neh 8, how well do you yield the stage to others?
A: Nehemiah yielded the stage to Ezra, and we should be able to do the same to others too. Many endeavors in business and ministry die once the founder is no longer there. You should yield to others when the cause is more important than your personal ambition or recognition. Yielding the stage involves three things:
Passing the baton: The new leader (or existing co-leader in Ezra's case) should be comfortable and able to fill his new role. Make sure the new leader understands his new responsibilities.
Telling others: Make sure that not only do subordinates and peers know of the transition, but that they accept the transition.
Get out of the way, and let the person who is supposed to lead do his job, since it is not now your job.
Q: In Neh 8:4 (KJV), was this a pulpit or a podium (NASB)?
A: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.689, the NIV, and NRSV say it was a platform, and not a pulpit or podium. The NET Bible says "platform" with a footnote says the Hebrew was literally "tower of wood".
Q: In Neh 8:8, how did the Levites make the law clear?
A: It means they explained and interpreted the law. There is no evidence they had to "translate" the law, unless there were a few exiles who spoke Aramaic but were not as fluent in Hebrew. See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.251-252 for more info.
Q: In Neh 8:9-11, why did the people weep?
A: While some might have wept for joy, these verses indicates that most of the weeping was hearing the words of the law, and remembering how much the Israelites and Jerusalem suffered because of their not obeying the law. Perhaps the weeping showed a genuine desire to return to God's ways.
Q: In Neh 8:10, how was Nehemiah an effective leader?
A: He worked well with other leaders, including Ezra. In addition, here are 21 factors taken from Donald K. Campbell's list in Nehemiah : Man in Charge p.23.
1. He established a reasonable and attainable goal.
2. He had a sense of mission.
3. He was willing to get involved.
4. He rearranged his priorities in order to accomplish his goal.
5. He patiently waited for God's timing.
6. He showed respect to his superior.
7. He prayed at crucial times.
8. He made his request with tact and graciousness.
9. He was well prepared and thought out his needs in advance.
10. He went through the proper channels.
11. He took time (three days) to rest, pray, and plan.
12. He investigated the situation firsthand.
13. He informed others only after he knew the size of the problem.
14. He identified himself as one with the people.
15. He set before them a reasonable and attainable goal.
16. He assured them God was in the project.
17. He displayed self-confidence in facing obstacles.
18. He displayed God's confidence in facing obstacles.
19. He did not argue with opponents.
20. He was not discouraged by opposition.
21. He courageously used the authority of his position.
See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.678 for more info.
Q: In Neh 8:17, was the Feast of Tabernacles not celebrated like this since the days of Joshua, or it was celebrated by Zerubbabel in Ezra 3:4?
A: It probably was celebrated many times since Joshua's day, but it was not celebrated to this great extent until this time in Nehemiah. See When Critics Ask p.218 for more info.
Q: In Neh 9:16,17,29 (KJV), what does it mean to harden their necks?
A: This means to stubbornly strain to go in a sinful direction, despite the painful consequences. This was not just disobedience, this was stubborn, defiant disobedience.
Q: In Neh 9:22 (KJV), how did God divide his people "into corners"?
A: This means the tribes were each placed in their territory. The NKJV says He "divided them into districts." The NIV says "allotting to them even the remotest frontiers". The NET Bible says "allocated them to every corner of the land." The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.734 indicates it could be either way.
Q: In Neh 9:34, why did they say in their prayer that their kings and fathers did not keep the law, since some of the kings and ancestors were godly?
A: While a minority of the kings were godly, on the whole they were wicked, and the people followed the kings.
Q: In Neh 10, how do you build consensus?
A: There are different levels of consensus, from tolerance, to full support, to enthusiastically enlisting others. In some situations, especially in business, when there is no pre-existing standard, consensus often is strongest when all have some say in developing the concept or strategy. Building consensus usually takes longer than just having a dictatorship, but building a consensus can give better results.
A consensus is not always good. For example, a group of people might be together and someone asks where everyone should go to lunch. One person throws out the name of a place that is far away, and he himself is not too enthusiastic about it. Nobody else really wants to go there, but nobody wants to risk hurting anyone's feelings, so everyone is quiet, and they all go where no one really wants to go.
Another pitfall of a consensus is distinguishing between reviewers and approvers. Both reviewers and approvers make their comments and give recommendations, but only the approvers make the decision on which way to go. If every reviewer is an approver, every approver has veto power, and you have enough approvers, nothing will ever get approved. To avoid this logjam, have some reviewers not be approvers, and only let a few (if any) single approvers have veto power.
Q: In Neh 10:29 (KJV), what does "clave" mean?
A: This means to bind or join together. The people bound themselves with a curse.
Q: In Neh 10:34, was casting lots an appropriate method?
A: Yes. It was equitable and without bias. Casting lots does not mean that God explicitly desires every one who was chosen. Thus, we cannot cast lots for everything today and claim we are guaranteed to do God's will. However, Proverbs 16:33 shows that God can and does on occasion work through casting lots.
Q: In Neh 11, why did they have to find volunteers, and cast lots to get people in live in Jerusalem?
A: Food was scarce, and many people perhaps thought it would be better to live in the countryside where they could hunt and farm. Also, a city that was sparsely populated and a magnet for enemies would not seem like a secure place to live.
Q: In Neh 11, how do you build teamwork and unity?
A: A team or group has a desire to remain together either because of a common goal, a common threat, a common benefit, common experience, caring relationships, or a combination of the above. Generally it is not as hard to find people who say they want to join a group, as to keep people committed to a group.
Questions to ask yourself about each member include: why are they here, what is their concept of the identity of the group, what keeps them coming, and what things might cause them to leave.
Team members often need remind of the things that hold them together, and team building exercises foster relationships and smooth working together.
Many groups go through four distinct stages.
In stage 1, everyone is excited about the new group, though members do not know each other very well yet.
In stage 2, as members see the shortcomings of other members, some groups dissolve because of personality conflicts.
In stage 3, members know and care about each other very much, faults and all.
In stage 4, the group was fulfilling, but it is time to end it and move on.
Q: In Neh 11-12, why did they record the names of the people who lived in Jerusalem?
A: It might have involved sacrifice to live in Jerusalem. It is proper to honor people who make sacrifices. Paul said to honor those who work hard and teach in Philippians 2:29 and 1 Timothy 5:17.
Q: In Neh 12:30, how could the priests purify themselves, the people the gates, and the walls?
A: This expression means they consecrated and dedicated to the Lord themselves, the people, the gates, and the walls.
You cannot interpret these verses to mean the priests could take away the impurities and sins of the people, unless you think the priests could take away the impurities and sins of the gates and walls too.
Q: In Neh 13, what is the main point of this chapter?
A: There are seven parts to this chapter: excluding foreigners from the Temple, kicking out the belongings of Tobias, paying the Levites, appointing treasurers, honoring the Sabbath, shutting the gates, and divorcing foreign wives. These are unified by one theme: maintaining the spiritual condition by cleansing from foreign things.
Here is what we can apply from this chapter:
Nehemiah 13:1-3 Exclude from your worship idolatrous things, and things that lessen your devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). Do not pretend you have the same faith or fellowship as unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-17) and those excluded from the church (1 Corinthians 5:5,9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:14).
Nehemiah 13:4-9 Kick out from your worship that which does not belong. As Jesus kicked out the moneychangers, and Peter kicked out Simon the Sorcerer, throw out on the street those things in your church that are not of Christ.
Nehemiah 13:10-14 Pay up your financial obligations to God's ministers. Bring them back, if they left because of your disobedience in finances.
Nehemiah 13:15-18 Commit time for God, and understand that as financial giving is not optional, neither is giving of time to God.
Nehemiah 13:15-22 Close up the gates of your church, and your life, to financial and other entanglements that are not what God wants.
Nehemiah 13:23-29 Divorce yourself from relationships that draw you away from God. (However in New Testament times, you are not to divorce your spouse.)
Nehemiah 13:30-31 In doing the above, you will cleanse yourself and others, maintain revival, and be remembered with favor by God.
Q: In Neh 13:4-5, who was Eliashib the priest?
A: Eliashib was a religious person who had little respect for God's holiness, as he made a room for Tobiah the Ammonite in the Temple itself. Also his grandson was a son-in-law to Sanballat, governor of Samaria and adversary of God's people. Since this says "Eliashib the priest", there was only one priest with this name. This is the probably same Eliashib the high priest who worked hard to build the sheep gate in Nehemiah 3:1. (though The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 4 p.581 says that scholars disagree on this.) There are three things we can learn from this.
Some believers apostatize: Even people in high religious positions, who in the past have labored very hard in the Lord's work, can lose their sense of awe of God's holiness.
Kick apostates out: They should be excluded from the church, both for the sake of the church, and for their sake. Sometimes, when people are excommunicated, they will repent, and then they can return as 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 plus 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 show.
Keep their work: When Eliashib did these things, they did not tear down the sheep gate that Aliashib built. Paul said in Philippians 1:15-18 that even though some preached Christ out of envy and rivalry (which were evil), Paul still rejoiced that the gospel was preached.
Q: In Neh 13:6, why did Nehemiah return to King Artaxerxes?
A: Nehemiah never gave up his job as cupbearer (security chief) to the king. It also probably was to the Jews' advantage to continue as security chief. Most importantly, Nehemiah had promised to return by a definite time in Nehemiah 2:6. We should keep out commitments too.
Q: In Neh 13:6, was Nehemiah remiss in not appointing a successor when he left Jerusalem?
A: No, because in Nehemiah 7:2 he had appointed his brother Hanani and Hananiah charge over Jerusalem. Hanani was a faithful man who feared God more than most. Furthermore, Nehemiah appointed them just after the wall was built, so there was some time where he could be with them, train them, and do a good job of "passing the baton".
However, things still did not work out. While Hanani was a good man himself, he was not able to stop the other Jews from disregarding Nehemiah, and disregarding God, as soon as Nehemiah left.
Today there are some who are very good Christians but not necessarily suitable for church leadership. Certainly being faithful and fearing God are prerequisites for all good church leaders. Yet one can have this, and might not have the skills or gifts to guard others, and help prevent them from disregarding God.
Q: In Neh 13:16, who were the men of Tyre?
A: Tyre was a powerful Phoenician city that had a long friendship with the Israelites, even before David and Solomon's time. They were unbelievers who were willing to trade with the Israelites anytime and anywhere.
Today there are people like the men of Tyre. They are unbelievers who have fond feelings for Christians, and as friends, will help Christians, and even help Christians to sin as much as they want. In this sense, Christians should not be friends with the world, as 1 John 2:15 says.
Q: In Neh 13:17, what additional responsibility did the nobles bare, beyond the common people, in sinning on the Sabbath?
A: Both nobles and common people sinned individually. However, the nobles sinned in setting up the areas under their control to be conducive to sinning by breaking the Sabbath.
Nehemiah, with his authority as governor, set up an environment more conducive to righteousness by closing the gates on the Sabbath.
Q: In Neh 13:25, was Nehemiah right to curse, then hit them, and pull out their hair?
A: Nehemiah had a zeal for the Lord, and did what he judged was right in his role as governor in the culture of his time. The Bible does not indicate whether his methods were the best for his culture, or for ours; it only records the facts of what he did. Since New Testament times, today as private citizens, we are not to hit others.
Q: In Neh 13:25, Neh 13:8; Neh 13:15, when should Christians today use stern rebuke and take strong measures?
A: In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul told Timothy to always be prepared to rebuke, correct, and encourage. There is a place for encouraging those who need boldness to do what they already know is right. There is a place for gentle correction for those who do not know what is right. There is a place for rebuke for those, especially believers, who know what is right and still do wrong. Many Christians are good at one of the three, but we should be usable by God in all three areas.
Nehemiah rebuked with strong words those whom he knew already knew what was right. There was no need for correction here, rather rebuke was needed. Nehemiah threw Tobias' possessions on the street, because they did not belong in God's Holy Temple.
Q: In Neh 13:29, should we ever pray to God to remember people for evil?
A: David also prayed similar things in the imprecatory Psalms. The Bible records what Nehemiah prayed, and his devotion in doing so. It does not say this was the best thing to pray, then or now. We have a different, and higher moral standard in New Testament times. See also the discussion on Nehemiah 4:5 for more info.
Q: In Neh, what are some of the earliest manuscripts that still exist today?
A: Christian Bible manuscripts, from about 350 A.D., contain the Old Testament, including Nehemiah.
In the Gothic translation of the Bible, we have manuscripts from 493-555 A.D. which include parts of Nehemiah from the Old Testament, as well as much of the New Testament.
Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.436-438 says there is one copy of Ezra-Nehemiah. It is dated 100 B.C. to 100 A.D. and contains Neh 3:14-15. Dead Sea scroll researcher Nathan Jastrum says the Ezra-Nehemiah fragment was small. ("Issues etc." radio program 4/17/99.) The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls p.433 shows Nehemiah 9:29 preserved in "CD 3.15-16 (cf.)". The handwritings is very similar to scroll 4Q117, but it was not from the same scroll.
Vaticanus (325-350 A.D.) has preserved all of Nehemiah.
Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.) has preserved all of Nehemiah.
Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.) has preserved all of Nehemiah.
Q: Which early writers referred to Nehemiah?
A: Pre-Nicene writers who referenced or alluded to verses in Nehemiah are:
X Melito/Meleto of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.) did not believe Nehemiah and Esther were canonical. He lists all the books of the Old Testament, and does not have Nehemiah or Esther. Fragment 4 From the Book of Extracts p.759.
Cyprian of Carthage (c.246-258 A.D.) quotes from Nehemiah 9:26, except that he mistakenly says "In Ezra also". The Treatises of Cyprian Treatise 12 First book ch.2 p.308. However, Nehemiah was sometimes called the second book of Ezra according to the Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.7 p.109 footnote 8.
Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.) quotes from Nehemiah 9:26, also saying "the prophet Ezra". The Divine Institutes book 4 ch.11 p.109.
Eusebius of Caesarea (318-339/340)
Athanasius of Alexandria (367 A.D.)
Cyril of Jerusalem (c.349-386)
X Gregory Nanzianus (330-391 A.D.) gave all of the books of scripture in a poem, saying that any books beyond that are not genuine scripture. His list was the same that Protestants use today, except that he did not include Nehemiah, Esther, or Revelation. He did not mention Lamentation, but he might have thought it included in Jeremiah. He did not mention Paul's letters or Hebrews by name, but he said Paul wrote fourteen letters. Gregory's poem is (in Greek) in Gregory vol.37 of Migne's Patrologia Graeca, cols. 471-474 (Carmina Dogmatica, Book 1, section 1, Carmen XII) See http://www.bible-researcher.com/gregory.html for more info.
Rufinus (374-406 A.D.)
Jerome (373-420 A.D.) discusses the books of the Old Testament. He specifically discusses Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch, Job, Jesus son of Nave [Joshua], Judges, Ruth, Samuel Kings (2 books), twelve prophets, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai,, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Letter 53 ch.7-8 p.99-101.
Sulpitius Severus (363-420 A.D.)
Council of Carthage (218 bishops) (393-419 A.D.)
Epiphanius of Salamis (360-403 A.D.) (Implied)
John Chrysostom (-407 A.D.) quotes from Nehemiah
Q: In Neh, what are some of the translation differences between the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint?
A: Ezra and Nehemiah are combined as one book in Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus (The Expositor's Bible Commentary vol.4) Of course many names are different between the Hebrew and the Greek, but here are a few of the other differences taken from Nehemiah 7.
Neh 1:11 "cupbearer" vs. "eunuch" in Vaticanus and Sinaiticus (Persia and the Bible p.262)
Neh 3:14-15: "Malchijah son of Rechab, chief of half the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate.] And (he received the help of) his sons; and he set up its doors, [its] bol[ts, and its bars. And the Fountain Gate] Shallum son of Col-hozeh, chief of hal[f the district of Mizpah, repaired. He rebuilt it and covered it, and set up] its doors, its bolts, [and its bars, as well as the wall of Pool of Shelah for the King's Garden as far as] the steps [going down from the City of David."]" Dead Sea Scroll of Nehemiah from cave 4. (See http://foundationjudaismchristianorigins.org/ftp/pages/dead-sea-scrolls/unpub/nehemiah.html accessed 1/18/2013)
Neh 7:2 "Hanani" and "Hananiah" vs. "Ananias" and "Ananias"
Neh 7:3 "The sun is hot" vs. "sunrise"
Neh 7:3 "they are standing" vs. "they are still watching"
Neh 7:4 "the city [was] wide on both hands" vs. "the city [was] wide"
Neh 7:7 "Mispereth" vs. "Maspharath, Esdra"
Neh 7:7 "Baanah; the number of the men of the people of Israel was:" vs. "Baana, Pasphar, men of the people of Israel."
Neh 7:11 "2,818" vs. "2,618"
Neh 7:26-27 "The men of Bethlehem and Netophah [were] 188." vs. "The children of Baethalem, 123, the children of Atopha 56." (The Septuagint of Nehemiah agrees with the Hebrew and Septuagint of Ezra here)
Neh 3:16 "tombs" vs. "tomb" Septuagint, some Vulgate, Syriac
Neh 7:33 "other Nebo [were] 52" vs. "Nabia, 152"
Neh 7:34 "other Elam [were] 1,254" vs. "Elamaar, 1,252"
Neh 7:68-69 "Their horses were 736. Their mules [were] 245; camels, 435; asses 6,720." vs. "2,700 asses." (Septuagint) vs. "asses 6,720" (some Hebrew manuscripts)
Neh 7:70 "530 priests' garments." vs. "30 priests' [garments]."
Neh 7:71 "2,200" vs. "2,300"
Neh 7:72 "2,000" vs. "2,200"
Neh 8:3 "read in it before the plaza that [was] before the Water Gate" vs. "read in it"
Bibliography for this question: the Hebrew translation is from Jay P. Green's Literal Translation and the Septuagint rendering is from Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton's translation of The Septuagint : Greek and English. The Expositor's Bible Commentary and the footnotes in the NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV Bibles also were used.
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