A Chronology of the Times of the Exile and Restoration BC
538 Darius and Cyrus are joint rulers over the Persian empire.
536 Cyrus assumes sole rulership. The completion of the 70 year prophecy
(2Chr. 36:22). Daniel dies in Babylon (Dan. 1:21; 10:1; 12:13)
49,897* return from Babylon to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel.
7th month: The people gather to build the altar, and sacrifices offered
535 2nd year of Cyrus. Work on the temple is begun; the foundations laid
(Ezra 3:8-13); then work stops.
529 Cambyses (the Ahasuerus of Ezra 4:6) in control of the empire.
Samaritan opposition in Jerusalem continues (Ezra 4:4-6).
522 7 months reign of the usurper Pseudo-Smerdis (the Artaxerxes of Ezra
4:7-23); Samaritan opposition is renewed.
521 Darius Hystaspes (the Darius of Ezra 4:5, 24; the Artaxerxes of Ezra
6:14; the Ahasuerus of Esther) reigns (until BC485).
520 2nd year of Darius. The work is renewed with the exhortations of
Haggai and Zechariah.
516 The temple is completed and Passover is observed (Ezra 6:19).
515 Esther becomes Queen of Persia. Ezra leaves Babylon (Ezra 7:9); arrives at Jerusalem five months later.
502 Nehemiah arrives at Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.
The wall is finished in 52 days.
490 Nehemiah returns to Persia after his first ministry in Jerusalem.
*Comprised of the congregation (42,360), servants (7,337) and singers (200),
according to Ezra 2:64-65.
The Christadelphian Expositor
Nehemiah was a man strong in purpose and in faith, and humble before his God. By the strength of his character, and his outstanding personal example of godliness, he succeeded in revitalising - at least temporarily - a people who had become weary, dispirited, spiritually weak, and morally lax.
The events are set in a period when the fate of nations was undergoing radical changes. Egypt and Assyria had fought their rivalry to a decision triumphant for the latter, and Judah had fallen before the power of Nebuchadnezzar between the years BC606 and 586. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple burned, and all the noble families carried away captive. The people who remained were in a disorganised and poverty-stricken state.
Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had built a powerful empire, but it did not last long. Cyrus, leading the Medes and Persians, overthrew Babylon about BC539, and with the advent of this new power, the fortunes of God's people again underwent a dramatic change. Jeremiah had prophesied a captivity of seventy years, and in BC536 (approximately) Cyrus gave leave for those Jews who so desired to return to their beloved city.
Under Zerubbabel and Joshua, 42,360 of them returned, and immediately set about rebuilding the temple. They met with much opposition from the surrounding tribes, but encouraged by Haggai and Zechariah, they completed the task within twenty years.
Later, Ezra the scribe obtained a commission from Artaxerxes, king of Persia, to conduct a further return to Jerusalem, and there to restore the temple services and to inaugurate a civil magistracy with power to tax and execute law. **
Thirteen years had passed since Ezra the scribe was first sent to Jerusalem (cp. Ezra 7:8; Neh. 2:1). Following his pioneering work with the people earlier he probably returned to Persia to report on the activities performed under the decree of Darius (Ezra 7:14). The voices of Haggai and Zechariah had been heard, calling the people to their responsibilities.
But now, without effective leadership in the land of Judah, conditions deteriorated, and the work of the Truth was gravely affected. No longer was the previous zealousness maintained. Apathy beset it, and the work of the Truth seriously declined. The enemies of God gloated over the scene.
Meanwhile, in Shushan, the palace of the great king of Persia, the Elohim were preparing the scene for one of the most remarkable revival campaigns in the history of Judah. It commenced with a visit to a royal employee, Nehemiah, by his brother with news concerning the state of Jerusalem. **
Nehemiah arranged the people into 44 working parties, which labored together united as one for 52 days, bringing success and fulfilment to the project set before them. All brethren and sisters were encouraged to co-operate in the work at hand: the establishing of the defences and environs of Jerusalem, Priests, Levites, nobles, professionals, laborers, commoners, daughters, families - all gathered together in the vital project and were elevated to a common status in the single-minded service of the Truth (compare Eph. 4:1-2; ICor. 12:18-31).**
The challenge which is emphasised in chapter 3 is that of individual and collective commitment to the work of the Truth, no matter what the circumstances of life may be. There must be a recognition of particular and special needs, especially in times of crisis for individuals or for the ecclesia.
In this incident, enthusiastic dedication to the cause was readily evident. However, this was in the initial stages of the work. Later, things were to be quite different. When Nehemiah's influence was withdrawn, after the events described in ch. 12:3, apathy and indifference developed.
This inevitably resulted in the development and growth of apostasy. It is necessary, through zealous exposition of the Word and by means of encouragement, to maintain a spirit of dedication to the cause of the Truth. Every new convert to the Truth should be instructed in this necessity, and should be taught to work together with their brethren in the labour of building up the walls of spiritual Jerusalem, which is the Body of Christ.
The defence of the faith must be maintained. The principles of the Truth must be upheld. By this means, the challenges which will arise, either from within or without will be countered, and the integrity and faithfulness of the brethren and sisters kept intact, despite the weaknesses and failings of the flesh. **
**The Christadelphian Expositor
The rebuilding of the wall
1 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.
The sheep gate entered into the Temple area, on the northeast corner of the city, so named because it was through here that the animals were brought for sacrifice-the sheep gate-the way of sacrifice.
The whole undertaking was begun by sanctifying the work unto God, seeking His help and blessing. And when the wall was completed, the whole was dedicated to God with praise and thanksgiving.
This high priest Eliashib was the grandson of the high priest Jeshua, who had come back earlier with Zerubbabel. Though he entered into the wall-building, he appears to have been no friend of Nehemiah's, but rather of Tobiah and Sanballat.
Though he was high priest, he is not mentioned as taking any part in the reforms and activities by which Nehemiah endeavored to stir up the people and bring them back to God.
Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build
It must have given Nehemiah great pleasure to see the enthusiastic response from most areas of the populace in Jerusalem. It was the answer to the ridicule, threats and challenges from the enemies (ch. 2:10, 19).
Eliashib the high priest — Significantly Eliashib is mentioned first. As high priest it was his duty to give an example of faithfulness (cp. Mal. 2:7). His name signifies El Restores, and he was energetic in material duties, but negligent in spiritual responsibilities (see ch. 13:4, 28).
He ultimately became allied to the enemy Tobiah, and guilty of profaning the temple. His grandson, Manasseh, was sonin-law to Sanballat the enemy (cp. Ezr 10:6; Neh. 13:28). his brethren the priests
— The general company of the priests associated with Eliashib. Compare verse 28 which shows that the priests undertook a portion of the eastern wall, besides the work here mentioned. There was initial enthusiasm, but it was not sustained as so often occurs in commitments to the Truth.
and they builded the sheep gate
— The first gate mentioned: appropriately associated with shepherding and sacrifice.
The priests worked in the particular area to which they might be related in their future work, when the sacrifices would be gathered for worship in the temple.
The gate was north of the city through which came the animal offerings of the people; so likewise, animal sacrifices in the millennial temple will be brought in from the same direction (Eze. 40:40-41).
they sanctified it
In sanctifying the gate, the priests held a special dedication service different from that described in ch. 12:27-43. The priests consecrated their own work at the earliest possible moment, in order that the divine blessing might rest upon the labours of the whole community.
In the antitype, the Lord Jesus, as the faithful high priest "builded" his sacrificial work by a life of dedicated labour, and then "sanctified" it in his offering (2Tim. 2:21; Heb. 2:11; 9:13;10:10).
The Christadelphian Expositor
5 And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.
Paul tells us that all these things were written for examples for us and they are examples in more ways than one. Among other things they are examples of the fact that all is recorded
for good or for ill. If we are related to the purpose of God (and we believe we are), then all our activities are being recorded.
Let it not be recorded of any of us that we "put not our necks to the work of the Lord."
That applies to us all, for listening is just as important as speaking. All is the work of the Lord, whether it be the meetings, or just our private contacts together. Let us all put all the effort and enthusiasm we can into everything we do, as unto the Lord!
The nobles of Tekoa put not their necks to the work, and it is forever recorded against them, but we find later in the chapter that the common people of Tekoa finished their own
part early and then went somewhere else and built up an extra portion.Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build
10 And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabniah.
This building again of the old ruins of the wall which had been broken down for one hundred and fifty years was a tremendous undertaking. There are several interesting points about it.
In this work Nehemiah was typical of Christ, the great wall builder, and also of every faithful laborer in every age who endeavors to build up and strengthen the Holy City's wall of defense and separation from the world.
When the wall is broken down, nothing can prosper. Things just go from bad to worse.
The first point we notice is that each man built the part nearest his own house.
This is an important principle.
Bro Growcott - Let us rise and build up
20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.
Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired his portion. As some are singled out for their lack of zeal, so here is one mentioned for special zeal.
There was a lot of earnest work, or they never could have gotten the wall up in fifty-two days in the face of such obstacles, but here was a real extremist-a man who gave himself to the uttermost. As Paul says of some in his day-
"To their power-yea, and BEYOND their power- they were willing of themselves"
(2 Cor. 8:3).
*Bro Growcott - Let us rise up and build