The Bible – Old Testament
Problems common to the combined Books Ezra-Nehemiah have been pointed out in the Introduction to the Book of Ezra. The achievements of the two men were complementary; each helped to make it possible for Judaism to maintain its identity during the difficult days of the Restoration. Nehemiah was the man of action who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and introduced necessary administrative reforms. Ezra in turn was the great religious reformer who succeeded in establishing the Torah as the constitution of the returned community.
The biblical sources for Nehemiah’s life and work are the autobiographical portions scattered through the book. They are called the “Memoirs of Nehemiah,” and have been used more extensively and effectively by “the Chronicler” than the “Memoirs of Ezra.” No competent scholar questions the authenticity of Nehemiah’s memoirs. From these and other sources, the picture emerges of a man dedicated to the single purpose of the welfare of his people. Despite temperamental shortcomings, Nehemiah was a man of good practical sense combined with deep faith in God. In view of his selfless service to a community capable of severely testing any leader, we can be indulgent toward his numerous appeals to God to credit him with the work he had done. Nehemiah was a layman, and his generous dedication of talents to the service of God and of God’s people remains an example of undiminished force for laymen today.
The Book of Nehemiah is divided as follows: