Nehemiah’s Prayer for Israel & Nehemiah

Wow, the people really changed, and I think they even killed all the men that had strange wives.

But can they keep it up?

The Palace of Shushan
Shushan, also known as Susa (i.e. various Bible translations render the city name as either Shushan or Susa) was a capital of Elam, in what is today western Iran, about 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf.

The city of Shushan/Susa, or more specifically, the royal palace there, is known to Bible History as the location where Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel were all situated.

Shushan Susa
Nehemiah was serving in the palace of king Artaxerxes when Nehemiah received the news about Jerusalem, how “The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.”

Nehemiah thereafter received the king’s commission to return to Jersualem as governor of Judea.

“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,

That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.

And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.

Artaxerxes I was king of ancient Persia (464-425 B.C.), of the dynasty of the Achaemenis.

Artaxerxes is the Greek form of “Ardashir the Persian.” He succeeded his father, Xerxes I, in whose assassination he had no part.

The later weakness of the Persian Empire is commonly traced to the reign of Artaxerxes, and there were many uprisings in the provinces.

The revolt of Egypt, aided by the Athenians, was put down (c.455 B.C.) after years of fighting, and Bactria was pacified.

The Athenians sent a fleet under Cimon to aid a rebellion of Cyprus against Persian rule.

The fleet won a victory, but the treaty negotiated by Callias was generally favorable to Persia.

Important cultural exchanges occurred between Greece and Persia during Artaxerxes’ reign.

He was remembered warmly in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah because he authorized their revival of Judaism.

We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cup bearer” (Neh 1:1-11).

“And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.

Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,

Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Canaan.
The earliest known reference to the name Israel in archaeological records is in the Merneptah stele, an Egyptian record of c. 1209 B.C.

By the 9th century B.C. the Kingdom of Israel had emerged as an important local power before falling to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C.

Israel’s southern neighbor, the Kingdom of Judah, emerged in the 8th century and enjoyed a period of prosperity as a client-state of the greater empires of the region before a revolt against the Neo-Babylonian Empire led to its destruction in 586 B.C. and the deportation of the elite.

And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?

Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.

And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.

Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;

And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.

Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.

When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.

The Merneptah Stele also known as the Israel Stele or Victory Stele of Merneptah—is an inscription by the Ancient Egyptian king Merneptah (reign: 1213 to 1203 B.C.) discovered by Flinders Petrie in 1896 at Thebes, and now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

The text is largely an account of Merneptah’s victory over the Libyans and their allies, but the last 3 of the 28 lines deal with a separate campaign in Canaan, then part of Egypt’s imperial possessions.

While alternative translations have been put forward, the majority of biblical archaeologists translate a set of hieroglyphs on Line 27 as “Israel”, such that it represents the first documented instance of the name Israel in the historical record, and the only mention in Ancient Egypt.

As a result, some consider the stele to be Flinders Petrie’s most famous discovery, an opinion with which Petrie himself concurred.

So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.

And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.

And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.

Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.

Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned.

And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.

Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.

But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?

Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem” (Neh 2:1-20).

Nehemiah

Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah, was a cupbearer of the Persian King Artaxerxes.  In 444 BC the king appointed Nehemiah to be the governor of Judah and permitted him to go to Jerusalem to help his fellow Jews.  He rallied the people to rebuild the damaged walls around Jerusalem.

Despite opposition from his enemies, Sanballat and Tobiah, he succeeded in rebuilding the walls in 52 days, and stationed guards at the city gates.  In order to repopulate Jerusalem, he ordered that one out of every ten Jews should take residence in Jerusalem.

He also instituted a series of social reforms including the cancellation of debts owed by the poor and the payment of tithes. He then returned to Persia.  In 432 BC he came back to Jerusalem and enforced several laws, such as payment due to the Levites and the observance of the Sabbath.

He is the author of the Book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament.  The name Nehemiah means “God has comforted.”