Nehemiah and Jerusalem (Neh 1:1-1:3)

“The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah are here presented. In the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capital, one of my brothers, Hanani, came with certain men from Judah. I asked them about the Jews that survived, who had escaped the captivity, about Jerusalem. They replied. ‘The survivors there in the province who escaped captivity are in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down. The gates have been destroyed by fire.’”

This work is purported to be a first person memoir of Nehemiah. In a certain sense, he is portraying himself as a prophet. His father Hacaliah is not mentioned elsewhere. He obviously was born in Babylon. This probably takes place about 446 BCE, in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes during the month of Chislev, sometime around our November of December. He was in Susa the capital city of Persia, and the residence of the king. Susa is the same place where most of the incidents in the Book of Esther take place. This would be about 13 years after Ezra had gotten this same king to write a letter to let him bring about 5,000 people to Jerusalem as in Ezra, chapter 7. Ezra had left during the 7th year of the reign of King Artaxerxes, unde very favorable conditions. In fact, they had not escaped captivity as indicated here, but they were sent under royal Persian decree with lots of money and gifts. Nevertheless, the problem is that Hanani, with his friends from Jerusalem, painted a gloomy picture of the situation in Jerusalem. No one had fixed the broken walls of Jerusalem since there was a back and forth on this in the Ezra, chapter 4. Obviously, with no walls, any gates would have been useless. This Hanani was probably the son of the priest Immer, one of those who had taken a foreign wife in Ezra, chapter 10.

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