Bad news from Jerusalem
Jerusalem’s walls are still broken1I’m Nehemiah, Hacaliah’s son. And this is my story.
It begins in the walled city of Susa with winter just around the corner. It was the ninth month, Chislev. Persian King Artaxerxes was into his 20th year on the throne.
2One of my brothers, Hanani, had just come back from visiting Jerusalem. Several men from Judah came with him. I asked them about the Jews there—those who had survived Babylonian captivity and then returned to Jerusalem. And I asked about the condition of Jerusalem. 3They said, “Jewish survivors of the captivity are having a rough time. They’re not welcome back there. People treat them disgracefully. As for Jerusalem, the walls are broken in places all around the city. The gates are gone. Someone set them on fire.”
4When I heard that I had to sit down. I cried about this for days. I skipped meals and prayed to God of heaven.
Nehemiah’s prayer5I told him, “LORD God of heaven, you are wonderful and more awesome than I could imagine. You keep your promises. And you keep on loving your people, those of us who love you and obey your laws. 6Please look at me and listen to my prayer. I’m your servant and I’ve been praying here for days and nights. I’m discouraged by what’s happening to the people of Israel. We have sinned against you, that’s true. All of us as a people, and each of us as individuals. Me and my family included. 7We broke the law and disappointed you deeply. We failed to respect the rules you gave us to live by—the laws you gave us through Moses.
8I remember learning about a warning you gave to the people. Moses delivered the message. He said if they broke their promises to you that you would scatter them into foreign lands. 9But you also said if the people came back to you and began following the law, you would bring them home. And it didn’t matter if they were at the other end of the sky. You would bring them back to the sacred place you wanted people to associate with you—a place that made them think of your name and respect it.
10You did it. You brought your people home. You drew on your unimaginable power, and you saved them. 11Please, Lord, listen to my prayers and to those of your people who cherish your name. For what I’m about to do, I’m asking you to help me. Please let the king show me mercy when I see him soon and serve him wine.”
When I prayed that prayer, I was the one who served the king his wine.
Chislev is the ninth month on the Jewish calendar, running from about mid-November to mid-December.
Persian king, Artaxerxes reigned 465-424 BC. He became king after a royal bodyguard assassinated Queen Esther’s notorious husband, Xerxes, killer of 300 Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae. Dates for his 20th year as king was about 446 BC or 445 BC. Persian records provide dates that scholars use to cross-check against the modern calendar. Many scholars date the event to December of 446 BC. That’s about a decade after the priest Ezra arrived in Jerusalem.
Deuteronomy 4:25-27; 28:64.
Deuteronomy 4:29-31; 30:1-6.
More literally, Nehemiah was the king’s “cupbearer.” He tasted the wine to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. Then he served the wine to the king. Cupbearers sometimes became trusted advisors who spent time with the king almost every day. Kings trusted wine stewards with their lives. In the book of Tobit, which is in the Roman Catholic Bible, in a collection of Jewish writings called the Apocrypha, one king trusted the cupbearer with his royal seal. That was Assyrian King Esar-haddon, son of Sennacherib. He appointed his cupbearer, Ahikar, “chief cupbearer, keeper of the royal seal, and chief of administration” (Tobit 1:22). He was the top official, and he signed the royal documents with the king’s seal as a signature.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.