LOOK at all the work going on here. The Israelites are busy building the walls of Jerusalem. When King Neb·u·chad·nezʹzar destroyed Jerusalem 152 years before, he knocked down the walls and burned the city’s gates. The Israelites did not build the walls again when they first came home from Babylon.
How do you think the people have felt living here all these years without walls around their city? They have not felt safe. Their enemies could easily come in and attack them. But now this man Ne·he·miʹah is finally helping the people to build the walls again. Do you know who Ne·he·miʹah is?
Ne·he·miʹah is an Israelite who comes from the city of Shuʹshan, where Morʹde·cai and Esther live. Ne·he·miʹah worked in the king’s palace, so he may have been a good friend of Morʹde·cai and Queen Esther. But the Bible does not say that Ne·he·miʹah worked for Esther’s husband, King A·has·u·eʹrus. He worked for the next king, King Ar·ta·xerxʹes.
Remember, Ar·ta·xerxʹes is the good king who gave Ezʹra all that money to take back to Jerusalem to fix up Jehovah’s temple. But Ezʹra did not build the broken-down walls of the city. Let’s see how it came about that Ne·he·miʹah did this work.
It has been 13 years since Ar·ta·xerxʹes gave Ezʹra the money to fix up the temple. Ne·he·miʹah is now the chief cupbearer for King Ar·ta·xerxʹes. This means that he serves the king his wine, and makes sure that no one tries to poison the king. It is a very important job.
Well, one day Ne·he·miʹah’s brother Ha·naʹni and other men from the land of Israel come to visit Ne·he·miʹah. They tell him about the trouble the Israelites are having, and how the walls of Jerusalem are still broken down. This makes Ne·he·miʹah very sad, and he prays to Jehovah about it.
One day the king notices that Ne·he·miʹah is sad, and asks: ‘Why are you looking so sad?’ Ne·he·miʹah tells him that it is because Jerusalem is in such a bad condition and the walls are broken down. ‘What is it that you want?’ the king asks.
‘Let me go to Jerusalem,’ Ne·he·miʹah says, ‘so that I may rebuild the walls.’ King Ar·ta·xerxʹes is very kind. He says that Ne·he·miʹah may go, and he helps him to get wood for doing some of the building. Soon after Ne·he·miʹah comes to Jerusalem, he tells the people about his plans. They like the idea, and say: ‘Let’s start building.’
When the enemies of the Israelites see the wall going up, they say: ‘We will go up and kill them, and stop the building work.’ But Ne·he·miʹah hears about this, and he gives the workers swords and spears. And he says: ‘Don’t be afraid of our enemies. Fight for your brothers, for your children, for your wives, and for your homes.’
The people are very brave. They keep their weapons ready day and night, and they keep building. So in just 52 days the walls are finished. Now the people can feel safe inside the city. Ne·he·miʹah and Ezʹra teach the people God’s law, and the people are happy.
But things are still not the same as they were before the Israelites were taken as prisoners to Babylon. The people are ruled by the king of Persia and they must serve him. But Jehovah has promised that he will send a new king, and that this king will bring peace to the people. Who is this king? How will he bring peace to the earth? About 450 years pass before any more is learned about this. Then there is a most important birth of a baby. But that is another story.