Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Greek icon
Saint, Leader of the Israelites, Prophet
Honored inCatholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church
FeastJuly 13 (Catholic)
December 17 (Orthodox)[1]
Nehemiah rebuilding Jerusalem, illustration by Adolf Hult, 1919

Nehemiah (/ˌnəˈmə/; Hebrew: נְחֶמְיָה Nəḥemyā, "Yah comforts")[2] is the central figure of the Book of Nehemiah, which describes his work in rebuilding Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. He was governor of Persian Judea under Artaxerxes I of Persia (465–424 BC).[2][3]

Most scholars believe Nehemiah was a real historical figure and that the Nehemiah Memoir, a name given by scholars to certain portions of the book written in the first person, is historically reliable.[4][5][6] Nehemiah is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, where his feast day is July 13, the same as his contemporary, Ezra. He is also considered a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church, where his feast day is December 17.

Book of Nehemiah narrative[edit]

The Rebuilding of Jerusalem

In the 20th year of Artaxerxes I (445 or 444 BC),[7] Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king.[8] Learning that the remnant of Jews in Judah were in distress and that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild the city,[9] around 20 years after Ezra's arrival in Jerusalem in 468 BC.[10] Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild, letters explaining his support for the venture, and provision for timber from the king's forest.[11] Once there, Nehemiah defied the opposition of Judah's enemies on all sides—Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines—and rebuilt the walls within 52 days, from the Sheep Gate in the North, the Hananeel Tower at the North West corner, the Fish Gate in the West, the Furnaces Tower at the Temple Mount's South West corner, the Dung Gate in the South, the East Gate and the gate beneath the Golden Gate in the East.

Appearing in the Queen's presence[12] may indicate that he was a eunuch,[13] and in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, he is described as such: eunochos (eunuch), rather than oinochoos (wine-cup-bearer). If so, the attempt by his enemy Shemaiah to trick him into entering the Temple is aimed at making him break Jewish law, rather than simply hide from assassins.[14]

He then took measures to repopulate the city and purify the Jewish community, enforcing the cancellation of debt, assisting Ezra in publicizing the law of Moses, and enforcing the divorce of Jewish men from their non-Jewish wives.

Gustave Doré, Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem's Walls, 1866

After 12 years as governor, during which he ruled with justice and righteousness, he returned to the king in Susa. After some time in Susa he returned to Jerusalem, only to find that the people had fallen back into their evil ways. Non-Jews were permitted to conduct business inside Jerusalem on the Sabbath and to keep rooms in the Temple. Greatly angered, he purified the Temple and the priests and Levites and enforced the observance of the law of Moses.

Book of Maccabees[edit]

The Second Book of Maccabees says Nehemiah is the one who brought the holy fire for the altar back from the diaspora to Jerusalem and founded a library of the Holy Scriptures just as Judas Maccabeus did. Here, Nehemiah's political role sets an example for the Hasmonean dynasty and becomes a role model for pious, national leadership in general. The scene of reading and explaining the Torah in Neh 8 became the model of synagogue worship.[15] See 2 Maccabees 2:13.

Book of Sirach[edit]

Ben Sira's hymn in praise of the fathers mentions only Nehemiah (not Ezra) after Zerubbabel and Joshua and praises him for his building activities (Sir 49:15).

In rabbinic literature[edit]

One rabbinic text, or aggadah, identifies Nehemiah as Zerubbabel, with the latter being considered an epithet and indicating that he was born in Babylon. Another oral tradition, or mishnah, records that Nehemiah was blamed for seeming to boast (Neh. v. 19 & xiii. 31), and disparage his predecessors (Neh. v. 15). This tradition asserts that his book was appended to the Book of Ezra, as a consequence, rather than being a separate book in its own right, as it is in the Christian Old Testament. Another Talmudic text, or Baba Bathra, records that Nehemiah completed the Book of Chronicles, which was said to have been written by Ezra.[16]


Nehemias is venerated in Catholic Church and Orthodox Church:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Prophet Nehemiah".
  2. ^ a b Gesenius, Friedrich Wilhelm (1846). Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon. Baker Book House; 7th edition, 1979. p. 544. ISBN 0801037360. Archived from the original on 1 December 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  3. ^ James D. G. Dunn; John William Rogerson (19 November 2003). Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 321. ISBN 978-0-8028-3711-0. Archived from the original on 14 October 2020. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  4. ^ For confirmation that many scholars share this view, see Anne Fitzpatrick (2009). Zuleika Rodgers; Margaret Daly-Denton; Anne Fitzpatrick Mckinley (eds.). "What did Nehemiah do for Judaism," in A Wandering Galilean: Essays in Honour of Seán Freyne. BRILL. pp. 93–. ISBN 978-90-04-17355-2.
  5. ^ For confirmation that most scholars share this view, see Jack Pastor (2010). Menahem Mor; Friedrick V. Reiterer (eds.). "The Contribution of the Samaria Papyri from Wadi Daliyeh to the Study of Economics in the Persian Period," in Samaritans: Past and Present: Current Studies. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 52–. ISBN 978-3-11-019497-5.
  6. ^ For an author who disagrees with the scholarly majority position on the historicity of Nehemiah and Ezra, but acknowledges the existence of that majority, see Philip R. Davies (3 September 2014). Rethinking Biblical Scholarship: Changing Perspectives 4. Taylor & Francis. p. 108. ISBN 978-1-317-54443-2. Archived from the original on 15 February 2017. Retrieved 8 September 2017. The essential historicity of the events described [in Ezra and Nehemiah] has rarely been questioned.
  7. ^ On the date, see Ezra-Nehemiah: A Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press. 1 January 1988. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-664-22186-7.
  8. ^ Nehemiah 1:11
  9. ^ Nehemiah 1:1-2:5
  10. ^ Davies, G. I., Introduction to the Pentateuch in Barton, J. and Muddiman, J. (2001), The Oxford Bible Commentary Archived 22 November 2017 at the Wayback Machine, p. 19
  11. ^ Nehemiah 2:6-9
  12. ^ Nehemiah 2:6
  13. ^ R. J. Coggins. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 73; also F. Charles Fensham, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 140
  14. ^ John Barton, The Oxford Bible commentary, Oxford University Press, 2001
  15. ^ Bergren, Theodore A. "Nehemiah in 2 Maccabees 1:10-2:18". Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period, vol. 28, no. 3, 1997, pp. 249–270. JSTOR 24668403. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  16. ^ Nehemiah by Emil G. Hirsch, David Samuel Margoliouth, Wilhelm Bacher & M. Seligsohn, in "The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day", Funk & Wagnalls, New York 1901-6.
  17. ^ Zeno. "Lexikoneintrag zu »Neemias (1)«. Vollständiges Heiligen-Lexikon, Band 4. Augsburg ..." www.zeno.org (in German). Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  18. ^ "Святой Нееми́я, вождь иудейский". Православный Церковный календарь (in Russian). Retrieved 3 February 2023.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]