Talk:Book of Nehemiah

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The Chronology of Nehemiah[edit]

In order to determine the timing of the events of Nehemiah the Persian ruler "Artaxerxes" of Nehemiah and Ezra must first be determined. The book of Nehemiah is more help in this regards because in Nehemiah 5:14 it states that Nehemiah was governor from the 20th to the 32nd year of “Artaxerxes”. This statement helps us eliminate all but three of the Persian rulers because only 3 Persian kings had reigns of 32 or more years. These Persian kings are as follows:

  • Darius I (Hystaspes) ruled 36 years from 521-485 BC
  • Artaxerxes I (Longimanus) ruled 41 years from 464-423 BC
  • Artaxerxes II (Memnon) ruled 46 years form 404-358 BC

At this point it should be mentioned that “Artaxerxes” as is used in the Scripture is not a proper name of any Persian king. It is a title given to them. Some claim it is a title given to them only after they have become established in their rule. Any one of the above three candidates could be considered an “Artaxerxes”. The clues to which historical “Artaxerxes” is meant are found in Nehemiah. Consider the following:

Nehemiah 12:25-26 25 Mattaniah, and Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, Akkub, were porters keeping the ward at the thresholds of the gates. 26 These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and of Ezra the priest, the scribe.

Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub all lived in the days of Joiakim, Nehemiah and Ezra. Joiakim was the son of Jeshua (Joshua) the high Priest. This was the same Joshua who came up with Zerubbabel under the decree of Cyrus in 536 BC. In Nehemiah 8, it states that Akkub help explain the law to the people with Ezra and Nehemiah. (Nehemiah 8:6-9)

Akkub and Talmon were chief of the Porters who returned from the Babylonian captivity. That these two were actual men who lived during this time and were not just the names of the head of their families is clear from the text. In Nehemiah 11:1-19 it names Akkub and Talmon as part of the 172 porters who lived in the city of Jerusalem proper.

Nehemiah 11:19 19 Moreover the porters, Akkub, Talmon, and their brethren that kept the gates, were an hundred seventy and two.

Not only did Akkub and Talmon live during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah but they and their children came up from the Babylonian captivity with Joshua and Zerubbabel according to Ezra 2. This could also be said for Shallum the porter.

Ezra 2:42 42 The children of the porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, in all an hundred thirty and nine.

Ezra 10:24 24 Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri.

In Ezra 2 it lists the people who came up out of Babylon and return to Jerusalem under the decree of Cyrus. Notice in Ezra 2:42 above it states that children of Shallum the porter came up out of the captivity. Then in Ezra 10:24 it lists Shallum the porter as one of the men who took strange wives at the time of Ezra. What this likely shows is that Shallum and his descendants came up out of the Babylonian captivity and that they were contemporaries with Nehemiah and Ezra. Also note that if the children of Shallum came up with Shallum he was likely well over 30 years old. The same goes for the Akkub and Talmon. This information places Nehemiah’s governorship in the 1st and 2nd generation of the captives who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. Further strengthening this is Nehemiah 12:47.

Nehemiah 12:47 47 And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified holy things unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron.

Nehemiah 12:47 links Zerubbabel and Nehemiah with the action of giving portions to the singers and the porters. Zerubbabel was the governor of Jerusalem under Cyrus starting around the year 536 BC. Nehemiah was governor under one of the “Artaxerxes” of Persia listed in the table above. The verse suggests the possibility that these two governors ruled consecutively. This possibility strengthens to the point of a conclusion when this information is compared to the Persian kings list. We know that Nehemiah ruled as governor of Jerusalem during the reign of one of the 3 Persian kings listed above. We also know that Nehemiah was a contemporary of the Porters: Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub. We have also established that Talmon and Akkub not only came up out of Babylon in 536 BC but were still alive contemporaneously with Nehemiah and Ezra. Ezra 2 also states that the children of Talmon and Akkub came up out of the Babylonian captivity. If Akkub and Talmon had descendants that came out of the captivity they were likely at the least 30 years of age. Using this information we can now determine which Persian ruler was likely the “Artaxerxes” of Nehemiah. the table below gives the age of Talmon and Akkub in the 20th year of each of the 3 potential “Artaxerxes”. These calculations are based on the assumption that both Talmon and Akkub as fathers would have been a minimum of 30 years old in 536 BC at the exodus from Babylon.

  • 20th year of Darius I (Hystaspes) fell in 501 BC ----Talmon & Akkub at least 66 yrs. old.
  • 20th year of Artaxerxes I (Longimanus) fell in 444 BC --- Talmon & Akkub at least 122 yrs. old.
  • 20th year of Artaxerxes II (Memnon) fell in 384 BC--- Talmon & Akkub at least 182 yrs. old.

While it is within the realm of possibility that Talmon and Akkub were 122 years or old it is not likely. From the evidence above Darius (Hystaspes) is the most likely candidate for the “Artaxerxes” of Nehemiah 5:15. Darius (Hystaspes) as the “Artaxerxes” of Nehemiah is the only Persian ruler that congruently fits all the evidence above. This allows for Nehemiah and Zerubbabel to be consecutive governors of Jerusalem. (Neh. 12:47) This allows for Joiakim (son of Joshua the high priest) to be contemporaries with Nehemiah and Ezra. (Neh.12:25-26) This requires no exceptions, special rules or gaps in the chronology of Nehemiah.

Further supporting this conclusion is the following. In Nehemiah 10 there is a list of Priests and Levites who were sealed at the dedication of the wall in Jerusalem sometime around the 20th year of an “Artaxerxes” of Persia. In Nehemiah 12 there is a list of the Priests and Levites who came up with Joshua and Zerubbabel in the 1st year of Cyrus of Persia in 536 BC. Nehemiah 10 shows that in fact many of the men who came up with Joshua and Zerubbabel were still alive in the 20th year of “Artaxerxes”.

Nehemiah 10:1-27 Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8 Maaziah(?), Bilgai, Shemaiah: these were the priests. 9 And the Levites: both Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10 And their brethren, Shebaniah, Hodijah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11 Micha, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13 Hodijah, Bani, Beninu. 14 The chief of the people; Parosh, Pahathmoab, Elam, Zatthu, Bani, 15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17 Ater, Hizkijah, Azzur, 18 Hodijah, Hashum, Bezai, 19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21 Meshezabeel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hashub, 24 Hallohesh, Pileha, Shobek, 25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26 And Ahijah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah.

Nehemiah 12:1-9 Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3 Shechaniah (Shebaniah), Rehum (Harim), Meremoth, 4 Iddo, Ginnetho(Ginnethon), Abijah, 5 Miamin, Maadiah(?), Bilgah, 6 Shemaiah, and Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the chief of the priests and of their brethren in the days of Jeshua. 8 Moreover the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, which was over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren. {the thanksgiving: that is, the psalms of thanksgiving} 9 Also Bakbukiah and Unni, their brethren, were over against them in the watches.

These Priests and Levites who came up with Zerubbabel and Joshua in the 1st year of Cyrus (536 BC) were, according to Nehemiah 12 “chief of the Priests and their brethren”. The table below gives the age of these “chief” of people corresponding to the 20th year of each of the Persian “Artaxerxes” who qualify. Their ages are calculated based on the assumption that they were only 30 years of age in the 1st year of Cyrus at the exodus from Babylon (i.e. 536 BC). As “chief” of the people they were likely 40-60 years of age if not older.

  • 20th year of Darius I (Hystaspes) fell in 501 BC ----Priests & Levites at least 66 yrs. old.
  • 20th year of Artaxerxes I (Longimanus) fell in 444 BC --- Priests & Levites at least 122 yrs. old.
  • 20th year of Artaxerxes II (Memnon) fell in 384 BC--- Priests & Levites at least 182 yrs. old.

As you can see from the table above, using the most conservative estimation of their age at the exodus from Babylon, the only realistic Persian ruler who would qualify for the 20th year of “Artaxerxes” is Darius I (Hystaspes). All other Persian rulers require the men of this time to have lived to an unrealistic old age. While it is not impossible for men of that time to live into their hundreds it is highly unlikely that a majority of the people listed in both these lists lived well into their hundreds. Also remember that only the most conservative age was used as a basis. King David who lived hundreds of years before these men, talked about the length of mans time on earth.

Psalm 90:9-10 9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. 10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Based on the above evidence, Nehemiah was likely a contemporary of Ezra, Joiakim (son of Joshua) and Darius I (Hystaspes). That Nehemiah’s governorship lasted from the 20th – 32nd year of Darius I (Hystaspes) (i.e. 501 – 489 BC). This also means that Nehemiah’s governorship closely followed that of Zerubbabel’s governorship thus confirming Neh. 12:47. Further that Nehemiah’s governorship lasted almost to the end of the reign of Darius I. This also places the completion of the wall of Jerusalem in the year 501-500 BC just 14 years after the completion of the 2nd Temple.

Ezra[edit]

The book of Ezra also provides valuable information regarding the chronology of this time. Ezra 7 gives the genealogy of Ezra all the way back to Aaron the brother of Moses. This genealogical record is helpful in pinpointing the time in which Ezra lived. Ezra 7 states that Ezra’s father was Seraiah. We know from I Chron. 6:3-15 that this Seraiah was one of the high priests. In 2 Kings 25:8-21 we learn that this Seraiah was the last high priest of the 1st Temple. Interestingly we also learn that he was killed sometime around the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. The death of Ezra’s father at least gives us a minimum date for the age of Ezra. The following table gives the age of Ezra based on the 7th year of each of the Persian “Artaxerxes” assuming Ezra was only 1 years old at the death of his father Seraiah.

  • 7th year of Darius I (Hystaspes) in 514 BC Ezra was at least 72 years old.
  • 7th year of Artaxerxes I (Longimanus) in 457 BC Ezra was at least 129 years old.
  • 7th year of Artaxerxes II (Memnon) in 397 BC Ezra was at least 189 years old.

Based on the above calculations Darius I Hystaspes is the only Persian king who legitimately qualifies as the “Artaxerxes” of Ezra 7. Also keep in mind that Ezra was alive 13 years later in the 20th year of "Artaxerxes" at the dedication of the wall in Jerusalem.

In Ezra 6:14-15 we find an interesting statement. It reads as follows:

Ezra 6:14-15 14 And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. 15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.

From the chronology related in Ezra 1-6 we know that the only secular rulers who help and encouraged the Jews in building the 2nd Temple were Cyrus and Darius I (Hystaspes). It is likely that the “Artaxerxes” of Ezra 4 was the usurper Bardis. Although he is called an "Artaxerxes" he did not help but in fact stopped construction on the 2nd Temple. We also know from Ezra 4 that Cambyses was likely the "Ahasuerus” mentioned in Ezra 4:6. In most English translations of the Ezra 6:14 it states that YHWH (God), Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes gave commandments to build the 2nd Temple. We know from close examination of Ezra chapters 1-6 that in fact only YHWH, Cyrus and Darius gave actual commandments that helped to build the Temple. Who then is this “Artaxerxes” of Ezra 6:14? The confusion lies in the translation. In the English translation of this verse the word “and” preceding Artaxerxes is the Hebrew letter "vav" which is used as a conjunction or an introductory particle. This letter is connected directly to the title “Artaxerxes”. Here is what the TWOT Hebrew lexicon says concerning this Hebrew letter.

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"vav" particle conjunction; noun proper no gender no number no state 0519.0 w" (w¹), w> (w®), W (û) and, so, then, when, now, or, but, that, and many others. (ASV and RSV similar.) The vocalization varies.

This is an inseparable prefix which is used as a conjunction or introductory particle which can usually be translated "and.".

The fundamental use of the prefix is that of a simple conjunction "and," connecting words ("days and years," Gen 1:14), phrases ("and to divide" Gen 1:18), and complete sentences (connecting Gen 2:11 with verse 12). However it is used more often and for a greater variety of constructions than is the English connector "and.".

It is often used at the beginning of sentences, for which reason the KJV begins many sentences with an unexplained "and." This use may be explained as a mild introductory particle and is often translated "now" as in Exo 1:1 where it begins the book (KJV, ASV; the RSV ignores it completely; cf. Gen 3:1; Gen 4:1).

The item following the prefix is not always an additional item, different from that which preceded: "Judah and Jerusalem" (Isa 1:1), pointing out Jerusalem especially as an important and representative part of Judah; "in Ramah, and in his own city" (1Sam 28:3), the two being the same place, hence the translation "even" as explanatory. When the second word specifies the first the construction is called a "hendiadys," i.e., two words with one meaning. For example, "a tent and a dwelling" in 2Sam 7:6 means "a dwelling tent.".

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This letter "vav" is translated based on the context of the idea in which it is found. The translators in this case did not base their translation on the context. Had they translated according to context they would not have used the "vav" as a conjunction denoting a separate idea but as a hendiadys i.e. two words with one meaning. According to Ezra 1-6 there were no other separate “Artaxerxes” who gave a commandment that helped build the Temple. Based on the context a more accurate translation of the letter "vav" would read “even” Artaxerxes. This immediately clears up confusion. The verse would better read this way:

” And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius (even) Artaxerxes king of Persia.”

Translated based on the context of the preceding chapters this verse shows that in Ezra 6, Darius I (Hystaspes) is considered an “Artaxerxes” by the author of Ezra. This also confirms the evidence developed above which shows that Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries of Darius I (Hystaspes) not “Artaxerxes” I (Longimanus).

This understanding of Ezra clears up the confusion surrounding a supposed "gap" between Ezra 6 and 7. In Ezra 6 it states that the Temple was completed in the 6th year of Darius. Then in Ezra 7 it states that Ezra left for Jerusalem in the 7th year of "Artaxerxes". The "Darius" of Ezra 6 and the "Artaxerxes" of Ezra 7 are one and the same ruler. These titles are only used to emphasize a particular aspect of the Persian ruler "Darius" (Hystaspes).

I move this over from the article as it seems hopelessly OR and POV. Str1977 (smile back) 09:56, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Template[edit]

The template on the sidebar has the "Historical" section of "Old Testament" expanded, but not in the Ketuvim. Possibly because it's listed there as Ezra-Nehemiah, not Nehemiah. Is there a technical solution so that the "Ketuvim" section is automatically expanded? JohnFlynt (talk) 03:32, 31 July 2015 (UTC)

Okay, I figured that out by reading Template:Tanakh_OT. But "Nehemiah" is bolded under the OT listing, while Ezra-Nehemiah is not under the Ketuvim listing. Can that be remedied? JohnFlynt (talk) 03:38, 31 July 2015 (UTC)