Nehemiah 7 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few

From Nehemiah 7

16 Neh Rebuilding


Neh 7.5-65; Record; Lists of Returned Exiles

Neh 7.66-73; Record; Totals of People and Gifts

Passage and Comments

Today’s passage tacks on the end of chapter six. The reason being. Nehemiah and his brothers have finished building the wall. This is great news for some but horrible for others. At the end of the passage Nehemiah makes a good find.

15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. (Neh 6:15–16)

‘They perceived the work was accomplished with the help of God’. Yes they have every right to be afraid and discouraged.

And God’s people have every reason to be encouraged when we see the LORD helping.

These enemies discouraged the work. But now it is done, they fall back. Perhaps await another opportinuty to oppose God’s work and God’s people.

17 Moreover, in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them. 18 For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as his wife. 19 Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid. (Neh 6:17–19)

The expression ‘in those days’ suggests the following events did not necessarily happen after the wall was built. Rather it makes more sense to view this as a flashback to when the wall was being rebuilt.

Tobiah (an Ammonite) you might remember was one who opposed the rebuilding. ‘Many in Judah were bound by oath to him’. He was a man of power and the people were under his influence. Nehemiah says during this time people were praising Tobiah in Nehemiah’s hearing to make him look good.

Can you imagine the power struggle and the politics behind the scenes in Jerusalem?

During the rebuilding he sent a letter to Nehemiah to make him afraid and hopefully stop the rebuilding. But it didn’t stop Nehemiah or the people rebuilding. They persevered.

7 Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. (Neh 7.1-2)

The wall is built and now Nehemiah sets about to protect it and the temple it surrounds. He looks over the people and selects a faithful and God-fearing man. He with others will do the work.

3 And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.”

4 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt. (Neh 7.3-4)

He does all this because the city is still so vulnerable to attack.

The people within it were few. Houses needed to be rebuilt.

The city is not full of faithful people who will protect it. They are surrounded by the people of the land. Many of whom have given themselves over to the worship of other gods. Some of whom have opposed the rebuilding in the first place.

Nehemiah does something then which is very Jewish. He writes down a genealogy!

5 Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it:

6 These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. 7 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah. (Neh 7.5-7)

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Importantly he connects his genealogy with their story. They are the people who returned from exile. And this in turn connects the people with the whole sweep of the story of Israel.

Nehemiah called some of the people to remain at Jerusalem to protect it. This is something the people of Israel should have done a long time ago and should have kept on doing. But sadly they didn’t.

During the time of the judges the people forgot and everyone did what he thought was right in his own eyes. The period of the kings was marked by sin and idolatry. There were times of reform. But there was no consistent guarding of Jerusalem, the integrity and sincerity of their worship. They lost the book of the law. This was part of the reason they were kicked out of the land and put in exile in the first place.

This is part of Israel’s story, but it doesn’t end here.

What is sacred to God still needs to be guarded, it still needs to grow and be filled, and it still needs people willing to commit themselves to this ministry.

Story of Jesus

I’m speaking about the kingdom of God. They believed God’s kingdom was centered at the temple, in Jerusalem. God’s kingdom is bigger than that. But it still needs to be guarded, it needs to grow and it needs people willing to be involved in this work. God’s kingdom is precious to God.

In the gospel we find this happening;

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt 9:35–38)

The people are few. Jesus recognises a similar problem to the one experienced by Nehemiah.

Jesus says, ‘pray earnestly to the Lord’. Pray for what?

Pray for the LORD to send out harvesters. To do what?

  • to teach,
  • to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom,
  • to heal every disease and affliction.

This is how the kingdom of God is filled. There is lots of work to be done. In Nehemiah’s time Jerusalem (their work in the LORD) needed to be protected and it needed to grow. Likewise Jesus calls us in the gospel to pray and to support his kingdom ministry.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.