Wasn’t it just in the last chapter that we were rejoicing with the Israelites after they had completed the wall and vowed during a ginormous celebration that they would be true and faithful to God and His commands? Whoa, Nellie. That didn’t last long. The final chapter of Nehemiah details the next slip in the vicious cycle of failures in which the people of Judah have been since the days of Moses … well, way before that, actually, but you get what I mean. When reading, this slippage seems to have happened quickly, but in actuality, it occurred over a period of years. After the wall is completed and a new governor is appointed, Nehemiah returns to his position as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Babylon. We don’t know exactly how long Nehemiah spent with the king, but we can sort of narrow it down by flipping back to Chapter 2. In that chapter, Nehemiah says that it is the 20th year of King Artexerxes’ reign, and in Chapter 13, he says it was in the 32nd year of the king’s reign that he returned to Jerusalem for the second time. So, in 12 years, Nehemiah went from Babylon to Judah, built the wall, returned to Babylon to serve the king and then went back to Judah … to set people straight. Now, here’s where the chapter gets super interesting to me. I mentioned a while back that I’m not sure how I would feel about Nehemiah as a person. He seems a little harsh. His prayers generally focus on hurting others and asking God to recognize him for what he sees are good deeds. And they very well could be good deeds in God’s eyes. I’m just saying, if I were on earth with Nehemiah, I probably wouldn’t like the guy much. And think about how his last visit must have been received? Urg. Brutal. He even beat people up (v. 25): “So I confronted them and called down curses on them. I beat some of them and pulled out their hair.” No bueno in my book and undoubtedly how novels like “The Handmaid’s Tale” get written. But that’s just how I feel about it. Obviously, Nehemiah has a very important role in God’s story, and whatever lessons we take away from his leadership, the important thing is that God included this story for a reason.
Writing prompt: feelings. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Feelings.
Write your feelings about the Book of Nehemiah and Nehemiah the man.