Most Bible expositors agree that Nehemiah authored the book that bears his name. Nothing much is known about Nehemiah’s childhood, youth, or family background, except that his father’s name was Hachaliah (1:1) and his brother was Hanani (1:2).
Nehemiah had risen to a position of prominence in his pagan environment. He was serving King Artaxerxes as his personal cupbearer (1:11). This position was a responsible one (certifying that none of the wine the king drank was poisoned) and an influential one (since such a trusted servant often became a close advisor).
The book of Nehemiah records not only the physical rebuilding of the wall but also the spiritual restoration of the people. Nehemiah desired the approval of God more than the approval of people.
Nehemiah was a man of prayer. Ten recorded prayers range from the quick “arrow prayer” (6:9) to the Bible’s longest recorded prayer (9:5-38). There are prayers of confession and repentance, prayers of praise and adoration, prayers of supplication in weakness, and prayers for God’s judgment on the enemies.
God’s hand of judgment fell on Israel because of their sin, which was characterized by idolatry and immorality. The northern kingdom fell to Assyria in 722 B.C. and the southern kingdom was taken into captivity in 786 B.C.. In 539 B.C., the power of Babylon was broken by the Medes and Persians, and at that time many Jews returned to their homeland.
Several years later, in 468 B.C., a second group of Jews returned, led by Ezra (Ezra 7:1-10). They found Israel in a bad state of spiritual and moral decline. The Jews had intermarried with the unbelieving peoples of the surrounding nations and were participating in their pagan practices. However, through Ezra’s faithful teaching ministry, the majority of these people turned from their sins and once again followed God’s will for their lives.
Fourteen years after Ezra’s return to Jerusalem, Nehemiah came on the scene and rebuilt the walls. He demonstrated unmatched skills in leadership and organization, and in fifty-two days the wall was completed.
This book was the last recorded history of Israel in the Old Testament before the silent years.