Come Build the Walls

Nehemiah has been the cup bearer for king Artaxerxes for twenty years in “the citadel of Susa”. He has heard reports before, and might have seen others, like Ezra, as they made requests before the king. Now though, he is distraught at the reports. The city should be secure, it should be prospering but it still lies in rubble. After fasting and praying to ask God for favor with the king, Nehemiah makes his request and it is granted. The king gives him authority and provision and troops and horses for the journey. When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem he takes three days to survey the work and gathers the city leaders and workers. They all agree and get started, except three. They are the mockers that despise God’s plan and we have people like them today.

They Sat Down To Examine the Matter

Ezra 10:16–19
In Ezra 10:16-19 “The heads of the families … sat down to examine the matter” and it took them three months and “they finished investigating”. Those that had married foreign wives, in Ezra 10:19 “pledged themselves to put away their wives, and their guilt offering was a ram”.

All of These Had Married Foreign Wives

Ezra 10:20–44
It is a long list in Ezra 10:20-43 and in Ezra 10:44 “all of these had married foreign wives, and some … bore children”. These women likely came from families that lived in the area so “The foreign wives likely returned to the homes of their fathers, where they would then either remarry or live as widows (compare Ruth 1:8–9)”.1 The families are now separated, but Ezra still has the task of reinstating God’s commandments as the ruling culture of the area. 

Great Trouble and Disgrace

Nehemiah 1:1–11
This is “the twentieth year” Nehemiah had been in “the citadel in Susa” at the opening of Nehemiah 1:1. And in Nehemiah 1:2-3 he hears “about Jerusalem” and the state of “the survivors”, the exiles that had previously returned to Jerusalem.

Immediately, Nehemiah begins to intercede in Nehemiah 1:4-10 and prays for his people, the city, and quotes God’s covenant promise

Nehemiah 1:8–9 (LEB) Please, remember the word that you have commanded to your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you act unfaithfully I will scatter you all among the nations. 9 But if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, even though all of your outcasts are at the furthest parts of heaven, I will gather them and bring them to the place which I have chosen to make my name dwell.’

Then in Nehemiah 1:11 he prays for personal favor as he goes to the king, saying “Please, let your servant be successful this day and give him compassion before this man”. 

This is Sadness of Heart

Nehemiah 2:1–10
Nehemiah 1:1 begins “the month of Kislev”, here in Nehemiah 2:1 it is “the month of Nisan March or April of 444 BC, four months after the events of chapter one. Nisan was the first month of the year in the Jewish calendar. Nehemiah may have waited four months to make his request of Artaxerxes because the king had been absent. This would also explain why the king had not noticed the change in Nehemiah’s countenance (compare Neh 2:2) prior to this time”.2

This is also “the twentieth year of king Artaxerxes” in Nehemiah 2:1. When, in Nehemiah 2:2-5, the king asks about Nehemiah’s sadness, he responds saying, “the city of my ancestors’ burial site is ruined and her gates are consumed by fire”. When the king asks his request, Nehemiah says, “send me to Judah … that I may rebuild it”.Then, in Nehemiah 1:6 “with the queen sitting beside him, the king said to me, ‘How long will your journey be and when will you return'”. This is the first mention of the queen, and “As the Persian monarchs did not admit their wives to be present at their state festivals, this must have been a private occasion. The queen referred to was probably Esther”.3 The king does agree, and provides, in Nehemiah 1:6-9, everything needed including authority, supplies (timbers),troops, and horses.

This is the third king to supply the exiles as they returned to build Jerusalem. Here though, it seems these references are all different translations all naming the same king. Here he is called Artaxerxes but he was previously known to us as Ahasuerus, who was Ether’s king. The confusion happens because “Ahasuerus is the Aramaic name for Khshayarsha, the king of Persia, whom the Greeks called Xerxes (b. 518 BC; r. 486–465 BC). Ahasuerus is the Achaemenid king in the Hebrew version of the Book of Esther; in the Greek (LXX) version, his name is Artaxerxes”.4 

Come, Build the Walls of Jerusalem

Nehemiah 2:11–20
Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem and “For three days” begins to privately survey the city in Nehemiah 1:11-16. No one knows his plan. Then in Nehemiah 1:17-18 he gathers the leaders of Jerusalem and tells them what he has come to do. As he tells them of the support from the king, “they said, Let us arise and build!”. Except for three men in Nehemiah 1:19 “Sanballat the Horonite … the Ammonite servant Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab … they mocked and despised us”. So, in Nehemiah 1:20 Nehemiah answers, “the God of the heavens himself will let us succeed … but for you there is no share, right, or memorial in Jerusalem”.

These same mockers are at work today, they despise the things of God and oppose the work of God’s people. But we also say, “The God of the heavens himself will let us succeed”. Or, as it says in

Revelation 12:10–11 (LEB) And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, the one who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives until death.

Sheep Gate, Tower of the Hundred, Tower of Hananel, Fish Gate

Nehemiah 3:1–5
The high priest went to work in Nehemiah 3:1-5. Other heads of families went to work. Each on the wall and parts of the city where they lived. They laid beams, erected doors at the gates, added bolts and bars. All except the Tekoites, “their nobles did not put their neck to the work of their lord”.

This was not managed like any project we might run. We would find the brick layers for the wall and the carpenters for the gates, and the blacksmiths for the bolts and bars. And then we would clear the rubble and check the foundation and build the wall and then mount the gates and … we would be exposed to an enemy the whole time. Nehemiah put every man, every family to work where they lived.

Yashana Date, The Broad Wall, Tower of The Ovens, Valley Gate, Dung Gate

Nehemiah 3:6–14
Again in Nehemiah 3:6-14 we find the goldsmith, and the perfumers, and the commander of half the district, and his daughters doing the work. Whatever work was needed in their part of the wall. In vs. 13 it says “They rebuilt it and erected its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and a thousand cubits of the wall”.

Fountain Gate, Water Gate …

Nehemiah 3:15–27
They continue in Nehemiah 3:15-27 commander, brother, priests, men of the vicinity, temple servants. Everyone at work.

Study Verses

Today’s Reading

  • Ezra 10:16-44
  • Nehemiah 1:1-11
  • Nehemiah 2:1–20
  • Nehemiah 3:1–27

Operation Exodus

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Return to Israel – Ezra

We often read one book of the Bible at a time and that is easier for everyone to follow. The order of our readings, beginning with Ezra, are from the Tyndale One Year Chronological Bible because the return from Babylonian exile includes Haggai, Zechariah, Nehemiah, Esther, a few Psalms, and other connections. Covering these events chronologically as they happened, gives a much better context and helps us understand the move of God as He is reestablishing His people. Review the whole series beginning with Go Up To Jerusalem.


  • 1. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ezr 10:44). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  • 2. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ne 2:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  • 3. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 295). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  • 4. Silverman, J. M., & Balogh, A. L. (2016). Ahasuerus the King. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.