Nehemiah 2 - Requests, Reconnaissance, Rebuild
Introduction: Have you ever been responsible for a big project? What steps did you take and what lessons did you learn from it?
1. How much time passed between when Nehemiah first heard of the problem in Jerusalem and the time that the king confronted Him?
Learn something about calendars at
- Kislev 1, 5766 - Dec 2, 2005 - Jan 1, 2006 (internet)
- Nisan 1, 5767 - as per internet calendar starts March 30, 2006
- We can see that it was approximately 4 months from the time he heard about the condition of Jerusalem to the time he talked to the king about it.
2. What was Nehemiah doing during this time? (Neh. 1:4) Have you ever had a serious concern for the spiritual well being the church that extended for this period of time? What can we learn from Nehemiah's example?
- Nehemiah was "using his spare time" to weep, fast and pray on behalf of his people. He tells us that he was not sad in the King's presence, so he was able to control his emotions as he continued his responsibilities in the palace. Maybe we do not recognize the serious condition that the church is in so we go merrily on our busy way, without interceding and fasting for the church. The truth is that the church is nearly bankrupt because of our ineffectiveness and self indulgence. Nehemiah recognized the spiritual condition of his people and persistently prayed on their behalf.
3. The king was observant to the mood of Nehemiah. Are we observant to the moods of others even if they do not try to let on that they have a troubled heart? What could we do to be more observant?
- A whole study of reading body language and friendship could come out of this verse. Some keys are to be able to look into the eyes of people, read their body posture and reactions, facial, hand or shoulders. I need to listen to the tone of people's voices. Watch for signals that their heart is troubled. Then speak to the needs of people. They will be gratefully pleased that someone cares and can see their heart.
4. Why would Nehemiah be afraid when the King commented on Nehemiah's internal state?
- It was outlawed that one of the King's servants would not be in a positive mood before the King. Any change in moods might be life threatening as the King was ever on the watch for assassins and changes in mood might invite the suspicion of the King.
5. What did Nehemiah do before he made his formal request? (2:4b) Would you think to do this before you make request?
- Nehemiah prayed. We have the Holy Spirit who will teach us what to say (Lk 12:11,12) when we are before the authorities.
6. What technique did Nehemiah use in responding to King Artexerxies? Why is this a good technique?
See Cecil Barber p. 45, 46 - info on resources page.
- Nehemiah responded to the King's question with another question.
- This technique avoids becoming defensive or justifying yourself and not even mentioning the city by name. Some years earlier when the reconstruction started an accusation of treason by local leaders (Sanballat and Tobiah) shut down the effort. The name "Jerusalem" might have triggered a negative reaction. (Ezra 4:17 - 22 )
7. If someone, in a position to help you, was able to give you nearly anything you would like what would you ask for? How does this request reflect your current spiritual condition?
8. What was the appeal based on? How is our relationship to our employers and employees? Are there issues between you and those in authority over you that might get in the way of cooperation?
- The King knew Nehemiah to be a trusted servant. The favorable response on the part of the king was based on God's favour as well as Nehemiah's faithfulness and trustworthiness. We need to build loyalty to our employer, or if you are an employer/ manager, find ways to build team spirit in the people working for you.
- When we are making proposals or requests often we become nervous because we do not know whether the proposal will be accepted or rejected. We take chances in the hope that what we believe God has laid on our heart will be implemented in some form. Nehemiah was personally involved and willing to lead the project. He did so at great personal expense (financial as well as emotional) and would be stretched beyond his comfort zone.
9. Have you ever gone before government officials to make a formal request on behalf of God's people? How do you think Nehemiah felt? Have you ever
felt that way? What kind of requests do you think believers should be making of government officials?
10. Why do you think Nehemiah put in a reference to his ancestor's graves in his request? What might be modern day trigger point which touch the
conscience of those we are making request of?
- Dead ancestors were respected and still are by many Eastern cultures (Pyramids, Taj Mahal, Japanese Buddhism ancestor worship etc). This would touch an emotional chord with the King. It was not safety, security or economic well being which Nehemiah is speaking to.
- Today issues of health, well being, family / children's interests might trigger similar emotional responses.
- If he would have asked that the walls of Jerusalem be rebuilt directly, it could have aroused the suspicion of King Artexerxes. The king had already been prejudiced against Jerusalem in particular by the cunning of Rehum and is friends in Samaria, to the extent that he had, at an unspecified earlier stage in his reign, put a stop to the very business of fortification which Nehemiah now wished to resume (Ezra 4:7 - 23). J G McConville p. 79
11. What seemed to be the only concern of the King? How long did Nehemiah plan to take off?
It ended up to be about 12 years he was gone to Jerusalem
12. What additional requests did Nehemiah make? What can we learn about the nature and timing of making requests.
- Nehemiah asked for letters of introduction to governors along the way. This would pave a path of friendly leaders between Jerusalem and Susa. It would also minimize the potential of other governors siding with detractors if they know that the King is authorizing the reconstruction of the walls. It also build relationships Nehemiah could count on.
- Nehemiah requested wood from the King's forest. Since the gates were made from wood and they were all burned and unusable, new wood would be the major expense for the new construction. Also it appears that Nehemiah ordered wood for the construction of a lodging for himself in Jerusalem.
13. How do these request show that Nehemiah had already thought out a way to rebuild Jerusalem?
- Nehemiah had understood the poverty that existed and was looking only to ask the people for their labour and not "tax" them for the expenses of the reconstruction. Many poor people can give their time but need every penny to subsist. Lumber is hard to come by in Israel. Solomon had imported all his lumber for his projects from Lebanon.
14. In chapter 5:14 we read that Nehemiah was given a new authority as well. Why do you think that the King appointed him governor of the area?
- The king gave Nehemiah the civil authority necessary to accomplish the task. It is possible that there was no governor in the Jerusalem area. (There were rulers (Sanballat and Tobiah) in Samaria and Ammon who may have been trying to extend their political power into Jerusalem.)
15. What did Nehemiah do before he got to Jerusalem? Trace the route on the map that Nehemiah probably took to get to Jerusalem. How long do you think this journey would have taken and how far was it?
- Nehemiah visited the governors along the way to establish his purposes for the trip. This trip was about 800 miles and would have taken 2 - 3 months with the stopovers. He also probably delivered the request for lumber to Asaph to get the necessary supplies ready for construction.
16. Why do you think Nehemiah waited 3 days and then did his research by night ( Hint: it wasn't jet lag) What do you think he was doing during the day time?
- Nehemiah was establishing his leadership by meeting with community leaders and doing his new civil duties. He would have met with officials and heads of households to get a feeling for what they might contribute without indicating his intention. He had some trusted men who knew is intentions and helped him.
17. How did he carry out his research? (With other men and on horseback) What specifically is mentioned that Nehemiah examined?Why take other men with him? This is a key to leadership!
18. What obstacles did Nehemiah find? Where was the damage the heaviest?
- Some areas were heavily damaged. The eastern wall seems to be the most heavily damaged and would require the most work. It was impassible and would require more work than other areas. He would have come in from the north-east so he already had seen this part of the city as he was coming into town.
19. Why do you think he waited to tell others before revealing his plan?
- He did not want to draw suspicions or let the cat out of the bag until he had a firm grasp of the situation and would be able to implement it effectively. He wanted to get to know the mood and how to appeal to the people to get their cooperation. He did not want to give the rumor mill and nay sayers a chance to spread their negativism before he had a chance to present his challenge.
20. What do you think motivated the people to want to get started? How did they have more ownership of this project? (V.17,18) To whom did Nehemiah give the credit?
- Nehemiah presented the plan effectively in doable segments. He also told them that the king was behind the project and God had miraculously intervened by having the king provide the major part of the wood for the project. Nehemiah gave God the credit.
21. Who were Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite? (See notes)
22. What concerned Sanballat and Tobiah? Is there any modern day equivalent of this real lack of concern for impoverished and vulnerable people? Who might seek to take advantage of them? What could the church do about it? ( vulnerable run aways, rebellious youth, prostitutes, abused)
- Sanballat and Tobiah were not happy that they could not run ruff shod over the people who had little to protect them. Nehemiah is presented as having a concern for the welfare the of people. His kind treatment of the people might move people's loyalty, based onfear, from them to Nehemiah who showed benevolence. Other issues of trade moving from their towns to Jerusalem which was on a trade route would also effect them financially.
23. What kind of opposition did Nehemiah face? How did the opposition attempt to stop the work? What kind of opposition do we face when we try to mend walls today?
- Saballat, Tobiah and Geshem tried to discourage the Jews and derided and mocked them. They tried to use arguments of sedition and rebellion.
24. How did Nehemiah respond to the opposition? What character qualities do his responses demonstrate?
- Like David before Goliath, Nehemiah responded to their mocking by telling them that God was on the people's side and He would help them. He isolated Saballat, Tobiah and Geshem on spiritual principles.
For those who want to a real challenge:
25. Read Joshua 1 and meditate on leadership and the similarities between Joshua and Nehemiah. Why could God uses these men to lead Israel in time of turmoil? Can He use you? Why or why not? Is there any area of growth that you feel you need to work at?
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