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Biblical Illustrator Nehemiah

Biblical Illustrator Nehemiah

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 25, 2011
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BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR EHEMIAHITRODUCTIO TO THE BOOK OF EHEMIAH.The modem critics are probably right in their conclusion that Ezra andehemiah were compiled from memoranda of those two persons, who wereTirshathas, i.e., governors under the Persian kings, and other contemporaryhistorical documents. But their conclusion does no more than confirm the previousopinion on the subject. It is evident that certain sections of the Book of ehemiahare the personal work of ehemiah, and if we could think of him as keeping adiary, we should say there were selected pages from his diary. But it is alsocertain that the literary genius of the compiler of Chronicles and Ezra is stronglymarked in the other sections of ehemiah and in the general setting and arrange-ment of the whole work. The very retention of the first person in the extractswhich he selects is an evidence of the work of this compiler. We may thereforereasonably assume that, while some of the material was the work of ehemiah, thebook, as we have it, shows the editing of Ezra, and was designed by him to form aListorical supplement to his larger work.Thirteen years after the arrival i" Jerusalem of the party from Babylon that wasled by Ezra, ehemiah appeared at Jerusalem. On the whole, it seems mostprobable that Ezra was not in Jerusalem at the time, but returned soon afterwards.ehemiah came with the authority of Tirshatha, and with a definite purpose,which he judged it prudent to keep secret for a time. The first six chapterscontain an account of the circumstances which led to his visiting Jerusalem ; theBcheme by which he came to know the condition of the city wall, his successfulplan for restoring the wall ; the resistance he met with, and the skilful way inwhich he outwitted, and overcame, the national enemies. The seventh chapter iss genealogy after the manner of Ezra, and the materials for it, we can hardlydoubt, were furnished by him. From the eighth chapter Ezra is associated withehemiah, and the influence of Ezra is especially marked in the chapters from theeighth to the end. There are signs of his characteristic priestly interest, and hisfondness for genealogical tables. The point of view in ehemiah is clearly thesame as that we have recognised in Chronicles and Ezra.The Date of the "Work, so far as collecting and putting together the sections isconcerned, must be the later years of Ezra's life ; but the re-editing which put thebook into its present form may be dated at least a century later.We meet with the same difficulty here that we had to consider when dealingwith the genealogy from David in the Books of Chronicles. Some names in these
genealogical Usts come down to a period long posterior to ehemiah. Jaddua,for instance, was high-priest at least a century later than ehemiah. But th»explanation previously given will apply with equal force to this difficulty.Pebsonal Histori of ehemiah. — ^Very little is known of the personal historyof ehemiah, bat ft very fail estimate of his character may be formed from theTl ITRODUCTIO TO THE BOOK OF EHEMIAH.pages of his diary which have been preserved. His office, as cup-bearer at thePersian Court, was an honourable one, and he was evidently held in confidence andesteem by the king. He must have been in a position of wealth and influence." He was a man of profound piety, connecting everything, great or small, with thewill of God." But the interjectional prayers which habitually occur in his diaryindicate a somewhat weak self-consciousness. The truly noble man does right insimple loyalty and love, and does not think about its being accepted and rewarded.This indicates the weak side of an otherwise strong and vigorous individuality." His prudence was equally marked; and there is no better example of dependenceon God, nnited with practical forethought. He was disinterested and unselfish,and there is not the slightest reference to self apart from the common good. . . .He always appeals to the judgment of a merciful God, and that appeal availsagainst much hard modem criticism which dwells on his alleged asperity, self-confidence, and self-assertion." (W. B. Pope, D.D.)Dean Stanley says : " There is a pathetic cry, again and again repeated through-out this rare autobiographical sketch, har^y found elsewhere in the Hebrewrecords, which shows the current of his thoughts, as though at every turn hefeared that those self-denying, self-forgetting labours might pass away, that hiscountrymen of the future might be as ungrateful as his countrymen of the present.• Think upon me, my God, for good.' "G. Kawlinson writes : " It has been said that in the character of ehemiah it isalmost impossible to detect a single fault. But this praise is a little exaggerated.ehemiah's nature was strongly emotional, and he did not always control hiaemotions sufficiently. His ' fiery soul ' was sometimes ' roused to burning frenzy.'In these fits of passion, he forgot the calmness and dignified behaviour which befitsa governor. He may 'do well to be angry,' but he does Ul to be vindictive.And he is a little too self-satisfied and self-complacent. He contrasts with some--what too evident self-approval his ovm conduct in his government with that of former governors. And there is a tinge of Pharisaism in some of his prayers."
Contents or the Book. — The Book of ehemiah may be roughly divided intothree sections. I. Chaps, i.-vii., comprising the narrative of ehemiah's appoint-ment to office, his rebuilding, in spite of opposition, the walls of Jerusalem, and hispurpose of bringing the people to an orderly settlement. II. Chaps, viii.-i. containan account of certain religious solenmities. lU. Chaps. xL-ziii. are made up of various lists, appointments, and settlements, with a recital of some acts of ehemiah'sadministration on resuming his post. (Ayre.)ehemiah's first administration at Jerusalem lasted twelve years. Then herelumed to the Persian Court. After some years, variously estimated from five tonine years, he was permitted to resume his office at Jerusalem, and endeavour toredress the abuses which had grown up during his absence. It is probable that hespent the remainder of his life at Jerusalem, but of his death and burial no recordhas been preserved. Beyond the thirty-second year of Artaxeries, to whichehemiah's own narrative leads us, we have no account of ehemiah whaterer.THE BIBLICAL ILLUSTEATOE,EHEMIAH.CHAPTEB LVem. 1-11. The words of ehemlaH the son of HachaHah.— rA« royaleup-bearer : — I. Let us notice the wobds alijUded to bt ehemiah. They wereas follows : "And it came to pass in the month Chislen, in the twentieth year," <feo.I. You observe that the time and the place ol this conversation are given. It was atShushan or Susa, the winter residence of the King of Persia. 2. There are placesand periods that stand out more prominently than others in the history of most of US. " It came to pass in the month Chisleo," &c. 3. The particular matter referredto was a conversation he had with a kinsman of his, and with other co-religionistslately come from Palestine, respecting the state of the Jews there, " and concerningJerusalem." ehemiah was not indifferent to his country's condition. It was atwofold question that he put. (1) He wanted to know how it had fared with theHebrews — " the delivered ones," " the escaped ones." (2) The other aspect of thequestion here put by ehemiah has reference to Jerusalem. An exiled Londoneror Parisian's love for London or Paris would not, we maybe sure, be deeper,stronger

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