Begins fifteen years after Ezra ends. Nehemiah was the cup-bearer of king Artaxerxes.
Nehemiah hears of Jews' struggle to rebuild Jerusalem. He fasts and prays to God, confesses sins on behalf of the Jews, asks God for mercy and help. He recalls Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 30, where the Lord says that if the exiled nation remembers Him, He will not forsake them in their distress.
Nehemiah is sad, and gets permission from the king to return to Jerusalem (‘the place of my fathers’ tombs’) to help rebuild it. He returns (with appropriate royal letters of permission to pass through the region), inspects the city secretly, meets with the leaders of Jerusalem and proposes to build a wall around the city. The rebuilding restarts, despite some local opposition.
The wall of Jerusalem And is gate is rebuilt by Levites, priests, and other Jewish people. The chapter lists the sections of the wall and who built them.
Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah and Ammoniste mock the Jews as they rebuild Jerusalem. Nehemiah prays as a form of defence against them. Sanballat and others are angered when the wall nears completion, and plan to attack. The Jews prepare defences (there are people on guard as the wll is built), and the plan to attack comes to nothing.
Some Jews have to mortgage their houses to eat and borrow money to pay taxes. Jews have become slaves to others because of financial difficulties. Nehemiah calls a meeting, urging lenders to cancel debts and not practise usury. Nehemiah does not tax the people, and prays that God may remember his good deeds.
Sanballat and others invite Nehemiah to the plains of Ono, with the inetention of killing him. Sanballat spreads a rumour that Nehemiah is planning to rebel against Persia and become king. Shemiah, a false prophet sent by Sanballat, unsiuccessfully urges Nehemiah to take refuge in the temple. The wall is completed in 52 days, despite some who were friends with the enemy Tobiah. Tobiah sends threatening letters.
Nehemiah gives orders to guard Jerusalem. A list is given of the leaders, priests, Levites, singers and animals who returned from Babylon.
Ezra reads the law to the Jews in Jerusalem, with teachers on hand to help explain to the people. The Jews worship and weep. The Jews observe the Feast of Tabernacles, not done since the days of Joshua.
The Jews gather, separate themselves from foreigners, fast, repent, read law, and hear a summary of Israel’s history and deliverance from Egypt. A covenant is made.
A lost of the people who sign ther covenant is given. Further laws to be obeyed: no selling of wares on the Sabbath, cancellation of debts every seven years, tithes and regulations concerning offerings and temple administration.
Leaders live in Jerusalem; of the rest, a tenth live in Jerusalem, and the rest in other cities. The distribution of people is decided by lot. Lists of people who stayed in Jerusalem, and a list of other towns and villages in Judah are given.
Records of priests, Levites and temple duties is given. The Jerusalem wall is dedicated with marching, music and sacrifice. People contribute to the temple.
The law is read. It is stipulated that no Ammonite or Moabite shall come into the temple, because Balak sought to curse them. Nehemiah journeys back to Persia; when he returns to Jerusalem, he is horrified to discover that Eliashib, the priest charged with managing the storerooms of the temple, had rented a room out in the temple courts to Tobiah. Tobiah is expelled. Nehemiah also realised that the Levites have not been granted their due portions, and that business is being conducted on the Sabbath. Nehemiah forbids the children of interracial marriages from marrying Jews. The son of Eliashib has become Sanballat’s son-in-law. Nehemiah cleanses Judan life from everything pagan, and asks God to remember him.