CONTEXT: The major theme of Nehemiah 1 is Nehemiah’s prayer. We get that from historical context and written word. Here is the Enduring Word Commentary’s; intro to Nehemiah:
A. Nehemiah hears of Jerusalem’s crisis condition.
1. Some 1,000 years after the time of Moses and some 400 years before the birth of Jesus, the nation of Israel and the Jewish people were in a desperate state.
a. Their nations were destroyed, First the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel and then the southern Jewish kingdom of Judah. The city of Jerusalem was completely conquered by the Babylonians and the once-glorious temple of Solomon was destroyed.
b. When the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, they deported almost everyone from the city and the region – for some 70 years, Jerusalem was something of a ghost town, with the potential to end up like many ancient cities – completely forgotten except to history.
c. When the Jews were deported to Babylon, they began to make homes for themselves there. They settled down, and many still followed the God of their Fathers, but they did it from Babylon, with no desire to return to the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
d. But after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, they were given the opportunity to return to their homeland, the Promised Land. Out of some two or three million Jews deported from the land, only 50,000 decided to return to the Promised Land. That’s only something like 2%! But they did return, and in the days of Ezra, they rebuilt the temple and laid a spiritual foundation for Israel once again.
e. The Book of Nehemiah begins 15 years after the Book of Ezra ends; almost 100 years after the first captives came back to the Promised Land; and some 150 years after the city of Jerusalem was destroyed. After this long time, the walls of the city of Jerusalem were still in rubble.
f. Some of these faithful Jews were raised up to places of prominence in the governments they were deported to. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego became leaders in Babylon; Esther was made queen in the courts of a Persian king.
Matthew Henry breaks down the verses as follows: Here we first meet with Nehemiah at the Persian court, where we find him, I. Inquisitive concerning the state of the Jews and Jerusalem (v. 1, 2). II. Informed of their deplorable condition (v. 3). III. Fasting and praying thereupon (v. 4), with a particular account of his prayer (v. 5-11). Such is the rise of this great man, by piety, not by policy.
BY RICHARD SIBBES
O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name; and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.—NEH. 1:11.
– – OTHER RESOURCES – –
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, JULY 15, 1866,
BY C.H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON
“Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!
I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.”