Journey Through The Scriptures


Lesson 7: Nehemiah’s Painful Reforms

(Scripture to Read: Nehemiah 13:131)

After all of these good reforms had taken place in Jerusalem, Nehemiah had to return to King Artaxerxes—here referred to as the “king of Babylon” because his empire included Babylon. Nehemiah was gone for some time, perhaps several years, and in his absence the people of Israel lapsed into abuses of the Law. Nehemiah must have been stunned to see Tobiah the Ammonite comfortably housed in his own room in the holy Temple. Tobiah was one of the enemies who had tried to destroy Nehemiah and his work, but he had close connections to the high priest Eliashib, probably through marriage. Nehemiah displayed his strong zeal for God once again by throwing Tobiah’s furniture out of the Temple.

But there was more to do. Despite their oath, the people were not bringing their tithes into God’s house, forcing the Levites to leave their responsibilities and work in their fields. Nehemiah put an end to this negligence and then turned to two other serious problems: the violation of the Sabbath and the violation of the marriage covenant. The people who were working on the Sabbath, and the merchants who were doing business, were brought up short by Nehemiah in no uncertain terms. But his strongest display of a passion and zeal for the purity of God’s people was his punishment of the Israelites who had married women from foreign nations that had been Israel’s enemies. Nehemiah’s leadership was as firm as it needed to be.

Study Questions

  1. Why did Nehemiah have to go back to King Artaxerxes?
  2. Why did Nehemiah then decide to return to Jerusalem?
  3. Why did Nehemiah take such strong measures to reimpose God’s Law on Jerusalem?
  4. Why do you think Nehemiah followed his actions with prayer to God’s blessing?

Something to Think About

It is amazing how quickly God’s people can lapse into neglect of His will and requirements. All of us need regular reminders of what God expects from us. Let us pray that we will not require the harsh measures which Nehemiah imposed on the wrongdoers in Jerusalem!