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Hebrew: נְחֶמְיָה —transliteration: Nəḥemyāh or Nechemyah —meaning: “Yah comforts,” comforted by Jehovah

This is the name of 3 biblical men, all associated with the Jewish return from captivity/exile in the Kingdom of Babylon. The name Nehemiah appears 11 times in Scripture, all in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

  1. Nehemiah, a governor of ancient Jerusalem

    Tis Nehemiah is the author of the book of Nehemiah and is the son of Hachaliah (Neh. 1:1). He probably belonged to the Tribe of Judah. His family must have belonged to Jerusalem (Neh. 2:3).

    He was one of the “Jews of the dispersion,” and in his youth was appointed to the important office of royal cup-bearer at the palace of Shushan (Susa).

    King Artaxerxes Longimanus seems to have been on terms of friendly familiarity with his attendant. Through his brother Hanani, and perhaps from other sources (Neh. 1:2; 2:3), he heard of the mournful and desolate condition of the Holy City, and was filled with sadness of heart.

    They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.”

    When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. —Nehemiah 1:3-4 NASB

    At length, the king observed his sadness of countenance and asked the reason of it. Nehemiah explained it all to the king, and obtained his permission to go up to Jerusalem.

    Goverorship of Persian Judea

    The king authorized Nehemiah to act as tirshatha, or governor of Persian Judea, serving under Artaxerxes I (465–424 BC) of Persia.

    Arrival in Jerusalem

    Governor Nehemiah went up to Jerusalem in the spring of B.C. 446 (11 years after Ezra), with a strong escort supplied by the king, and with letters to all the pashas of the provinces through which he had to pass, as also to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests, directing him to assist Nehemiah.

    On his arrival, Nehemiah surveyed the city, and formed a plan for its restoration; a plan which he carried out with great skill and energy, so that the whole was completed in about 6 months. “Nehemiah defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies on all sides—Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines—and rebuilt the walls within 52 days.”

    • Note: Tobiah, an Ammonite official, attempted to hinder Nehemiah’s efforts, taking over the Temple storerooms for his own use

    He ruled with righteousness and justice, remaining in Judea for 13 years as governor, carrying out many reforms, notwithstanding much opposition that he encountered (Neh. 13:11).

    He built up the area according to Godliness, helping repopulate Jerusalem, and “supplementing and completing the work of Ezra,” and making all arrangements for the safety and good government of the city.

    Near the close of this important period of his public life, he returned to Persia to the service of his royal master at Shushan (Susa) or Ecbatana.

    Very soon after his return to Shushan, the old corrupt state of things in Jerusalem returned, showing the falseness to a large extent of the professions of repentance that had been made at the feast of the dedication of the walls of the city (Nehemiah 12). (See: EZRA)

    Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem and purified the Temple and the priests and Levites and enforced the observance of the law of Moses, as commanded by Jehovah God.


    The prophet Malachi now appeared among the people with words of stern reproof and solemn warning; and Nehemiah again returned from Persia (after an absence of some 2 years), and was grieved to see the widespread moral degeneracy that had taken place during his absence.

    He set himself with vigor to rectify the flagrant abuses that had sprung up, and restored the orderly administration of public worship and the outward observance of the law of Moses.

    Governor Nehemiah’s life and death

    Of Nehemiah’s subsequent history we know nothing. Probably he remained at his post as governor till his death (about B.C. 413) in a good old age. The place of his death and burial is, however, unknown.

    “He [Nehemiah] resembled Ezra in his fiery zeal, in his active spirit of enterprise, and in the piety of his life: but he was of a bluffer and a fiercer mood; he had less patience with transgressors; he was a man of action rather than a man of thought, and more inclined to use force than persuasion. His practical sagacity and high courage were very markedly shown in the arrangement with which he carried through the rebuilding of the wall and balked the cunning plans of the ‘adversaries.’

    The piety of his heart, his deeply religious spirit and constant sense of communion with and absolute dependence upon God, are strikingly exhibited, first in the long prayer recorded in 1:5-11, and secondly and most remarkably in what have been called his ‘interjectional prayers,’ those short but moving addresses to Almighty God which occur so frequently in his writings, the instinctive outpouring of a heart deeply moved, but ever resting itself upon God, and looking to God alone for aid in trouble, for the frustration of evil designs, and for final reward and acceptance.” —George Rawlinson, Ezra and Nehemiah: Their Lives and Times

    Nehemiah was the last of the governors sent from the Persian court. After this, Judea was annexed to the satrapy of Coele-syria, and was governed by the high priest under the jurisdiction of the governor of Syria, and the internal government of the country became more and more a hierarchy.

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  2. Nehemiah of Ezra 2:2; 7:7

    This Nehemiah is a leader of a clan who went with Zerubbabel to Jerusalem after captivity in Babylon (Ezra 2:2; Neh. 7:7)

    He was 1 of 42,360 Jews that returned to Jerusalem from exile.

  3. Nehemiah, the son of Azbuk (Neh. 3:16)

    He was an “official of half the district of Beth-zur” in charge of making Jerusalem wall repairs “as far as a point opposite the tombs of David, and as far as the artificial pool and the house of the mighty men” (Nehemiah 3:16 NASB).

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Article Version: July 16, 2021