Old Testament History

By Henry Preserved Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
NEHEMIAH AND AFTER

THE interest with which thoughtful Jews in exile followed the fortunes of the mother city is revealed to us in the memoirs of Nehemiah. This man, with the facility and talent which the Jews have always shown, made himself useful in the court of Persia. He held the office of butler to Artaxerxes, whom we suppose to be the second of the name.1

In the twentieth year of this monarch's reign ( B.C. 385), certain Jews who had made a visit to Jerusalem returned to Susa. Possibly they were a delegation sent from the East to report on the actual condition of the city. They reported to Nehemiah concerning the remnant who were left of the captivity. The language indicates Nehemiah's view that the people in Judah were the survivors of Nebuchadrezzar's deportation, and not exiles or descendants of exiles.2 Their condition is described as forlorn enough--the walls of the city are in ruins, and the people are in humiliation and disgrace, evidently because they are defenceless against the attacks of their lawless neighbours. In distress at what he hears, Nehemiah pours out his soul in confession to God. He sees in the exile a fulfilment of the threats of Deuteronomy, and pleads with God to remember also the promise: "If you keep my commandments and do them, though you be scattered to the end of the heavens yet I will gather you thence

____________________
1
There is as yet no agreement among the historians as to the Artaxerxes of our text. Heretofore he has been supposed to be Artaxerxes I. Longimanus, but the present tendency is to identify him with Artaxerxes II, Mnemon ( B.C. 404-361). So Marquart, Fundamente Israel. und Jüd. Geschichte, p. 31, and Torrey, Composition of Ezra-Nehemiah, p. 65. A sketch of the reign of Artaxerxes II is given by Justi, Geschichte des Alten Persiens, pp. 129-137. He was a man of weak character, easily influenced by his family and his dependants.
2
Various attempts have been made to explain away the plain sense of the words ( Neh. 12). Their force is overwhelming when we consider that they were written by Nehemiah himself.

-382-

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Old Testament History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter I - The Sources 1
  • Chapter II - The Origins 11
  • Chapter III - The Patriarchs 35
  • Chapter IV - Egypt and the Desert 52
  • Chapter V - The Conquest 73
  • Chapter VI - The Heroes 87
  • Chapter VII - The Early Monarchy 106
  • Chapter VIII - David 129
  • Chapter IX - Solomon 156
  • Chapter X - From Jeroboam to Jehu 177
  • Chapter XI - The House of Jehu 198
  • Chapter XII - The Fall of Samaria 219
  • Chapter XIII - Hezekiah and Manasseh 238
  • Chapter XIV - Josiah and His Sons 260
  • Chapter XV - The Exile 301
  • Chapter XVI - The Rebuilding of the Temple 344
  • Chapter XVII - Nehemiah and After 382
  • Chapter XVIII - The Greek Period 413
  • Chapter XX - The Priest-Kings 470
  • Appendix - Chronological Table 499
  • Index of Subjects 503
  • Index of Scripture Passages 510
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