There is some confusion and speculation about the time factor in chapter two because of verse one’s mention of the month of Nisan, which corresponds to March/April, the first month, whereas Nehemiah 1:1 relates to the month of Chislev, the ninth month (November/December). The best explanation seems to be that in those times in the near east, one of the most common ways of reckoning time was in regnal years. But there is much argument about when those counted times began – whether at the start of a calendar year, the exact time of a king’s ascension, or other criteria. Only two things are important for the reader to know – 1) that it was some time after Nehemiah’s prayer that his conversation with the king in verses 2-8 took place, and he was permitted to go to Judah to rebuild the wall, and 2) that it was the work of the Lord in answer to his prayer (verse 8).
Armed with letters to show the governors – who probably were instrumental in persuading Artaxerxes to halt building on the wall previously (Ezra 4:7-12), and permission to obtain timber and supplies (verse 8), he arrives some time later. When he did, his possession of the authority of the king could not be in question, as he was escorted by officers of the king and horsemen (verse 9). He inspected the wall, telling no one of his intentions while doing so, as verse 10 already hints at opposition. When Nehemiah did make the work known to the priests, nobles, and officials, he made it clear not only that he had the king’s blessing, but also spoke “of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good.” In verse 20, addressing the opposition (as for Tobiah, the Ammonites were Israel’s very long-term enemies), he distinguished between God’s people and those in opposition.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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