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Nehemiah 1 & 2
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 2 Nehemiah

(Nehemiah 1 & 2)


Copr. 2019, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 Biblica, Inc. (TM), unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.


Introduction: Are you facing a challenge? Is there something in your life that needs to be changed or fixed? Our study today recounts Nehemiah receiving bad news, turning to God for help, and then intelligently working with God every step of the way to fix the problem. Let’s jump into our study of the Bible and learn practical lessons for every day living!


  1. Bad News


    1. Read Nehemiah 1:1. What information does this give us? (We learn who is the writer, and the precise time and place of the writing. It appears that it is November-December of 444 B.C.)


    1. Read Nehemiah 1:2. Who brings news to Nehemiah? (His brother and others who had come from Judah.)


      1. Would you trust this report? (These are eye-witnesses and Nehemiah is very precise in setting the time and place of his recording. This has the marks of a reliability.)


    1. Read Nehemiah 1:3. Who are the remnant who survived the exile? (Recall last week that the exile was for 70 years. These are Jews who had been in exile and who have returned to Jerusalem.)


      1. What is the news? (The defenses of Jerusalem are in ruins. The people are in “great trouble” and are shamed.)


      1. Why is that? (Because they cannot defend the temple - which has been rebuilt. Their city is still in ruins. Something need to be changed!)


  1. Reacting to Bad News


    1. Read Nehemiah 1:4. How do you react to bad news? What is your first reaction? How do you compare to Nehemiah?


    1. Read Nehemiah 1:5. How does Nehemiah structure his prayer? (He starts out with praise.)


      1. Compare Luke 11:1-2. How should we start our prayers?


      1. Look again at Nehemiah 1:5. What else does Nehemiah mention in the beginning of his prayer? (God keeps His promises to those who love and obey Him.)


    1. Read Nehemiah 1:6-9. Nehemiah sounds like he is a contract lawyer. What are the terms of this contract? Who has breached it?


      1. How would you react to such a prayer if you were God?


    1. Read Nehemiah 1:10-11. What does Nehemiah suggest to God about the future of this agreement?


      1. What is the very last part of this verse telling us? (That Nehemiah was in frequent contact with King Artaxerxes. He was not a servant, he was a “person of rank and importance” according to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary. Many commentaries point out that the cup bearer was highly trusted for he not only kept the king from being poisoned, he would hear private matters being discussed.)


  1. Courage


    1. Read Nehemiah 2:1-2. What does this tell us about King Artexerxes? (He is not so self-centered that he pays no attention to those around him. His reaction shows that he is sympathetic - at least to Nehemiah.)


      1. What does Nehemiah fear?


      1. Read Revelation 21:8. Of this terrible list of sins, why is being “cowardly” first? Why is it even on the list of sins?


    1. Read Nehemiah 2:3. What two things do you find in this reply that represent something we can learn when we are fearful? (First, Nehemiah, like the king, does not just focus on himself. The first thing he says is something positive to the king, even though he has been asked to report about himself. Second, Nehemiah shows courage, even though he has fear. He steps forward into what he believes God has opened up for him.)


    1. Read Nehemiah 2:4. How is Nehemiah controlling his fear? (Prayer. Look again at Revelation 21:8. Just after the “cowardly” is listed “the unbelieving.” We become cowards when we fail to trust in God. Nehemiah turns immediately to God in prayer for wisdom as to how he should answer the king.)


    1. Read Nehemiah 2:5. How long is Nehemiah’s prayer? (This is obviously a very quick mental prayer. We should acquire the habit of sending up prayers to God when we need help.)


      1. How does this relate to Nehemiah’s earlier prayer? (Recall Nehemiah 1:4-10 where he goes into great detail with God about the needs of Jerusalem. Read Nehemiah 1:11. Nehemiah specifically prayed for this moment, this opportunity. Now that his prayer has been answer, Nehemiah sends up a quick prayer. I suspect part of it was “Thank you God! Please give me wisdom.”)


      1. Why would Nehemiah volunteer to lead this? What skills does a cupbearer possess for such a project? (This is additional proof that Nehemiah was not merely a server. He was a person of rank.)


    1. Read Nehemiah 2:6. What point is being made by noting the presence of the queen? (The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes that it was uncommon for a queen to appear at a formal banquet. That suggests that God has arranged this so that Nehemiah has a more private conversation with the king.)


      1. Did you notice that Nehemiah has not mentioned the specific city involved? Why is that? (Recall that King Artaxerxes had previously ordered a stop to the rebuilding work in Jerusalem. Nehemiah doesn’t want the king’s first response to be “Didn’t I enter an order to stop the work there?”)


      1. What does the king’s question about how long this will take tell us? (That he values Nehemiah and wants to know how long he will be away.)


    1. Read Nehemiah 2:7-8. Who does Nehemiah give credit for his success? (God! Nehemiah involves God at every step.)


  1. Intelligence


    1. Nehemiah 2:9-10 tells us that the local officials were “very much disturbed” that someone had come to help the Israelites. Read Nehemiah 2:11-15. What is Nehemiah doing that we should apply to our own problem solving approach? (He keeps his plans to himself until he fully understands the problem. We should avoid making promises or suggesting solutions until we have a complete understanding of the problem.)


      1. What would you predict would happen if Nehemiah had immediately told the hostile locals that he was there to rebuild the city?


      1. What does keeping his plans secret for the time being allow him to do? (He is allowed to freely determine the full nature of the problem.)


    1. Read Nehemiah 2:16-17. What is the disgrace? (Their city is ruined.)


    1. Read Nehemiah 2:18. Is this how you would have revealed your plans to God’s people? (He first describes God’s blessings, and then adds that the king supports them.)


      1. How do the people reply? (They are on board!)


    1. Read Nehemiah 2:19. Why would the local leaders ask if this is a rebellion? (They don’t believe Nehemiah. This confirms the problem that would have arisen if Nehemiah had immediately told them his plan.)


    1. Read Nehemiah 2:20. Is this the proper answer to a question about whether Nehemiah is rebelling against the king? (Nehemiah ultimately depends on God!)


    1. Friend, when you face serious problems will you follow Nehemiah’s example? He asks for God’s help. When opportunity arises, he steps forward in faith even though he has fear. Every step he takes is bathed in prayer. Nehemiah also uses his intelligence. He is careful about how he presents the problem to the king and how he presents the solution to the locals. Why not ask God, right now, for the faith and wisdom to follow Nehemiah’s lead?


  1. Next week: God’s Call.