Nehemiah 2 introduces Nehemiah's strength as a leader. When confronted by the king, Nehemiah could have stayed silent but he put the plight of Jerusalem on the table. Nehemiah is even careful in how he words his request. A true leader not only takes charge, he or she has the know how to get something accomplished.
Approaching the King
During the 20th year of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah approaches the king in the month of Nisan. This information, given in Nehemiah 2:1, seems to conflict with Nehemiah 1:1. Chapter 1 tells us that Nehemiah didn't learn of the problems in Jerusalem until the month of Chisleu during the 20th year. The month of Nisan was the first month in the Israelite calendar and is equivalent to March or April in our calendar. Chisleu (or Kislev), on the other hand, is the 9th month of the Jewish calendar.
This leads people to question how Nehemiah could have brought the request beforehand. The likely solution is that the start of Artaxerxes' rule does not coincide with the beginning of the Jewish calendar (similar to the way birthdays and school years work). Nehemiah waited 4 months before bringing the matter to the king. We often praise people for acting on God's will with haste, but that doesn't mean we should always jump the gun when carrying out His requests. Persia had a feast known as the tukta, and during this feast, the king would often grant requests to his servants. It is possible that this is what Nehemiah was waiting on.
During the feast, Nehemiah makes no effort to hide his discontentment, leading the king to inquire of Nehemiah's sad expression. To this, Nehemiah requests that the city which was home to his ancestors' graves be rebuilt. Nehemiah doesn't specifically mention Jerusalem, likely because of the connotation, but he uses his ancestors' graves as a point of commonality between the two cultures. Artaxerxes is sympathetic to the request and grants him the request. Letters are sent to the governors surrounding the area that allow Nehemiah to pass through the territories.
Inspecting the Wall
When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, he inspects the walls at night without pomp and circumstance. Nehemiah does not inform the people of the plan God has given him, because he does not want it sabotaged by the enemy. Israel's, and thus Nehemiah's, opposition consists of three men: Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. Sanballat and Tobiah were likely from Samaria and probably also worshipped the God of Israel. However the Samaritans and the Jews were in constant conflict throughout the Bible. Sanballat and Tobiah did not want Judah to prosper. Geshem was an Arabian allied with the Samaritans.
When the three men found out about Nehemiah's plan, they laughed. Can you imagine? This is a reminder that the world never takes kindly to those carrying out God's will. We can't allow this to deter us! Despite the laughter and opposition, Nehemiah was determined to do the will of God—even if it meant going against the king of Persia. At that moment, Nehemiah was boldly declaring God first in his life. Are we willing to do the same?
References and Footnotes
- "Strong's 3691: Kislev". Bible Hub; visited April 2017
- Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 816-817. 2014