A Culture in “Great Trouble”
A Study of Nehemiah
Dr. Jim Denison
The “gates” of Israel
The year is 444 B.C. Nehemiah is “cupbearer” to the Persian king Artaxerxes, his close personal advisor. A group has come to Susa, the winter palace of the king, with this report: “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).
The Babylonians had destroyed the city and walls of Jerusalem 142 years earlier, in 586 B.C. After the Persians liberated the Jews in 538, a group had returned to rebuild the city and nation. They had attempted to rebuild the walls earlier in the reign of Artaxerxes, but the king had ordered them to stop the project.
Enemies of the Jews had written to the king, protesting the rebuilding project and claiming that the Jews would only rebel against Persia once their city was reestablished.
The king sent them this reply: