Studying the book of Revelation is a bit like eating a plate of spaghetti ~ there are tons of noodles and they all touch each other.
Well, maybe that is not the best illustration, but I’m going with it. It is impossible to study the book of Revelation without touching at least a handful of other books in the Bible. We are going to take some side journeys for a few weeks in order to better understand some of what we will study in the coming months. Today’s we touch the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. It will not be immediately obvious why we are catching up with the prophet until a bit down the road, so file today’s post under ‘things to remember’.
By the way, in my Word document where I write these posts I have titled this little series of posts, “Interlude Between Revelation 7 and 8 ~~ Daniel, Nehemiah, Matthew, and 1 Thessalonians ~ Lord, Have Mercy On Me!”
To say that I am treading down this path in fear and trembling is an understatement, but on I tread because I want you to walk away from this series, whenever we finish it, with a clearer understanding of end-times events.
Let’s head out on this first rabbit trail.
When we get to the portion of this series where we visit with Daniel, we will read of a ‘decree’ that will be a crucial point on the timeline of history. Today I want to tell you about that decree.
Let’s go to the little book of Nehemiah. Here are the first, and part of the second chapters that are important to our study. I have emphasized a few things I want you to remember.
1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the capital, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5 And I said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.
1 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. 2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” 6 And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. 7 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
Our buddy Nehemiah was a contemporary of Ezra the prophet. He was a Jewish exile in Persia, which is also the setting for the book of Esther. Let me give you a few dates and happenings to orient us. Remember that Old Testament dating is backward….the higher numbers are longer ago, while the lower numbers are more recent.
605 BC – Jerusalem is conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. Daniel and other Jewish nobility are taken captive and marched back to Babylon. (Daniel 1)
539 BC – Cyrus, King of Persia, captures Babylon (Daniel 5:30-31)
538-537 BC – Cyrus issues orders to free the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem
Kislev/Chislev 446 BC (approximately December) – Nehemiah, cupbearer to the current King of Persia, Artaxerxes, receives word that the walls of Jerusalem are broken down and need rebuilding (Nehemiah 1)
Nisan 445 BC (March/April) – King Artaxerxes issues a decree for Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem and oversee the building of the walls. (Nehemiah 2)
This decree, or order, to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem that was issued by Artaxerxes is the one that we want to remember, along with the date of 445 BC. The walls of Jerusalem are such an important topic in the Bible, so that is why this decree is important. The home of the Jewish exiles is beginning to be rebuilt in a secure manner. The city will not always be secure, but for now this re-building is key.
I am beginning to put together a timeline that we will develop all throughout the remainder of our study of Revelation. At different points, I will offer it as a download. Not yet, though.
Okay, that’s it for today. I know there has been a lot of reading, but it will benefit you as we move forward. Next week we will be in Daniel chapter 2. See you then.