Biblical People

Biblical People: Nehemiah

The events of the book of Nehemiah follow the book of Ezra, with Ezra appearing in the book of Nehemiah and Nehemiah showing up in the book of Ezra. Ezra’s task was rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, whereas Nehemiah focuses on rebuilding the city walls.

Nehemiah’s story begins with him in exile, serving King Artaxerxes as cupbearer. Nehemiah’s brother returns from Judah and tells Nehemiah the deplorable situation in Jerusalem, with its broken walls and burned gates.

Upon hearing this, Nehemiah sits and cries. He mourns and fasts for several days. He prays to God, confessing his sins and those of his family, along with all God’s people, for disobeying the laws of Moses. He ends by asking for favor with the king. Nehemiah is specific, asking God to grant him success that very day.

God, however, delays his response. 

Four months later Nehemiah makes a bold appeal to the king to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls. He bravely asks the king to provide resources to make this happen. The king agrees. Nehemiah returns and rebuilds the wall, though not without a bit of drama and severe opposition along the way.

Though Nehemiah led this wall-rebuilding effort with God-honoring wisdom and enjoyed a successful outcome, it all started with prayer and confession.

Do we tend to pray first and then act, or act first and then pray when things don’t work out? Are there any sins we should confess for ourselves, our family, or our community? 

[Read Nehemiah’s story in the book of Nehemiah, especially Nehemiah 2:1–9.]

Learn about more biblical characters in Old Testament Sinners and Saints, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy today.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at