Saturday, December 1, 2012

Nehemiah Character Study Background and Questions

LINKS: Nehemiah 1-13 

(At the linked site, there is a very nice video that ties Ezra and Nehemiah together) 

BACKGROUND


I have one thing to get out of the way:

I LOVE NEHEMIAH!


(Whew, glad I got that off my chest)


We are going to read a bit differently for the next nine days by looking at Nehemiah and aspects of his character related to leadership. Today, I will give a bit of background information followed by some questions. On the last day, we will gather again and sum up what we have learned!


If you can, Nehemiah is a great book to sit down and read in one sitting. Set aside some time during this busy season with a warm holiday beverage to learn from a great and godly man! It does not take long.


If you have been reading along with us, you know that the southern kingdom of Judah was carried into captivity in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians. At that time, the temple was destroyed. In October 539 B.C., the Babylonians fell to the Medes and Persians. King Cyrus of Persia issued a decree in the first year of his reign (538 B.C.) allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem. Zurubbabel led the first return that same year (Ezra 1-6), and the following year, temple reconstruction began. After some delays that we read about in Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah, the temple was completed in 515 B.C. Ezra led the second group in 457 B.C. (Ezra 7-10).


At the time of the story of Nehemiah, Artaxerxes I, Persia's sixth king, was in the twentieth year of his reign (Nehemiah 2:1). Since his reign began in 465 B.C., we can assume the story of Nehemiah begins in 445 B.C. The Jews had been in captivity for 142 years at the beginning of this story.


As an exile, Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king. According to the historian Xenophon (Cropaedia, 1.3.9), one of the duties of the cupbearer was to choose and taste the king's wine to make certain that it was not poisoned. "These officials (often foreigners) became in many cases confidants and favourites of the king and wielded political influence" (Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996). New Bible dictionary (3rd ed.) (248). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press). So, the fact that Nehemiah was the cupbearer tells us that he was probably a man of integrity and trust in the king's eyes.


In Nehemiah 8, the lives of two great leaders, Nehemiah and Ezra, intersect as Ezra reads the law at the renewal of the covenant thirteen years after his arrival in Jerusalem from Babylon in 458 B.C.


With that background, let your character study of Nehemiah begin! Enjoy reading. Take notes as you ask yourself the questions below.


REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. List character qualities and actions that made Nehemiah an effective leader (note the chapter and verse).
  2. What can you summarize about his prayer life, obedience, suffering, attitudes, responses, and reactions that you can apply to your own life?
  3. Compare and contrast the lives and leadership styles of Ezra and Nehemiah based on your reading of both the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. How did they work as a team? Which of their two leadership styles can you relate to more and why?
  4. What is one way you will personally apply what you have learned from your character study of Nehemiah (See the APPLICATION section in the "Basics of Inductive Study" download here).
PRAYER

Lord, thank You for giving us an example of a person who was zealous for You. Give us understanding of Your Word as we study the life of Nehemiah. Help us to be doers and not just hearers of Your Word. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
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