“Lesson 105: Nehemiah,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 105,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Nehemiah led the Jews in rebuilding the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Later, Ezra the priest strengthened the Jews by teaching them from the scriptures, and Nehemiah sought to help them keep their covenants.
Before class, write on the board the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (This statement is found in “Remember How You Felt,” New Era, Aug. 2004, 6.)
Invite a student to read the statement on the board aloud. To give illustrations of this statement, invite students to explain how individuals in the following scenarios might experience opposition:
A young man has made the choice to serve a full-time mission and is eagerly preparing.
A young woman has set a goal to keep the Sabbath day holy at home, even though some members of her family are not active members of the Church.
A young man has decided to help each person in his priesthood quorum participate in Church meetings and activities.
Point out that in the book of Nehemiah we learn about the opposition Nehemiah faced and how he overcame that opposition. Invite students as they study the book of Nehemiah to look for principles that will help them overcome opposition in their lives.
Explain that Nehemiah was a Jew who served as the cupbearer to the Persian king (see Nehemiah 1:11). As the cupbearer, he was in charge of protecting the king’s cup from being poisoned. Nehemiah was in a position of trust and honor before the king.
Ask a student to read Nehemiah 1:3 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for what Nehemiah learned about the remnant (or group) of Jews who were living in Jerusalem.
What did Nehemiah learn about the Jews in Jerusalem and the condition of the city?
Remind students that approximately 90 years earlier, the Persian king Cyrus had allowed many Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and establish a community there. Without a wall, Jerusalem was unsafe to live in, and the temple was in danger of being destroyed again.
Ask a student to read Nehemiah 1:4 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Nehemiah did after he heard this news. Invite students to report what they find.
Summarize Nehemiah 1:5–11 by explaining that these verses contain Nehemiah’s prayer for the Jews in Jerusalem. He also prayed that the Lord would prosper him as he sought help from the Persian king Artaxerxes.
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Nehemiah 2:1–6. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the king’s reaction to Nehemiah when he requested permission to go help rebuild the wall in Jerusalem.
What did the king notice about Nehemiah?
How was the king’s reaction an answer to Nehemiah’s prayers?
Summarize Nehemiah 2:7–16 by explaining that Nehemiah requested that the king write letters to the governors of Persian provinces so they would allow Nehemiah to pass through their lands on his way to Jerusalem. The king also provided Nehemiah with supplies he needed to rebuild the walls and gates of the city.
Invite a student to read Nehemiah 2:17–19 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Nehemiah announced when he came to Jerusalem and how the people there reacted.
What did Nehemiah announce to the people in Jerusalem?
According to verse 18, how did the Jews respond to Nehemiah’s announcement?
According to verse 19, how did Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem oppose Nehemiah? (Explain that these three men were powerful leaders of other groups of people who were living near Jerusalem. Sanballat was the Persian governor of Samaria and opposed all the works of Nehemiah.)
Invite students to read Nehemiah 2:20 silently, looking for what Nehemiah said after being mocked.
What impresses you about Nehemiah’s response to the people who opposed him?
Write the following incomplete principle on the board: We will accomplish the work of the Lord despite opposition if we …
Invite students to look for ways to complete this principle as they study Nehemiah 3–6.
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Nehemiah 3:1–3, 12–16. Explain that many groups of Jews each worked on small sections of the wall.
What do you think would be some advantages of having many people each work on small sections of the wall?
Based on the example of the people who repaired the walls of Jerusalem, how would you complete the principle on the board? (Students should identify a principle such as the following: We will accomplish the work of the Lord despite opposition if we each do our part. Write this principle on the board.)
Invite students to share some examples of small things they can do to help accomplish the work of the Lord.
Divide students into pairs. Assign one of the partners to silently read Nehemiah 4:6–9, 14–17, looking for additional ways to complete the phrase written on the board. Assign the other partner to silently read Nehemiah 6:1–9, looking for additional ways to complete the phrase written on the board. Ask students to write on a piece of paper how they would complete the phrase based on what they read.
After sufficient time, invite students to report to their partners what they wrote. Once both partners have reported, ask the class:
Based on Nehemiah 4 and Nehemiah 6, how did you complete the statement on the board? (As students share the principles they have identified, emphasize the following truths: We will accomplish the work of the Lord despite opposition if we pray and then heed the inspiration we receive, and we will accomplish the work of the Lord despite opposition if we remain focused on doing the work of the Lord. Write these principles on the board.)
Refer to the scenarios discussed at the beginning of the lesson, and invite students to explain how the principles they identified could help the individuals in those scenarios.
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency:
“Think of the power we would have as individuals … if, in response to every temptation to lose focus or lower our standards—the standards of God, we responded, ‘I am doing a great work and cannot come down’” (“We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 62).
How did President Uchtdorf say we should respond when we are faced with opposition or temptation? (Consider suggesting that students mark the phrase in Nehemiah 6:3 that President Uchtdorf quoted.)
Invite students to think of a time when they or someone they know has been strengthened during opposition by doing the Lord’s will. Ask a few students to share their experiences with the class. Encourage students to ponder the phrase “I am doing a great work and cannot come down” the next time they face opposition in doing God’s will.
Invite students to read Nehemiah 6:15–16 silently, looking for what the Jews were able to accomplish by living the principles written on the board. Ask students to report what they find.
Summarize Nehemiah 7 by explaining that the Lord inspired Nehemiah to trace the genealogy of the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem. Men who claimed to be of the tribe of Levi but did not have genealogical records to prove their ancestry were denied the priesthood.
Explain that the Jews who were living in Jerusalem during Nehemiah’s time had been lost spiritually for several years without the nourishment of scriptures or sacred ordinances.
What would you do to help restore their spiritual health?
Point out that the priest Ezra was living in Jerusalem during the same time as Nehemiah. Invite students to read Nehemiah 8:1–3 silently, looking for what Ezra did to help the people regain their spiritual health.
What did Ezra do to help the people regain their spiritual health?
Invite a student to read Nehemiah 8:3, 6, 12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how the people responded when they heard and understood the scriptures.
What did the people feel and do?
Summarize the rest of Nehemiah 8 by explaining that once the Jews understood the scriptures, they blessed the Lord and acted immediately to obey the law.
Explain that in Nehemiah 9 we read that the Jews fasted, confessed their sins, and recited their history. Write the following scripture passages on the board: Nehemiah 9:15–17; Nehemiah 9:18–20; Nehemiah 9:24–27. Invite students to pick one of the three scripture passages and read it silently, looking for blessings the Jews praised God for as they prayed. Invite them to report what they find.
Invite a student to read Nehemiah 9:38 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the Jews promised to do because of what they learned from the scriptures about God and His blessings.
Based on this account, what can happen to us as we learn from the scriptures about God and His blessings? (Write the following truth on the board: As we learn from the scriptures about God and His goodness, we have a greater desire to enter into and keep His covenants.)
What account from the scriptures has helped you have a greater desire to obey God and remain faithful to your covenants?
Encourage students to make a commitment to study or continue to study their scriptures daily to help strengthen their desire to obey God and make covenants with Him.
Summarize Nehemiah 10 by explaining that after the Israelites understood the scriptures, they covenanted not to marry outside of Israel and to keep the Sabbath day holy.
Summarize Nehemiah 11–12 by explaining that after the people determined who would live in Jerusalem and who would live in other cities, the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated.
Summarize Nehemiah 13 by explaining that while Nehemiah was away from Jerusalem for several years, many of the Jews struggled to live according to their covenants. Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem and helped them keep their covenants by removing evil influences and reinstituting Sabbath observance.