Lesson 105: Nehemiah
    Footnotes

    “Lesson 105: Nehemiah,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

    “Lesson 105,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

    Lesson 105

    Nehemiah

    Introduction

    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.

    Suggestions for Teaching

    Nehemiah 1–6

    Nehemiah directs the Jews in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem despite opposition

    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.)

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
    “Opposition turns up almost anyplace something good has happened” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland).

    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:

    1. A young man has made the choice to serve a full-time mission and is eagerly preparing.

    2. 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.

    3. 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:

    President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

    “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.

    Nehemiah 7

    Priests without genealogical records are denied the priesthood

    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.

    Nehemiah 8–10

    Ezra reads and interprets the scriptures to the people

    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.

    Nehemiah 11–13

    The temple walls are dedicated, and Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem and corrects abuses of the law of Moses

    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.

    Commentary and Background Information

    Nehemiah 1–6. What was the importance of the wall?

    “The walls were a protection, but they were also an important physical symbol of the establishment of the Jews as a people. The holy city became a unifying force as families were chosen by lot to come live in it (see Nehemiah 11:1–2). Sanballat and the other enemies of Judah fully understood the significance of the walls and of Nehemiah’s unifying leadership. That is why their opposition was so persistent” (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 336).

    Nehemiah 2:10. Sanballat

    Sanballat was the governor of Samaria. A deep bitterness had developed between the Samaritans and the returning Jews. The bitterness began when the Jews would not allow the Samaritans to aid in rebuilding the temple because the Samaritans had married outside the covenant and had incorporated pagan beliefs into their worship of Jehovah (see Ezra 4:1–10). It was a great setback for the Samaritans when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem with full power from the king of Persia to refortify Jerusalem (see Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 335).

    Nehemiah 8:1–12. Establishing the synagogue and the feast

    “The reading of the law to the people by Ezra the scribe is of particular importance because it appears to have been the first time a synagogue, or a place to read and expound the scriptures, was established in Jerusalem after the return from Babylon. One Bible scholar commented on verse 8 as follows: ‘The Israelites, having been lately brought out of the Babylonish captivity, in which they had continued seventy years, according to the prediction of Jeremiah, [25:11], were not only extremely corrupt, but it appears that they had in general lost the knowledge of the ancient Hebrew to such a degree, that when the book of the law was read, they did not understand it: but certain Levites stood by, and gave the sense, i.e., translated into the Chaldee dialect. … It appears that the people were not only ignorant of their ancient language, but also of the rites and ceremonies of their religion, having been so long in Babylon, where they were not permitted to observe them. This being the case, not only the language must be interpreted, but the meaning of the rites and ceremonies must also be explained; for we find from ver. 13, &c., of this chapter, that they had even forgotten the feast of tabernacles, and every thing relative to that ceremony’ [Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible … with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 2:781–82]” (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 336–37).