“Unit 21: Day 4, Nehemiah,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 21: Day 4,” Old Testament Study Guide
After learning that the walls surrounding Jerusalem were broken down, Nehemiah asked the king of Persia for permission to go to Jerusalem and help rebuild the walls. Despite opposition, the Jews succeeded in rebuilding the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Later, Ezra strengthened the Jews by teaching them from the scriptures, and Nehemiah sought to help them keep their covenants.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that “opposition turns up almost anyplace something good has happened” (“Remember How You Felt,” New Era, Aug. 2004, 6).
- In your scripture study journal, write about how you think individuals in the following scenarios might experience opposition:
A young man has chosen to serve a full-time mission and is eagerly preparing for it.
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.
After being taught by the missionaries, a family decides to be baptized.
As you study the book of Nehemiah, you will learn about the opposition Nehemiah faced and how he overcame that opposition. Look for principles that will help you overcome opposition in your life.
Nehemiah was a Levite and the cupbearer to the Persian king (see Nehemiah 1:11). The position of cupbearer should not be confused with a common servant who merely brings drinks to the king. As the cupbearer, he was in charge of protecting the king’s cup from being poisoned. Nehemiah held a position of trust and honor in serving the king.
Read Nehemiah 1:3, looking for what Nehemiah learned about the remnant (or group) of Jews who were living in Jerusalem and about the condition of the walls surrounding the city.
Remember that approximately 90 years earlier, the Persian king Cyrus 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.
Read Nehemiah 1:4, looking for what Nehemiah did after he heard this news.
In Nehemiah 1:5–11 we learn that Nehemiah prayed for the Jews in Jerusalem. He also prayed that the Lord would prosper him as he sought help from the Persian king Artaxerxes.
Read Nehemiah 2:1–6, looking for the king’s reaction to Nehemiah’s request for permission to go help rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.
How was the king’s reaction an answer to Nehemiah’s prayers?
In Nehemiah 2:7–16 we learn that Nehemiah requested that the king write letters to the governors of Persian provinces so they would allow him to pass through their lands on his way to Jerusalem. At Nehemiah’s request, the king also provided him with supplies he needed to rebuild the walls and gates of the city. When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he went out by night to inspect the city walls and saw they needed to be rebuilt.
Read Nehemiah 2:17–19, looking for how the people reacted to Nehemiah’s plans to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.
According to verse 18, how did the Jews respond?
According to verse 19, how did Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem oppose Nehemiah? These three men were powerful leaders of other groups of people who were living near Jerusalem. Sanballat was the Persian governor of Samaria and was against all the works of Nehemiah.
- Read Nehemiah 2:20, and answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What impresses you about Nehemiah’s response to the people who opposed him?
- Write the following portion of a principle in your scripture study journal: We will accomplish the work of the Lord despite opposition if we … As you study Nehemiah 3–6, look for three ways you could complete this principle. You will be directed to write these three completed principles as part of this assignment.
Read Nehemiah 3:1–3, 12–16, looking for how the Jews went about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Notice that many groups of the Jews worked on small sections of the wall at the same time.
What do you think would be some advantages of having many groups of people working on small sections of the wall at the same time?
Based on what you learned about the people who repaired the walls of Jerusalem, write in your scripture study journal one way to complete the principle in assignment 3.
Based on what you read in Nehemiah 4, write in your scripture study journal another way to complete the principle in assignment 3.
Read Nehemiah 6:1–9, looking for a third way to accomplish the Lord’s work despite opposition.
Based on what you read in Nehemiah 6, write in your scripture study journal another way to complete the principle in assignment 3.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency explained how Nehemiah’s statement in Nehemiah 6:3 can help us overcome opposition and temptation:
“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 live in times of great challenges and great opportunities. The Lord is seeking men [and women] like Nehemiah. … He seeks to enlist unfaltering souls who diligently go about the work of building the kingdom of God—those who, when faced with opposition and temptation, say in their hearts, ‘I am doing a great work and cannot come down.’
“When faced with trial and suffering, they respond, ‘I am doing a great work and cannot come down.’
“When faced with ridicule and reproach, they proclaim, ‘I am doing a great work and cannot come down.’
“Our Heavenly Father seeks those who refuse to allow the trivial to hinder them in their pursuit of the eternal. He seeks those who will not allow the attraction of ease or the traps of the adversary to distract them from the work He has given them to perform. He seeks those whose actions conform to their words—those who say with conviction, ‘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).
- Answer two or all of the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What are some examples of small things you can do to help accomplish the work of the Lord?
How do you think praying and being obedient to the inspiration we receive can help us accomplish His work despite opposition?
How do you think the phrase “I am doing a great work and cannot come down” might help someone overcome temptation or opposition?
Read Nehemiah 6:15–16, looking for what the Jews were able to accomplish by doing their small part, praying to the Lord for strength, and remaining focused on doing the work of the Lord.
In Nehemiah 7 we learn that after the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, the Lord inspired Nehemiah to trace the genealogy of the Israelites who returned to Jerusalem. (The Israelites who returned to Jerusalem were called Jews.) The priesthood holders whose genealogical records were missing could not prove their authority to have the priesthood and were denied the priesthood.
Imagine meeting someone who has been lost for several days with no food and very little water. What would that person’s physical condition likely be?
Consider what you might do to help restore that person’s health.
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 have done to help restore their spiritual health?
Ezra, a priest, was living in Jerusalem during the same time as Nehemiah. Read Nehemiah 8:1–3, looking for what Ezra did to help the people regain their spiritual health.
The scriptures were written in Hebrew, but the Jews could no longer understand Hebrew. Therefore, Ezra read the scriptures in Hebrew and then paraphrased them into the Aramaic language so the people could understand them.
Read Nehemiah 8:3, 6, 9, 12, looking for how the people responded when they heard and understood the scriptures.
Why did the people weep?
In the rest of Nehemiah 8 we learn that once the Jews understood the scriptures, they blessed the Lord and acted immediately to obey the law.
In Nehemiah 9 we learn that the Jews fasted, confessed their sins, and recited their history, including God’s blessings to them and examples of their ancestors’ disobedience. Scan Nehemiah 9, looking for some of the blessings the Jews recognized through the scriptures that the Lord had given their ancestors.
Read Nehemiah 9:38, looking for what the Jews promised to do because of what they learned from the scriptures about God and His blessings.
Based on this account, we learn the following truth: As we learn from the scriptures about God and His goodness, we have a greater desire to enter into and keep His covenants.
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What scripture story has helped you have a greater desire to obey God and remain faithful to your covenants?
Make a commitment to study or continue to study your scriptures daily to help strengthen your desire to obey God and make covenants with Him.
Nehemiah 10 explains that after the Israelites understood the scriptures, they covenanted to not marry those who were not Israelites and to keep the Sabbath day holy by not purchasing things on the Lord’s holy day.
In Nehemiah 11–12 we learn that after the people determined who would live in Jerusalem and who would live in other cities, the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated. In Nehemiah 13 we learn that after Nehemiah had been 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.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Nehemiah and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: