Send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it. Nehemiah 2:5
Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” Nehemiah 2:17
When King Artaxerxes (464-424 B.C.) notices his distress, Nehemiah offers a quick prayer and requests permission to rebuild Jerusalem (2:1-8). The king makes Nehemiah governor of Judea (vv. 9-10).
Nehemiah makes a nighttime survey of Jerusalem, examining its fallen walls (vv. 11-16). Only then does he share his vision of a rebuilt Jerusalem and reveal his royal commission (vv. 17-18). The response of the Jews is enthusiastic, but the pagan officials who rule the larger province ridicule the notion of rebuilding and charge that the act constitutes rebellion (vv. 18-19). Nehemiah answers them bluntly. This is the Jews’ city, of which they have no part. With God’s help, its walls will rise again (v. 20).
And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.
Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem: 2:1-10 Nehemiah is given a leave of absence from the Persian court. Letters to the governors of the Trans-Euphrates province, and his military escort, establish Nehemiah’s status.
Instant prayers (2:4-5). Many have observed that Nehemiah’s prayer to the “God of heaven” took only an instant, between the time Artaxerxes asked his questions and Nehemiah answered. But remember that this instant prayer was preceded by the lengthy petition recorded in 1:5-11.
A relationship with God nurtured by regular times of prayer must be the context for all our “instant prayers.”
4 Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”
Nehemiah’s enemies (2:10). The two men mentioned here proved to be persistent enemies of the Jews and Nehemiah. Sanballat was the chief political enemy of Nehemiah. He was governor of Samaria at the time (cf. 4:2), a position confirmed by a letter found by archeologists dated to 407 B.C. which names his sons, and Calls him pehah of Samaria. Tobiah is thought to be a Jew with lands in Gilead. The phrase “Ammonite official” refers to his position as governor of Ammonite lands rather than to his race. Tobiah had many family ties with Jews in Jerusalem (cf. 3:4, 30; 13:4-7).
[From another Source]
Archeologists have discovered written and inscriptional evidence about these individuals. Sanballat enjoyed a long life and continued as governor in Samaria after Nehemiah’s day. Tobiah the Ammonite is from a family which remained politically important from the 5th through the 2nd century B.C. Geshem is of the ruling family of extensive Arab kingdom, which included northern , the Sinai, and part of the Nile delta. In Nehemiah’s day this kingdom was subject to the Persians, but its own king was permitted to serve as a Persian governor.
The Shattered walls inspected: 2:11-20. Nehemiah quietly inspects the tumble of ruins where the city walls had stood before the Babylonian attack. When his plans are made, Nehemiah urges the priests and local officials to commit themselves to rebuilding. For the first time he tells them of his letters and his commission, and of the answer to prayer that brought him to them.
Testimony time (2:18). Nehemiah’s personal testimony that God had brought him to Jerusalem was a key to motivating the Jews to rebuild. Courage to act comes from the conviction that God is with us.
Ridicule (2:19). Ridicule is one of the most effective means there is to discourage us from acting. The superior smirk, the raised eyebrow, the mocking laugh, have kept many a young Christian from living out his or her faith. Nehemiah kept his eyes on God, and we must too.
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?” 20 So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”