|Destruction of Jerusalem under the Babylonian rule. Illustration from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Neheimiah recounts some similar accounts of the census and proof of blood lines and the opposition from those who had not been taken to Babylon. He says they worked with the tools but kept a weapon with them to defend their work. He lists some of the accomplishments naming the gates that were completed. During the rebuilding of the Temple, they discovered a scroll that had been lost in the destruction. Chapter 8 discusses the importance of this discovery.
There is argument between historians and theologians about whether Ezra and Neheimiah lived during the same time or whether these events took a longer period of time. I would like to get some idea of the time frame, however, I don't want to get bogged down in a historical argument when my purpose is to understand the message this event has for modern readers.
I love the description of the reading of the scroll in Chapter 8. By this time many of the exiles had returned. They assembled in the square before the Water Gate; men, women and all who could listen with understanding stood and listened. Ezra, the scribe, brought the scroll out and read it and the people listened attentively. He stood on a high wooden platform and other scribes, priests and Levites stood with him. As he read some of the Levites were explaining the meaning so that all could understand.
They stood and listened from daybreak till noon. The people said "Amen, Amen," with raised hand. Then they bowed and worshiped. Neheimiah and Ezra said to them, "This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not morn or weep." For all the people were weeping.
Then he said to them "Go and eat the good food and drink the sweet drink, and send portions to those who have nothing." They began to celebrate and rejoice for they understood the law and some wept.
He said, "Do not grieve because your strength comes from rejoicing in the Lord."
The next day they celebrated the Festival of Booths. Subsequently, in Chapter 9 they declared a National Day of Confession of Sin. The rest of the Book of Neheimiah gives details of the resettling and renewal of worship and Neheimiah's reforms.
Don't make the mistake of dismissing the less well-known books of the Bible as unimportant or dull or uninspiring. There are gems of wisdom and stories of valor and victory in them.