Read Esther; Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-7; Daniel 9
God protected His people, and the fulfilment of His word, through an orphaned young Jewish woman
One of Darius’ sons, Xerxes, succeeded him in 486 BCE. He had little talent for economics and revelled too much in court pleasures and in lavish building projects. His treatment of subjugated peoples was also brutal, contrary to the habits of his predecessors (1). In 483 BCE. Xerxes held a one hundred and eighty day feast for his officials, followed immediately by a seven day feast for all the people in the citadel of Susa (fortified part of the capitol city of Persia where his palace was located), at the end of which Queen Vashti refused to obey his command to come so he could show off her beauty. Her punishment was to be banished forever from Xerxes’ presence and stripped of her royal position (Esther 1).
Xerxes then went to quell rebellions in Egypt and Greece, initially accomplishing great exploits but suffered a humiliating naval defeat against the Greeks in 480 BCE. So he returned to his magnificent feasts and desired once again to have a queen. All the most beautiful virgins in the empire were brought together for six months of beauty treatments and preparations and from these Esther was chosen (Esther 2). She kept her Jewish identity secret and they were married at the end of 479 BCE.
Four decades after the temple was built the work of rebuilding Jerusalem hadn’t progressed much further than that and now all was under threat with Haman’s murderous plot to have all the Jews in all the provinces of Persia killed, destroyed and annihilated. This time their salvation came not from a mighty warrior or a foreign army, but from a young Jewish woman whom God had placed as queen for such a time as this.
Awareness of the plot, and fasting and prayers of the Jewish people to avert it, took place not in the temple in Jerusalem but in the Persian city of Susa (2). The Jewish diaspora was now large not only in Babylon but throughout the Persian empire, and particularly in the main centres of power like Susa. The Jewish people were saved and empowered to destroy their enemies (Esther 9:1-19). Mordecai then wrote letters to all the Jews in all the provinces of Persia to establish a new yearly celebration feast, Purim, commemorating their sorrow being turned to joy. This innovation did not come from the religious establishment in Jerusalem, but it was accepted and adopted throughout Judaism. Purim continues to be the most joyous Jewish celebration.
Each new generation needs to be led back to God
Xerxes was assassinated in 465 BC, and after the lead assassin was killed Artaxerxes succeeded to the Persian throne in 464 BC. In the seventh year of his reign, 457 BC, Artaxerxes permitted the Jewish scribe and priest, Ezra, to lead an expedition of about 5,000 Jews back to Jerusalem to settle there, teach the people the Law of Moses (Torah) and present offerings to God from Artaxerxes, and gifts for the temple (Ezra 7-8). What Ezra found when he arrived was that the initial fervour of the returned captives had faded, the work of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem had seen little progress since the temple was rebuilt, 60 years before, and this next generation, from the priests and leaders down, had forsaken much of the Torah.
The lessons of the Babylonian captivity appeared to have been so quickly lost, and Haman’s threat of annihilation the decade before left no positive effect in the Promised Land. While the Jews in Babylon had continued working hard to maintain their distinct identity as the people of God through observance of Torah and customs, the next generation of those who had returned to the land of Judah quickly became complacent with their identity secured in their land and temple.
Money so easily corrupts, and when that happens in the spiritual leaders…
The high priest, Eliashib, had himself become compromised so the priesthood was corrupted and the reading of the Torah to the people ceased. Eliashib was allied with Tobiah the Ammonite who, along with Sanballat the Horonite, sought to keep the children of Israel weak and the city of Jerusalem without a wall. Eliashib’s wealth suggests that it may have been some form of business partnership.
Without guidance from the Torah, many had taken foreign wives and started participating in the abominations of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. To Ezra’s horror, even some of the priests had taken foreign wives who continued living and raising their children as pagans with all the practises that God abhorred.
True Leadership Vs Self-Interested Leaders who Hinder God’s work
Ezra wept bitterly in identificational repentance before the house of God until the men, women and children of Israel gradually joined him in weeping and repentance prayer. What Haman’s attempt at annihilation failed to do, the priest’s tears accomplished – God’s people in Jerusalem repented and returned to Him (Ezra 10:1-6).
Ezra gathered some of the heads of households and together they questioned all the men who had taken pagan wives until each one promised they would put away those wives and bring a trespass offering to Yahweh (Ezra 10:16-44). However, this was only half the problem and the rebuilding of Jerusalem remained stalled because key leaders of the community such as Shechaniah, who had married his daughter to Tobiah, and Meshullam, who had married his daughter to Tobiah’s son, remained allied to their enemies even as the high priest was. One of the high priest’s grandsons had married the daughter of Sanballat.
Godly Leadership Needed in both Church and State
Ezra exemplified the Torah and prophets’ ideal of priest. He is credited with being the “Father of Judaism” and founder of the modern Jewish religion (3). Yet there was only so much he could accomplish with both the civic and religious leaders of the land aligned to their enemies. Ezra’s purity of life and teaching of the people appeared to have little impact on their leaders. But God heard his prayers. Thirteen years after Ezra’s arrival, in 444 BCE, Artaxerxes gave his Jewish cupbearer, Nehemiah, letters of authority to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. Under Nehemiah the walls of Jerusalem, which had remained desolate for the last 93 years of Jewish habitation, were repaired in just 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15).
Countdown to Messiah begins
Here Daniel’s fourth vision’s countdown of sevens to Messiah begins:
“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.” Daniel 9:25-26 NIV
Daniel was clearly told when the 69 sevens would begin their countdown until the Anointed One / Messiah would come, and be put to death. The first seven sevens would begin with a decree involving the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. So there was to be another ‘seven sevens’ (49 years) and then ‘sixty-two sevens’ (434 years) before the Anointed One was to come, and would be put to death, a total of 483 years – time for more kingdoms to rise and fall.
What it takes to Repair Spiritual Walls
As the physical walls of the city were repaired, so were the spiritual walls. Nehemiah gathered all the people together for Ezra to read the Scroll of the Law of Moses (Torah) to them. They listened intently and followed God’s directions for the Feast of Tabernacles with great joy. All the people came together again in response to the reading of the Law, this time with fasting confessing their sins and the iniquities of their fathers then uniting in a great prayer of worship, repentance and covenant commitment to walk in God’s law and obey everything in the Torah (Nehemiah 9&10). This has become known as “The Covenant of Faith”. (4) What Ezra had begun 13 years before was now coming to fulfilment.
Godly Leaders Care for the Poor
Nehemiah was a very rare and exceptional leader who walked in the fear of God, unlike the governors before or after him. He served as governor in the land of Judah for 12 years at his own expense because of his concern that the ordinary people were already too poor and heavily burdened even though there was a very wealthy upper class in Judea. He called a great assembly of the people to shame the wealthy into ceasing their unbiblical practises of charging their brothers interest, selling them and their families as slaves, and selling their land as repayment for debts (Nehemiah 5). He demonstrated a much greater commitment to both the Torah and the temple worship than the High Priest Eliashib, who served only his own interests.
When Nehemiah returned from his promised time back with the king of Persia he found this corruption had manifest itself again and took decisive action to set things back in order both in the temple and in the people’s obedience to Torah, removing Tobiah the Ammonite from his residence in the temple storeroom, re-instituting the Levitical worship and cleansing them of everything pagan (Neh. 13).
To the end of the OT Prophets
Malachi was also written during the first period of seven ‘sevens’ (49 years since the decree to rebuild the walls and city of Jerusalem). Like Ezra and Nehemiah, he rebukes corruption in the priesthood and the infidelity of the people, calling for repentance. Like Daniel, he elicits Messianic expectations:
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts” Malachi 3:1
1. Stevenson, John T. Israel After The Exile. John Stevenson Bible Study Page. [Online] 2000. [Cited: 24th Aug 2016.] http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/14ezra.html.
2. Goldberg, G. J. Esther: Her Point of View Josephus’ Version with Commentary. Thematic Concerdance of the Works of Josephus. [Online] [Cited: 26th Aug 2016.] http://josephus.org/Esther.htm.
3. Carlson, Thomas. Exile to Babylon and Diaspora. Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. [Online] [Cited: 27th Aug 2016.] http://www.religion.ucsb.edu/faculty/thomas/classes/rgst116b/JewishHistory.html.
4. Astor, Berel Wein adapted by Yaakov. Ezra and Nehemiah. Jewish History.org. [Online] [Cited: 28th Aug. 2016.] http://www.jewishhistory.org/ezra-and-nehemiah/.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on some of the following questions…
* What are some of the things we can learn from Esther’s story?
* How had the Jews in Israel, who could attend the Temple and participate in sacrifice and worship there, become less faithful to God than the Jews in the Persian cities?
* How can you help your people keep fervently focused on God and not backslide like the Jews in Israel had done?
* How are you reaching the next generation?
* What were the sins of the Jewish leaders and how can we avoid being seduced by such sins?
* What qualities did Ezra and Nehemiah have that made them good leaders?
* What have you seen happen in your nation when gifted leaders lack godly character?
7 thoughts on “Rebuilding the Walls of Jerusalem (486 – 430 B.C.)”
1. Esther displayed some good qualities that we can learn from. Esther demonstrated faithfulness to her family and her people. She was obedience to her Cousin and father-figure, Mordecai (Esther 2:10,20). Esther was so loyal to the Jews that she went before king uninvited, even though it was dangerous to do so, to save their lives. Here, we can see Esther represent as a Saviour.
Such faithfulness, obedience, and loyalty are needed today. Christians can learn from Esther’s story about her faithfulness, obedience, and loyalty. Even we are require to submit to governing authorities and respect those who lead the Church. No matter what conditions we Christian leaders find ourselves in, we must demonstrates faithfulness to our Church, community, and nation. More important is the need for loyalty to God, to Christ, and to the Church or ministry. Pastors who are loyal to their political parties and social groups feel little connection to their Church or ministries. Like Esther, we need a sense of community which will encourage us to be loyal to the ministry/Church. When we feel such loyalty, we will do all we can to protect and build up the Church, to do good to other members of the Church, and help the Church grow.
Another thing we can learn from Esther’s story is her courage. When Mordecai ask her to intercede with the King on behalf of the Jews, she told him that going to the King uninvited would place her in danger. Mordecai persuaded her, and the result was that she gathered her courage and entered in the presence of the King Ahasuerus. We need to learn such courage.
Esther displayed tremendous boldness, and we should also learn to display boldness. We should determine to remain faithful, even if it meant dying for our faith (Revelation 2:10).
We can also learn from Esther’s story is about her wisdom. In fact, Esther exhibited wisdom in way she dealt with Haman and the scheduled extermination of the Jews. By inviting the king and Haman to dinner two night in a row, and then revealing to the King Haman’s murderous plan, she cleverly accomplished her objectives. She was necessary to protect the Jews from their enemies and enable them to prosper. We pastors must pray to God for wisdom and do everything possible to teach and lead our people wisely from God’s point of view. One of the things we can learn is about her willingness to be used providentially by God.
2. The Jews in Jerusalem did not remember the victory they had in the foreign land through the power of God. When they came back to Jerusalem, their own land, they stopped worship of the Temple and sacrifice. They forsaken learning thy Torah and also entered in intermarriages. The purposes e which they came to their land was not accomplished.
3. To help people keep fervently focus on God, I myself must be faithful and obedience to God and His laws. With this, I can help my people to keep fervently focus on God and not backslide. By regularly teaching them the Word of God and let them know that God is love. I help my people to include the things of God in their daily lives. Also I encourage them to involve in fasting and prayers and yearly Bible reading plan. I encourage my people to get rid of everything that slow them down, especially, sin that distracts them (Hebrews 12:1).
4. Reaching the next generation should be a great agenda for every good leader. If a person do love God and the next generation, it will not work for one to reach them. I love God and I also love the next generation of making them know that God is all-powerful, and He is exit.
I am reaching the next generation by giving them unchanging truth, differently. The Gospel does not change, but how to apply the Gospel to our changing culture is vital. In Acts 2, Peter proclaimed the Gospel, quoting the Old Testament as he proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. But in Acts 17, Paul stood before pagan philosophers, citing a hymn to Zeus and starting with creation. Why difference? Peter spoke to devout Jews, while Paul preached to Gentiles. I am reaching the next generation to see the reality of a supernatural God at work in I world. Teaching them the Word of God diligently. I am making the next generation aware that, knowing God and to keep His commandments is the most valuable precious assest in life one can have.
5. The sins of the Jewish leaders were that; they married foreign wives. Their first priority was not on God anymore, rather they became lovers of money. Their lives was not guided by God’s Word because they stopped reading the Torah. They were involve in corruption. They were participating in the abomination of the pagan nations.
To avoid being seduced by such sins, we must love Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We must obey God and be faithful to God to the end, even in times of difficulty. We should also remember the punishment God gave to them. We must adapt this from Moses; “choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25).
6. Biblical leadership is the best of all and it is very difficult one. To become a good leader, one must apply the Word of God as Ezra and Nehemiah did. The qualities did Ezra and Nehemiah have that make them good leaders are:
a. Both Ezra and Nehemiah are faithful to God and the people.
b. They displayed their passion for the things of God.
c. They are very rare and exceptional leaders who walked in the fear of God.
d. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were capable to slove internal problems.
7. In my country, I see all the gifted leaders who are lacking godly character are corrupt. Lovers of money. I see them oppressing the poor people in the country. The political leaders do not serve their nation but themselves. The religious leaders also serve their stomach… selfishness.
Rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (486–430 BC)
Esther represents a saviour,she had the Godly heart of delivering het people from the trap of Haman who wanted to wipe away the Jews from the Persian empire in order to achieve his ambition of becoming the king’s favourite.We as christian leaders must do everything possible to act just as Esther did in critical moments to save a situation for our nation, community and church as well. Indeed her intercessory role granted freedom for the Jews.
The Jews in Jerusalem forgot their victory over the plot of Haman that brought them back to their own land and therefore abandoned the worship in the Temple and the learning of the Torah.Their faithfulness to God faded and the reason for which they came was also not fufilled
One can encourage another to remain faithful and remain faithful and focus on God if the one himself or herself is faithful, observe and adhere to God’s laws.
I have to let them know that God is faithful in keeping His promises therefore it will be very bad to depart from His commands and laws.On behalf of our people we can fsat and pray to God in times of difficulties and oppression and He would hear us as we plead with Him.
The next generation must be made aware of the existence of the omnipotent God.His provisions,in times of hopelessness, His salvation beyond human capabilities, His mercies and faithfulness.
They should be made aware that indeed He is God of all time and that He must be obeyed in all aspects of life.The fear of God must be handed down from generation to generation.
The sins of the Jewish leaders were that they became lovers of money rather than worshippers of God in truth and in spirit. They compromised their faith for money.
They became corrupted in their service to God.Their lives were no more guided by the word of God.They did contrary to what the Lord had commanded them in the Law of Moses.They married foreign wives and participated in practices which God dislike.
The taken of adamant Israel into captivity by the Babylonians should warn us not to disobey our God,so becoming so greedy and corrupt for money and wealth should not be compromised in doing the work of God.
We can make good leaders by applying the word of God in our lives.True repentance and return to God can make peopl learn again and become faithful. We can do this by learning from the examples of Ezra and Zerubabel and their leadership skills.
Ezra gathered the heards of households and taught them and some repented from his teachings.
Lack of gifted godly people in my country is posing a disaster the more christians we produce, the higher the sins of the nation why?
Because most of the religious leaders want to live in affluence.
They have become too conscious with money and possessions that they no longer preach the truth of God.
There is much deception from the word of God.
Do not love the world or anything in the world.If anyone loves the world,the love of the Father is not in him.1 John. 2;15 NIV.
Many have forgotten this scriptures hence game mind.
Sister Anita, this is Pradeep kumar, this blog was reflecting present situations in regarding rebuilding of the fundamental things in our Christianity. The reformation was happened and it brought the truth of God. As now we need rebuilding of the walls of our Christianity – as I am sharing according to my context. As a Great leader had a great role to play for his people, like we need great leaders like Nehemiah, so that the Christ like nature leaders can influence on the Church.
We have to keep our people focus on Jesus Christ and be like Him. To do that First of all I must be the front role. And like Nehemiah, as a God’s Child every one has passion for His own people to bring them back to the Center of their faith.
Comment posted in response to question #7.
When gifted leaders lack godly character.
I once knew a leader who had a rising reputation in our city. He was an associate pastor in one of the growing churches in Kampala city. This guy was highly gifted in the music ministry, well known, and was receiving invitations to minister in large conferences all over the city, across the country, and internationally. Everything was going well, until one day it came to light that he was a homosexual. Some young men from the church choir came up and pinned him that he had been engaging them in wicked acts. He was stepped down from the church and removed from his ministry position pending investigations by police. The police charged him and his file was forwarded to the courts of law. The overwhelming evidence from many witnesses availed to court and his guilty plea to the police during interrogation was enough to convict him. Before the court process could conclude, he fled Uganda while on police bond. Imagine with all the reputation he had, he fell from grace to grass, and left the country in embarrassment, and now lives as a fugitive in Canada.
The sad truth is that many gifted, capable and anointed leaders have fallen because they didn’t have the private character to back up their public calling. Yet many of these leaders had outstanding reputation, which demonstrates to us that reputation and character are not the same things. Reputation is what people who don’t know you think of you; and character is who you are when no one is watching. Well, that is what happens when our external opportunity exceeds our internal character; we are without a solid foundation, meaning that when challenges or temptations come we lack the internal resolve to stay standing. On this job of Christian ministry service, people will fail for lack of character, not for lack of gifting. And as such, it is required that everyone’s character should match their calling.
In my opinion, to be a person of good character means that who you are on the outside matches up to who you are on the inside; that who you are on stage matches up to who you are off stage; that the way you speak to people “above you” matches up to the way you speak to those “below you;” and that your words match up to your actions. Therefore, to be a person of good character is to be a person of integrity. This is who you are when no one is observing.
Comment posted in response to question #1.
The mighty hand of God was upon Esther and Mordecai, and God manifested for the Jewish people to deliver them from the murderous plot of Haman. Haman had devised a plot to have all the Jews in all the provinces of Persia killed, destroyed and annihilated. Their salvation came from a young Jewish woman whom God had raised as queen. Below are some of the things we can learn from Esther’s story;
1. Nothing happens to us by coincidence!
Esther was chosen as queen after the downfall of queen Vashti who had offended the king. Esther (a Jew) just happened to be in the kingdom, away from Israel, during this time. She just happened to be added to the list of potential wives for the king and was miraculously chosen to be queen. This whole thing was orchestrated by God. In the same, our life is orchestrated by God. Following Jesus gives us the confidence to know that things happen to us in order to open up every opportunity to serve according to divine purpose.
2. Beware of pride; even the great can fall
When Queen Vashti became proud and refused to obey the king, it led to her downfall. She was dethroned (Esther 1:13-20). As they say, pride comes and then the fall (Proverbs 11:2). James taught that God resists the proud person but gives grace to those who humble themselves (James 4:6). The bible also says that “pride brings a person low” (Proverbs 29:23) and “before a downfall the heart is haughty” (Proverbs 18:12a). Vashti discovered when it was too late that humility brings favor, but pride brings resistance before God, before kings, and before everyone. This is an important lesson for us to learn that anyone can be brought down by pride no matter which position they have been elevated to.
3. Pleasing God brings divine favor and elevation
During the beauty contest when the king wanted a new queen to replace Vashti, the bible says that he loved Esther above all other women and she obtained favor before him (Esther 2:9-17). When God’s hand is on someone because their ways are pleasing to Him, He gives them favor in the sight of all. Proverbs 16:7 says that “when a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Therefore, when we walk well before God, favor and elevation will be our portion in the land of the living.
4. A Christian should be spiritually patriotic for his nation
In the book of Esther 4:10-11, Mordecai was desperate after he learned about Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews and so called on Queen Esther to seek audience with the king. Remember, this was a matter of life or death if the king had not summoned her. When Esther hesitated, Mordecai reminded her that she will equally perish if she kept silent and did nothing at such a time when the Jewish people needed her help; and that relief and deliverance will come from another place (Esther 4:13-14a). As Christians we learn from Esther’s story to be spiritually patriotic and actively participate in engaging God in the affairs of our nation.
5. Never dig a pit for someone; you may be the one to fall into it.
The bible says in Proverbs 26:27 that “whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.” This is the exact example of what happened to the man Haman. He was so outraged by Mordecai and wanted to hang him on the gallows that he prepared. But the night when Mordecai should have been hanged, God favored him and caused his good works to be remembered (Esther 6:1-3). This marked the beginning of the downfall of Haman the kingdom super-minister (Esther 7:8-10). As if that was not enough, Queen Esther reported Haman to the king as the senior conspirator to destroy the Jewish people (Esther 7:1-6). Consequently we see Haman hanged on the same gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. The lesson here is that if your intention is to build gallows for someone else, you might be the one to be hanged on the same.
Esther,a slave girl is a practical example of a person whose life is dedicated to the Lord..Circumstances however had they may be trusting God is the only answer
Esther in her anguish and despair as she is taken captive,even witnessing her uncle being ensalved in cruality in the hands of the Babylonians .
Jews left in Israel after the Babylonians conquest,turned away to other God’s.They rebelled against God in that they even married foreign women
They forgot and sinned against God.
Constant reminding of God’s grace to the people is the only solution against back sliding.Let them turn to God. Let them throw away their spiritual disobedience to God.Teach them sound doctrine.encourage them to live a holy life by putting on the righteousness of God.In that way God will forgive and start blessing them.
They can be reached with the Word of God.In the time of Ezra,he used to read the Torah to the children of Israel so that they turn to the Lord.
The Jewish leaders sinned against God turning to worship foreign God’s which later developed into marriages with foreign women .In this very sin they encouraged their sons to follow suit.
Both Ezra and Nehemiah stand or represent themselves as godly and hence are great men of the Bible
As the Bible stipulates that God’s people run wild or astry for lack of knowledge,these leaders drive them to that since they do not display the chapter of God to people
These leaders should emulate the character of God
1. Esther’s story is so encouraging that we as Christians can
learn many things to build our spiritual growth.
a. Esther was committed to her people
b. Esther had real love for her people justified the fact that
she was in a place high position.
c. She never forgot her background, so we as Christians
should not forget our identity as been in the Lord.
d. She depended on the God of Israel to save them from the
hands of their enemies, this teaches us not forget our
Lord Jesus Christ in times of trial and temptations.
2. Because without guidance from the Torah, many had taken
foreign wives and started participating in the abominations
of the Canaanites, Hittites etc.
3. We can help our people fervently focus on God, and not to
backslide like the Jews in Israel had done by
a. Constantly teaching them the Word of God
b. Encouraging them to read the Word of God by themselves
c. By meditating on the Word of God.
d. Depending on the God of heaven and nothing else.
4. We are reaching the next generation by properly teaching
the Word of God, and making them observing all that have
been taught, and monitoring them day by day.
5. The sins of the Jewish leaders was that they had married
foreign wives who continued living and raising their children
as pagans ,with all the practices that God abhorred, and we
avoid being seduced by such sins by faithfully obeying the
Word of God and everyday reading the Word.
6. The qualities that Ezra and Nehemiah had that made them
good leaders are:
a. They were very rare and exceptional
b. They walked in the fear of God
c. They demonstrated a much greater commitment to both
the Torah and the Temple worship than the High Priest
d. They had purity of life and teaching of the people.
7. What I have seen happened in my nation when gifted
leaders lack godly character is rampant corruption, deception, lairs, etc.