VI. Significance of Nehemiah’s Work. In rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem Nehemiah prepared the way for that revival of the Jewish state which characterized the closing years of the Persian period. More important still was his work in re-establishing a close relation between the Jews of the dispersion and those of Palestine. He himself was the connecting link between them, and his activity prepared the minds of the Palestinian Jews for the acceptance of those new principles that were strongly held by leaders like himself. He also enforced the ethical and social ideals of the earlier prophets, and ably advocated the principles that are fundamental in the late priestly laws. Above all, in his own personality as a prophetic layman, he held up before his race an example of patriotism, self-sacrifice, efficiency, and devotion to the service of Jehovah which made a profound and lasting impression upon his own and later generations.
[Sidenote: Ezra 7:1, 6-10] In the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra, a descendant of Aaron, went up from Babylon; and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which Jehovah, the God of Israel, had given. And the king granted him all his request, inasmuch as the hand of Jehovah his God was upon him. And some of the Israelites, and of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the porters, and the temple servants went up to Jerusalem [with him]. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For on the first day of the first month he began the journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, since the good hand of God was with him. For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to observe it and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances.
[Sidenote: Neh. 7:73b, 8:4-6] And when the seventh month drew near, all the people gathered themselves together as one man to the broad place that was before the Water Gate. And they spoke to Ezra the priest and scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which Jehovah had commanded Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men and women, and all who could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it before the open place that was before the Water Gate, from early morning until mid-day, in the presence of the men and women and of those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. And Ezra the priest and scribe stood upon a wooden pulpit, which they made for the purpose and opened the book in the sight of all the people—for he was above all the people—and when he opened it all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed Jehovah, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, while they lifted up their hands and bowed their heads and worshipped Jehovah with their faces to the ground.