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18. Nehemiah and Malachi

My notes for teaching the Old Testament, by Mama Brenda.

Leader’s notes: Lesson 18 - Nehemiah and Malachi

Ask the ladies to name the four people associated with Babylon who we have looked at in the last two sessions. (Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, Ezra). And the three prophets. (Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra again). Ezekiel and Daniel were also prophets.

The revision in the first paragraph (page 65) will be useful as there is a lot to understand and remember.

Introduce Nehemiah and work through the story to the first paragraph of page 66.

Give the reference and ask the question to elicit the information for the four questions.

1:1,11; 2:1 The ancient royal cities of the Persian empire were Babylon, Susa, Ecbatana and the newly built Persepolis, (see Ezra 6:1,2; Nehemiah 1:1). Persepolis was built in the reigns of Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 18 Nehemiah and Malachi

Two lessons ago we looked at three people who lived in Babylon, were Jews, and in their own spheres

influenced the mighty Babylon.

Ezekiel encouraged the exiles to live to demonstrate God where they were, to show the holiness of God which would eventually be seen by all people.

Daniel lived faithfully for God and was an advisor of King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar. Then he continued under the Persians, Darius and Cyrus. He firmly believed in and spoke of the total sovereignty of God.

Esther lived later, under Xerxes, when the Jews through Esther and Mordecai were well respected.

Last time we looked at the time of Ezra. He was sent back to Jerusalem in the Persian province of Judah by Artaxerxes, living there and teaching the laws of God.

Artaxerxes would have known Esther - she was probably his step-mother and still alive in

446 B.C. - and he obviously respected the Jewish people.

Now today we meet Nehemiah and Malachi. Nehemiah had a job in the citadel of Susa. He was cupbearer to the king. A cupbearer chose the king’s wine, and tasted it. The king had a relationship of trust with his cupbearer. His life depended on it.

Nehemiah had brothers in Jerusalem. His brother Hanani arrived from Judah and Nehemiah quizzed him about the situation there.

1. What was the situation in Jerusalem? Nehemiah 1:3 We know that the Temple had been rebuilt and dedicated in 516 B.C. In 446 B.C. Nehemiah’s brother reported that the returned exiles were ”in great trouble and disgrace” with walls and gates of Jerusalem still not repaired.

2. What was Nehemiah’s reaction? Nehemiah 1:4 He sat down. He wept. He fasted. He prayed. He stopped and thought. What he had heard made him sad for his people and broken because of the state of God’s city. He went without food to clarify his prayers in his own mind.

3. How long did Nehemiah wait before acting? Four months. Perhaps the king was not in Susa and then came back. Perhaps Nehemiah needed that time to know what God was asking him to do.

4. What did he then do? Nehemiah 1:5-11 He prayed the night before he would see the king, saying that God had been faithful to His covenant but His people had acted wickedly, reminding God that He had promised if they returned to Him, He would bring them to the place He had chosen as a dwelling place for His name - Jerusalem - and asking God to give him success in the presence of the king. He actually says “in the presence of this man”, emphasising that God is the God of heaven, but the king is just a man. His prayer is an encouragement to us, but it was not meant for the ears of Artaxerxes! Artaxerxes realised that his trusted servant was unhappy, and asked why. Nehemiah dared to be honest with the king, and got an honest and generous response,

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Leader's notes: Lesson 18 - Nehemiah and Malachi.

2:4 Some situations do not give us much time to think what to pray.

King Artaxerxes (and his queen) saw the problem and its implications to part of his Empire, saw the convictions of the man he trusted, then acted decisively and generously. He was not a believer in Nehemiah’s God, but he believed his people had the right to worship their gods and he respected this man who had obviously served him well. God used Artaxerxes. God can use whoever He wants to use.

God used Artaxerxes. See also Isaiah 44:28, 45:1 prophecies of God, given around

695-685 B.C., that God would use a man called Cyrus, which happened in about 538 B.C.

Ask the ladies if they think Nehemiah’s example is a practical one to follow.

Continue to work through the story checking the references as a class, including the first paragraph on page 67.

Builders - priests


perfume makers


Student's worksheet: Lesson 18 - Nehemiah and Malachi.

(continued from page 65) “what is it you want?” “Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king.” Help me now, Lord, with the right words, and to remember all the things You and I have talked about together in the past month!

Nehemiah asked the king to send him to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. The king agreed and asked how long he would be away. Nehemiah then asked for safe conduct letters and wood for the building work. The king also sent army officers and cavalry with Nehemiah. Artaxerxes had trusted Nehemiah with his life, and now he was taking care of Nehemiah’s life.

Nehemiah 1:1-2:10 give us a good example to follow:

listen - talk to God about it - think and continue to talk to God -

take considered action – keep praying

Nehemiah was being sent to Jerusalem as the Governor there. He had people to do what he said, soldiers to guard him, people for whom he had responsibility, a king to report to - a big change for even a trusted cupbearer to the king.

Nehemiah 2:11 Nehemiah and his entourage travelled to Jerusalem. After three days, with a few men, he went to see the situation for himself. Nehemiah 2:12 and 16. He went at night so he did not attract attention. “I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem” - Nehemiah knew what God wanted him to do - the result of those four months of praying, weeping, thinking and fasting.

Nehemiah 2:16-18 Nehemiah spoke with the Jews, the priests, the nobles and the officials, encouraging them to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem which had been damaged for so long. He also explained why he was there and why he was in charge, because of God and because of the king. So they began this good work.

But three non-Jewish men of influence (Nehemiah 2:10,19) were not pleased. Sanballat was governor of Samaria (the old northern kingdom). Tobiah was probably governor of Transjordan (east of the Jordan river). Both had political reasons for not wanting Jerusalem to become a viable city. Geshem the Arab may have been governor of a large area from northeast Egypt to north Arabia and south Palestine, and he would not have wanted his lucrative spice trade threatened. We read Nehemiah’s answer to their threat in Nehemiah 2:20 “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” We might say ‘This is God’s city - you have no right to interfere’.

Who built the wall? Nehemiah 3:1-32 The long, the short and the tall - everyone except the nobles who felt they were too good to do manual work! 3:12 is the only mention of female labour. What trades were involved?

As the work went on Sanballat and Tobiah were very annoyed and mocked the Jews. Nehemiah’s response (4:4-5) was to acknowledge the threats and to ask God to take care

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Leader's notes: Lesson 18 - Nehemiah and Malachi.

Ask the ladies to read Nehemiah 5 in small groups.

Ask these questions: What was the problem?

What did Nehemiah say the nobles and officials should do?

Did Nehemiah do anything that surprised you?

Was Nehemiah’s testimony good?

Share answers and revise the paragraph

The governor’s acted picture 5:13 - sometimes drastic times call for drastic actions. Nehemiah was not a performer by nature, but here he made a very important statement in a way that would not be forgotten.

Work together as a class through the references in Nehemiah 6.

Teach through the last paragraph on page 67 getting the ladies to read out the Bible references.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 18 - Nehemiah and Malachi.

(continued from page 66) of the situation. Sometimes we take on board the threats and forget that our God is all powerful. Nehemiah got it right. We must follow his example.

The people worked enthusiastically and the wall got to half height.

Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs and a few others then plotted to come and fight against Jerusalem. Nehemiah 4:9 “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” The same example again - pray and do something, pray and do.

Nehemiah placed armed Jewish families at the vulnerable parts of the wall and encouraged them to remember God and fight for their brothers, sons, daughters, wives and homes. The plotters had been outflanked. The Jews went back to work, but everyone was armed, some kept watch, everyone was ready to fight. Nehemiah kept the trumpeter with him, and told the people to go to wherever the trumpet was sounded. “Our God will fight for us” Nehemiah 4:20. He instructed the people to stay in the city overnight but work or guard from dawn to dusk.

Nehemiah 5 trouble within. The circumstances together with the greed of some people were causing poverty and distress to the poorer Jews. People were being sold as servants to pay taxes. Verse 6 Nehemiah became very angry. He called the nobles and officials to account and they had no answer. He told them to give back fields, houses, olive groves and the interest charged. He made them take an oath to do it. Verse 13 this fair and thoughtful governor acted out a picture of retribution for disobedience. The people kept their promise. Verses 14-19 in the 12 years of his first governorship Nehemiah and his men did not collect the tax in food allowed them, nor acquire land, and fed 600-800 people a day. He practised what he preached. Do you always do this?

6:1-9 another plot by Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem. What was Nehemiah’s reaction?

6:10-13 yet another plot thwarted. The enemies were getting desperate. Nehemiah’s

reaction? See verses 11-13.

6:15-16 the wall was completed. Jerusalem was secure.The surrounding nations knew that the work had been done with the help of our God. Destroyed in 586 B.C., the walls were rebuilt in 52 days in 445 B.C. after 141 years. According to an ancient writer work continued to embellish and improve the walls for another two years. We read of the dedication of the walls in Nehemiah 12:27-47. It was a great occasion.

6:17-19 The nobles of Judah and the plotters were in constant communication. Tobiah

continued to harass Nehemiah by letter. Many of the nobles were related to Tobiah.

Family connections and past work connections can sometimes hold us back in our Christian walk. These people think they have influence over us. But do they?

The Bible teaches that we must respect our parents. God created family to be a support and encouragement for us. But the Bible also teaches that our responsibility to God is paramount. Compare Exodus 20:12, Psalm 68:6, Deuteronomy 6:5, and Matthew 22:37-39. Yes, we have a responsibility to respect and honour our parents. This responsibility outworks differently as we move from child to adult, from single adult to family person, and as our parents move from independent and capable, to being dependent. Yes, God has put us in families and perhaps

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Leader's notes: Lesson 18 - Nehemiah and Malachi.

Here are some lessons for us all about public meetings.

When you take any public meeting remember your objective should not be simply to give a talk, but that your talk should be heard, be Bible-based and be understood with application to life.

Day 1 Ezra read the Law. Ezra stood on a high wooden platform

Nehemiah 8:4 Make sure the preacher can be seen and heard

Ezra opened the book

8:5 Open the Bible frequently.

The Levites helped people to understand what was being said

8:8 Make sure people understand.

It was a day of rejoicing and sharing 8:9-12

Day 2 They rediscovered the Feast of Tabernacles which had not been celebrated since the days of King Solomon, and they celebrated it with great joy. It had not been celebrated with such joy since the time of Joshua, nearly a thousand years before.

9:1-38; 10:28-39 they celebrated and continued to listen for seven days and then there was an assembly at which they confessed their disobedience, and then made promises.

Intermarriage was still a problem as it was for Ezra, and in the book of Nehemiah the people make more promises to God after the tabernacles celebration.

Malachi 1:2-5 paraphrased.

God loves you

It doesn’t look like it

He loves you, descendants of Jacob. The descendants of Esau are no more.

That translation is called the Septuagint, meaning 70, and is referred to as LXX, the Roman numerals for 70.

Malachi 3:1 talks of a messenger preparing the way for the Lord.

4:5 speaks of Elijah coming before the Lord comes.

Check Luke 1:11-17; Matthew 11:13-14; 17:12-13; Mark 9:11-13.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 18 - Nehemiah and Malachi.

(continued from page 67) given us good, close friends, but Jesus told us that the biggest responsibility we have is to God. You cannot love God by proxy - you can only love God as an individual, as a responsible, sentient being. And that love is to be with everything you have, with all the time you have - so all the time!

Beware of putting too much importance on what other people think you should do or say. The most important contributions to your thinking process are what God thinks and your willingness to obey Him.

7:1-3 Nehemiah appointed his brother, Hanani, to be in charge of the city. Why?

Verse 2 What a commendation! Would people say that of you?

8:1-18 The people had been summoned to assemble in the square in front of the Water Gate. They confessed their failure to live God’s way, acknowledged that God had kept the covenant, realised they were slaves still, ruled over by kings because of their sins. They made an agreement not to intermarry with local non-Jews, not to trade on the Sabbath, let the fields rest every seventh year, and give for the work and upkeep of the Temple.

11:1-12:26 They drew lots to decide who would live in Jerusalem - one in ten of the total Jewish population.

Nehemiah returned to King Artaxerxes to report after 12 years in Jerusalem. He later came back, perhaps as governor or perhaps leaving his brother as governor.

Leadership attributes we see in Nehemiah - thought, exact planning, good work relationships, wise distribution of information, courtesy but honesty even to enemies, making sure people knew the mandate and authority he had.

While Nehemiah was away Malachi started prophesying. He challenged the people living in Judah and Jerusalem to understand that God loves them even though they doubted it, Malachi 1:1-5, and rebuked their intermarriage with local non-Jews and their relaxed attitude to divorce, 2:10-16. “‘I hate divorce’ says the Lord”. He challenged the priests over offering defiled sacrifices with a wrong attitude and over their wrong teaching, 1:6-2:9.

Malachi is the last voice of prophecy in the Old testament. There followed a period of 400 years of silence from God before the birth of Jesus.

The Old Testament was originally written mainly in Hebrew, but in 285 B.C. 70 scholars translated it into Greek - the main language of the then Empire.

In this time there was bitter persecution of the Jews, and in 63 B.C. Rome took over Judah, the Jews were taxed, but kept some political freedom. The stage is set for Jesus.

Malachi 3:6 “I the Lord do not change”. That truth is a solid rock for us - all the actions we have seen God take since Genesis, all we have learned of Him, all we have seen Him do - He has not changed, He does not change, He will not change. He is totally up to date, but in Who He is, He does not change. Not in Malachi’s day. not in Jesus’ time on earth, not ever - “I the Lord do not change”.

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