Monthly Archives: September 2017


Herodotus called it “the very honorable office” (III:34), referring to the office of cup-bearer. Nehemiah held such an office for Artaxerxes Longimanus (1:11; 2:1). The word translated “cupbearer” here is also elsewhere translated “butler” (i.e., Gen. 40:1). The person who held this office had to be imminently trustworthy for the life of the king was in his hands. Often the cupbearer would be required to taste the drink before it was served so no one could poison the king. Because he was in this trusted position, he had a close relationship to both the king and queen (2:6).

In 446 B. C., Nehemiah received word from Hanani, one of his brethren, about the horrid condition of those Jews still in Jerusalem (1:2,3). It so disturbed Nehemiah that it visibly saddened his countenance and this change was noticeable to the king, Artaxerxes, who permitted Nehemiah his request to go to Jerusalem and build it up (2:5). Nehemiah also gained a military escort and authority from the king to retrieve timber from the royal forests to use in the rebuilding of the gate and walls of Jerusalem (2:7-9).

Upon his arrival at Jerusalem, after just a full day of rest (2:11), Nehemiah and a few other men, perhaps attendants or guides, went out under cover of night and surveyed the ruins of the walls of Jerusalem. He saw the broken down walls and the gates which had been burned with fire. There he saw the gate of the valley on the south western side of Jerusalem, about fifteen hundred feet before the Dung Gate (3:13). King Uzziah had once built towers there and fortified this gate (II Chron. 26:9). From this gate at that time one could go toward the place later identified in the New Testament as Calvary (Luke 23:33).

At the southern tip, he saw the dung port or the rubbish gate, which led down to the valley of Hinnom, which was the trash dump of the city, right before Tophet, where unfaithful Jews and pagans would burn their children in the fire to false gods (cf., Jer. 7:31,32). Going on further, he saw the gate of the fountain, which was the conduit Hezekiah made which fed the pool of Siloam (II Kings 20:20), where later Jesus gave sight to the man born blind (John 9:6,7). He then, still under cover of the night, finished his survey with the king’s pool or the Pool of Siloam.

Up to this point, Nehemiah had remained silent about his mission. When he finally told the rulers, priests, nobles and people of his purpose, and told them how God had blessed him, he encouraged them, “Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem that we be no more a reproach” (2:17). Upon hearing this, they said “Let us rise up and build” and they strengthened their hand for this good work. However, there were forces at work to prevent the walls from being rebuilt.

Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem formed a triad of opposition against Nehemiah. It grieved them greatly that someone would come to Jerusalem seeking to restore it (2:10). Sanballat was a Moabite from the city of Horonaim. Besides being mentioned here, he is mentioned in extra-biblical literature as the governor of Samaria. He was, however, related by marriage to Eliashib the High Priest (13:28). His name means “Sin gives life.” The Sin mentioned here is an Assyrian moon god. Tobiah was probably Sanballat’s Ammonite slave and perhaps Nehemiah’s chief enemy (cf. 6:14). Eliashib had made room for Tobiah in the temple room that had held temple utensils and offerings. And Geshem was an Arabian, who, probably as a chief of a marauding tribe, had an interest in seeing the Jews and their city kept at bay.

These three intended on stopping the work of Nehemiah through whatever means was available to them. At first, they tried ridicule–“they laughed us to scorn” (2:19), hoping this would discourage the workers. But Nehemiah simply reminded them that God was behind his work and that they had “no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem” (2:19). Even through all their mocking, the work continued “for the people had a mind to work” (4:6). When these enemies plotted to attack, Nehemiah had them ready and “with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon” (4:17). They attempted to kill Nehemiah on he plains of Ono and halt the work by appeals to Artaxerxes, but to no avail.

Nehemiah had completed the monumental task of repairing the wall in a mere fifty-two days (6:15). After this work was completed, Ezra the scribe came forward and read the law unto the people from a pulpit of wood (8:1-8). Nehemiah instituted some other reforms among the people and with the conclusion of his work and the prophecies of Malachi the history of the Old Testament comes to a close.

Eric L. Padgett


Ezra was a good servant of the Lord and he was also a brilliant scholar of God’s word. He was described as “a ready [or brilliant or diligent – ELP] scribe in the Law of Moses” (7:5), a “scribe of the law of the God of Heaven” (7:12,21), and “a scribe of the words of the Commandments of the Lord and of his statutes to Israel” (7:11). He was multi-lingual and able to translate Hebrew into  Aramaic so that the people, which had for decades been in captivity and had forgotten much of their native tongue, could clearly understand (Neh. 8:8).  His ability to expound upon the meaning is also suggested.

He traced his lineage back to Aaron, brother of Moses (7:1-5), and was the descendant of Hilkiah the priest which found the book of the law of Moses in the temple ruins during the days of King Josiah (7:1;II Kings 22:4-1). The name Ezra means “help,” though it probably is a shortened form of Azariah, which means “God has helped.” His skills as a scribe were undoubtedly derived from natural abilities he already possessed, and from gifts with which the Lord had blessed him, but they also resulted from the fact that he had “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord” (7:10).

One hundred and forty-eight years prior to Ezra’s work, in 606 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem and put king Jehoikim in chains (Dan. 1:1,2; II Chron. 36:6-8; II Kings 24). Seventy years later, in 536 B.C., Cyrus, king of Persia, allowed the Jews to return to their land to rebuild the temple (II Chron. 36:22,23; Ezra 1:1-4), just as Jeremiah had prophesied (Jer. 25:8-12; 29:10-12). Zerubbabel and Joshua, the high priest, led a group of captives back, laid the foundation of the temple and built the altar and then completed the temple around 515 B.C. (5:2). The prophets Haggai and Zechariah prophesied during this time (Hag. 1:1; Zech. 1:1) and the events of Esther took place (cir. 479 B.C.).

In 458 B.C., Ezra led a smaller group of captives back to Jerusalem. He assembled his contingency by the banks of the river Ahava for three day and fasted and sought of God the right way to proceed (8:21). As Ezra left to return back to Jerusalem, he put his trust in God for his protection. He felt ashamed to ask the king for protection, for he had boasted to him that God would deliver them and would protect them (8:22,23). It took four months for Ezra to make the journey and God did watch over them (7:9).

When Ezra made it back to Jerusalem, he found that the people had not separated themselves from the people of the land and were continuing their ways which led to the captivity in the beginning. He rent his clothes and plucked his hairs because of the sins of the people in marrying into the heathen culture and practicing their evil ways. Ashamed of their sins, he cried out in prayer to God. He observed that God had been merciful to them and that they had been punished less than their sins deserved (9:1-15).

As Ezra was praying and weeping before the house of God, he was pleasantly surprised by a large group of Jews who also come weeping and lamenting their sins (10:1). Then one of them, one Shechaniah, encouraged Ezra and desired the Jews to put away their strange wives and the children born to them. How difficult it must have been for these men to put away their wives, and in some cases their children which they had by these women. But this is what they did because they wanted to serve the Lord and be right with Him.

At this point the account of Ezra goes silent for a little over a decade. It is not until the wall is completed under Nehemaiah that Ezra makes another appearance (Neh. 8). He is called upon by the people to bring the book of the law of Moses and read it before the people (8:1). But because the people had been so long in captivity, they did not understand their own native tongue and as Ezra the scribe read from the law, standing on a pulpit of wood, he had to translate it for the people to understand (Neh. 8:1-8).

The time in which Ezra grew up saw an increased emphasis upon learning and scholarship. Ezra is a case in point. It was during his days that the synagogue was probably formed and, according to Jewish tradition, Ezra was responsible for helping to collect and edit the Old Testament canon as we know it.  Clearly, by the time of the Christ, the canon of the Old Testament was settled (Luke 24:44).

Eric L. Padgett


It was no ordinary beauty contest. Probably hundreds of young, beautiful virgins had been brought from all over the empire out of every province to king Ahasuerus, to the palace at Shushan, in order for him to select a replacement for fair Vashti, whom he had rejected as queen because of her refusal to obey his commands (2:8). A certain beautiful, young, Jewish woman was among those women brought there and her name was Hadassah, a name meaning “myrtle,” a fragrant evergreen shrub or small tree with star shaped flower.

Hadassah was an orphan, “for she had neither father or mother,” and her cousin Mordecai raised her as his own daughter when her parents died (2:7). Mordecai was from the tribe of Benjamin and of the family of Kish, which had been carried away into captivity in 597 B. C., about eight years after Daniel was taken into captivity (Dan. 1:1; II Kings 24:15). He apparently had some role “in Shushan the palace” (2:5) and in this capacity he could keep an eye on his adopted daughter Hadassah, who had been taken from him and given to the custody of one Hegai, keeper of the women (2:8,10).

While Hadassah was Jewish, under the counsel of Mordecai, she had concealed this fact to everyone. Her name had been changed from Hadassah to Esther, a Persian name which meant “star.” The keeper of the women was instantly taken with Esther and he carefully chose seven maidens to attend to her needs and gave her special and preferred treatment. Each of the other virgins which had been taken were allowed to go into the king and were provided with whatever they might need to make them desirable to him. Esther, however, required nothing but what Hegai had already provided (2:15).

All that laid eyes on Esther were immediately smitten with her beauty and character (2:15). Ahasuerus, or Xerxes, was no different. “And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti” (2:17). And so a Jewess was placed in a strategic position in the palace and she had the king’s ear.

Now Esther was always obedient to her adopted father Mordecai, even after she had been made queen (2:20). When Mordecai uncovered a plot to kill Ahasuerus, he was able to warn the king through Esther and save his life (2:21-23). These events and how they transpired were dutifully recorded in the chronicles of the Persian king (2:23). But while Mordecai was kind to the king, there were those in the kingdom who sought his destruction.

Haman’s particularly intense hatred for, not only Mordecai, who refused to bow down to Haman (3:1-4), but for all of the Jews, manifested itself in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish race (3:8). By moving the king to agree to this extermination, Haman was advancing his own interests, not the King’s. His own pride, however, would let him see neither the forces developing against him nor the God he would be fighting. In his blind arrogance, he also prepared a gallows upon which he intended to hang Mordecai.

The crux of this historical account of this part of Esther’s life is found in Mordecai’s reminder to Esther: You may well have been brought to this position for just this purpose–the salvation of God’s people (4:13,14). Esther takes these words to heart and delicately approaches the king and invites him and Haman to a banquet of her own making the next evening, intending to contravene Haman’s pernicious plot, even at the risk of her own life (4:16).

The night before the banquet, however, the king becomes curiously restless and reads from the royal chronicles, and reads of Mordecai’s actions in saving the king’s life. Ironically, and with justice poetic, just as Haman would speak to the king about hanging Mordecai, the king has Haman bestow upon Mordecai the blessing Haman thought he should receive (6:4-13).

The next evening, at the queen’s banquet, Haman is outed as the perpetrator of great crimes against Mordecai, Esther and the Jewish people. The Jews were given authority to defend themselves and Haman was hanged upon his own gallows (7:10). Through a series of Providential actions, God had used this young lady to save the Jews from extermination. “God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.” If God can use Esther (and Mordecai and Joseph and Moses, etc., etc.), then He can use you and me. Who knows if you were brought into the Kingdom for such a time as this? God does. Let Him use you.

Eric L. Padgett


Just as our Lord began His public mission at the age of thirty (Luke 3:23; 4:14-21, and consequently, John, as well (Luke 1:24-26)), Ezekiel’s prophetic call was also in his thirtieth year (Ez. 1:1). Born during the reign of the good king Josiah, who attempted with all of his power to reform Israel, Ezekiel was twenty-five years old when king Jehoiachin, himself and ten thousand others were carried away into captivity (II Kings 24:8-15). It was during his fifth year in captivity that the Lord called him with a vision of His glory (1:2,3, 26-28).

Ezekiel was first of all a priest (Ezek. 1:3). Several ages are given in scripture regarding when this service was to begin. In order to do the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, Moses wrote one had to be thirty years old and then continued in service till age fifty (Num. 4:3). So, just as Ezekiel would enter into the full work of the tabernacle, he also began his work as a prophet. Interestingly, like Jesus, he, too, spoke in parables (20:49).

In Numbers 8:25 the age of twenty-five is given as the age at which one began to work in the service of the tabernacle. Some have thought this meant one began in their service in a training capacity and then entered in full service at thirty, others that one could only serve in the priesthood and carry the furniture at thirty, while others think the age was changed when more people were needed. David, apparently, being a prophet, lowered the age to twenty, when the Lord had given them rest and they no longer needed to carry the furniture of the tabernacle (I Chron. 23:25; II Chron. 31:17).

If Ezekiel at first nurtured any intentions of returning to Jerusalem and serving the Lord in the temple, five years into the captivity, it probably soon became apparent to him that he would never return home. Though scripture tells us nothing of the end of Ezekiel’s life, tradition states he was martyred for condemning idolatry. Those same traditions also suggest he was buried near Baghdad.

Ezekiel was married and he must have loved his wife deeply for God says of her that she was “the desire” of his eyes (24:16). In one of the rare instances when he reveals something of a personal nature he records the death of his wife. Even this was to illustrate a point, for the Lord told him not to mourn over the loss of his wife which He would take away in an instant (24:15-17). And when Jerusalem was taken, then they would not mourn out loud for fear of their captors or in astonishment. Therefore, Ezekiel, himself, would be a sign to them (24:24).

Ezekiel’s visions were very visual and his prophesies were in many ways acted out as he often became the sign himself. The marvelous visions of Jehovah’s glory is just but one example of his visions (chaps. 1-3). He was told by God to use his hair to illustrate the future judgment upon them (5:1-4). God would cause him to be unable to speak until the Lord wanted him to prophesy (3:26). He was to remove his things from his house by a hole he created in the wall to teach a lesson of the future carrying away (12). He was to draw upon a tile to illustrate Jerusalem and lay upon his side to illustrate the siege (4).

While his earlier visions and prophesies were of God’s judgement, through his later visions God provided Israel with hope. One of the great visions which illustrate this is the vision of an immense valley full of very dry bones (37). The Lord asked him if these bones could live (37:3). God showed him that they could and as they were graphically reassembled, the Lord used this to illustrate that Israel would be resurrected from the grave of captivity and return back home (37:14). It also foreshadowed the resurrections of the New Covenant (e.g., Luke 8:49-54; I Cor. 15; etc.).

In his final prophecy, Ezekiel sees a magnificent temple (chaps 40-48). This vision finds it’s fulfillment not in any literal temple contemplated in the past nor in some alleged and fanciful future millennial kingdom but in the very real, but spiritual, temple of the church of Christ (I Cor. 3:17), both in its earthly manifestation (Eph. 2:21) and heavenly (Rev. 3:12; 21:22; cf. II Pet. 1:11). In this temple we serve as priests (I Pet. 2:5; Rev. 5:10), just as Ezekiel did in Jerusalem, but our Great High Priest is the One whom Ezekiel saw on the Throne (Heb. 4:14; 1:26-28).

Eric L. Padgett