NEHEMIAH (Heb. נְחֶמְיָה; "YHWH has comforted": fifth century B.C.E.), cupbearer of artaxerxes I and later governor of Judah. Nothing is known of the parentage of Nehemiah except that he was the son of Hacaliah. Two other persons of that name are mentioned in the Bible: one returned with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2; Neh. 7:7), and the other, a son of Azbuk, was the chief of half the district of Beth-Zur and helped in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 3:16). Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah was a high official at the Persian court of Artaxerxes I, perhaps a eunuch (cf. LXXĆ, Neh. 1:11, eunochos for oinochoos of LXXḂ). Origen considers Nehemiah, the king's cupbearer, and his eunuch as one person. E. Weidner (see bibl.) has pointed out the importance of the cupbearer at the Assyrian court which, according to Herodotus (3:34), continued at the Persian court. Being a trusted Jew, though a layman, Nehemiah was, at his own request, placed in charge of a very important and delicate mission – that of the governorship of Judah, which involved rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and reorganizing the Judean province. He was thus invested with great authority which he wielded with distinction and propriety. The first tasks to which he set himself with great zeal were providing protection for Judah by restoring the walls of the capital, and erecting houses for its population so that all aspects of the community could function more smoothly. Though he suffered almost continuous interference from the governor of Samaria, and perhaps from those of Ammon, Arabia, and Ashdod (6:1–9), he was sufficiently astute to avoid serious conflict, probably because he used his authority wisely and gained the confidence of his fellow Jews. Having achieved his primary objective, he next devoted himself to establishing order and justice in the community (7:1–3). Conscious of his position as a layman (and perhaps, eunuch), he submitted to the religious regulations of his time but was himself a profoundly religious man as is evident from his concern for the levites (13:10–14), his conception of the sanctity of the Temple as shown in the Tobiah affair (13:4–9), his appreciation of the Sabbath (10:32; 13:15–21), and his provision for offerings (10:33–40). It is of interest that he had drawn up his memoirs, which were doubtless placed in the Temple precincts as an inscription of his deeds and works. Nehemiah is praised by Ben Sira (49:12b–13) and in II Maccabees 1:18, 20–36. Josephus (Ant. 11:159–74) embellished the story of Nehemiah, but the Talmud and the Church Fathers were not so complimentary. The date of Nehemiah's first period of service (5:14) extended from the 20th to the 32nd year of Artaxerxes I (i.e., c. 445–433 B.C.E.). The length of his second period (13:6–7) is not stated. See also Exile, Babylonian ; ezra and nehemia ; history . (Jacob M. Myers) -In the Aggadah Nehemiah is identified with zerubbabel , the latter name being considered as indicative of his Babylonian birth (Heb. זְרוּעַ בָּבֵל, "conceived in Babylon"; Sanh. 38a). He was called Tirshatha (Neh. 8:9) because the authorities absolved him (hittir) from the prohibition against gentile wine, permitting him, as cupbearer to the king, to drink (shatah) with him (TJ, Kid. 4:1, 65b). The strict rabbinic enactment prohibiting the handling of most vessels or utensils on the Sabbath was attributed to Nehemiah as a means of counteracting the laxity in Sabbath observance during his period (Shab. 123b; Neh. 13:15). The sages did not call the Book of Nehemiah by his name and referred to it as the second part of Ezra because Nehemiah utilized a seemingly vain expression (Neh. 5:19) and also spoke disparagingly of his predecessors, who included Daniel (Neh. 5:15; Sanh. 93b). Nehemiah completed the Book of Chronicles which was started by Ezra (BB 15a). (Aaron Rothkoff) -BIBLIOGRAPHY: F. James, Personalities of the Old Testament (1943), 443–61; E. Weider, in: AFO, 17 (1956), 264–5; F.L. Moriarty, Introducing the Old Testament (1960), 189–201; S. Mowinckel, Studien zu dem Buche Ezra-Nehemia, 2 (1964), 76–83; J.M. Meyers (ed.), Ezra-Nehemiah (1965), 53–56, 74–77. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (19475), 352; 6 (19463), 438–9.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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  • Nehemiah — masc. proper name, Jewish leader under Persian king Artaxerxes, from Hebrew Nehemyah, lit. the Lord comforts …   Etymology dictionary

  • Nehemiah — [nē΄hi mī′ə, nē΄əmī′ə] n. [Heb nehemyāh, lit., comfort of Jah (God)] Bible 1. a Hebrew leader of c. 5th cent. B.C. 2. the book that tells of his work: abbrev. Ne or Neh …   English World dictionary

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  • Nehemiah —    Comforted by Jehovah.    1) Ezra 2:2; Neh. 7:7.    2) Neh. 3:16.    3) The son of Hachaliah (Neh. 1:1), and probably of the tribe of Judah. His family must have belonged to Jerusalem (Neh. 2:3). He was one of the Jews of the dispersion, and in …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Nehemiah 12 — 1 Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3 Shechaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4 Iddo, Ginnetho, Abijah, 5 Miamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, 6 …   The King James version of the Bible

  • Nehemiah — (fl. 5th cent BCE)    Israelite, governor of Judah. He was a cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes I, of whom he asked permission to go to Jerusalem. The king agreed, and appointed him governor of Judah. Nehemiah organized the repair of the… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

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