I think the reason many don’t read the Bible, is because they have a hard time understanding an ancient way of talking, and long explanations. The Jewish Bible vs what Christians call the Old Testament, are the same books. We just title them differently, per our respective belief systems.
Nehemiah and Ezra know each other. Both believe in the law, as Ezra will read to them the laws of Moses. Nehemiah is appalled by what he believes the Jews in Jerusalem are possibly ignoring the fact that their protective wall around the city of Jerusalem is crumbled and destroyed, it’s unclear how. Was it a current situation? Or, was it from two generations ago when the Babylonians tore it down? In any case, it is in dire need of repair, or a new wall, altogether. Nehemiah wants to go there and rebuild this wall (see, America is not the only country that has ever had a wall put up to protect their cities). He is 1,000 miles away.
He is also the official cup-bearer for the king. A cup-bearer is the person who brings the king his wine, but tastes it to see if it had been poisoned. That’s really a dedication to the king, that someone is willing to die, to protect his king. They can become close because of the trust that both of them have to deal with for each other. It would be hard to spend that kind of closeness every day without talking to each other. The king knows that this person is dedicated because he is willing to die for him. The cup-bearer does not know if the wine is poisoned, or it would not be served. That statement would be false if it was the cup-bearer who wished death on the king and poisoned it, because he would have to taste it in front of the king. It would be suicide for the cup-bearer.
So, he thinks a lot about asking for time off to go work on this project. He takes his time in asking, for some unknown reason, but he is granted his wish to go. Not only is he allowed to go, but he is given an escort for protection, plus all the necessary papers that give him the authority to travel. I guess they are kind of like passports. King Artaxerxes had noticed that Nehemiah had become depressed which may have added to the importance of Nehemiah’s request to leave. 1,000 miles will take a couple of months to get there. Lot’s to plan for on a trip like that.
He prayed and fasted. God answers him by getting the entire wall around Jerusalem built in 52 days. Nehemiah organized the workers by assigning groups to different sections of the wall to fix.
As always, anywhere on the planet, there are opposing type people. So, the non-Jews were skeptical when finally the Wall is completed. Walls can do two things: keep people out, and keep people in. Many condemned the project because it would mean they lost their land, according to Jewish law and practices. But, they can’t help but see God’s Hand in all of this construction. They understood God’s power a bit more clearly.
Nehemiah 10:29 “They swore a curse on themselves if they failed to obey the law of God, as issued by His servant, Moses.”
These were agreements their ancestors made with God, and these current Jews did not want to mess this up again. They are:
they won’t marry outside the Jewish faith.
they won’t do business on the Sabbath, or neglect caring for the temple.
they will let the land rest can cancel all debts every seventh year
pay the annual temple tax, and tithe a tenth of their harvest and bring it to the temple.
When they step out of line, they get confronted.
They abided by these rules because they did not want to lose their homeland, ever again.