Nehemiah and the Current Return


The book of Nehemiah reads like today's headlines from Israel. In both Scripture and the headlines we find a remanent from Judah, Benjamin and Levi trying to rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem. In that process, they are subjected to harassment, ridicule and terror.

But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, "What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?" Then I replied to them, "The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem." (Nehemiah 2:19-20 ESV)

If we look at Nehemiah in light of Biblical patterns, we find something far more interesting than either the current or ancient dispute over the ownership of Jerusalem - as important as that is. The return from the Babylonian exile described in Ezra and Nehemian does not seem to fit the pattern of return from exile which was established by Abraham, Jacob and the Exodus. Neither does the current return. Among other differences, in both the Nehemiah return and the current return, the entire nation does not participate.

If we look at the Nehemiah return as establishing a different pattern rather than as a continuation of the Exodus pattern, we find an important insight.

Within 500 years of Nehemiah, the nation is sent back into exile by the Romans. So, if that was not the greater exodus predicted in Scripture, what was the purpose of Judah's return to the land from Babylon followed by relatively quick exile?

The answer has to be the birth, life and death of the Messiah. In other words, the return from Babylon does not mark the end of Israel's exile which began with the expulsion of the Northern Kingdom. Rather, it was a quick messianic side trip followed by a return to exile.

Since the current return looks more like the return from Babylon than it does like the Exodus return, we are lead to the conclusion that the purpose of this return is the same as that of the Babylonian return. The stage is being set for the return of the Messiah - but you knew that.