Verses 1-3 – It’s not clear why Nehemiah waited four months before he brought his request to the king. It could have been fear or maybe the king wasn’t there. It is also possible that Nehemiah waited for the Persian feast in which the king would often grant requests. When Nehemiah made his request, he was careful not to mention Jerusalem. He said the city where his ancestors tombs are buried, instead. The Persian rulers went to great expense building tombs for their ancestors, so the king might be sympathetic.
Verse 4 – Notice what verse 4 says; Then the king asked me, “What is your request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven and answered the king. Nehemiah never left the presence of the king. He prayed right in front of him. Eight times we read in this book that he prayed spontaneously. Nehemiah prayed at any time, even while talking to others. He knew that God was in charge; He is always present, and hears and answers every prayer. As we also should have, Nehemiah had an intimate relationship with God during times of extended prayer. We need to cultivate a strong relationship with God, instead of approaching Him on just an emergency bases.
Verse 6 – When the king asked Nehemiah how long he would be gone, the Bible doesn’t record his answer, but he ended up staying in Jerusalem 12 years.
Verses 7, 8 – After Nehemiah’s prayer, he ask permission to go to Judah. As soon as he got this positive answer from the king, he began asking for additional help. God’s answer to our prayers may come through our asking help from others. Nehemiah recognized God’s gracious hand upon him. God is our power source and the giver of our gifts and talents.
Verses 9, 10, 19 – Nehemiah arrived in Judah and was greeted with opposition. This opposition came from those who had settled and lived in Jerusalem when the Jews had been taken in captivity. In every generation there are those who hate God’s people and try to block God’s purpose.
Verse 10 – Sanballat was governor over Samaria and Tobiah, under Persian. When Zerubbabel first returned with his group (Ezra 1;2), his refusal to accept help from the Samaritans had caused bad relations. Nehemiah was no ordinary exile. He was the king’s personal adviser and cup-bearer, arriving in Jerusalem with the kings approval to build and fortify the city. By rebuilding the city and walls, Jerusalem would become a threat to Samaritan officials who had been in charge of the land since Judah’s exile. The increasing number of people returning from captivity made Sanballat and Tobiah angry.
Verses 15, 16 – Nehemiah kept his mission a secret and surveyed the walls by moonlight. Only after planing carefully would he be ready to go public with his mission from God.
Verses 17, 18 – Spiritual renewal often begins with one person’s vision. Nehemiah had that vision, and he shared it with enthusiasm, inspiring Jerusalem’s leaders. Often people underestimate what they are capable of for God’s plans. When God plants ideas in our minds, there’s nothing wrong with sharing it with others. The Holy Spirit just might plant the same thoughts in their minds to help accomplish it. We’re not to think that we’re the only one God puts these ideas in. He has placed dreams and visions in all of us and someone may be waiting for you to encourage them.
Verse 19 – Sanballat and Tobiah labeled the rebuilding of Jerusalem rebellion against the king . Nehemiah didn’t bother to tell them that he already had the king’s permission, he simply said, “God approved!”