Urban Renewal and Urgent Reforms
A study of the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah will take you on an interesting journey through the Jewish post-exilic period. During this period, the Jews returned to their homeland after seventy years in captivity and rebuild the altar, the Temple, and the wall of Jerusalem. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah motivated the people of Jerusalem to give attention to the rebuilding of the Temple. Ezra instituted marriage reforms to help ensure the integrity of the Jewish faith. Nehemiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem struggled to build the wall of Jerusalem under persistent pressure and opposition. And, the people wept at the reading of God’s Word and commit themselves to live by that Word.
Nehemiah 11 addresses the repopulation of Jerusalem after the completion of the walls and the matter of how Nehemiah addressed the backslidden condition of the Jews during his second term as governor. This chapter addeesses the matters of urban renewal and urgent reforms.
The Repopulation of Jerusalem
According to Nehemiah 7:4, “the city [of Jerusalem] was large and spacious, but the people in it were few and the houses not built.” Several reasons for this can be offered. First, the city had been without walls for nearly a century and a half. A city without walls was vulnerable and at the mercy of any invading army or band of marauders. Second, the city was sparsely populated because it was in ruins. A decision to live in Jerusalem was a decision to engage in long hours of backbreaking hard work and rebuilding. Many people therefore, chose to live in the “suburbs.”
After the completion of the walls of the city, Nehemiah turned his attention to the matter of urban renewal and the repopulation of the city. The city was repopulated in two ways. First, lots were cast to determine who should live in the city. One out of every ten families was asked to move to Jerusalem. Second, some families volunteered to move to Jerusalem. These volunteers were praised for their willingness to make the sacrifice to move to the holy city. Nehemiah 11:3-19 is a record of those who settled in Jerusalem. Nehemiah 11:20-36 is a record of those who settled outside of the city of Jerusalem. These people comprised about ninety percent of the Jewish population.
We should express appreciation to volunteers.
When Nehemiah was concerned about repopulating the city of Jerusalem, some people volunteered to move their families to the city. This meant great sacrifice and hard work. The inhabitants of Jerusalem expressed their appreciation to these volunteers. In like manner, we should express appreciation to those who volunteer, endure hardship, and make sacrifices for the sake of God’s work.
There is great joy in the accomplishment of God’s will.
After the completion of the wall, Nehemiah and Ezra led the people in a joyous ceremony of dedication and celebration. The people had faithfully followed Nehemiah’s leadership and successfully completed the wall in the face of persistent problems, pressures, and opposition. In like manner, we should rejoice in the victories and advances made in God’s work.