Book Reviews > Old Testament > Resources on Nehemiah
Director of the RC Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
This year’s January Bible Study gives us an opportunity to examine an area not often studied, and even less often studied well- Old Testament history. The story of Nehemiah is not real familiar to many of our people so this will be a good opportunity to study the lessons found here. Sadly, when Nehemiah is studied it is too often treated as a book of tips on business leadership. While one might apply certain things to leadership this is not what the book is about. The book describes the restoration of the people of God after a time of judgment as a result of turning away from the word of God. There are significant parallels for us today if we will simply study the text well so as to draw them out and apply them well.
Perhaps the first place to look is the standard commentaries where you can find introductory and overview material as well as passage by passage exposition. Commentaries and other resources typically treat Ezra and Nehemiah together since they were considered one book in the Hebrew canon. Three useful, more technical commentaries are the ones by Fensham (New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Eerdmans) and Clines (New Centruy Bible, Eerdmans), and Williamson (Word biblical Commentary, Nelson). Of these three Williamson is the most technical. Kidner (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary) and McConville (Daily Study Bible Series) provide very readable, briefer treatments of the book with an eye towards application. Both Kidner and McConville are good about noting connections to the New Testament.
Often what one needs, especially if you are doing the study within one month, is a good overview and help isolating key themes in order to summarize well the message of the book. One of the best resources for this can be the seminary journals, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology and Midwestern Journal of Theology. Both of these journals have forthcoming issues devoted to Nehemiah. Though neither issue is available at the time of this writing, both journals have been kind enough to send me a list of article titles and authors. They are as follows:
Southern Baptist Journal of Theology-
“The Place of Nehemiah in the Canon of Scripture: Wise Builder,” Stephen G. Dempster
“Nehemiah 12: Restoring the City of God or How to Preach a List of Names,” Peter J. Gentry
“The Message of Nehemiah: Rebuilding,” Mark Dever
“The Book of Nehemiah in Its Biblical and Historical Context,” Terry J. Betts
“God as Restorer: A Theological Overview of the Book of Nehemiah,” Tiberius Rata
“Ezra: The Teacher of God's Word and Agent of Revival,” Russell T. Fuller
Midwestern Journal of Theology-
"A Theological Primer for Nehemiah", Mervin Breneman
"A Teaching Outline for Nehemiah", Stephen J. Andrews
"An Annotated Bibliography for Nehemiah", Stephenie Long & Andrew McClurg
"Preaching from Nehemiah", Albert F. Bean
"Thanksgiving and Prayer to God: A Sermon on Nehemiah 11:17 by Scottish Baptist Preacher, Peter Grant of the Songs", Terry L. Wilder
As I prepare for the January Bible Studies I will do, I look forward to reading a number of these articles. If you do not have access to these through a library (both are available at Union’s Emma Waters Summar Library) you can purchase them from the seminaries at their websites (www.sbts.edu, www.mbts.edu).
I will mention one last resource which will be very useful, especially in getting the big picture and making sure we grasp the central message of the text. Paul House’s Old Testament Theology (Intervarsity Press) has a ten page chapter on the theology of Ezra-Nehemiah. He divides the two books into 4 sections, providing for each a summary of the text and a discussion of the theology contained in that section considering its place in the overall Scriptures. His God-centered perspective will be especially helpful as he prompts us to see these books (as all the other ones in the Old Testament) as primarily about God.
I hope these recommendations will assist you as you prepare to teach your people. In a day when in many ways the “walls” of the church are torn down and her people, as those in Israel, look more like the culture than Christ, we need the message of Nehemiah. We need to hear again of how the LORD in those days restored His people as they labored in faithfulness, that we might see the LORD renew His church in our own day.