Problems common to the combined books Ezra-Nehemiah have been pointed out in the Introduction to the Book of Ezra. The achievements of the two men were complementary; each helped to make it possible for Judaism to maintain its identity during the difficult days of the Restoration. Ezra was the great religious reformer who succeeded in establishing the Torah as the constitution of the returned community. Nehemiah, governor of the province of Judah, was the man of action who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and introduced necessary administrative reforms.
The biblical sources for Nehemiah’s life and work are the autobiographical portions scattered through the book. They are called the “Memoirs of Nehemiah,” and have been used more effectively by the editor than the “Memoirs of Ezra.” The substantial authenticity of Nehemiah’s memoirs is widely accepted. From these and other sources, the picture emerges of a man dedicated to the single purpose of the welfare of his people. While serving as cupbearer to the king at the Persian court in Susa, Nehemiah received permission from Artaxerxes I to fortify Jerusalem, and served as governor of Judah for two terms, the first lasting twelve years (445–432 B.C.), the second of unknown length (Neh 5:14; 13:6). Despite temperamental shortcomings, Nehemiah was a man of good practical sense combined with deep faith in God. He used his influence as governor of Judah to serve God and the fledgling Jewish community in Jerusalem.
The Book of Nehemiah is divided as follows:
I. The Deeds of Nehemiah (1:1–7:72)
II. Promulgation of the Law (8:1–10:40)
III. Dedication of the Wall; Other Reforms (11:1–13:31)