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Catholic Dictionary




A rich, well-educated Jew in Persia who learned of the wretched conditions prevailing in Jerusalem and of the defenseless condition of the city without walls and gates. He sought the help of King Artaxerxes and was permitted to return to his homeland (Nehemiah 1-6). He found on careful inspection that the sad reports he had received were true. So he pleaded with the assembled Judaeans, "Come let us rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and suffer this indignity no longer" (Nehemiah 2:17). The Jews in great numbers responded to his plea, and volunteers labored on the repair program day and night. Their enemies ridiculed their efforts but the tremendous campaign persevered. Nehemiah proved to be an excellent organizer. Within a few months Jerusalem was like a new city. Then he concentrated on the civil and religious state of the city, enforcing marriage reform, compliance with the Mosaic laws (Nehemiah 6), insisting on competent officials, and stressing Sabbath observance. The morale of the people rose to new heights, and neighboring countries marveled at the improvements. Thousands of Jews returned from exile with new hope and pride (Nehemiah 7, 11).