A Life Changing Encounter With God’s Word From The Book Of Nehemiah, by The Navigators
As the second  of the study commentaries from this series that I have read, I must admit that I found this book to be almost as enjoyable of the first. To be sure, the writers of this book appear to be dealing with an audience whom they do not consider would be familiar with the book’s contents . As a result, the book is written on a far simpler and more basic level than the previous volume in the series that I am familiar with. This is not a bad thing, for one would expect that the book of Nehemiah would be unfamiliar to many people. My own close familiarity with it comes from my strong interest in the themes of ruin and social justice and Sabbath observance that are discussed in the book, and I do not expect everyone else to share either my morbid interest in ruins and tombs or my background with an interest in aspects of justice and the Sabbath. Truth be told, the writers themselves do not appear to be hugely interest in these either, although they do ask questions that prompt thought and reflection for individuals and small groups and some readers are likely to have some interests themselves in those subjects or other related ones.
The contents of this book are familiar to anyone who has read one of these books before. The book’s slightly more than 100 pages of contents begins with a discussion of how to use the study, some historical background, maps, and timelines, and then is divided into fourteen lessons finishing with a discussion on how to go on in Nehemiah and some suggestions for study aids for other books about Nehemiah. Unsurprisingly, the authors choose to pit love against the law, as is common among antinominans, and are not particularly interested in discussing in detail God’s laws, or this book could have easily been far longer and better than it was. Even so, the book includes some worthwhile secondary sources and contains at least some thoughtful analysis of the problems Judah faced during the early Persian period that accounts for the grim archaeological picture that one sees from surviving material remains in the area. Overall, this book seeks to encourage the reader to think highly of Nehemiah and of his faith and to come to a better understanding of the complexities of the local situation and the hostility between the people of the land and returning and devout Jews, problems that would continue into the New Testament period.
Among the more interesting aspects of this book is the way that the authors draw attention to the bad relationship between returning Jews and the poor Jews that stayed, and in the eyes of the author, took title to all the land in the area after having made marriage alliances with heathen neighbors. This is not to say that the authors prove the point, for it is quite possible that some of the early returning elites had managed to buy plenty of land with the income that they had brought from their time in Babylonian captivity, where some Jews managed to do quite well. Still, the dispute over legitimacy between different populations of Jews was one that contained a seed to a great deal of future problems, as wealth and godliness were not always (either then or now) combined in the same people or in the same proportions. Those who are looking for a serviceable if not particularly pronomian view of Nehemiah can certainly do far worse than this volume, which at least has some thought provoking and worthwhile questions and sources, even if it is not as good as some of the other books in the series.
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