Nehemiah’s secret

A couple of thoughts inspired by grading a student paper on Nehemiah.

First, the student, Courtney Wright, suggested that 2:9-20 form a chiasm, and that within this chiasm 2:11 and 2:17-18 match. The first tells us that Nehemiah was in the city for three days, and verses 17-18 records Nehemiah’s exhortation to “rise up and build.” The connection seems to be the third-day theme. Symbolically if not literally on the third day Nehemiah initiates a “rising” and begins building. Just like Jesus.

Second, we’re told twice in that same section of Nehemiah that he told no one about his plan (2:12, 16). Perhaps we have here a Messianic-like secret. Nehemiah keeps a low profile until the third day when he’s ready to build. Jesus too tells no one his plan, except a few select disciples, until the right moment. The comparison with Nehemiah supports a strategic understanding of the Messianic secret – Jesus keeps quiet because of the opposition to his “building” program.

Finally, Nehemiah’s treatment of the people who have permitted intermarriage (13:25) looks insane. But if we have Nehemiah’s messianic role in mind, it fits: Zeal for the Lord’s house consumes him, as it consumes Jesus later; and Nehemiah’s hair-pulling is no more disruptive than Jesus’ table-turning.

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