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"Old Testament Survey"

Nehemiah through Proverbs


Steve Bader in this session continued his Old Testament Scriptures in adult Sunday School class with the books of Nehemiah through Proverbs. This article provides a brief summary of the content. I recoomend you either download the audio in it's entirety from sermons page or order the CD's.


  1. Up to this point, the Hebrews had divided into two nations: Israel to the North and Judaea in the South. Israel had been caught up in a wave of Baal worship and idolatry of the worst kind. Repentance was scarce and superficial at best. Judaea had gone through numerous reforms but they also deeply struggled to maintain a consistent faith in their Deliverer. As a result of their infidelity, God had expelled them from the land and put them under the subjugation of foreign kings. Their hearts had been captivated by pagan idolatry, so God sent their bodies into captivity as well. In a sense, where God delivered them physically, their hearts had dwelled long before.
  2. When the Persians overthrew the Babylonians, Cyrus came to power. His rise to power had been prophesied long before he was born, and it would be under his rule that another exodus to their land would occur.
  3. Yet it was not by the inherent mercy of Cyrus that the Jews return, but by the work of God in his heart. For it is God who works goodness and mercy in the sinner.
  4. This return marked the rebuilding of the city walls. Nehemiah's return was prompted by the poor conditions of the desolate city. Nehemiah was the king's trusted cupbearer, so after much prayer and meditation he petitioned the king to allow him to return and restore the city. Under the permission of the king, Nehemiah and a third group of Jews returned. With faith in the providential hand of God, the Jews rebuilt the walls despite the repeated efforts of the Samaritans, Arabs, and Ammonites to destroy their efforts.
  5. Through much effort and trial, the walls were rebuilt (although in haste). Yet, the same problems the plagued the people of God in the past plagued them still. Mixed marriages were taking place, their children were losing their cultural identity, and some of the rich even enslaved their fellow Jews and took advantage of them. This prompted a stern chastising from Nehemiah. The result was that, for those faithful few, the mixed marriages were annulled and their wives returned to their father's land.


  1. Esther has been a controversial book concerning its canonicity. Among several arguments for not including it in the canon is that the author does not mention God anywhere in the text. Yet, despite the lack of explicitly mentioning God, the clear hand of providence in guiding the events in the story overcame the obstacles and became part of the canon of scripture. The events of the story take place in Susa, the Persian capital during the reign of Xerxes the Great at the time of the Jewish captivity. Being in the heart of the symbol of idolatry served as a constant reminder of the idolatry of the Jews that brought them under their current exile. They had been brought to the center of what had been their stumbling block, and the impression it gave would never leave.
  2. The book opens with a feast dedicated to the greatness to the king. The festival showed that the Persians were bureaucrats by nature, as everything required an edict of some sort. Whenever the king spoke, not only was his word law, it was irrevocable as well. When the queen refused to be put on display for the king and his drunken cohorts, she was subsequently tossed out and an edict was put forth that husbands be masters of their home. A new Queen had to be found and a committee was formed to gather all the beautiful women together to determine who would please the King best. The text then introduces a Jew named Mordecai who was raising his orphaned niece, Esther. Mordecai was a descendant of King Saul and had learned to maintain his and Esther's cultural heritage despite living in the citadel. Yet, because Esther was beautiful to look at, she was taken to be displayed in the King's competition for his affections. Instead of maintaining her cultural identity as a Jew and separating herself from the world that captivated her, she let that world define her and transform her into what the Persians thought was beautiful.
  3. The text says that by following the advice of the King's eunuch she was "winning favor in the eyes of all who say her." By appealing to the desires of the world, she won favor in the eyes of the king and was pronounced queen and given the crown. Mordecai, on the other hand, heard two eunuchs plotting to kill the king. He passed this on to Esther who reported it to the king and the eunuchs were hanged. Rather than be rewarded, his deed was overlooked and temporarily forgotten. Meanwhile, a new advisor was appointed whose name was Haman who was a descendant of Agag. Agag was the Amalekite king that Saul had spared which caused his loss of God's blessing. So there is a mutual hatred between Mordecai and Haman that finds its basis in ancient history. Because of this, Mordecai refuses to pay homage to Haman, which infuriates him. Upon finding out that Mordecai is a Jew, he seeks to destroy the Jewish presence in the kingdom and petitions the king to allow him to do so. With his permission, Haman plans the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai hears of Haman's plans and urges Esther to intercede on behalf of her people. Her initial response is to remind him of the dangers of going to the king when not summoned. Her response earns her a harsh chastising from Mordecai.
  4. Esther will now have to choose between the two worlds in which she lives. Despairingly, she chooses to go to the king on behalf of her people. When the king called on her he knew she was troubled and wished to know the cause. Instead, she asked that the king and Haman attend a feast she would prepare the next day and there she would make her request. Then, one night, the king has trouble sleeping and orders that the book of memorable deeds to be read to him to help him sleep. As it was being read, the reader happened to stumble upon the portion concerning Mordecai's act that saved the king's life. It was then that the king discovered that his deed was not rewarded. He then goes to Haman to ask what honor should be bestowed upon the man who performed such a deed. Haman, thinking the king was referring to him, advises him to essentially treat him like a king. The king then orders him to grant those things to Mordecai, which puts Haman in utter despair. Now granted an opportunity to bring her concerns to the king, she reveals that she herself is a Jew and informs him of the fact that her people are to be destroyed. She puts the blame solely for this solely on Haman.
  5. The problem facing the king is that his decrees were irrevocable so he must find a way to preserve the tradition of the kingship as well as appease his favorite wife. Now alone with her, Haman throws himself upon her mercy in the hopes that she will show mercy and be spared. However, as he throws himself down, the king comes back in and believes that he is assaulting her and hangs him on the very gallows that were built for the Jews. Unable to revoke the decree, the king makes another decree that allows for the Jews to defend themselves by whatever means they see fit. As a result, the Jews gained mastery over their assailants and 75,000 were killed. The Jews didn't take any plunder or spoils from them, for Holy War has no spoils. Mordecai, himself, becomes second only to the king.


  1. We have left the narrative works and now begin with the first of the poetic works—Job. Job lives in the land of Uz before the law was given to Israel. He serves as a family priest and offers sacrifices that were assigned only to the Levitical priesthood. He is a wealthy man whom scripture describes as "blameless". This is not to say "perfect", but "sound" or "without hypocrisy". In any case, in comparison to the rest of the community at least, he is a righteous and devout man. With the preliminary biography out of the way, the scene shifts to the heavenly realm where Satan dialogues with the Lord. Satan claims to be wandering the Earth to find prey. It is then that the Lord draws attention to Job and asks Satan if he has considered Job. The foundation is now laid for the trials to begin.
  2. Satan immediately leaves God's presence and in a day Job learns that his possessions have been destroyed and his children have been killed. Despite his intense mourning and suffering, Job's response is to say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord…" He did not sin or accuse God of misconduct. Satan then ups the ante by suggesting that God strike his flesh and Job will then curse Him. Despite receiving painful sores, Job still did not curse God. While his faith remained intact, his wife became a mouthpiece for the devil when she utters these words: "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die…" Along with a strong rebuke, Job also reminds her that both goodness and trials come from God. While Job's trials do not shake his faith, it does waver in the face of his friends who accuse him of wrongdoing and earning his plight from some past sin. Knowing this is not so, Job begins to question whether God is unjustly punishing him. Malicious tongues sow more damage to the heart than physical maladies.
  3. Job desires to confront God for His actions against him. Job feels he deserves an account of the miseries he has received. Job is petitioned by his friend to consider his present miseries as blessed scorning. Not that Job is being punished, but is being molded and prepared. Then, the Lord answers Job's request for a meeting and is given the chastisement of a lifetime. Job is reminded Who it was that created and sustains all things and has lived from eternity past. Between the two of them, one is almighty and it is not Job. Job's response is to humble himself before God and say, "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted…Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…" (42:8). Although Job was presumptuous towards God's intentions, he never cursed God; Satan was humiliated and God was glorified. Scripture says Job died a prosperous man full of many years.
  4. There are many things to glean from the book of Job. For instance, God's sovereignty is always at work in all the events that transpire. Though Satan does bring about the suffering, it is by God's permission alone that he is allowed to do so. Another issue the work tackles is the concept of a theodicy. A theodicy is a defense and reconciliation between the existence of a loving God with the presence of evil. Rather than give an official answer that satisfies the intellect, Job understands that God is free to do what He wills with His creation. As He is the author of all things that exist, nothing in creation has a right to demand answers to an unsatisfactory existence. Job understands that his finitude must silence his mouth in the face of an infinite being.
  5. Our faith in God does not come from the reward of physical blessing on this earth. It is troubling to see apparent blessings given to the wicked and suffering given to the righteous. That is why it is imperative to not correlate physical blessing with spiritual blessing.


  1. The Psalms are a central source for our worship. The Psalms were written from the days of Moses to after the captivity; David wrote many of them. There is a clear Messianic theme that runs through much of it. Some of the Psalms written by David while he was on the run were later quoted by the New Testament to refer to Christ.
  2. While there are imprecatory Psalms, it is done with idea that it is justice that belongs to God alone. The answer for our enemies' assaults against us is prayer that justice will be granted for "His name's sake". Not our own.
  3. When the Davidic kingship is ended and the Jews are caught in exile, the Psalm writers focus on the Lord's kingship. It is God who is their ruler, and it is a kingdom that never ends.
  4. The authors of the Psalms and the time they were written is important because they provide a context and an understanding that makes for a depth that otherwise would not be there. One example is David as he is running from Saul.
  5. The Psalms provide a clear contrast between the wicked world and the righteous God who rescues. David himself recognizes his own depravity when he writes that his own existence was formed from the beginning in iniquity. The faithfulness and righteousness of God is contrasted against a faithless and wicked world and the importance on relying on the only one who dispenses true justice and mercy.


  1. The book of Proverbs is the principle wisdom book of the Old Testament. Not only is wisdom the underlying theme, in some sections wisdom is personified. She speaks directly from the pages. A proverb is defined as a short pithy saying used to convey a practical truth or precept. While the wisdom of Proverbs is not humanistic, it is focused on man. It is God's wisdom as expressed in creation and redemption, instruction for how man should live.
  2. The morality of Proverbs is always based upon the precepts and fear of God; a morality that stands in relation to God.
  3. The proverbs found in the book are written for the purpose of comparing and contrasting the wise man and the fool. There are reflections on the actions of both as well as the consequences of those actions. The righteous ultimately prospers while the fool and the wicked perish.
  4. The book was written for instructing the king's son. The underlying hope of the Book of Proverbs is that one may grow to avoid foolish behavior and act wisely. The proverbs deal with a wide variety of issues concerning daily life including the necessity and nature of discipline.
  5. There appears to be a prophetic message concerning the future Christ found in chapter 30:4, "Who has gone up to heaven and come down? 
 Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is the name of his son? Surely you know!"

- Jason Bader

You can listen to this series here.