1 These are the words of Nehemiah, Hacaliah’s son. In the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in the fortress city of Susa,2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came with some other men from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had escaped and survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. 3 They told me, “Those in the province who survived the captivity are in great trouble and shame! The wall around Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire!” 4 When I heard this news, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
Nehemiah was in Susa, the winter capital of Artaxerxes’ empire. His brother brought news of the Jews who had escaped captivity and still remained in Judah. They were in distress. Jerusalem was in shambles — the wall broken down and the gates destroyed by fire. Nehemiah went into mourning. He fasted and prayed day and night — coming clean on Israel’s wayward ways. He admitted that he and his family had also failed to be faithful to the provisions of Israel’s self-understanding of their covenant relationship as a people of God. He acknowledged that Israel’s waywardness had led to their being defeated and scattered to the winds. Nehemiah was also aware of a deep inner insistence in the name of God. Perhaps. It will be his call to re-gather the people of Israel together as a covenant people. God was the healing symbol that could catalyze that new life.