Today’s Scripture Reading (August 23, 2017): Nehemiah 1
I sometimes wonder how much of our history is going to be questioned a thousand years from now by scholars reading of the events of our day. What events that we have lived through every day will cause people to wonder if this could be true. How many of our leaders will be accepted as historical fact – or is it possible that our political leaders will be seen as legendary in status. (Is it possible that Donald Trump might be regarded as a symbol of the populist feelings that dominated American culture during this period of time rather than an actual President of the United States?) Even with proof, we seem to have trouble believing the things that we have not seen with our own eyes. And if you doubt that just consider the rise in the number of Holocaust doubters that we seem to possess in our culture a mere seventy-five years after the horrible events that took place during the Second World War. And this doubt is present in spite of the volumes of pictures and film that we have access to that were taken at the time of the Holocaust. For some, the truth is that we were not there so we really can’t know.
We have a similar argument when it comes to the characters that were presented with in the pages of the Bible. A rabbi by the name of Jesus of Nazareth really did walk the earth. We know from several historical writers that he lived and that he was crucified for his teachings. This is historical. Was he the Son of God and did he come back to life, these are issues that invite doubt in those who do not want to believe in the full story of Jesus and here we can man things about which we can argue. But we cannot seriously maintain that Jesus the man never existed. There is too much proof outside of the Bible to allow for that supposition.
Nehemiah stands in a similar position in history. Every indication leads us to believe that the person of Nehemiah is a real person who served the King of Persia in the middle of the 5th Century B.C.E. The opening words of the book that carries his name anchors this person into a real point in time. And everything fits. Nehemiah served the King Artaxerxes of Persia. It was the twentieth year of his reign, or 445-444 B.C.E. Artaxerxes reigned for forty-one years, so this places the story of Nehemiah at the center portion of the Kings reign. It is likely that there was political stability at this point in the reign of Artaxerxes. And the story begins in the month of Kislev at the Citadel at Susa. And even here, the facts fit. The capital of the Persian Empire at this time was the city of Persepolis, but the book of Nehemiah says that these events started during the month of Kislev, which translates to late November or early December. And Susa was the winter capital of the king. During this season, we would not expect the king to be in Persepolis, but rather Susa.
And here the story begins to unfold, as historically it should.
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 2 & 3