The story begins when Nehemiah asked the King to be allowed to go and govern the rebuilding of the Temple and walls in Jerusalem. Nehemiah was very depressed about the state of things in his homeland, and could not manage to compose himself any longer in the presence of the great monarch, Artaxerxes. He was Artaxerxes’ right hand man, and it was illegal to be in the presence of the King while despondent on pain of death. On March 14, 445 B.C., Nehemiah looked sad when he served the Emperor a drink. The Emperor asked Nehemiah to explain why he was so unhappy. Nehemiah asked the Emperor to be released to go head up the rebuilding of his beloved hometown.
Nehemiah also requested that letters be sent to the governors of the other lands that he would be traveling through authorizing his passage. When the paperwork was finished and the red tape cut, Nehemiah was sent to Jerusalem in Nisan (March-April).
He arrived in Jerusalem in the fourth month (June-July) and surveyed the walls at night. Things were in such chaos, he could not afford to let the enemies know what he was about to do. What he found was very disturbing and he called for an immediate public assembly to urge the whole community to do the restoration work.
The work on the wall was immediately organized in the fifth month (July-August). The work lasted only 52 days, and at first was ridiculed by the enemies, but when finished, the enemies were very agitated and shamed the Jews had been able to complete this important step in securing the city.
Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabians, Ammonites and Ashdodites (neighbors of Israel) heard that the walls were being built. They were mad. They did everything they could to stop it. It says in Nehemiah 4:16-17 that half the people worked, and the other half stood guard, and that the workers had to work with one hand and hold a weapon with the other.
And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon (Nehemiah 4:16-17).
On or about September 10, 445 B.C., (some put the date as October 2 ) the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem was finished under Nehemiah. This was an incredible feat, both in being able to do it in such a rapid time, and in being able to do it while armed and having to ward off enemy attack.
Nay-sayers want to question the possibility of the Jewish people being able to do this task in so short a time period. However they forget that the Israelites thrust themselves into this work wholeheartedly, and this included those of the whole region, who came together to help the work. Thus there were very many people engaged in the work. Secondly, it was a repair job. Most of the stones were present from being pulled down. While some stones would need replacement, the bulk of the work was close to where it was needed. The stones simply needed to be set back in place. Third, it would be nearly impossible for the Jewish people to abandon their livelihood for a longer period of time and labor under such intense and dangerous conditions. The project had to be organized in such a way the job could be done quickly and efficiently. Fourth, Ezra had been working and undoubtedly had assembled the materials and had some of the work already done. Nehemiah was there to finish the job and to stir a renewed interest and spirit of nationalism. Fifth, getting the job done was considered nothing short of a miracle by the heathen people of the area, and they became discouraged in their efforts to stop the work.
Nehemiah 6:15-16 So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.
On the other hand, the difficulties must be remembered. The work was done in the very hottest months of the year. They were under constant attack, distraction, and ridicule by the heathen people in the area, who did not want the Jewish people to gain a foothold in the land ever again. The walls were extensive, and the lifting of the stones into position is a very difficult and strenuous activity. It has been estimated that 42 work crews would have to complete around 3 or 4 yards of wall a day.
Because of the intense and constant efforts of the heathen people to stop the work, many people had to stand guard, fully armed, and watchmen had to be employed to sound the alarm of any sneak attacks around the clock. Even those working on the walls, clearing rubble and rebuilding had to work armed and ready to defend themselves at any moment.
Nehemiah 4:16-18 And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.
The original sources were not included in the compiled articles.
Walter A. Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1988), pp. 40, 1536.
Footnotes (click on the number to return to the text)
 Loring W. Batten, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. (New York: Scribner, 1913). p. 259.
 H. G. M. Willamson, Word Biblical Commentary: Ezra-Nehemiah, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002). p. 260.
 Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002). Vo. 4, p. 140.
 The Pulpit Commentary: Nehemiah, ed. H. D. M. Spence-Jones (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004). p. 6