Who was Nehemiah? Nehemiah is the central figure of the Book of Nehemiah, which describes his work in rebuilding Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. He was governor of Persian Judea under Artaxerxes I of Persia. The name is pronounced or in English. It is in Hebrew נְחֶמְיָה, Nəḥemyāh, “Yah comforts”.
Who wrote the book?
Jewish tradition identifies Nehemiah himself as the primary author of this historical book. Much of the book is written from his first-person perspective. Nothing is known about his youth or background; we meet him as an adult serving in the Persian royal court as the personal cupbearer to King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:11–2:1). This prestigious position reveals something of Nehemiah’s upright character. Though he remained in Persia after the exiles had been allowed to go home, he was highly interested in the state of affairs in Judah (his brother Hanani [1:2] had returned there earlier).
The book of Nehemiah could be read as a sequel to the book of Ezra, and some scholars believe the two were originally one work. It is possible that Ezra compiled Nehemiah’s original accounts with other material to create the book of Nehemiah. However, most scholars believe the book was written by Nehemiah.