Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah's Request to the King

An Expensive Vessel

When wine was served, I carried the wine and gave it to the king (Nehemiah 2:1)

This gold amphora (jar) was likely used for storing and pouring out wine at the royal court. It dates to 550-450 BC, quite close to the time of Nehemiah. The amphora was photographed at the Reza Abbasi Museum in Tehran.

Tombs of Jerusalem

The city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate (Nehemiah 2:3).

The Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, has evidence of being a place of burial for the last four millennia. Most of the tombs seen in this photograph are from the last couple of centuries, but archaeologists have discovered many ancient tombs, including tomb monuments. Nehemiah’s reference to Jerusalem as “the place of my fathers’ tombs” does not imply or demand that the tombs he was thinking of were inside the city, though the tomb of the Davidic house apparently was (1 Kgs 2:10).

The Burnt Chamber

And its gates have been consumed by fire (Nehemiah 2:3).

Like the other buildings in this area of the City of David, the “Burnt Chamber” was built in the 7th century BC and was destroyed in 586. This building is so named because it showed such abundant evidence of the Babylonian destruction. In the massive conflagration, the wooden furniture was carbonized, leaving several feet of ash debris.


I said to the king, “If it please the king . . . please send me to Judah” (Nehemiah 2:5).

At the time of Nehemiah, the former kingdom of Judah was the Persian province of “Yehud.” A variety of inscriptions and stamped jar handles with the name Yehud have been discovered at various sites in Israel. The inscription on this jar handle preserves the letters for “Yehud,” but they are arranged stylistically to fit within a circle.

A Royal Couple

Then the king replied, as the queen sat beside him, “How long will your journey be?” (Nehemiah 2:6)

The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (669–627 BC) is shown reclining and drinking wine in his garden, surrounded by servants. The queen is seated at the feet of the reclining king. Women are rarely depicted in the art of Achaemenid Persia, but it is known from literary sources that the name of Artaxerxes I’s queen was Damaspia.

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