Nehemiah 1:11 says that Nehemiah is the king’s cupbearer. To us this may seem like an unimportant job, but cupbearers could be men of powerful influence, since they had constant and close access to the king. Cupbearers tasted beverages for the king in order to prevent illness or death of the king. Herodotus points out that the Persians held cupbearers in high honor, as they were regarded as high officials. For instance, the cupbearer of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon was also the chief minister of the kingdom. Thus, Nehemiah holds a high position in the kingdom, and because of his access to the king, he pleads with God to use him in speaking to the king about the situation in Judah.
Read Nehemiah 2:1-8. What happened as a result of Nehemiah’s prayers and fasting?
The prayer is answered in the month of Nisan, which is roughly the month of April of 444 B.C. Four months have passed since Hanani and the Jews brought the disturbing news about Jerusalem to Nehemiah. For four months, Nehemiah prayed and fasted, and every day it might have seemed to him as if God was not answering. But God’s timing is always perfect. God prepared the king to hear Nehemiah and to respond favorably.
It was not an everyday occurrence to have the cupbearer relieved of his duties for a time to be a governor in a different land. God spoke through Nehemiah and impressed the Persian King Artaxerxes I to make Nehemiah a governor over the territory of Judah. The mention of the queen suggests that this was possibly a private occasion, as it was not customary for the queen always to be present for formal banquets. Nehemiah does not immediately mention Jerusalem, in order to keep the king from having preconceived ideas, but rather he makes an emotional appeal to the king about something personal to him. By the time the specific place is mentioned, the king has been won.
|In what ways can we see a parallel between Nehemiah’s position in this court and Daniel’s in Babylon? What does it say about Nehemiah’s character that the king seems so positively disposed toward him?|