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Subject: Christian Religious Studies
Topic: Concern For One’s Nation
Lesson Objectives: At the end of the lesson, learners should be able to:
i. Describe the events that led to the collapse of the Jewish nation,
ii. Describe the condition of the people that were left in Jerusalem after the deportation,
iii. Discuss the concern of Nehemiah, Ezra and Zerubbabel for their nation and their response to the state of the nation despite oppositions,
iv. Relate the lessons from the unit to our responsibility towards our nation.
A nation as a corporate entity undergoes some turbulent times. This may be political, economic or social problems. It is in the face of these problems that people show love for their nation by identifying themselves with this problems and proffering solution. In this topic, we shall see how the nation of Israel underwent series of political turmoil that almost led to the destruction of the nation.
In the series of battle that led to the final destruction of Judah, Pharoah Neco of Egypt was the first to come up against the land. Pharoah Neco made Eliakim, King in place of his brother, Jehoahaz and changed his name to Jehoiakim. He took Jehoahaz away to Egypt where he eventually died. Jehoiakim was a stooge of Pharoah Neco who he used to collect taxes from the people of Judea. Subsequently, Egypt was defeated by Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. Following these defeat, King Jehoiakim became the servant of Nebuchadnezzar for three years before he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. To crush this rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar sent a contigent of Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabities and Ammonites to destroy Judah. It is worthy to note here that it had earlier been prophesied that the Lord would send enemies to destroy Judah because of their atrocities of their king and their unfaithfulness in serving the Lord, their God that brought them out of Egypt.
Jehoiakim died before the arrival of the Invaders. His eighteen years old son, Jehoiachin, reigned in his place. Like his father, he did what was evil in the sight of God. When Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon besieged the city, he took him captive and carried off all the treasures in the house of the Lord and the treasures in the king’s house and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord which Solomon, King of Israel had made. He carried away the mighty men of valour, ten thousand captives. Only the poorest group were left.
Nebuchadnezzar made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah was twenty one years when he began to reign. Later he rebelled against the King of Babylon and consequently, his city was besieged. When the famine became so severe, he and his servants wanted to escape but they were captured and taken to the King of Babylon at Riblah. The King passed death seen against him. They slew his two sons and removed his eyes. They also bound him with fetters and took him to Babylon where he died. Shortly after, the Babylonian army under the control of Nebuchadnezzar came and burnt the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, the King’s house and all the good buildings and took all the able men to Babylon.
Response To The State Of The Nation (Nehemiah 1:1 – 11, 2:9 – 20, 4:1 – 23, Ezra 1:1 – 11, 4, 5:1 – 2, 6:13 – 22, 7:1 – 10)
Following the conquest of Israel by Babylon, Israel did not exist again as a nation. Most of the people were taken as captives to Babylon, though, they were not enslaved but they settled in a particular area. They were allowed to acquire and own property while in Babylon. Most of them eventually attained positions of importance in the government of the land. Later, Persia defeated Babylon and became world power. Babylon and all its empire were now under Persia. It was during the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia that God stirred his spirit and he issued a decree for all the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of God (Ezra 1:1 – 4). He equally called on people to assist them financially. King Cyrus returned five thousand, four hundred and sixty nine vessels of gold and silver which King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the house of God in Jerusalem. All these were handed over to Sheshbazzer, the prince of Judah to be returned to Jerusalem.
Following this decree, various Jewish patriots rose up to the occasion and played various roles which finally saw the establishment of Israel as a nation. Remarkable among them were Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. Zerubbabel led 50,000 Jews to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of God. Some Samaritan-Jews offered to help in the work but their offer was turned down. Most of them therefore mounted stiff opposition and made several attempts to frustrate the people’s effort in building the temple. Notable among these people were Bishlam, Mithreadath and Tabeel. Contrary to their expectation, the more they opposed the builders, the more the builders succeeded because God was with them. They completed the building in twenty years after their arrival from exile. The walls of the city were however not rebuilt. Nehemiah was the cup bearer of King Artaxerxes, he had access to the King. He then used his position for the welfare of his people. When he received the report of the state of things in Jerusalem from Hanani his brother, he was not happy.
He therefore, sought permission from Artaxerxes, the King and the permission was granted. The king even promised some financial assistance. Again like the people that rebuilt the temple, Nehemiah and his group equally faced stiff opposition, particularly from Samballat and Tobiah but, because God was with them, they were able to complete the project. Later, Ezra, a Jewish scribe vast in the laws of Moses, the ordinances and the statutes came back with about 6,000 Jews and his aim was to carry out religious reforms.
(a) Reasons For The Positive Response Of The Jews To Return Home
i. The people had the feeling that home is home coupled with the spirit of nationalism.
ii. In a foreign land, they could not freely practice their culture and religion.
iii. Slavery is a curse to any people.
iv. It is showed to fulfill God’s promise.
(b) The Reconstruction Of The Walls Of Jerusalem By Nehemiah
Nehemiah, a captive in Babylon was visited by Hanani. Nehemiah wanted to know the state of Jerusalem and her inhabitants, Nehemiah was told that the remnants of the land were in great trouble and shame. He was told that the gates of the wall were broken down and destroyed. This made Nehemiah sad and he went bitterly. He then fasted and prayed for several days. He requested for his freedom from the king of Babylon. He was allowed to go. On his arrival to Jerusalem, he delivered the king’s letter to the governors of the provinces.
In the letters, it was written that the materials needed by Nehemiah for the reconstruction of the city supplied to him. This was done and the reconstruction work on the walls of Jerusalem began in earnest. Nehemiah went in the night to inspect the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down. Nehemiah said, “Let us build the walls of Jerusalem so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” The people responded and work started but Samballat and Tobiah opposed the reconstruction work.
(c) The Lesson To Learn From Nehemiah’s Action
I. The Commitment Of The Prominent Jews To The Rebuilding Of their nation is worthy of emulation. These people occupied prominent positions in the government of the country where they were carried to exile but this did not make them forget their own country; they were not carried away by the prominent positions they were occupying. They were committed and determined in their endeavour and God gave them good success. People should not forget their home anywhere they find themselves. They should use their acquired wealth of experience for the well being and development of their people.
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Take a quick test for this lesson
i. Trace the event that led Nehemiah to embark on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. What do we learn from Nehemiah’s role in the reconstruction of the city walls?
ii. Describe the return of the exiles from Babylon during the reign of Cyrus. Give two reasons for the positive response from the people.
iii. Give an account of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian during the reign of King Zedekiah. Identify four causes of social unrest today in Africa.
iv. Explain how Nehemiah received the news about the state of affairs in Jerusalem. Relate Nehemiah’s prayer when he received the news.
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