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Eleventh book in the Ketuvim, or Writings, section of the Bible. It relates the history of Nehemiah, son of Hacaliah, who was the cupbearer of Artaxerxes II, King of Persia (ca. 446 B.C.E.). When news of the poor condition of the returned exiles in Jerusalem reached Nehemiah in Susa, he obtained a commission from the King to return to Judea as its governor. One of Nehemiah’s first tasks was to lead the people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, as they defended themselves from attacks by the Samaritans.

Nehemiah inspired the builders to defend themselves as they worked, saying “one of his hands does the work and in the other he holds his weapon.” Together with Ezra the Scribe, Nehemiah reinstituted festivals and observances which preserved the identity and continuity of the Jewish people.

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