Nehemiah as a Type of Christ

The object to which the Hebrew scriptures illumined for Israel was the coming Messiah, who would deliver God’s holy nation from diverse enemies. The advent of Jesus the Christ was the fulfillment of prophecies, types, and shadows. Therefore, one must read the Old Testament with Christ Jesus in view.

Key people in the biblical history of Israel serve as types of Christ. People like Adam, Noah, the Patriarchs, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, etc. help us to see Jesus. The circumstances each typical figure endured serve to illumine the bigger picture of God’s predetermined plan (Acts 2:23). For example, Joseph was mistreated by his brothers, as Jesus was in Jerusalem. Moses’ leadership was marked by his deliverance tasks in the Exodus, which is what makes Jesus’ name so exalted. Obstinate people in the wilderness wanderings foreshadow Christ’s church en route to the promised land of heaven, our better country (Heb 11:16).

Type: Sent

Our interest here is Nehemiah, the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, amidst the exilic community at Susa (Babylonian captivity). The book of the Bible that bears his name also tells his story as a memoir (1–7, 13) and public record (8–12).

Type: Builder

Jesus promised His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them — mansions of glory (Jn 14:2–3). Nehemiah went to rebuild Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by Nebudchadnezzar of Babylon in 586 B.C. God is the architect and builder of all things (Heb 3:4; 11:10), and Jesus is building His church (Mt 16:18), the temple of God in the Spirit (Eph 2:20–22).

Type: One who is Resisted by Those Opposed to Yahweh

Nehemiah faced formidable opposition from diverse representatives of entities hostile to the restoration of Israel. Jesus’ ministry was resisted by Jewish and Gentile authorities in the very same city.

Type: Murder Plot

Nehemiah’s nemeses wanted to ambush Israel’s governor on the Plain of Ono, but he repeatedly refused their summons. Jesus was often the object for arrest in Jerusalem, but he would leave the city on those occasions. Only when God’s appointed time for His arrest had come did Jesus set His sights on Jerusalem for His final visit before His passion (Lk 9:51).

Type: City of God

Jerusalem was a type of the New Jerusalem to come with the new heavens and the new earth (Rev 21–22). The city of God, as a type, was ever plagued, however, by oppressors and by deficiencies within the disobedient Jews. For over 1,000 years, the old city endeavored to be the place where God’s chosen people met with Yahweh. God’s house, the temple at Jerusalem, was to be the center of life for the Jewish people. Periods of building, destruction, rebuilding, and destruction demonstrated the challenge.

Type: God’s Man for the Job

Nehemiah’s wise leadership was the catalyst for rebuilding the walls and gates of the city. Against outside pressure and political injustice within the Jewish community, Nehemiah prevailed with the mission. Men like Nehemiah (governor) and Ezra, the priest and scribe, succeeded because God was with them. Their hearts were fully given to serve the Lord’s interests.

Type: Holy One of Israel

Jesus’ dedication to the cause of God was unsurpassed. He always did His Father’s will, and in Him the Father was always pleased. His ongoing building project is on target for completion. Just as Nehemiah separated the people according to the Law, so Jesus will separate all people on the last day. The sheep and goats, wheat and tares, will be separated at the resurrection from the dead (Jn 5:28–29). Those who died in Christ will be raised to life in glorified bodies, and those who died as unbelievers will be raised to judgment — a sentence of eternal punishment in the lake of fire, which is the second death (Mt 25:46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15).

Type: Better Things to Come

A survey of the walls of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 reveals the beauty and strength of the eternal city of light. Jesus, as a wall builder, is far superior than we could ever think or imagine. Heavenly Zion will be under no threat from outside forces because sin and death have been dealt with, along with all the evil people and demons ever arrayed against Yahweh and His anointed One.

Type: Successful Governor

The initial burden of Nehemiah was fulfilled because God’s restoration plan and presence ensured success. The burden of the Son of God — to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21) — was fulfilled at the cross of Calvary. Jesus accomplished what none of God’s chosen people could do (Is 64:6; Rom 3:10–12; 4:5). It was His joy and good pleasure to accomplish all our works for us (Is 26:12) and all that concerns us (Ps 57:2; 138:8). His mission was an acknowledged success because God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31), highly exalted Him in ascension and enthronement. Whereas the name “Nehemiah” is honored, the name of Jesus is above every other name for the great things He has done (Eph 1:20–22; Phil 2:9).

Nehemiah, as governor, worked to organize the people, positioned them for their respective tasks, set them apart, equipped them, armed them, inspired them, and ordered their lives as citizens of Jerusalem…for worship of Yahweh. What can be said of Jesus in each of these categories of leadership? Christ’s church has one Leader, who is Christ (Mt 23:10). He has sent His Spirit to each of God’s elect — to gather, baptize, regenerate, indwell, empower, guide, lead, teach, help, comfort, and see us through to the end of our mission here on earth. He that is in us, the Holy Spirit, is greater than he that is in the world (1 Jn 4:4).

In conclusion, when we read the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we must keep our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2) — sent from a far country to establish a better country (Heb 11:16). In the life and works of Nehemiah, we must see Yahweh’s revelation of Christ centuries before the antitype appeared. The people, places, and events in the book of Nehemiah illustrate for us what God’s plan and project are on the far bigger scale, but they also demonstrate our utter inability to achieve heaven on earth apart from Jesus Christ, God’s appointed man for the building project. Like the people of Jerusalem, who trusted the man of God, Nehemiah, we must trust Jesus Christ to overcome the world, then to prepare and build the new one.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

September 9, 2022

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher