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In 586 B.C. the Babylonians, after taking Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, tore down the walls, and burned the city. The inhabitants were either scattered, or for many of them, taken prisoner to Babylon, a very dark period in the history of the Hebrews.

In 539 B.C., the Persians conquered Babylon, and the Hebrews began to return to the Promised Land. Some even began to rebuild the Temple, but because of others in the land, only partial progress had occurred in the rebuilding effort, and those efforts were continually thwarted because Persia ruled over the land.

Around 445 B.C., Nehemiah, a cupbearer to Persian King Artaxerxes, upon learning the story of those who had returned and their plight, felt the call to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. However, as a subject of the Persian king, he couldn't just go. His fervent prayers for God to intervene were heard, but Nehemiah didn't yet know this. One day, he was serving wine to the King, and Artaxerxes noticed the sadness in Nehemiah's face, and asked him why he was sad.

Now, you have to understand that the King could have any of the Hebrews killed for any reason, including something as simple as having a bad expression in the presence of the King. So, Nehemiah, of course, was afraid, but he answered the King that he was sad because of the plight of his people and asked the King to send him to Jerusalem to rebuild it. However, he went even further. He asked the King to provide him with safe transport, and the materials he would need to rebuild the Jerusalem wall!

This was a very bold request, and could have led to his immediate banishment and execution for being so bold. But, for some reason, the King, in Nehemiah 2:8, agreed to his request! Was the King just in a good mood, or was he moved by Nehemiah's sadness, or was there another reason? If you read closely, you'll see what appears to be a throw-away line in Verse 6: "And the King said unto me, (the queen also sitting beside him), for how long shall thy journey be, and when wilt thou return?"

Now, the Bible doesn't have any 'throw-away' lines, so why did Nehemiah mention that the queen was also there sitting beside the King?

If you read the next book in the Bible, you'll find the story of Queen Esther, born a Hebrew, who became a concubine, and then queen to the King. There are some arguments about which king was which in this particular time period, so Esther was either the Queen to the same King that granted Nehemiah's request, or to the King's son.

Here's the point: What if the Queen sitting beside the King in Nehemiah 2:6 is the very same Queen Esther who had been responsible for saving the entire Hebrew nation? You see, these two books are presented out of order in the Bible. Esther's story actually comes before Nehemiah's! It's entirely possible that the King Artaxerxes was sympathetic to Nehemiah's request because his queen was also Hebrew! If that's the case, then the story of Esther is much more consequential than we have known. She not only was instrumental in saving the Hebrews under Persian authority, but responsible for "softening up" the King to grant Nehemiah's request, ultimately resulting the the rebuilding of the Wall, the finishing of the Temple, and the reconstruction of Jerusalem.

Isn't it funny how every time Jerusalem is destroyed, it is the result of another tyrant that the city is rebuilt again. It was because of Artaxerxes 500 years before Christ, then it was Hitler 2000 years later whose persecution of the Jews provided the impetus for the reestablishment of Israel!


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