In the Hebrew Bible the book of Nehemiah (= comfort of Jah) forms a unity with the preceding book of Ezra (compare with the notes on Ezra). Although the books bear different names they follow each other without paragraph and the numeration of the Masorah is listed at the end of Nehemiah for both books.
As sequel of the book of Ezra the book of Nehemiah reports the third return to Jerusalem in 445 BC. Ezra stresses the religious restoration of the remnant when writing of the erection of the altar, the building of the temple and the law of Jehovah (that is the Word of God).
Nehemiah’s task was to rebuild the walls and the gates of the city of Jerusalem. The city pictures the living together of the people of God. Likewise the daily life of the believers ought to be constantly governed by the word and will of God. The faithful servant Nehemiah faces enemies from without and resistance from within.
At the time of the Babylonian exile a Jewish military colony was stationed in Elephantine (a town near Aswân in Upper Egypt).
This is where the so-called Elephantine papyri were found in 1903. These papyri contain parts of a correspondence of the Jews stationed in Elephantine with Jews living back home.
On one of these papyruses written in Aramaic dating 408/407 BC Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, and Johanan the son of Eliashib are mentioned. Both these names appear in the book of Nehemiah also (chapter 2:10; 4:1-2; 12:23).