I had a friend who used to point out the typological relationship between the Old Covenantal types and Christ almost every time we got together. One with which I was fascinated most was the typological parallel he drew out between Nehemiah and Jesus. Understanding the typological significance of Jerusalem, the Temple and the walls of the city (i.e. their spiritual parallels in the heavenly realities of the New Covenant), my friend suggested that, by His death and resurrection, Jesus showed Himself to be the true and greater Nehemiah. He builds the spiritual walls of the church through His redemptive labors. When Nehemiah began his work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he had enemies who actively opposed him (Neh. 2:19-20). When he was fully engaged in the act of rebuilding the walls, they called him to come down from the walls and away from finishing the work. Nehemiah’s response? “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’” (Neh. 6:2-3). When Jesus began his ministry, the enemies of God actively opposed him. When he was actively engaged in building the walls of Jerusalem–as he hung on the cross–they said to Him, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matt. 27:42). Jesus, functionally responded to this opposition to His saving work by crying out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Over the years I have tried to find others who have made this connection. With few exceptions, most commentators fail to do so. You can understand how pleased I was to find this and other connections in James Hamilton’s recently released work, Exalting Jesus in Ezra and Nehemiah.
In his section titled “Looking Forward to Look Back: Typological Correspondence Between Ezra-Nehemiah and Jesus,” Hamilton writes:
The promise-based typological expectation that develops across the pages of the Old Testament was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, and we can see points of contact between Jesus and key figures in the Old Testament.
Typolgical Correspondence Between Ezra and Jesus
Ezra was a man of the Word and prayer who was passionate for the purity of God’s people, seeking to hallow God’s name, to bring in God’s Kingdom and to do God’s will on earth as in heaven…In chapter 9, Ezra responded to the disobedience and rebellion of God’s people by weeping over Jerusalem, just as Jesus would weep over Jerusalem’s refusal to receive and welcome Him…This aspect of what we see in Ezra and Jesus is comforting…Jesus loves people, Jesus wants what is good for people. Jesus is saddened by rebellion and disobedience. Ezra was also a priest and a scribe devoted to the law of Moses. Jesus came as the High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and he countered temptation and those who challenges him in debate with appeals to Scripture.1
Moving from Ezra as a type of Christ to Nehemiah as a type of Christ, Hamilton notes:
Nehemiah was like the One who would enter the Temple and cleanse it. We saw Nehemiah cleanse the Temple in Nehemiah 13. Nehemiah was also concerned for the resumption of the worship instituted by David. Nehemiah initiated a renewal of the covenant, anticipating the One who would usher God’s people into a new covenant.
Like Ezra (Ezra 10:1), Nehemiah typified Jesus as one who wept over Jerusalem (Neh. 1:4). Just as Jesus would call His disciples to come, follow him and build God’s Kingdom through the church, Nehemiah called God’s people to rise and build with him (Neh. 2:18). The nations rage against the Lord and His anointed One, as Psalm 2:1-3 describes (cf. Acts 4:25-28), and they raged against Nehemiah too (Neh. 4:1-3, 7). Just as plots were made against Jesus, there was a plot to ambush Nehemiah (Neh. 6:2). Just as there was a political incendiary statement made against Jesus, “We have no king but Caesar,” there was a political incendiary statement made against Nehemiah’s intentions to rebuild the wall (Neh. 6:6). Jesus finished the work the Father gave him to do, and Nehemiah finished the wall (6:15). With the Temple and walls rebuilt, Nehemiah initiated a covenant renewal, typifying the way that Jesus would come and replace the Temple, provide the people with security and initiate the new covenant.2
1. James Hamilton, Exalting Jesus in Ezra and Nehemiah (B & H Publishing Group, 2014) pp. 239-240