The answer to why it was important to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls is found in Nehemiah 1:3. Some Jews who visited Jerusalem returned to Persia and reported to Nehemiah, the king’s cupbearer. The men said, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
After the Babylonian Captivity, a remnant of the Jewish people had returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Ezra. These returned exiles had rebuilt the temple, but they were now in need of protection. The lack of fortified walls around the city left the people defenseless against enemies. Weather, wild animals, opposing people, and other opponents could easily enter and cause “great trouble” to the people.
According to the report Nehemiah received, the remnant in Jerusalem was shamed. A city with broken walls revealed a defeated people. The Jews who had returned to their homeland were both in unsafe conditions and humiliated at living in a destroyed city. In Nehemiah 2:17, Nehemiah told the Jewish leaders, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”
Also, the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls would show God’s blessing upon His people again. Nehemiah quoted God’s words to Moses in his prayer, saying, “If you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name” (Nehemiah 1:9).
Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was an important sign to the enemies of Israel. Nehemiah told their enemies, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it” (Nehemiah 2:20).
And rebuilding the walls showed that God was with His people. Upon the completion of the walls, Nehemiah wrote, “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16).
The destruction of Jerusalem’s walls left its people exposed to great trouble and shame. Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was important because it revealed God’s blessing, served as a sign to Israel’s enemies, and showed God was with His people. The walls provided protection and dignity to a people who had suffered the judgment of God but had later been restored and returned to the Promised Land.