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Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Ezra 1, 4-6; Nehemiah 1-4, 6

Story Summary

At this point in their history, the Jews are still in captivity to the Persians (who overtook the Babylonians that originally forced them into exile). The book of Ezra covers the rebuilding of the temple and the book of Nehemiah covers the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

Rebuilding the Temple

Cyrus was king of Persia, and God stirred his heart to be kind towards the Jews. He made a proclamation to allow them to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild God's temple. This had to be exciting for the Jews! The leaders from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (the Southern Kingdom) organized a group of leaders and anyone who was willing to go back to do the work. Cyrus also gave them back everything Nebuchadnezzar had stolen from the temple when he brought them out of Jerusalem to begin with. About 42,000 people returned to Jerusalem, back to their original towns.

Zerubbabel and Jeshua were the leaders of the work. The Samaritans (the Northern Kingdom - remember they had only evil kings?) heard that they were rebuilding the temple, they weren't happy. They tried to trick Zerubbabel into letting them work alongside them (just to sabotage the work), but Zerubbabel didn't fall for their trick. So they sent a letter to the Artaxerxes, king of Persia, scaring him and telling him that if he allows them to finish the temple and resettle Jerusalem, they will rebel against him. So the king forced the work on the temple to stop.

Later, when Artaxerxes was no longer king, and Darius became king of Persia (another Darius, not the same one from the book of Daniel), two prophets (Haggai and Zechariah) encouraged the people to ask King Darius to allow them to finish the work. King Darius agreed and the temple was finished. They held a dedication service and celebrated the Passover in the temple again. 

Rebuilding the Walls of Jerusalem

Just about a decade after the temple was finished, the people who had come back to Judah were still not quite settled because the walls of Jerusalem were still broken down. In those times, city walls were very important because a city well-fortified by walls was nearly impenetrable given the methods of war available to them. Just ask the people of Jericho how important walls were! 

Nehemiah was very sad that his home-city was still in shambles and so he prayed to God that King Artaxerxes would let him return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city's walls. The King agreed. Nehemiah got to Jerusalem and inspected the walls and found them in very poor condition and he convinced the leaders of Jerusalem to start a rebuilding project.

But not everyone was happy that they were rebuilding. Two guys named Sanballat and Tobiah mocked them and made fun of them. But Nehemiah and the people pressed on and began to have some success in the rebuilding. Once Sanballat and Tobiah saw that they were actually making progress, their mockery turned to anger and they got a bunch of Arabs together to fight the Jews as they were rebuilding.

So Nehemiah armed the people as they did their work. Half of the Jews built while the other half stood guard. Even those who were working kept a sword at their side, and those who were carrying supplies carried a weapon with one hand and the supplies with the others. Once their enemies saw that they were prepared for a fight, they backed off and the work continued.

Then their enemies decided that they would have to trick Nehemiah to get the work to stop. They started rumors that the Jewish people were rebuilding Jerusalem because they wanted to overthrow the Persians. They hired another Jew to try and trap Nehemiah in the temple alone where they could kill him. But Nehemiah pressed on and the work was completed. It took them 52 days to complete the walls of Jerusalem.

What You Will Need

Resource Sheet

Rebuilding Jerusalem Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts the Jews as they rebuilt Jerusalem, some building, and some guarding

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

Have you ever built anything? What did you build?

Today, we are going to learn about how the Jews had to build their city (Jerusalem) back. They had to build a temple again and the city walls again because their city had been destroyed.

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

We highly encourage you to use a Bible story-book to tell these stories to your children. Specifically, the Egermeier's Bible Story Book in this case. The following stories could be read:

  • "The Homecoming of the Jews"
  • "The Temple is Finished"
  • "The Walls of Jerusalem Are Rebuilt"

Or, tell the story yourself. Ensure you focus on the main characters in the story: Zerubbabel (who rebuilt the temple) and Nehemiah (who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem). 

3. Bible Mastery

give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Ezra 1:1-7, 4:1-5, 6:14-22; Nehemiah 1:1-11, 2:17-20, 6:15-16

4. Comprehension Questions

make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • Why was Jerusalem and the temple in a mess? (The Southern Kingdom, whose capitol was Jerusalem, had been conquered by the Babylonians and most of the Jews had been carried off)
  • Which King of Persia allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple? (Cyrus)
  • Who led the work to rebuild the temple? (Zerubbabel)
  • Who opposed the rebuilding of the temple? (The Samaritans, those from the Northern Kingdom)
  • What did the Jews do when the temple was finished? (they held a dedication service and celebrated the Passover feast)
  • Who led the work to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem? (Nehemiah)
  • Who opposed the rebuilding of the walls? (Sanballat and Tobiah and many from surrounding cities)
  • How did Nehemiah protect them from their enemies? (he had some standing guard while others worked, and those that worked kept a sword by their side)
  • What else did the opponents try to do to stop the work? (they started rumors about the Jews to stir up their enemies and they tried to trick Nehemiah into a trap)
  • How long did it take the Jews to rebuild the walls? (52 days)

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • In this story, God helped the Jews rebuild Jerusalem - the walls and the temple. He gave Zerubbabel and Nehemiah great faith and great courage to do the work.
  • When God asks us to do something for him, he will always give us the power to do it - his power. What does God want you to do? And how can we experience his power in our lives?

6. Memory Verse

hide God's Word in their heart
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:13

Reinforcement Activities

Flip Book

Scripture He told him, ‘Take these articles with you. Go and put them in the temple in Jerusalem. Rebuild the house of God in the same place where it stood before.’ Ezra 5:15

Supplies Scissors

  • Print the flip book below
  • Have students cut out each panel of the flip book with scissors
  • Show the students how to flip through the pages quickly to see the temple being built
Flip Book Example

How tall can you stack it?

Scripture I said to them, “You can see the trouble we’re in. Jerusalem has been destroyed. Fire has burned up its gates. Come on. Let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Then people won’t make fun of us anymore.” I also told them how the gracious hand of my God was helping me. And I told them what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let’s start rebuilding.” So they began that good work. Nehemiah 2:17-18

Supplies popsicle sticks, blocks, cards, dixie cups, etc.

  • Stack objects to see who can get them the tallest.

Building Snack

Scripture I said to them, “You can see the trouble we’re in. Jerusalem has been destroyed. Fire has burned up its gates. Come on. Let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Then people won’t make fun of us anymore.” I also told them how the gracious hand of my God was helping me. And I told them what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let’s start rebuilding.” So they began that good work. Nehemiah 2:17-18

Supplies snack items that are good for building a wall

  • Use marshmallows, cheese crackers, peanut butter, icing, etc to make a wall.
  • Eat and Enjoy!

Can the Wall Stand?

Scripture I said to them, “You can see the trouble we’re in. Jerusalem has been destroyed. Fire has burned up its gates. Come on. Let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Then people won’t make fun of us anymore.” I also told them how the gracious hand of my God was helping me. And I told them what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let’s start rebuilding.” So they began that good work. Nehemiah 2:17-18

Supplies blocks, boxes, or Dixie cups; styrofoam balls or balled up paper balls

  • Build a wall, using blocks, boxes or Dixie cups.
  • Throw styrofoam balls or balled up paper at the wall.
  • Can the wall stand?
  • The walls around ancient cities were designed to protect the city.

Red Rover, Red Rover, Send God's People Back Over

Scripture I said to them, “You can see the trouble we’re in. Jerusalem has been destroyed. Fire has burned up its gates. Come on. Let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Then people won’t make fun of us anymore.” I also told them how the gracious hand of my God was helping me. And I told them what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let’s start rebuilding.” So they began that good work. Nehemiah 2:17-18

  • Split students into two teams.
  • Each team stands at the edge of the play space and hold hands in a row.
  • One team begins and calls "Red Rover, Red Rover send (name of someone from other team) right over"
  • The person called runs toward the team and tried to break through their hands.
  • If you break through their hands, you go back to your own team.
  • If you do not break through their hands, you join their team.

Making Matzah

Heads up! This is a repeat lesson from lesson 14. Repeating these activities can help children draw connections from past lessons.

Scripture Those who had returned from Babylonia celebrated the Passover Feast. It was on the 14th day of the first month. Ezra 6:19

Supplies flour, water, oven

  • Matzah is the Jewish name for unleavened bread. It is a thin, wafer-like cracker. The process of making Matzah should be completed in no more than 18 minutes from start to finish, including baking time. This is to represent the dough that didn't have time to rise as the Hebrews quickly left Egypt. They put the dough on their backs, and while they were walking, the sun baked in into hard crackers. Matzah is eaten by Jews during the week-long celebration of Passover.
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup water (more , if needed)
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Place flour in bowl
  • Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in water, Mix.
  • Add more water, as needed until flour in mixed. Knead dough until soft, not sticky
  • Roll into a ball. Divide into quarters.
  • Roll each quarter into a circle. Place matzah on baking sheet and prick all over with a fork.
  • Bake for 5 minutes on each side, or until edges are golden.