BOTH these men were highly esteemed by Artaxerxes Longimanus, the Ahasuarus of the book of Esther. They were noble men, well deserving the good opinion of the Persian king, and were remarkable for force and ability, as well as for honesty and faithfulness.

When the king gave Ezra permission to visit his countrymen at Jerusalem, he made a decree that the treasurers beyond the river should furnish Ezra with money and provisions, and that whatsoever Ezra or the God of Heaven should require for the house of the Lord should be done speedily; "For why," said he, "should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?" It would appear from this remark that the Persians had seen so many proofs of the divine power that even the king had learned to fear the God of Heaven, and seek his favor.

The decree also made it the duty of Ezra to appoint magistrates and judges to judge the people. He was to choose for office, men who knew the law of his God, and was to teach that law to those who knew it not. Power was also given him to punish those who would not obey the laws of his God and of the king, by sending them out of the country, by taking away their property and using it for the public good, or by putting them in prison. The king, his counselors, and many others gave large sums of money to be used by Ezra and the priests at Jerusalem in buying animals for sacrifice, and in such other ways as they might think best calculated to honor God and his worship.

When Ezra went up to Jerusalem, he was accompanied by a large number of his countrymen, probably about six thousand in all, including women and children. Before starting, all these were gathered in a company at the river Ahava. When Ezra looked through the company, he found no priest among them, and refused to go until priests could be found who were willing to join them. After some delay, about forty priests were obtained, and two hundred and twenty Nethenim, men whose business it was to assist the priests in the services of the temple.

Then Ezra carefully weighed out the gold and silver, and the costly vessels that had been given for the services in the temple, and gave all into the hands of the priests, to be kept and guarded by them while on the journey, and delivered into the hands of the chief of the priests and fathers when they should arrive at Jerusalem. 

When everything was ready for the journey, they fasted and prayed three days, consecrating themselves to their God, and asking him to protect them on their long and dangerous journey through the wilderness, which was then, as now, infested by prowling bands of fierce robbers. 

Ezra said he was ashamed to ask the king for a guard of soldiers, because he had spoken unto the king, saying, "The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him, but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him."

And the hand of the Lord did protect them; for in a little more than four months they accomplished, on foot, this dreary journey of at least seven hundred miles. We can easily imagine how joyfully they were received by their brethren at Jerusalem, who were in great need of help.

About thirteen years after Ezra went up to Jerusalem, Nehemiah heard that his countrymen in Judea were in great affliction and reproach, and that the walls of their city were still in ruins. This made him so sad that he wept, and prayed to God most earnestly, confessing his sins and the sins of his people, and pleading for the fulfillment of the promises that had been made them.

When Nehemiah was the king's cup-bearer; and when he came in, as usual, to wait upon his master, the king noticed the sorrowful expression of his countenance, and inquired into the cause of it. Then Nehemiah said, "Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?" The king cheerfully granted Nehemiah the privilege of going to Jerusalem to build the wall of the city and set up its gates. But the king thought so much of the company and services of Nehemiah that he made him promise to return at a set time.
For further particulars in the lives of these good men, our young readers are directed to the Bible; for each of them wrote a book which bears his name.
The example of these godly men deserves much praise. They were both favorites with the greatest king then living, and probably enjoyed all the luxuries that could be desired; yet they were anxious to leave all, and go to the aid of their poor brethren at Jerusalem. In this they manifested the spirit of our Saviour, who left the court of Heaven to come to the aid of sinful men. Let us all cultivate the same noble spirit!