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Humble in the Citadel of Susa

Rev. Enoch Thompson | October 15, 2023 | Nehemiah 1:1-4


. . . while I was in the citadel of Susa. Nehemiah 1:1-2 (NIV)


In the next few weeks, we shall be reflecting upon the fifth-century narrative concerning the people of Israel in their attempts to restore their nation after the Babylonian captivity. The book is named after the man Nehemiah who played a leading role in this great restoration of Israel, not only by the rebuilding of the walls but also the restoring of confidence, identity, spirituality, and social justice among the people. We believe that every one of us is in the process of building or rebuilding something (life career, a relationship, a physical house, our commitment to God etc), and the lessons we gather from this history of Israel will give us some guidance in how best we attain our goals. We shall also look at the man Nehemiah along the way, for the works of a person cannot be done without the involvement of the character of the person.

For our reflection today we want to focus on an aspect of the person of Nehemiah; he was a humble man. God loves humble people and finds them useful to His course. Chapter 1 of Nehemiah brings up the crisis situation of Israel, as in the state of the walls, and in the spiritual and economic conditions of those Jews who were left behind when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem. Nehemiah introduces himself as one who was in the citadel of Susa. Was he there as a lowly cleaner, gardener, or jester? Though all these roles, done in the citadel, may have a dignified appearance, we learn at the end of the chapter from Nehemiah “I was cupbearer to the king.” Nehemiah 1:11 (NIV).

A cupbearer to the king was a prominent position. The very life of the king depended on his cupbearer who could be used easily by his enemies to poison his drink and was therefore a very notable and esteemed office. However, Nehemiah does not introduce himself at the start by the honourable position he occupied. The matters touching the conditions of Jerusalem were more important to him than flaunting who he was, what political power he wielded and what he might have had. Similarly, James introduces himself as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” James 1:1 (NIV), when indeed he was a brother of the Lord Jesus. Humility is always the best policy.


What is it that defines you? Reflect on your self-definition and your sense of self-importance, in relation to what you really are, and also what you think you are.

Remember Romans 12:3 (NIV), “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

Determine to adopt humility without devaluing yourself.


Lord Jesus Christ, though you were God, you chose to humble yourself by taking on the form of humans and died a shameful death too. Please help me to adopt the attitude of humility, now and always. For your dear Name’s sake. Amen!



The word "citadel" is translated from the Hebrew word: "בְּירָה" (bîrâ): This word is commonly used to refer to a fortress, stronghold, or citadel. It indicates a fortified place for protection or defence.

In scriptures, the word is used as follows:

  • Fortification and Defense: "Bîrâ" is often used in the Old Testament to describe fortified cities or strongholds where people sought refuge and protection from enemies (e.g., 2 Samuel 5:9, 1 Chronicles 11:7).

  • Symbol of Strength: The citadel symbolizes strength, security, and the ability to withstand attacks. It is a place of strategic importance.

In Nehemiah 1:1-2, Nehemiah mentions being in the citadel of Susa. Susa was a significant city in the Persian Empire, and the citadel was likely a fortified area within the city walls. Nehemiah's location in the citadel sets the stage for the events that follow, including his concern for the state of Jerusalem.

Considering our word study in relation to our devotional for today, we observe the following:

  1. Humbling Surroundings: Nehemiah, despite being in a position of influence in the citadel, demonstrates humility by seeking the welfare of God's people. Humility can flourish even in places of prominence.

  2. Strength in Humility: The citadel, a symbol of strength, takes on new meaning when humility is present. True strength is found not in grandeur but in a humble heart that cares for others.

  3. Strategic Humility: Nehemiah's humility is not a weakness but a strategic approach to leadership. Humility positions us to lead with empathy, understanding, and genuine concern for others.


How can we embody humility in our places of influence, transforming them into citadels of strength, protection, and genuine care for those around us?

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