If you missed last week’s plan, check out week 7 here.


Hello, and welcome to week eight of the Off the Shelf bible reading plan. We hope the last two weeks have helped you better understand the function and purpose of the prophetic books. This week we will finish our reading in the Old Testament as we read from the books of Nehemiah and Esther. In the bible, we can find both of these books before the wisdom literature we looked at in week five. However, from a historical perspective, these books take place following the prophets. In fact, they take place as God’s people begin to return from exile.

You may remember that in 586 BCE, God allowed the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and carry the people of Judah off to captivity in Babylon. In 539 BCE, Persia overthrew Babylon to become the greatest power in the known world. In that same year, Cyrus, the king of Persia, decreed that all exiles of all religions could return to their lands to rebuild their temples. This allowed the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem to begin to rebuild it. The book of Nehemiah begins almost 100 years later. Nehemiah not only helped rebuild the city but also helped restore God’s people to covenant relationship with him. We will spend the first three days this week reading from the book of Nehemiah.

The last two days this week, we will read from the book of Esther. The book of Esther takes place in modern Iran in a similar time frame as Nehemiah. This book is a story in the life of God’s people, in which the power of the Persian empire threatens them.

DAY 1  |  Today we will read the first two chapters of the book of Nehemiah. These two chapters set the stage for the work Nehemiah would do to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  Today, read Nehemiah 1-2

DAY 2  |  Today we will read Chapter 4 of Nehemiah.  This chapter records the opposition Nehemiah faced as he led the people in rebuilding the wall.  Today, read Nehemiah 4.

DAY 3  |  In Nehemiah Chapter 6 the wall is finally finished.  This is an important event in the book, but not nearly as important as what happens in Chapters 8-10. In these three chapters, the people read God’s law (the first five books of the Bible), confess their sin, and make an agreement about how they are going to commit themselves to God.  Today, read Nehemiah 8-10.

DAY 4  |  Today we will read the first two chapters of Esther.  As I mentioned above, this story gives us a snapshot of God’s people living in the Persian Empire. Today, read Esther 1-2

DAY 5  |  Today we will read chapters 3 and 4 of Esther.  If you have time this week, we would encourage you to read the rest of this book.  One thing that makes the book of Esther unique is that God is not mentioned in the book.  However, the paradox presented by the story of Esther is that God is powerfully present even when he is not overtly mentioned in the book. Today, read Esther 3-4

As we mentioned at the beginning of this week, this week’s readings conclude our reading in the Old Testament. For the rest of this reading plan, we will be reading from the New Testament. However, it is important to note that there are 400 years between the latest writings in the Old Testament and the first writings in the New Testament. These 400 years are sometimes called the silent years. While we do not have specific details in our Bible about what happened during this period, we do know that there were many developments in history and society. The most notable events during these 400 years were the rise of the Greek and Roman empires. Please keep this in mind as you prepare for next week’s readings.