In the earliest Hebrew manuscripts the book of Nehemiah was a continuation of the book of Ezra, and is the latest period of any of the historical books in the Old Testament. It covers the history of the Jews from about 446-405B.C. Because of its autobiographical technique, it would suggest that Nehemiah may have been the author.
Nehemiah, meaning 'comfort of the Lord', was a Jew who held the position of 'cupbearer' to King Artaxerxes of Persia. This meant that his responsibility was in protecting the king's food and drink from poisoning. Because of his loyalty and dedication to the King, he acquired a royal commission permitting him to help rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. While there, Nehemiah served as governor for twelve years and then returned to Babylon, where he remained for some time before returning again to Jerusalem.
The book of Nehemiah is divided into four sections: Nehemiah's first visit to Jerusalem, and the rebuilding of the walls in spite of much opposition; religious and social reforms; lists of names, and account of the dedication of the wall, and Nehemiah's second visit after 12 years' absence, and his further reforms.1
We can glean the following principles in reading the book of Nehemiah: the Lord blesses all who repent and faithfully come unto him; become anxiously engaged in a good cause and actively oppose evil; study the scriptures and in so doing, faith, courage, and inner peace will abound; and, we defile the Sabbath when we buy or sell on the Lord's holy day.
1 Holy Bible, Bible Dictionary, Nehemiah