Nehemiah 9

Following the discovery of the Scriptures the people praise God, repent, and renew their covenant
1 ¶ Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
 2 And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. 
 3 And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.
.4 ¶ Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto the LORD their God. 
  1 - This month October 444 BC.
  1 - Sackclothes These must have been very uncomfortable. The "earth" would have been on their heads. Compare the sorrow of Jacob ge3734. Also 2sa0331, 1ki2127.
  2 - Separated themselves Compare ne1028 where they mingled again.
  3 - Stood Apparently meaning that they stayed in their places while the repentance was happening. Confession would most likely have been in kneeling or facing the ground ezr0904, ezr1001.
  4 - Stairs Literally "ascent." Probably an elevated platform from where they could lead the people.
 5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
.6 Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.
  6 - Thou art Lord alone False gods were called "Baal" which literally means "lord." Here Yahweh (Jehovah), the Israelite Lord, was acknowledged as the only one to be followed 1ki1821. Like the other nations they were to have driven out, the people of Israel tended to worship other gods along with the creator God.
  6 - Thou hast made This is the essence of true worship. See on re1407.
 7 Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;
 8 And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous:
 9 And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;
 10 And shewedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them. So didst thou get thee a name, as it is this day.
 11 And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters.
.12 Moreover thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go.
  12 - Leddest From ex1321.
 13 Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: 
.14 And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:
 15 And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.
  14 - Holy Sabbath Notice that this is the only one of the ten commandments which is mentioned. It is not reasonable to suppose that it was only a principle of one day in seven. Of course that law was clarified well by the experience of the manna which did not fall on the Sabbath ex1614. See the next verse and a page of links about the weekly Sabbath.
.16 But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,
.17 And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not. 
 18 Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;
  17 - In their rebellion ... captain See nu14.
  18 - Molten calf See ex3204.
  18 - Great provocations Better translated "great blasphemies" as the word is translated in ez3512. Of course the two have essentially the same meaning.
 19 Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go.
.20 Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.
.21 Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.
  20 - Good spirit The Holy Spirit was at work in the OT although apparently more in the background. Also in ps14310 and implied in ps03208. The 70 elders had the spirit of prophecy nu1117, nu1125.
  21 - Lacked nothing See de0207, de0804
 22 Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan.
 23 Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it.
 24 So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would.
  22 - Corners The Hebrew word pe'ah also means side, fringe, or border. This last is the meaning intended here. They were border territories of Israel. The NIV reads "even the remotest frontiers."
  23 - Stars of heaven Reference to the promise to Abraham ge1505, ge2217. They did multiply ex0107.
.25 And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness. 
 26 Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.
 27 Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.
  25 - Strong cities These included Jericho (Joshua 6), Lachish, (10:32), Hazor (11:11) and others.
  25 - Fat land See nu1407,8, de0807-9, 2ki1832. For houses full of goods, see de0611. Trees of Palestine were olive, fig, sycamore, pomegranate, almond, walnut, and mulberry. Fatness was then something to be desired, however becoming fat  was connected with reproof. See je5011, ez3420
 28 But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies; 
.29 And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.
  28 - Rest See jg0311, jg0330, jg0531, etc.
  29 - Withdrew the shoulder An idiom meaning turning away from their task. See ho0416, zc0711. Reference to the time of the kings.
 30 Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands. 
 31 Nevertheless for thy great mercies' sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.
  30 - Forbear them God waited during the time of 20 wicked kings. Judah was nearly as bad.
 32 Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day. 
.33 Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly:
 34 Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them.
.35 For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works.
  32 - Great God ... covenant "God's fidelity to His covenant is prominently acknowledged, and well it might; for their whole national history bore testimony to it. But as this could afford them little ground of comfort or of hope while they were so painfully conscious of having violated it, they were driven to seek refuge in the riches of divine grace; and hence the peculiar style of invocation here adopted: 'Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy.'" (JFB commentary)
  33 - Thou art just Confession of guilt. See on is4322-28.
  34 - Neither ... kings ... Those in leadership have a fearful responsibility. The neglect of the people can't be excused because of wicked kings but the kings are responsible for their example and for the souls who followed it ez0318. The list here is apparently in the order of responsibility of each class.
  35 - Their kingdom Referring to the past government of Judah. Then they served pagan gods.
 36 Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it:
 37 And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.
  36 - We are servants Having refused to serve the true God, He allowed them to be given as slaves to a foreign government je0519.
  37 - Much increase ... kings ... over us The Persian monarchs profited from required money. They used Jews as slave soldiers and thus had dominion over their bodies, too.
.38 And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.   Covenant We, too, need to renew our pledge of loyalty to the Lord from time to time.
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