Nehemiah (Ch 9-10)

A summary of their prayers of returning Jews led by the Levites (Nehemiah 9:4-38). When confessing their sins, they spoke as they were very moved by repentence, that they may be the more humbled and ashamed, and it is good to notice the mercies of God.

Let all remember that pride and obstinacy are sins which ruin the soul. Behold this sweet promise: a God ready to pardon! Instead of keeping away from God under a sense of unworthiness, let all come boldly to the throne of God, that all may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. He is a God ready to pardon.

Nehemiah 9

1 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting and with sackcloth and earth upon them. — now in the twenty and fourth day; the feast of tabernacles began on the fourteenth day, and ended on the twenty-second, all which time mourning had been forbidden, as contrary to the nature of the feast, which was to be kept with joy.

— but now, on the twenty-fourth, the next day but one after the feast, their consciences having been fully awakened and their hearts filled with grief for their sins, which they were not allowed to express in that time of public joy, they resume their former thoughts and, recalling their sins to mind, set apart a day for solemn fasting and humiliation.

And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. — the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers; it appears that the “strangers” are “the people of the lands,” or neighbouring heathen of whom there were at all times considerable numbers in Jerusalem; it was not fitting that these aliens should take part in a ceremony of which the main object was that the special people of God should renew their covenant with him;

— and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers: particularly their taking of strange wives, which their fathers had also done and set them a bad example which they had followed.

And they stood up in their place and read in the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God. — one fourth part, namely, from midday to the time of the evening sacrifice;

— both day and night were divided into four parts; the reading occupied the morning and the worship the afternoon. It is the latter which is now made prominent, as the former had been prominent in the preceding chapter.

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. — upon the stairs, of the Levites; or upon the platform or pulpits as the Levites used to stand upon when they taught the people;

— and cried with a loud voice unto the Lord their God; praying with great fervency, and making bitter lamentation for the sins of the people and their own.

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! — then the Levites said, Stand up and bless the Lord your God; if this prayer was uttered by all these Levites in common, it must have been prepared and adopted beforehand, perhaps, by Ezra; but it may only embody the substance of the confession and thanksgiving.

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 worshipeth Thee. — the host of heaven who worshipped God are the angels, as in Psalm 148:2Psalm 103:21

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; — thou art the Lord who didst choose Abraham; here follows a compendious history of the affairs of the Hebrew nation, which, it is likely was composed by Ezra or Nehemiah in the form of a prayer, and delivered to the Levites, that they might pronounce it distinctly before the whole congregation;

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” — Canaanites, etc; the nations driven out were actually seven (Deuteronomy 7:1), but it is a common figure of speech to put the part for the whole;

and didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red Sea; — and heardest their cry by the Red sea; which was before them, and the rocks on both sides of them, and the host of Pharaoh behind, pressing upon them, when he heard them, and wrought salvation for them, Exodus 14:10,

10 and showedst 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. — this epitome of the history of the Plagues shows acquaintance with Deuteronomy 6:22, ‘And the Lord shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his house.’

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 deep, as a stone into the mighty waters. — the fulfilment of this word by the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and their guidance through the wilderness to Canaan.

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. — moreover, thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar; the Israelites, to shelter them from the heat of the sun in a dry and barren wilderness:

— and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go; through a trackless desert, see Exodus 13:21.

13 Thou camest down also upon Mount Sinai and spokest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgements and true laws, good statutes and commandments; — and gavest them right judgements and true laws, good statutes and commandments; which were of excellent use to them in their civil and ecclesiastical polity; these were not spoken to Israel, but given to Moses on the mount, to be delivered to them.

14 and madest known unto them Thy holy Sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws by the hand of Moses Thy servant; — and madest known … sabbath Cf. Ezekiel 20:12. Apparently referring to the fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11. Cf. Exodus 31:16);

— but it is to be noticed that the observance of the Sabbath is prescribed if not presupposed at the giving of the Manna (Exodus 16:23-30) before the arrival at Sinai. The stricter observance of the Sabbath of Yehovah (thy sabbath) was a special feature of religious purity, reaffirmed by the teaching of Ezra and the Scribes, cf. Nehemiah 13:15 (Isaiah 56:2Isaiah 58:13).

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. — water for them out of the rock; Cf. Exodus 17:6. But a closer resemblance is afforded by Numbers 20:8, ‘And thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock.’ See Psalm 105:41, ‘He opened the rock, and waters gushed out.’

16 “But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks and hearkened not to Thy commandments. — dealt proudly; Cf. Nehemiah 9:10. In this verse and in Nehemiah 9:29 the word is used with reference to the children of Israel, as in Deuteronomy 1:43, ‘ye rebelled … and were presumptuous.’ Deuteronomy 17:13, ‘all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.’

— hardened their necks R.V. neck. Cf. Nehemiah 9:17Nehemiah 9:29. For the phrase ‘a stiff-necked people’ cf. Exodus 32:9Exodus 33:3Exodus 34:9Deuteronomy 9:6Deuteronomy 9:13. ‘To stiffen’ or ‘harden the neck’ is found in Deuteronomy 10:16, ‘Be no more stiff-necked,’ II Kings 17:14, ‘they would not hear, but hardened their neck, like to the neck of their fathers.’ Cf. Job 9:4.

17 And they 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. — in their rebellion appointed a captain; based on Numbers 14:4, and perhaps representing a tradition that the words ‘And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt’ were partially carried into effect.

18 Yea, when they had made them a molten calf and said, ‘This is thy God who brought thee up out of Egypt,’ and had wrought great provocations, — molten calf … Egypt; the language is based on Exodus 32:4, ‘… made it a molten calf, and they said, These be thy gods (marg. This is thy god), O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.’

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 show 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.

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 did Thou multiply as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land 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 did subdue 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. — so the children went in and possessed the land; not the fathers of the Israelites that came out of Egypt, they died in the wilderness, all excepting two, but their children.

25 And they took strong cities and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells dug out, vineyards and olive yards, and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate, 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 who testified against them to turn them to Thee; and they wrought great provocations. — nevertheless they cast thy law behind their backs; they neglected and despised thy laws, would not regard nor observe them;

— whereas they ought to have had them continually before their eyes, to direct and govern them in all their ways. The good things they enjoyed in the land which God had given them, made them wanton and forgetful of God and his commandments.

— slew thy prophets: ‘Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord,’ 1 Kings 18:4. Not many instances are recorded. But cf. Zechariah (II Chronicles 24; II Chronicles 20-22), Uriah the son of Shemaiah (Jeremiah 26:20-23). The martyrdoms of Isaiah and Jeremiah belong to Jewish tradition.

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 saviors who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.

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,

— MSG But then they mutinied, rebelled against you, threw out your laws and killed your prophets, The very prophets who tried to get them back on your side— and then things went from bad to worse. You turned them over to their enemies, who made life rough for them.

But when they called out for help in their troubles you listened from heaven; And in keeping with your bottomless compassion you gave them saviors: Saviors who saved them from the cruel abuse of their enemies. But as soon as they had it easy again they were right back at it—more evil. So you turned away and left them again to their fate, to the enemies who came right back.

They cried out to you again; in your great compassion you heard and helped them again. This went on over and over and over. You warned them to return to your Revelation, they responded with haughty arrogance: They brushed off your commands, spurned your rules —the very words by which men and women live!

They set their jaws in defiance, they turned their backs on you and didn’t listen. You put up with them year after year and warned them by your spirit through your prophets; But when they refused to listen you abandoned them to foreigners. Still, because of your great compassion, you didn’t make a total end to them. You didn’t walk out and leave them for good; yes, you are a God of grace and compassion.

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 judgements (which if a man do, he shall live in them), and withdrew the shoulder and hardened their neck and would not hear. — which if a man do, he shall live in them; Quoted from Leviticus 18:5, as also in Ezekiel 20:11. Cf. Luke 10:28, ‘This do and thou shalt live.’

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. — there was a continual succession of prophets from the time of Solomon to, and through the captivity. Q. but why were there no known prophets warning them of their impending Jerusalem inferno from AD 66 to 70?

31 Nevertheless for Thy great mercies’ sake Thou did not utterly consume them nor forsake them, for Thou art a gracious and merciful God. — gracious and merciful; the same words in Heb. as Nehemiah 9:17 ‘gracious and full of compassion.’

32 “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the fearsome 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. — our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God Cf. note on Nehemiah 1:5. See Deuteronomy 10:17, ‘the great God, the mighty and the terrible.’ Daniel 9:4.

33 Nevertheless, Thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for Thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly. — done right; R.V. dealt truly. Literally ‘truth’ that is, Thou hast fulfilled thy word both in blessing and punishment: but we have been unfaithful to the covenant;

— Cf. Daniel 9:14, ‘For the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth, and we have not obeyed his voice.’ The pronoun ‘we’ is emphatic; the speakers pass from reference to their forefathers, in order to accept for themselves the responsibility of association with the nation’s guilt.

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. — Thou didst testify against them; concerning all that has befallen us; because their sins deserved punishment and God is only fulfilling His word upon the sinners. Here, it serves to emphasize the subject;

— in the enumeration of the different classes of the people, the prophets are here omitted, because, as God’s witnesses, they are not reckoned among these who had transgressed, though involved (Nehemiah 9:32) in the sufferings that have fallen on the nation.

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. — they have not served thee in their kingdom; “In their kingdom” means “while they had a kingdom of their own and were not subjects as now to a foreign power.” 

— thy great goodness; the large and fat land. Compare Exodus 3:8. Although the limits of Palestine are narrow, yet the land which God flare to his people, extending as it did from the Euphrates to the river of Egypt (Genesis 15:18), might well he termed a “large” or “broad” land.

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. — we are servants this day; that is, we have now no kingdom, we are slaves – the Persian is our master;

— as we would not be God’s servants, we are handed over to him (comp. II Chronicles 12:8, where “the service of God” and “the service of the kingdoms of the countries” are contrasted).

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. — we are in great distress; we must remember that this language of complaint at the severity of the foreign rule and exactions showed that the effects of the foreign taxation upon the condition of the middle and lower classes were felt very acutely.

38 “And because of all this, we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests set their seal unto it.” — and our princes, Levites and priests, seal unto it; thus they either appended signatures as witnesses, or made marks to endorse the document and to testify to their approval, thus they would become witnesses against themselves if they dealt deceitfully;

— but prophets were not mentioned above; they often were used to warn of their sins and God’s impending judgements.

Nehemiah 10

Now those who sealed were: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hachaliah, and Zedekiah (Zidkijah), — Nehemiah the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah; the governor of the Jews:

— and Zidkijah; who seems also to have been a prince, since, without, it could not be said it was sealed by their princes, Nehemiah 9:38 though some think both these were priests, and then the princes must be supposed to be among the chief of the people, Nehemiah 10:14, from hence to the end of the twenty seventh their names follow;

— the names of the priests, Nehemiah 10:2, who were in all twenty one; no mention is made either of Eliashib the high priest, where some think he had not behaved well in his office; nor of Ezra the priest and scribe, who could have been either sick or returned to Babylon, 

Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, — Seraiah; the family name of the high-priestly house to which Ezra and Eliashib belonged, one of whom—probably Ezra—affixed its seal.

Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah,

Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch,

Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,

Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,

Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,

Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah; these were the priests.

And the Levites: both Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel.

10 And their brethren: Shebaniah, Hodijah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,

11 Micha, Rehob, Hashabiah,

12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,

13 Hodijah, Bani, Beninu.

14 The chief of the people: Parosh, Pahathmoab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,

15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,

16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,

17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,

18 Hodijah, Hashum, Bezai,

19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,

20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,

21 Meshezabeel, Zadok, Jaddua,

22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,

23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,

24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,

25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,

26 and Ahijah, Hanan, Anan,

27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah.

28 And the rest of the people —the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, every one having knowledge and having understanding — and the rest of the people;

— this may be understood in two different ways: (a) according to some it denotes the mass of the laity, as distinguished from their princes and elders, like ‘the people’ (Nehemiah 10:35), ‘the residue of Israel’ (Nehemiah 11:20), and ‘Israel’ (1 Chronicles 9:2);

29 they cleaved to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and into an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His judgements and His statutes; — and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God; they bound themselves with an oath that they would keep the law of God, and added a curse or imprecation on themselves to it should they break it;

— and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our God, and his judgments and his statutes; all the laws, moral, ceremonial, and judicial; this they engaged to do in general; some particulars follow.

30 and that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons; — this prohibition of intermarriage with the people of the land had been strenuously upheld by Ezra 9:2; the difficulty of enforcing it appears from Nehemiah 13:23-28. The words of the prohibition seem to be based on Deuteronomy 7:3 ‘Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.’ 

31 and if the people of the land bring wares or any victuals on the Sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath or on the holy day; and that we would leave the seventh year and the exaction of every debt. — that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day; any festival, as the feasts of the Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles:

— and that we would leave the seventh year: the ground untilled in that year, the vines unpruned, and the fruits of the earth, which sprung of themselves, for the poor to gather, Leviticus 25:4,

32 Also we made ordinances for us to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: — to charge ourselves; the origin of that annual rate for the general service of the Temple was lowered from half shekel, Exodus 30:13); due to the general poverty of the people, occasioned by war or captivity, this tribute was reduced to a third part of a shekel;

33 for the showbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering of the Sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. — to provide the showbread for the table; the shewbread consisted of 12 unleavened cakes of fine meal, which were laid fresh every Sabbath in two rows of six upon the table in the Holy Place;

— two lambs for the daily offerings, four for the sabbaths and more costly sacrifices for other festivals, occasional sin-offerings, and meat offerings and drink-offerings for them all, the charge of which was great and constant.

34 And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God according to the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law; — we cast the lots, to determine the time and order among the priests and the Levites in which each of them should take the care of the business;

— for the wood offering; Nehemiah 13:31. The supply of wood for the enormous number of sacrifices offered at the Temple of Jerusalem must have represented a large annual sum. The difficulty of procuring wood must have been very great: (1) the area of territory occupied by the Jewish community was small, (2) the trees in the neighbourhood must have suffered during the Chaldean invasion and siege.

35 and to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the Lord; — and to bring the firstfruits of our ground; not that they cast lots to do this, but they bound themselves with an oath to do it; this is the first of all the fruits of the earth, Exodus 23:19,

36 also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle (as it is written in the law) and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests who minister in the house of our God; — the firstborn of our sons; the firstborn of the children of Israel ‘from a month old’ were redeemed ‘for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary.’ Numbers 18:16; cf. Exodus 13:13Exodus 34:20;

— of our cattle, as it is written in the law; the firstlings of oxen, sheep and goats were not redeemed; they were holy; their fat was offered as a burnt offering; the flesh was the portion of the priests. See Numbers 18:17-19.

37 and that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests to the chambers of the house of our God, and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage. — that the Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage; that is, the tithes of all the fruits of the ground belonging to our several cities;

38 And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites when the Levites take tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tenth of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house. — and the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites; as the people gave the tithe of their land to the Levites, so the Levites gave a tithe of their tithes to the priests;

— and it is here ordered that when the people brought them to the Levites, one of the priests should be present to inspect them, and to see that they tithed the tithes, that is, set apart the tenth of the tithes they had received for the priests, which were brought to the chambers of the house of God, wherein they were deposited for their use.

39 For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers where are the vessels of the sanctuary and the priests who minister and the gatekeepers and the singers. And we will not forsake the house of our God. — the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering;

— the priests were not to be troubled with the conveyance of any of the offerings; the firstfruits and other oblations of the people were to be brought to the temple by the people themselves; and the “tithe of the tithe,’ which was the priests’ due, by the Levites. Thus the priests would not be drawn away from their duty of ministering in the temple by secular employments and matters of mere worldly business;

— we will not forsake, or neglect, the house of our God. We will not suffer, that is, any interruption of the continual service of the temple, we will not be parties to any neglect or slovenliness in the conduct of it. So far as we are concerned, everything shall be done to enable the priests and Levites to remain constantly at Jerusalem in full numbers, and to devote themselves wholly to their sacred duties in God’s house. With this emphatic declaration of their intentions the people concluded the engagements by which they voluntarily bound themselves.

~ by Joel Huan on June 1, 2022.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: