Lectionary Calendar
Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 9

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary



(1-38) The Fast, the Confession, and the Covenant.

Verse 1

(1) In the twenty and fourth day.—After one day of rest, the people assembled with all the tokens of sorrow, even to dust on the head (1 Samuel 4:12): the external signs and the internal spirit were one.

Verse 2

(2) The seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers.—The change to “seed” has here a deep propriety. They carefully avoided the many aliens among them throughout this fast.

And stood and confessed.—It must be remembered that these verses give the programme of what is afterwards filled up: the very praise for which they “stood” was filled with confession.

Verse 3

(3) One fourth part.—Both day and night were divided into four parts. All orders standing in their respective place, 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.

Verse 4

(4) Stairs, of the Levites.The scaffold of the Levites, without the comma: the steps of ascent to the pulpit of Ezra (Nehemiah 8:2).

Bani, and Chenani.—Probably, Binnui and Haman (Nehemiah 10:9-10).

Their God.—When the people are called upon (Nehemiah 9:5), it is “your God”; hence these eight Levites offered a prayer which is not inserted.

Verse 5

(5) Hashabniah.—Not found elsewhere. No reason is given why this company is somewhat different from the former; the LXX. arbitrarily omit all names after Kadmiel. Similarly, they insert “and Ezra said” before Nehemiah 9:6. The psalm was perhaps composed by Ezra, but uttered by the Levites in the name of the congregation.

Stand up and bless . . . Blessed be.—Or, let them bless.

Thou, even thou, art Lord alone.—The three phrases mark how the address to the people glides into direct adoration of God.

Thy glorious name.—Literally found again in Psalms 72:19 alone.

Verse 6

(6) Preservest them all.—In this comprehensiveness reproduced only in Hebrews 1:3.

The host of heaven.—First the stars, but here the angels (Psalms 103:21).

Verse 8

(8) The Hivites are for some reason omitted.

Verse 11

(11) As a stone into the mighty waters—Compare the Song of Moses, and mark in the Hebrew both the identity and the variation.

Verse 13

(13) Right judgements.—Five of the names given to the law of God in Psalms 119:0 are singled out and applied to the Sinaitic legislation first, and then to the subsequent ordinances of Moses generally. But the emphasis here is on the adjectives “right,” “true,” “good,” as belonging rather to the eternal principles of the Decalogue.

Verse 14

(14) Madest known unto them thy holy sabbath.—Every word here, as well as the prominence given to this among the other “commandments,” must be noted as illustrating the importance of this ordinance in the covenant of chapter 10 and throughout the book.

Verse 15

(15) Bread from heaven.—A change of phrase, which our Lord consecrated for ever (John 6:0).

Verse 16

(16) Dealt proudly.—Like the Egyptians themselves (Nehemiah 9:10). It is remarkable that the same word is used as in the Hebrew of Exodus 18:11 and Deuteronomy 1:43.

Verse 17

(17) In their rebellion.—Rather, appointed a captain to return to their bondage in Egypt. This is the reading of some MSS., followed by the Septuagint, and is in harmony with Numbers 14:4, though there the appointment is only proposed.

A God ready to pardon.A God of pardons; only in Daniel 9:9 and Psalms 130:4.

Verse 20

(20) Thy good spirit.—Probably a reference to Numbers 11:17; Numbers 11:25. The epithet given to the Spirit is in Psalms 143:10. But His teaching function occurs here only, and is a remarkable anticipation of the New Testament.

Verse 22

(22) Divide them into corners.—Strict usage of the term would require: Thou didst divide unto them [these nations] in their boundaries.

And the land.—There is a double reference to Sihon, king of Heshbon. This and Bashan were taken as the earnest of the possession of Canaan.

Verse 27

(27) Their enemies who vexed them.—The phraseology in this and the following verse shows that the Book of Judges is carefully remembered in the prayer.

Verse 32

(32) Here begins the prayer proper.

Kings of Assyria.—“The rod of God’s anger” (Isaiah 10:5). Pul, Tiglath-pileser, Shalmaneser, Sargon, Sennacherib, Esar-haddon, are traced in the sacred record as successive scourges.

Verse 34

(34) Our kings.—Note that the prophets are omitted in this enumeration.

Verse 37

(37) Yieldeth much increase.—In money and kind a very large amount was sent by Syria to the Persian treasury.

Over our bodies, and over our cattle.—For military service; but the priests do not omit themselves.

In great distress.—Not so much under the Persian yoke as in the remembrance of God’s judgments. The pathetic comparison between the Divine purpose in giving the land originally and their present bondage in it extends almost to every word.

Verse 38

(38) Because of all this.—On the ground of this confession, and to prove our sincerity.

Seal unto it.—On the sealed [document]. Each party impressed his seal on moist clay, which was then hardened. Sometimes these seals were attached to the document by separate strings. In Nehemiah 11:0, “those who sealed” is, literally, those on the sealed [documents], in the plural.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Nehemiah 9". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/nehemiah-9.html. 1905.
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