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Friday, June 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 9

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Introduction

Nehemiah Chapter 9

Nehemiah 9:1 "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."

On our calendar, this would be the 24th day of October. The children of Israel, here, were determined to repent of their sins voluntarily, and begin again with their LORD. This was not a set time they were fasting, and mourning in sackcloth, and throwing dirt upon their heads. This was a time of their own choosing. Ezra had stopped them from weeping in sorrow when they heard the law read, because it was to be a festive time.

Nehemiah 9:2 "And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers."

The reading of the law by Ezra had opened their eyes to the reality of their sins. They wanted to repent, so they could begin again. They separated themselves from the world around them, and confessed their sins, and the sins of their fathers.

Nehemiah 9:3 "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."

This means they read the law for 3 hours, and confessed for three hours. The Levites actually read the law to them. They were sincere in their desire to seek God.

Nehemiah 9:4 "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."

Jeshua, Bani, and Kadmiel represented the three families of the Levites at that time. The leaders must lead in repentance, as well. The Levitical family was not free of sin, either. They must cry out to God for themselves, and then for the people.

Nehemiah 9:5 "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."

The people had been lying prostrate in grief before their LORD. They were, now, told to stand up and bless and praise the LORD. The Bible says the praise of the LORD should be done with both hands lifted to the LORD. This is a very humbling thing to do, but God inhabits the praises of His people. The proper way to praise the LORD is by lifting the hands, palms upward, that you might receive of the LORD. We have become so sophisticated in our churches today, that few do this. It is still important to do, especially in prayer.

Nehemiah 9:6 "Thou, [even] thou, [art] LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all 92 [things] that [are] therein, the seas, and all that [is] therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee."

This was a recognition of the LORD for who He really was. He is the Creator of everything. The angels in heaven even worship Him, as well. He is not only Creator, but Deliverer, and Preserver.

Nehemiah 9:7 "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;"

Nehemiah 9:7, spoke of Abram who was selected of God to be the father of all believers. His faith in God won him favor with God. His faith was counted unto him for righteousness.

Nehemiah 9:8 "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:"

The covenant that God made with Abraham was an everlasting covenant. The following Scriptures are the covenant God made with Abram who became Abraham. Genesis 12:1 "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:" Genesis 12:2 "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:" Genesis 12:3 "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." The land God promised Abraham was inhabited by seven heathen families, when God gave it to the Israelites. Deuteronomy 7:1 "When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;" God removed these 7 heathen families, and gave the land to His family Israel.

Nehemiah 9:9 "And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;"

These Israelites had been freed from hard labor in Egypt, when God sent ten plagues on Egypt. Pharaoh released them, after the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. God even opened the Red Sea that these same Israelites could walk over on dry ground. At the same time, He drowned all of the Egyptian soldiers who tried to follow them.

Nehemiah 9:10 "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."

God had defamed all the false gods of Egypt, and caused all the nations, who knew of His act, to realize that He was the True God. They did not know that He could be their God. They called Him the God of Israel.

Nehemiah 9:11 "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."

This is, again, speaking of the opening of the Red Sea to give Israel passage through the midst of the sea, and causing the Egyptian soldiers to drown.

Nehemiah 9:12 "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."

The presence of the LORD crossed the wilderness with them. His presence was seen of them in the fire by night and the smoke by day. They moved when the fire, or smoke, moved, and stopped when it stopped. He led them as a Father would a helpless child. He is the Light of the world. They would not dwell in darkness. The Light of the world was with them.

Nehemiah 9:13 "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:"

God came down the mountain and spoke the ten commandments to them. It frightened them so badly, they asked Moses to speak to God for them. They were without excuse, when they sinned with the golden calf, while Moses was on the mount getting the ten commandment on stone. He was gone 40 days and nights, but that was no excuse. They had heard in their ears, before he went up the mountain, these same commandments.

Nehemiah 9:14 "And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:"

This was speaking of the Levitical law and commandments. There were over 625 of them in the book of Leviticus. God gave them laws of religion, civil laws, dietary laws, etc. Moses received them of God, and gave them to them. These same laws were spoken of by the Jews as the law of Moses.

Nehemiah 9:15 "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."

The manna that fell from heaven fed them for their 40 year journey across the wilderness. When they had no water, Moses struck the Rock, and water came forth to quench their thirst. Look, with me, at what Jesus said about this Bread. John 6:50 "This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die." John 6:51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." 1 Corinthians 10:4 "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."

Nehemiah 9:16 "But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,"

This one verse is the story of these Israelites. The LORD would forgive them, and they would fall back into sin, over and over.

Nehemiah 9:17 "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."

They had been slaves in Egypt. They were so rebellious, they turned against God, and started to go back to Egypt. Moses prayed for them and God forgave them.

Nehemiah 9:18 "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;"

Nehemiah 9:19 "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."

The mercy of God always outweighed His judgement. They deserved to die for their sins, but God forgave them. This was the story of the Israelites the entire 40 years of their wandering in the wilderness.

Nehemiah 9:20 "Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst."

This was speaking of the nearly 3 million people being fed for the 40 years with manna that fell from heaven. The water, spoken of here, was the water that flowed from the Rock. This is, however, the first and only mention of the Holy Spirit being their instructor, in the Old Testament.

Nehemiah 9:21 "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."

There were so many miracles God had done for them in the wilderness journey, that we tend to forget the miracle of their clothes lasting 40 years. Not only did their feet not swell, but their shoes did not wear out either. These were really great miracles within themselves.

Nehemiah 9:22 "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."

We discussed in the previous lesson, how God took the land away from the 7 nations that lived in the area of the promised land, and gave it to the Israelites. The land was divided into 12 parts, and each tribe received their part. Sihon was king of Heshbon. Og was the Amorite king of Bashan. The giants came from this territory.

Nehemiah 9:23 "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]."

Approximately 75 people went into Egypt, and the nation of Israel, approximately 3,000,000, came out of Egypt. This was a tremendous increase. This near 3,000,000 people took the land of promise and dwelled in it, as God had promised.

Nehemiah 9:24 "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."

When they went in and took the land, as God had commanded them to do, God was with them and they won their battles. In most instances, God had instructed them to kill the people of the lands they conquered. They never did seem to quite rid the land of the Ammonites, Moabites, and the other five tribes. The Philistines were a constant thorn for them, as well.

Nehemiah 9:25 "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."

This truly was a land of milk and honey, as God had promised them. The olive trees and the vineyards were already planted by the people they overran. The children of Israel wanted for nothing. God had kept his covenant with Abraham.

Nehemiah 9:26 "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."

To be blessed beyond any other nation of the world, there was only one thing God asked of them. He asked them to keep His commandments and be faithful to Him. They did not do even that. They rebelled against God. They were disobedient at every turn. God sent them prophets to warn them, and they killed their prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were all said {by historians} to have been murdered. They angered the LORD by worshipping false gods, as well.

Nehemiah 9:27 "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."

It seemed to be a never- ending cycle. They would sin against God and bring His wrath upon them. Many times, His wrath was carried out by them losing a very important battle and losing many men. They would repent, and God would forgive them. They seemed to never learn. God sent judges, prophets, and priests to help them. God sent those like Samson and David to defeat their enemies. It was all the same. As soon as they were out of trouble, they returned to their false gods. The judges, Othniel and Ehud, were spoken of as saviours. When each judge was in control, God would give peace to Israel.

Nehemiah 9:28 "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;"

This is another way of saying the previous verse. It seemed not to matter how great the help had been from God,. they still would turn again to the false gods after their trouble was momentarily gone. Notice, God forgave them because He was merciful, not because they deserved to be forgiven.

Nehemiah 9:29 "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."

All of the wars they lost, and the famines that came, were to drive them back to the LORD and the law. They were a proud rebellious people, who felt they did not need the LORD. They did not keep the law, and did not even try to know what God’s law said. They wanted to be like the world around them

Nehemiah 9:30 "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."

God waited several hundred years for them to repent and turn to Him with a pure heart. He sent prophets to warn them of their evil deeds, and they took no heed. He waited about 260 years for the ten tribes to repent and turn to Him, but they did not. They went into captivity about 135 years before the tribe of Judah and Benjamin did. The main difference I saw in this, was the ten tribes did not have any kings who truly loved God and kept his commandments, and Judah had a few kings who sought God. Eventually, even Judah got so far away from God, that they were taken into Babylonian captivity.

Nehemiah 9:31 "Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou [art] a gracious and merciful God."

God loved them so much, that He always saved a remnant to start again. At the time this is being spoken, that remnant had come back to Judah to begin, again. Notice, Gods mercy was what saved them.

Nehemiah 9:32 "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."

The kings of Assyria were the rod of God’s anger. They were the instrument God used to punish the people, and make them repent. This was a reminder of the greatness of God. The people must never forget the punishment that came upon them for their sins. God is merciful and keeps His covenant. It is man who breaks the covenant.

Nehemiah 9:33 "Howbeit thou [art] just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly:"

This was admitting that as bad as the punishment had been from God on His people, they had brought it upon themselves by their sins. God had done what was right. It was the wickedness of the people that had brought on the terrible times.

Nehemiah 9:34 "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."

The Israelites were the only people in the world who had been given the law of God. All they had to do was live by that law. The ten tribes of Israel had no kings who kept God’s law. There were a few like Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah of the tribes of Judah that did right in God’s sight. Even they were overwhelmed finally by the sins of the people, and God punished Judah, too. Verse 34 is saying, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Nehemiah 9:35 "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."

While Israel and Judah were free and were not subjects to a foreign land, they did not serve God. They had everything, and threw it away in disobedience.

Nehemiah 9:36 "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:"

Even though the king of Persia had let them come back to their homeland to live, they were not out from under his domination. They still had to pay tribute to him. The children of Israel had never really been completely free since then, until 1948. Off and on they were in the land, but under domination of some other country.

Nehemiah 9:37 "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."

What God had intended to bless the children of Israel with, had in turn, blessed the kings who they were subject to. The Persian king was their master as they were speaking these words.

Nehemiah 9:38 "And because of all this we make a sure [covenant], and write [it]; and our princes, Levites, [and] priests, seal [unto it]."

This was re-establishing a covenant with their God. They did not want these same problems to come upon them, again. All of the leaders would sign this covenant, they had written down promising to seek God and His ways from henceforth.

Nehemiah 9 Questions

1. On the 24th day of the month, what did the children of Israel do?

2. When had they been convinced they needed to repent of their sins?

3. Nehemiah 9:2 tells us they ___________ themselves from all strangers.

4. They stood and ___________ their sins, and their father’s iniquities.

5. What did they do for 1/4 of the day?

6. Who represented the three families of Levites at the time in this chapter?

7. The Levitical family must cry out to God for __________, and then for the ________.

8. What are the people told to do in Nehemiah 9:5?

9. How should you praise the LORD?

10. What do they say about God in Nehemiah 9:6?

11. He is not only Creator, but ________, and ___________.

12. Where was Abram living, when God selected him?

13. His ________ in God won him favor with God.

14. What kind of covenant did God make with Abram?

15. Quote Genesis 12:1-3.

16. How many heathen people were living in the land God promised Abraham?

17. Where were the Israelites living in hard bondage, when God heard their cry?

18. What did God do for them at the Red Sea?

19. God had _________ the false gods of Egypt.

20. The nations around called God the God of __________

21. God led them with what?

22. At Mount Sinai, God spoke what to the people directly?

23. What did they ask of Moses, because they were frightened of God?

24. While Moses was on the mountain receiving the ten commandments on stone, what did the people do?

25. What law is Nehemiah 9:14 speaking of?

26. What is another name for it?

27. Who was the Bread from heaven that fed them on their journey?

28. What did Jesus call Himself in John 6:51?

29. Where does He call Himself the spiritual Rock?

30. The ________ of God always outweighs His judgement?

31. How many years did God provide manna for the Israelites?

32. How did he quench their thirst?

33. What is the good spirit in verse 1?

34. What miracles, that happened on their journey, were mentioned in Nehemiah 9:21?

35. God took the promised land away from _______nations, and gave it to Israel.

36. Sihon was king of __________.

37. Og was the ___________ king of Bashan

38. Their children also _______________ thou as the stars of heaven.

39. From the approximately 75 people who went into Egypt, ___________ came out.

40. In most instances, God had instructed them to __________ the people of the lands they conquered.

41. The ____________ were a constant thorn for them, as well.

42. What was already growing in the land they took?

43. God had promised them a land of ________ and ________.

44. Nevertheless, they were _____________.

45. What was the one thing God asked from the Israelites?

46. What did God do to cause them to return to Him?

47. Who did God send to warn them of their sins?

48. When they turned to God and repented, what did God do?

49. Which of the judges had been spoken of as saviours?

50. All the wars they lost, and the famines they suffered, were to drive them back to ______ and the _______.

51. God waited several hundred years, before He did what to them?

52. Why was Judah’s captivity over a hundred years after the ten tribes’ captivity?

53. God loved them so much, He always saved a ___________.

54. God’s ________ saved them.

55. The king’s of Assyria were the _________ of God’ anger.

56. Was God unfair with them?

57. Who were some of the good kings?

258. Who had let them come back to their homeland?

59. Were they truly free?

60. When did they become completely free?

61. What were they going to do, to show God their sincerity in keeping the covenant with Him?

Verses 1-4

Neh 9:1-4

Introduction

ISRAEL’S CONFESSION OF THEIR SINS AND THEIR OATH OF ALLEGIENCE TO THE GOD OF THEIR FATHERS

This chapter seems rather long, but no chapter could be long enough for an adequate record of the repeated apostasies of God’s Chosen People. Nevertheless, this abbreviation of them, along with the earnest confession of all the people, appears as one of the redeeming moments in the history of Israel, and as one of the stars in their crown of glory.

Despite all the wretched sins and shortcomings of Israel, there was indeed a righteous remnant that included the blessed apostles and prophets of the New Testament who were able, through the grace and blessing of God, to resist and effectually defy the brutal godlessness of the Three False Shepherds (Zechariah 11) and the hapless majority of racial Israel, led by the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians, and to welcome the Dayspring from on High. That glorious Righteous Remnant of Israel ushered in the Kingdom of God on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this wonderful chapter, we doubtless have some of the ancestors of that Righteous Remnant.

Nehemiah 9:1-4

THE LEVITES LEAD ISRAEL IN CONFESSING THEIR SINS

"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. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of Jehovah their God a fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped Jehovah their God. 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 Jehovah their God."

All of this great outpouring of grief and confession took place as a result of reading God’s law. "They had clearly desired to do this earlier (Nehemiah 8:9); but it would have been inappropriate during the feast." Therefore, they rallied for that purpose on the twenty fourth day of that same seventh month, the next month after the wall was built; and "This was only the second day after the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles."

A very important revelation of this chapter is that it was the Levites, and not the priests, who led Israel in this penitential prayer of confession and praise of God. From the Book of Malachi, we learn of the near total apostasy of the Jewish priesthood; and in Zechariah, they are clearly revealed as the false shepherds who destroyed the nation. There is not a word in this chapter that even hints of any priestly participation in this great repentance, confession and prayer. Some of them were even traitors in the employ of Tobiah and had even conspired to murder Nehemiah.

"The seed of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners" (Nehemiah 9:2). Keil noted that, "This is not primarily a reference to the dissolution of illegal marriages, but it is rather a voluntary renunciation of all connection with the heathen and of heathen customs."

"Then stood up upon the stairs ... Levites" (Nehemiah 9:4). "The stairs mentioned here are those leading up to the platform or podium, which had been used for the reading of the Law."

There follows at this point in the chapter a rather long prayer, ending in the solemn commitment of the people to be faithful to the God of Israel.

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 9:1. This month means the 7th (Ch. 8:14). That was a very important month with the Jews, for in it came the great day of atonement (10th day, Leviticus 16:29), and the feast of tabernacles that we have been considering. Now it was given added prominence by the public reading of the law. On the 24th day of the month the people came together into a voluntary season of fasting and other customary items connected with times of great concern.

Nehemiah 9:2. The law had restricted them from intimate association with strangers, which meant those on the outside of their own nation. They attended to that matter and made the required separation on this day. When the people of God commit a trespass against him, there are two things required to get back into the divine favor. One is to adjust the wrong, the other is to make confession of the same. The children of Israel did both with regard to their unlawful alliances.

Nehemiah 9:3. Two fourths of a day would reach to midday which would be an occasion for partaking of the necessities of life. Such an observance was had at the first reading of the law (Nehemiah 8:3; Nehemiah 8:9-12). This circumstance teaches us that even our religious activities are not expected to interfere with the actual needs of the body.

Nehemiah 9:4-5. In view of the preceding verses, I would conclude that from here on to the end of the chapter the writer is giving us some detailed information regarding the subject matter of those verses. The present paragraph very fittingly states the names of the men who led in the exercises, that they were Levites. That was appropriate in view of Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:9; Malachi 2:7. I shall make comment on the following verses because of the interesting subject matter. It will be found to be a resume of the dealings of God with his people, beginning with the creation and coming down to the exile in the land of the captivity.

Verses 5-8

Neh 9:5-8

Nehemiah 9:5-8

REHEARSAL OF GOD’S GREAT PROMISE TO ABRAHAM

"Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up, and bless Jehovah your God from everlasting to everlasting; and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. Thou art Jehovah, even thou alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, and all their host, the earth and all the things that are thereon, the seas and all that is in them, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee. Thou art Jehovah the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham, and foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, and the Perezzite, and the Jebusite, and the Girgashite, to give it unto his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous."

A profitable and acceptable feature of any prayer is a rehearsal of God’s promises and heartfelt praise for his fulfilment of them. All of the things mentioned here have been the subject of our extensive comments upon the Pentateuch, particularly in Genesis. It appears that during the whole history of ancient Israel that they seemed never to appreciate, nor even to remember, the reason why God called Abraham. That reason: "THAT IN THEE AND IN THY SEED (SINGULAR) ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED" (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 26:4).

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 9:4-5. In view of the preceding verses, I would conclude that from here on to the end of the chapter the writer is giving us some detailed information regarding the subject matter of those verses. The present paragraph very fittingly states the names of the men who led in the exercises, that they were Levites. That was appropriate in view of Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:9; Malachi 2:7. I shall make comment on the following verses because of the interesting subject matter. It will be found to be a resume of the dealings of God with his people, beginning with the creation and coming down to the exile in the land of the captivity.

Nehemiah 9:6. This verse is comprehensive. All of the material things mentioned had been worshiped by the heathen, and the Israelites had been guilty of joining in with the iniquity. They were making confession of that sin, and, as a specific expression to show that their acknowledgement was not only sincere, but that it was logical, they said the things they had been worshiping had been the creation of the one true God, whom they now promised to serve.

Nehemiah 9:7. The Lord the God was not merely a salute of honor, it had a significance based on the practice of the times. Lord means ruler and God means a being to be worshiped. These people had been ruled over by foreigners, and they had been worshiping false gods. This expression, then, was to distinguish between unlawful rulers and false gods on the one hand, and the true One on the other. The mere changing of a man’s name might not mean much, but in this place it did. Abraham means "father of a multitude," while Abram means merely "high father." It was therefore a promotion to have the change made for Abram.

Nehemiah 9:8. The promise made to Abraham that his descendants were to possess the land was made to him because God found him to be a man of faith. He proved his faith by his works, in that whenever he was told to do a certain thing he always did it. The nations mentioned were heathen people who usurped the possession of land already given to Abraham and his seed. Righteousness was ascribed to God on the basis that he kept his promises to his servants.

Verses 9-15

Neh 9:9-15

Nehemiah 9:9-15

REHEARSAL OF GOD’S DELIVERANCE OF ISRAEL FROM EGYPT AND HIS GUIDANCE OF THEM IN THE WILDERNESS

"And thou sawest the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red Sea, and showedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and all the people of his land; for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them, and didst get thee a name, as it is this day. And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their pursuers thou didst cast into the depths, as a stone into the mighty waters. Moreover in a pillar of cloud thou leddest them by day; and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light in the way wherein they should go. Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them commandments, and statutes, and a law, by Moses thy servant, and gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and commandest them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them."

(We submit as our commentary on these verses Our Commentary on Exodus.)

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 9:9. The afflictions in Egypt are described in Exodus 1, and the cry by the Red Sea is found recorded in Exodus 14:10, soon after leaving the land of Goshen.

Nehemiah 9:10. This goes back to the time prior to the event mentioned in the preceding verse. It refers to the 10 plagues, recorded in Exodus 7-12.

Nehemiah 9:11. This event is recorded in Exodus 14. It has been questioned whether the word dry is to be taken literally. The lexicon defines the original word "dry ground," so there should be no difficulty over it. But even that term would not necessarily mean it was 100 per cent free from moisture. We do not always use it in our everyday practice in that way. We could speak of a man’s wading out of a stream onto the dry ground even though the ground might be muddy. It was used in the present case with that general meaning. The persecutors were the Egyptians whose dead bodies were seen by the children of Israel on the seashore (Exodus 14:30).

Nehemiah 9:12. This unusual cloud was not a rain cloud. It was bright on one side and dark on the other (Exodus 14:19-20), and kept the Egyptians from approaching near the Israelites all the night as they were marching.

Nehemiah 9:13. The history is now moved forward to Exodus 19 and several chapters following. From Mt. Sinai God gave his law to the people. Some of these terms are more specific than others. Judgments especially refer to divine decisions that were necessary in cases of emergency, Statutes mean the formal enactments which God made independent of any certain cases. Commandments are more general, including both the other kind. True laws is a term whose significance is that the laws of God are in truth.

Nehemiah 9:14. Madest known. . . . holy sabbath. This declaration opposes the teaching of sabbatarians, that the sabbath day had been observed from the beginning. Had that been the case there would have been no occasion for God to make it known as late as the gathering at Sinai. Another thing in this verse to notice, is the commandments of God were given by the hand of Moses. That rebukes those who would distinguish between the authority in the law of God and that of Moses.

Nehemiah 9:15. The bread was the manna, and the water was furnished the children of Israel by having a rock at Sinai smitten.

Verses 16-25

Neh 9:16-25

Nehemiah 9:16-25

GOD’S MERCY UPON ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS;

HIS REJECTION OF THAT GENERATION; AND HIS BRINGING THEIR CHILDREN INTO THE PROMISED LAND

"But they and their fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their neck, and hearkened not to thy commandments, and refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them, but hardened their neck, 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, abundant in lovingkindness, amd forsookest them not. 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; yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of cloud departed not from over 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. Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst. Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not. Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and peoples, which thou didst allot after their portions: so they possessed the land of Sihon, even the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan. Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land concerning which thou didst say to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it. 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 peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they took fortified cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all good things, cisterns hewn out, 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."

(For our comment on the history of Israel as mentioned in these verses, see our commentaries on the Pentateuch, especially on Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.) There is practically no additional information provided by this chapter. An exception is the revelation that Israel actually appointed a captain to lead them back to Egypt. Numbers 14:1-4 has the information that such a move was suggested and recommended by some of the Israelites; but this is the only statement to the effect that they really appointed a captain to take them back to Egypt. Also, this writer does not recall any mention of the fact that their feet did not swell.

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 9:16. This is an admission of wrongdoing on the part of the fathers, which means their forefathers or early ancestors. Dealt proudly refers to their stubbornness and refusal to yield to the commandments of God. All disobedience may be charged to pride, and Paul teaches that in 1 Timothy 6:3-4. Hardened their necks is just another phrase for their stubbornness, and a stiff neck is used as a figure of it.

Nehemiah 9:17. Ingratitude is a common weakness of man, and is one of the most deplorable kind. Being unmindful of the deeds performed by the Lord for his people, the Israelites became restless while Moses was in the mount. Appointed a captain. to return to their bondage. This was done at the time the spies returned from their 40 days of research. The same is referred to by Stephen in his noted speech to the Jews (Acts 7:40). He had a different instance in mind from that in Numbers, but it is on the same line of conduct. These people in their wonderful speech acknowledged the mercy of God that was manifested, and that he did not forsake his people.

Nehemiah 9:18. The history of the molten (cast) calf is in Exodus 32. It would have been foolishly false to make a metallic image to worship only, but it was blasphemous to attribute their miraculous deliverance from Egypt to such ’a helpless thing. In doing that the children of Israel gave God cause for great provocation, so that it would have been just to cut them off from him entirely.

Nehemiah 9:19. But God’s great mercy tempered his justice, and caused him to continue his divine guidance by use of the supernatural cloud.

Nehemiah 9:20. The spirit of God directed the sayings of Moses, and he then gave them to the people. In this way the Lord gave his spirit to his people throughout the period of their relations to him in the wilderness. Also, in special instances he gave inspiration to others. See Exodus 31:1-3; Numbers 11:24-25. Another reference is made to the miraculous supply of bread and water. The bread was rained down from the skies in the form of manna, and the water was brought out of a dry rock.

Nehemiah 9:21. The naming of the 40 years as a period of miraculous support does not mean that God did not care for them at other times. But special interest is centered round that subject because the children of Israel were "on the go" during that time, and did not have time nor opportunity for producing the necessities of life; for that reason God provided them as needed. One method he used in supplying their needs was to prolong the wearing qualities of their clothes. Also their feet did not swell. This is from an original that Strong defines to "blister." Having no opportunity for replacing their shoes or sandals, and having to travel on foot, they surely would have become footsore had they not been miraculously cared for.

Nehemiah 9:22. Divide them into corners is rendered by Moffatt’s translation as follows: "allotting them every corner of the land," and the lexicon agrees. It means that God gave unto his people the land being held by the heathen. The ones that are named in this verse were east of the Jordan River.

Nehemiah 9:23. When they entered Egypt they numbered only 70 (Genesis 46:27), and they increased to over half a million men of war besides women and children by the time they left Egypt (Numbers 1:46).

Nehemiah 9:24. The promise to give all the heathen nations into the hands of the Israelites was made conditional. They were to make no covenant with those nations, but they did not fully observe the conditions. As far as they did so the Lord drove out the foreigners, and this verse should be understood in that light.

Nehemiah 9:25. This verse should be understood in the same light or with the same restrictions as the preceding one. Fat land means a land that was productive of the good things of life. Moses had promised that they were to go into a land already provided with these desirable things (Dent. 6 :10:11).

Verses 26-31

Neh 9:26-31

Nehemiah 9:26-31

THE CONTINUED DISOBEDIENCE OF THE PEOPLE AND THEIR MULTIPLE REBELLIONS AGAINST GOD

"Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their back, and slew thy prophets that testified against them to turn them again unto thee, and they wrought great provocations. Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their adversaries, who distressed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours who saved them out of the hand of their adversaries. 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 dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies, 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 thine ordinances (which if a man do, he shall live in them), and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear. Yet many years didst thou bear with them, and testifiedst against them by thy Spirit through thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless in thy manifold mercies thou didst not make a full end of them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God."

These verses are an abbreviated but sufficiently specific elaboration of the multiple apostasies of the Chosen People, which in the aggregate constitute the entire record of the Old Testament. Wonderful indeed are the mercies of the gracious God who found a way to forgive Israel over and over again. An apostle has told us that these things were "written for admonition" (1 Corinthians 10:11); and the great lesson for Christians is centered right here in this willingness of the heavenly Father to forgive the sins of his people, if only they will love God and be faithful to his word.

In the final section of this prayer, Israel pleads their phenomenal sufferings as the basis of their plea for mercy, confessing at the same time that they fully deserved the punishments God had laid upon them. Still, despite their sufferings, they made a solemn covenant (of obedience) and sealed it.

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 9:26. This verse is acknowledging the ingratitude of the nation of Israel. To cast the law behind the back means to go headlong in their own selfish way, regardless of the way the law would have them go. Slew the prophets. This doubtless took place on numerous occasions, but a noted instance was that by Jezebel in 1 Kings 18:4.

Nehemiah 9:27-28. This paragraph has special reference to the period covered by the book of Judges. The enemies into whose hand God sold his people were the nations in Palestine who were there when they crossed over into that land. They had been warned not to have any covenants with them, but to drive them out. They did not do so and God then suffered them to oppress his people to punish them. After a while his compassion would assert itself and he would raise up a man to deliver them from their oppressors and rule them for a time. Such men were called judges in that book but are called saviours in this paragraph. This in-and-out or up-anddown experience of the nation of Israel continued for 450 years (Acts 13, 20).

Nehemiah 9:29. Testifiedst against them was in order that they could not forget "what it was all about." That made their conduct to constitute a course of conscious disobedience. It placed them in the class of wilful rebels, entitled to the judgments of God. Withdrew the shoulder is figurative. Burdens were carried on the shoulders, and to withdraw the shoulder would mean to refuse to perform one’s duty or to help others bear the burdens of life.

Nehemiah 9:30. By thy spirit in thy prophets. This teaches that the prophets spoke to the people for God, and in order to do so needed to be inspired. See Hebrews 1:1.

Nehemiah 9:31. The nation was not utterly destroyed, but it was not because it did not deserve to be. The reason was that God was merciful and not willing to see it given up to complete ruin. That is still the reason that man is suffered to live on in his unworthiness. See 2 Peter 3:9.

Verses 32-38

Neh 9:32-38

Nehemiah 9:32-38

ISRAEL HAD INDEED RETURNED;

BUT THEY WERE STILL SERVANTS OF THE KINGS OF PERSIA

"Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and lovingkindness, let not all the travail seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, upon 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. Howbeit thou art just in all that has come upon us; for thou hast dealt truly, but we have done wickedly; 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. 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. Behold, we are servants this day, and as for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it. And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have power over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress. And yet for all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, our Levites, and our priests, seal unto it."

Alas, for Israel, their sinful kingdom would never be restored. Their nation would continue to be subject to the Persians, to the Greeks, and then to the Romans, until the promised Messiah would suddenly appear.

God’s prophets, whom they had despised and murdered and whose words they scornfully rejected, would come no more. With Zechariah and Malachi, who were contemporaries of Nehemiah, the age of the prophets terminated. They were the last of the prophets until John the Baptist, in the spirit and power of Elijah, would thunder the message from the wilderness, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of God is at hand,"

Their priesthood became more and more reprobate; and God even cursed it; and, by the times of Christ, the Temple itself had become a "den of thieves and robbers." There is no tragedy like that of Israel; and something of the infinite pathos of their judicial hardening, of their rejection and murder of the Son of God, and of God’s destruction of their nation in just retribution of their wickedness - something of the pathos and tragedy of racial Israel, as distinguished from the true Israel, appears in this pitiful prayer of the Levites who tried in vain to bring the racial Israel back to God.

E.M. Zerr:

Nehemiah 9:32. This plea does not deny any of the sins of the nation for which it had been punished. It is a plea for mercy and relief from the trouble. Terrible God means he is a God to be feared or respected, because he is a terror against evil. Keepest covenant and mercy. God never breaks his covenant with his people, but they often do so with him. In that case it would be just to reject them, but mercy intercedes in their behalf and gives them another chance to serve the Lord.

Nehemiah 9:33. The speakers confessed that God was just in what he had brought upon them in the way of punishment. That does not mean, how• ever, that they had received all that justice would have demanded. The reason they had not was the mercy of God.

Nehemiah 9:34. No class of the nation, whether official or private person, had kept the law. This fact will be noticed in many places when we come to the prophetic books. But while all were guilty, the leaders were held chiefly responsible because of their position of authority which gave them some advantages over the people.

Nehemiah 9:35. The advantages mentioned in a general way in the preceding verse are specified in this. Their dom. and large and fat land made them king- especially responsible because of special opportunities for doing the service of God. The same principle was taught by Christ in Luke 12:48.

Nehemiah 9:36-37. We are servants; but they were not bondservants. The end of the 70 years of captivity brought an end to their service of that class. But the land was still in the possession of the foreign powers, and the Jews were enjoying it by the favor of those powers. The land was productive after the period of the 70 years of rest. In fact that was the purpose God had for requiring the rest of every 7th year, that the land might become more productive of the necessities of life (Leviticus 25:6). The captivity gave the land this rest so that at the time this great speech was being made the land yielded much increase. But the Jews were enjoying it at that time as a favor from the heathen only. That made them virtual servants, whereas they should have been using it as if the land belonged to them. Such a privilege was the purpose of God upon the return from captivity and readjustment of all affairs. That readjustment was to come upon condition of a complete reformation of the nation. Such a work was in the intentions of the nation, and they made their long and penitent prayer and confession preparatory to a solemn covenant (or promise) to comply with the requirements of the law.

Nehemiah 9:38. The prayer and speech concluded with an expressed determination to make the promise official and binding by seal or signatures. That could be done either by literally writing their names to the document, or by publicly authorizing Nehemiah and Ezra to put their names down.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Nehemiah 9". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/nehemiah-9.html.
 
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