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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Nehemiah 9

 

 

Verses 1-37

Nehemiah 9:1-37. The Fast and a National Confession.—All that took place, as described in this section, was the result of the reading of the Law. The command to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles having been observed, there followed a spontaneous outburst of self-condemnation on the part of the people, who were conscience-stricken on account of having hitherto neglected to observe the Law; they had clearly been desirous of expressing their sorrow before (see Nehemiah 8:9), but it would have been inappropriate during the feast. Fasting and prayerful confession were fitly followed (see next section) by a solemn act of resolution of amendment.

Nehemiah 9:1. the twenty and fourth day: the second day after the celebration of the feast, i.e. in the seventh month (see Nehemiah 8:2).

Nehemiah 9:2. the seed of Israel: an appropriate expression in this connexion.—separated themselves . . .: the incongruity of those who were not strictly Jews taking part in what was to follow is obvious.—confessed their sins: viz. of non-observance of the commandments of the Law, not necessarily offences of a moral character. The confession was not personal but national; this has always been a characteristic of the Jewish Liturgy; both in prayer and praise, as well as in confession, the act is neither personal nor even congregational, but national; each congregation is representative of the Jewish nation as a whole.

Nehemiah 9:4. the stairs: presumably of the platform mentioned in Nehemiah 8:4.

Nehemiah 9:5. The text is not in order and there is uncertainty about the names.

Nehemiah 9:6-37. It is not said by whom this long prayer and confession was spoken, nor do the contents of it (a review of past history reminding one of Psalms 105, 106, 107) seem very appropriate in this connexion. Its general tone is prophetic rather than priestly. The whole of the passage, Nehemiah 9:6-37, is probably a later insertion. The opening words, the declaration of God as One and as the Creator of heaven and earth, strike a distinctly liturgical note. The passage calls for little comment, as it is made up of references to the OT history and of quotations, mainly from the Pentateuch and the Pss. It is worth mentioning that a characteristic of the Jewish Liturgy is the Scriptural tone of the prayers, into which OT phrases are woven. The late date of the passage before us is shown by the words in Nehemiah 9:20, "Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them," which echo a late conception (cf. Isaiah 63:11). The abrupt ending should be noted. [In the Heb. the new chapter begins with what is marked as Nehemiah 9:38 in RV.]


Verse 38

Nehemiah 9:38 to Nehemiah 10:39. The Covenant.—This section is probably originally from Ezra's memoirs, though it has been considerably worked over, presumably not by the Chronicler, since he writes in the third person. It is, in the main, written in the first person plural, and may in its present form have come from some loyal follower of Ezra or Nehemiah who writes as representing one of the people. The special points of the covenant are the undertaking not to marry foreigners, to observe the Sabbath more strictly, to remit debts in the seventh year, to pay a third of a shekel to the Temple, to supply wood for burning the sacrifices, to offer all the first-fruits, and to give tithes; with all this cf. ch. 13.

Nehemiah 9:38. And yet . . . this: better "because of all this"; these words are either intended to refer to the contents of Nehemiah 9:6-37, but this gives no sense; or else they are meant to introduce what follows. The text, however, is not in order. The verse is probably an addition by the Chronicler, and the abrupt way in which it is introduced suggests that it was inserted after ch. 10 had found its way in here.

Nehemiah 10:1. those that sealed: cf. Jeremiah 32:14. The number of seals which in recent years have been discovered during the excavations on different ancient sites in Palestine shows that there is nothing improbable about what we are here told. Apparently a document of some kind was drawn up stating the nature of what was to be undertaken, to this the seal was appended by each man, who thereby bound himself. We know, however, too little about all this to picture to ourselves with any certainty the actual procedure. In the list that follows, twenty-one names are those of priests, seventeen those of Levites, in addition to which there are forty-four names of "chiefs of the people" (Nehemiah 10:1-27). The rest of the people, not having any seal of their own, did not sign but took an oath "to walk in God's law" (Nehemiah 10:28 f.).

Nehemiah 10:30. The first person plural is taken up here again and continued to the end of the section.

Nehemiah 10:31. Cf. Nehemiah 13:16 and see Leviticus 25:2-7.

Nehemiah 10:32. This is a modification of the written law (Exodus 30:11-16), according to which a half shekel was the amount due.

Nehemiah 10:34. The mention of priests among those who were to supply wood shows that this section is not likely to have come from the Chronicler, to whom such a thing would have appeared unfitting.

Nehemiah 10:37. the cities of our tillage: i.e. our agricultural villages.

Nehemiah 10:39. the chambers . . .: i.e. the rooms situated round the sanctuary; cf. Nehemiah 13:4-12.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Nehemiah 9:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/nehemiah-9.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13
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