|<< Nehemiah 9 >>|
Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
The day of general fasting and prayer. - On the twenty-fourth day of the month, i.e., two days after the termination of the feast of tabernacles, the children of Israel re-assembled in the temple to humble themselves before God with mourning and fasting, and, after the reading of the law, to confess their own sins and the sins of their fathers (Nehemiah 9:1-3). After the Levites had invited them to praise God (Nehemiah 9:4, Nehemiah 9:5), a general confession was made, in which the congregation was reminded of all the grace and favour shown by God to His people, from the days of Abraham down to the time then present; and all the departures of the people from their God, all their rebellions against Him, were acknowledged, to show that the bondage and oppression to which Israel was not subjected were the well-deserved punishment of their sins (vv. 6-37). This confession of sin much resembles the confession of the faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of Israel in the Psalm 106:1, both in its plan and details, but differs from this "Hallelujah Psalm" in the circumstance that it does not rise to the praise of God, to the hallelujah, but stops at the confession that God is righteous and true in all that He has done, and that Israel has done wickedly, without definitely uttering a request for pardon and deliverance from oppression.
1Now 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 the twenty-second of Tishri was the Hazereth of the feast of tabernacles; on the twenty-fourth the congregation re-assembled in the temple, "with fasting and with sackcloths (penitential garments made of hair; see rem. Joel 1:8) and earth upon them," i.e., spread upon their heads (1 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2; Job 2:12), - the external marks of deep mourning and heaviness of heart.
2And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
"And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed all their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers." This separation from strangers does not specially relate to the dissolution of the marriages contracted with heathen women, nor to any measures taken that only Israelites should be admitted to this assembly (Bertheau). It was rather a voluntary renunciation of connection with the heathen, and of heathen customs.
3And 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.
And they stood up (i.e., remained standing) in their place (comp. Nehemiah 8:7), and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God, i.e., listened to the reading of the law, a fourth part of the day (about three hours), and a fourth part (the next three hours) they confessed (made a confession of their sins), and worshipped the Lord their God. This confession and worship is more nearly described vv. 4-37.
4Then 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.
There stood upon the scaffold of the Levites, i.e., upon the platform erected for the Levites (comp. Nehemiah 8:4), Jeshua and seven other Levites whose names are given, and they cried with a loud voice to God, and said to the assembled congregation, "Stand up, bless the Lord your God for ever and ever! and blessed be the name of Thy glory, which is exalted above all blessing and praise." The repetition of the names of the Levites in Nehemiah 9:5 shows that this invitation to praise God is distinct from the crying to God with a loud voice of Nehemiah 9:4, and seems to say that the Levites first cried to God, i.e., addressed to Him their confessions and supplications, and after having done so, called upon the congregation to worship God. Eight names of Levites being given in both verses, and five of these - Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, and Sherebiah - being identical, the difference of the three others in the two verses - Bunni, Bani, and Chenani (Nehemiah 9:4), and Hashabniah, Hodijah, and Pethahiah (Nehemiah 9:5) - seems to have arisen from a clerical error, - an appearance favoured also by the circumstance that Bani occurs twice in Nehemiah 9:4. Of the other names in question, Hodijah occurs Nehemiah 10:14, and Pethahiah Ezra 10:23, as names of Levites, but כּנני and חשׁבניה nowhere else. Hence Bunni, Bani, and Chenani (Nehemiah 9:4), and Hashabniah (Nehemiah 9:5), may be assigned to a clerical error; but we have no means for restoring the correct names. With regard to the matter of these verses, Ramb. remarks on Nehemiah 9:4 : constitisse opinor omnes simul, ita tamen ut unus tantum eodem tempore fuerit precatus, ceteris ipsi adstantibus atque sua etiam vice Deum orantibus, hence that the eight Levites prayed to God successively; while Bertheau thinks that these Levites entreated God, in penitential and supplicatory psalms, to have mercy on His sinful but penitent people. In this case we must also regard their address to the congregation in Nehemiah 9:5 as a liturgical hymn, to which the congregation responded by praising God in chorus. To this view may be objected the circumstance, that no allusion is made in the narrative to the singing of penitential or other songs. Besides, a confession of sins follows in vv. 6-37, which may fitly be called a crying unto God, without its being stated by whom it was uttered. "This section," says Bertheau, "whether we regard its form or contents, cannot have been sung either by the Levites or the congregation. We recognise in it the speech of an individual, and hence accept the view that the statement of the lxx, that after the singing of the Levites, Nehemiah 9:4, and the praising of God in Nehemiah 9:5, Ezra came forward and spoke the words following, is correct, and that the words καὶ εἶπεν Ἔσδρας, which it inserts before Nehemiah 9:6, originally stood in the Hebrew text." But if Psalms, such as Psalm 105-106, and 107, were evidently appointed to be sung to the praise of God by the Levites or by the congregation, there can be no reason why the prayer vv. 6-37 should not be adapted both in form and matter for this purpose. This prayer by no means bears the impress of being the address of an individual, but is throughout the confession of the whole congregation. The prayer speaks of our fathers (Nehemiah 9:9, Nehemiah 9:16), of what is come upon us (Nehemiah 9:33), addresses Jahve as our God, and says we have sinned. Of course Ezra might have uttered it in the name of the congregation; but that the addition of the lxx, καὶ εἶπεν Ἔσδρας, is of no critical value, and is a mere conjecture of the translators, is evident from the circumstance that the prayer does not begin with the words יהוה הוּא אתּה of v. 6, but passes into the form of direct address to God in the last clause of v. 5: Blessed be the name of Thy glory. By these words the prayer which follows is evidently declared to be the confession of those who are to praise the glory of the Lord; and the addition, "and Ezra said," characterized as an unskilful interpolation.
According to what has now been said, the summons, יהוה את בּרכוּ קוּמוּ, Nehemiah 9:5, like the introductions to may Hodu and Hallelujah Psalms (e.g., Psalm 105:1; Psalm 106:1), is to be regarded as only an exhortation to the congregation to praise God, i.e., to join in the praises following, and to unite heartily in the confession of sin. This view of the connection of Nehemiah 9:5 and Nehemiah 9:6 explains the reason why it is not stated either in Nehemiah 9:6, or at the close of this prayer in Nehemiah 9:37, that the assembled congregation blessed God agreeably to the summons thus addressed to them. They did so by silently and heartily praying to, and praising God with the Levites, who were reciting aloud the confession of sin. On ויברכוּ R. Sal. already remarks: nunc incipiunt loqui Levitae versus Shechinam s. ad ipsum Deum. The invitation to praise God insensibly passes into the action of praising. If, moreover, vv. 6-37 are related in the manner above stated to Nehemiah 9:5, then it is not probable that the crying to God with a loud voice (Nehemiah 9:4) was anything else than the utterance of the prayer subsequently given, vv. 6-37. The repetition of the names in Nehemiah 9:5 is not enough to confirm this view, but must be explained by the breadth of the representation here given, and is rescued from the charge of mere tautology by the fact that in Nehemiah 9:4 the office of the individuals in question is not named, which it is by the word הלויּם in Nehemiah 9:5. For הלויּם in Nehemiah 9:4 belongs as genitive to מעלה, and both priests and laymen might have stood on the platform of the Levites. For this reason it is subsequently stated in Nehemiah 9:5, that Jeshua, etc., were Levites; and in doing this the names are again enumerated. In the exhortation, Stand up and bless, etc., Bertheau seeks to separate "for ever and ever" from the imp. בּרכוּ, and to take it as a further qualification of אלהיכם. This is, however, unnatural and arbitrary; comp. 1 Chronicles 16:26. Still more arbitrary is it to supply "One day all people" to ויברכוּ, "shall bless Thy name," etc. וגו וּמרומם adds a second predicate to שׁם: and which is exalted above all blessing and praise, i.e., sublimius est quam ut pro dignitate laudari possit (R. Sal.).
5Then 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.
6Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.
In Nehemiah 9:6 this praising of God begins with the acknowledgment that Jahve, the Creator of heaven and earth, chose Abram and made a covenant with him to give the land of Canaan to his seed, and had performed this word (Nehemiah 9:6-8). These verses form the theme of that blessing the name of His glory, to which the Levites exhorted. This theme is then elucidated by facts from Israel's history, in four strophes. a. When God saw the affliction of His people in Egypt, He delivered them by great signs and wonders from the power of Pharaoh, gave them laws and judgments on Sinai, miraculously provided them with food and water in the wilderness, and commanded them to take possession of the promised land (Nehemiah 9:9-15). b. Although their fathers rebelled against Him, even in the wilderness, God did not withdraw His mercy from them, but sustained them forty years, so that they lacked nothing; and subdued kings before them, so that they were able to conquer and possess the land (Nehemiah 9:16-25). c. After they were settled in the land they rebelled again, and God delivered them into the hand of their oppressors; but as often as they cried unto Him, He helped them again, till at length, because of their continued opposition, He gave them into the power of the people of the lands, yet of His great mercy did not wholly cast them off (Nehemiah 9:26-31). d. May He now too look upon the affliction of His people, as the God that keepeth covenant and mercy, although they have deserved by their sins the troubles they are suffering (Nehemiah 9:32-37).
"Thou art Jahve alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, and all their host, the earth and all that is thereon, the sea and all therein; and Thou givest life to them all, and the host of heaven worshippeth Thee. Nehemiah 9:7 Thou art Jahve, the God who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham: Nehemiah 9:8 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 to his seed, and hast performed Thy word; for Thou art righteous." Jahve alone is God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all creatures in heaven and on earth. In order duly to exalt the almightiness of God, the notion of heaven is enhanced by the addition "heaven of heavens," as in Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; and that of earth by the addition "the sea and all therein;" comp. Psalm 146:6. כּל־צבאם, Genesis 2:1, here refers only to heaven. מחיּה, to cause to live equals to give and preserve life. כּלּם relates to all creatures in heaven and earth. The host of heaven who worshipped God are the angels, as in Psalm 148:2; Psalm 103:21. This only God chose Abram; comp. Genesis 12:1 with Genesis 11:31 and Genesis 15:7; Genesis 17:5, where God bestowed upon the patriarch Abram the name of Abraham. The words, "Thou foundest his heart faithful," refer to בּיהוה האמין there mentioned. The making of a covenant alludes to Genesis 17:5.; the enumeration of six Canaanitish nations to Deuteronomy 7:1; Exodus 3:8; comp. with Genesis 15:20. This His word God performed (fulfilled), for He is righteous. God is called צדּיק, inasmuch as with Him word and deed correspond with each other; comp. Deuteronomy 32:4.
7Thou 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;
8And 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:
9And didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red sea;
The fulfilment of this word by the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and their guidance through the wilderness to Canaan.
"And Thou sawest the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red Sea: Nehemiah 9:10 And showedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh and all his servants, and on all the people of his land, because Thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them, and madest Thyself a name, as this day. Nehemiah 9:11 And Thou dividedst the sea before them, and they went through the midst of the sea on dry land; and their persecutors Thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters." In Nehemiah 9:9 are comprised two subjects, which are carried out in Nehemiah 9:10, Nehemiah 9:11 : (1) the affliction of the Israelites in Egypt, which God saw (comp. Exodus 3:7), and out of which He delivered them by the signs and wonders He showed upon Pharaoh (Nehemiah 9:10); (2) the crying for help at the Red Sea, when the Israelites perceived Pharaoh with his horsemen and chariots in pursuit (Exodus 14:10), and the help which God gave them by dividing the sea, etc. (Nehemiah 9:11). The words in Nehemiah 9:10 are supported by Deuteronomy 6:22, on the ground of the historical narrative, Exodus 7-10. The expression עליהם הזידוּ כּי is formed according to עליהם זדוּ אשׁר, Exodus 18:11. על הזיד occurs Exodus 21:14 in a general sense. On וגו שׁם לך ותּעשׂ comp. Jeremiah 32:20; Isaiah 58:12, Isaiah 58:14; 1 Chronicles 17:22. A name as this day - in that the miracles which God then did are still praised, and He continues still to manifest His almighty power. The words of Nehemiah 9:11 are supported by Exodus 14:21-22, Exodus 14:28, and Exodus 15:19. אבן כּמו בּמצולות are from Exodus 15:5; עזּים בּמים from Exodus 15 and Isaiah 43:16.
10And 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.
11And 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.
12Moreover 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.
"And 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. Nehemiah 9:13 And Thou camest down upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments and true laws, good statutes and 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. 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 Thou commandedst them to go in and possess the land, which Thou hadst lifted up Thine hand to give them." Three particulars in the miraculous leading of Israel through the wilderness are brought forward: a. Their being guided in the way by miraculous tokens of the divine presence, in the pillar of fire and cloud, Nehemiah 9:12; comp. Exodus 13:21; Numbers 14:14. b. The revelation of God on Sinai, and the giving of the law, Nehemiah 9:13, Nehemiah 9:14. The descent of God on Sinai and the voice from heaven agree with Exodus 19:18, Exodus 19:20, and Exodus 20:1., compared with Deuteronomy 4:36. On the various designations of the law, comp. Psalm 19:9; Psalm 119:43, Psalm 119:39, Psalm 119:142. Of the commandments, that concerning the Sabbath is specially mentioned, and spoken of as a benefit bestowed by God upon the Israelites, as a proclamation of His holy Sabbath, inasmuch as the Israelites were on the Sabbath to share in the rest of God; see rem. on Exodus 20:9-11. c. The provision of manna, and of water from the rock, for their support during their journey through the wilderness on the way to Canaan; Exodus 16:4, Exodus 16:10., Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:8; comp. Psalm 78:24, Psalm 78:15; Psalm 105:40. לרשׁת לבוא like Deuteronomy 9:1, Deuteronomy 9:5; Deuteronomy 11:31, and elsewhere. את־ידך נשׂאת is to be understood according to Numbers 14:30.
13Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:
14And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:
15And 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.
16But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,
Even the fathers to whom God had shown such favour, repeatedly departed from and rebelled against Him; but God of His great mercy did not forsake them, but brought them into possession of the promised land.
"And they, even our fathers, dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to Thy commandments. Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to obey, and were not mindful of Thy wonders that Thou didst amongst them; and hardened their necks, and 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 these verses the conduct of the children of Israel towards God is contrasted with His kindness towards this stiff-necked people, the historical confirmation following in Nehemiah 9:18. והם is emphatic, and prefixed to contrast the conduct of the Israelites with the benefits bestowed on them. The contrast is enhanced by the ו explicative before אבתינוּ, even our fathers (which J. D. Michaelis would expunge, from a misconception of its meaning, but which Bertheau with good reason defends). Words are accumulated to describe the stiff-necked resistance of the people. הזידוּ as above, Nehemiah 9:10. "They hardened their necks" refers to Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3; Exodus 34:9, and therefore already alludes to the worship of the golden calf at Sinai, mentioned Nehemiah 9:18; while in Nehemiah 9:17, the second great rebellion of the people at Kadesh, on the borders of the promised land, Numbers 14, is contemplated. The repetition of the expression, "they hardened their hearts," shows that a second grievous transgression is already spoken of in Nehemiah 9:17. This is made even clearer by the next clause, וגו ראשׁ ויּתּנוּ, which is taken almost verbally from Numbers 14:4 : "They said one to another, Let us make a captain (ראשׁ נתּנה), and return to Egypt;" the notion being merely enhanced here by the addition לעבדתם, to their bondage. The comparison with Numbers 14:4 also shows that בּמרים is a clerical error for בּמצרים, as the lxx read; for בּמרים, in their stubbornness, after לעבדתם, gives no appropriate sense. In spite, however, of their stiff-neckedness, God of His mercy and goodness did not forsake them. סליחות אלוהּ, a God of pardons; comp. Daniel 9:9; Psalm 130:4. וגו ורחוּם חנּוּן is a reminiscence of Exodus 34:6. The ו before חסד came into the text by a clerical error.
17And 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.
18Yea, 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;
"Yea, they even made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy god that brought thee up out of Egypt, and wrought great provocations. Nehemiah 9:19 Yet Thou, in Thy manifold mercies, didst not forsake them in the wilderness; the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day to lead them, and the pillar of fire by night to show them light in the way wherein they should go. 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: Nehemiah 9:21 And forty years didst Thou sustain them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not." כּי אף, also (even this) equals yea even. On the worship of the golden calf, see Exodus 24:4. The words "they did (wrought) great provocations" involve a condemnation of the worship of the molten calf; nevertheless God did not withdraw His gracious presence, but continued to lead them by the pillar of cloud and fire. The passage Numbers 14:14, according to which the pillar of cloud and fire guided the march of the people through the wilderness after the departure from Sinai, i.e., after their transgression in the matter of the calf, is here alluded to. הענן עמּוּד is rhetorically enhanced by את: and with respect to the cloudy pillar, it departed not; so, too, in the second clause, האשׁ את־עמּוּד; comp. Ewald, 277, d. The words, Nehemiah 9:20, "Thou gavest Thy good Spirit," etc., refer to the occurrence, Numbers 11:17, Numbers 11:25, where God endowed the seventy elders with the spirit of prophecy for the confirmation of Moses' authority. The definition "good Spirit" recalls Psalm 143:10. The sending of manna is first mentioned Numbers 11:6-9, comp. Joshua 5:12; the giving of water, Numbers 20:2-8. - In Nehemiah 9:21, all that the Lord did for Israel is summed up in the assertion of Deuteronomy 2:7; Deuteronomy 8:4, חסרוּ לא; see the explanation of these passages.
19Yet 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.
20Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.
21Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.
22Moreover 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.
The Lord also fulfilled His promise of giving the land of Canaan to the Israelites notwithstanding their rebelliousness. Nehemiah 9:22 "And Thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them by boundaries; and they took possession of the land of Sihon, both the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan. Nehemiah 9:23 And Thou didst multiply their children as the stars of heaven, and bring them into the land which Thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess. Nehemiah 9:24 And 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, both their kings and the people of the land, to do with them according to their pleasure. Nehemiah 9:25 And they took fortified cities, and a fat land, and took possession of houses filled with all kinds of goods, wells digged, vineyards and olive gardens, and fruit trees in abundance; and they ate and became fat, and delighted themselves in Thy great goodness." לפאה ותּחלקם is variously explained. Aben Ezra and others refer the suffix to the Canaanites, whom God scattered in multos angulos or varias mundi partes. Others refer it to the Israelites. According to this view, Ramb. says: fecisti eos per omnes terrae Cananaeae angulos habitare; and Gusset.: distribuisti eis terram usque ad angulum h. l. nulla vel minima regionum particula excepta. But חלק, Piel, generally means the dividing of things; and when used of persons, as in Genesis 49:7; Lamentations 4:16, to divide, to scatter, sensu malo, which is here inapplicable to the Israelites. חלק signifies to divide, especially by lot, and is used chiefly concerning the partition of the land of Canaan, in Kal, Joshua 14:5; Joshua 18:2, and in Piel, Joshua 13:7; Joshua 18:10; Joshua 19:51. The word פּאה also frequently occurs in Joshua, in the sense of a corner or side lying towards a certain quarter of the heavens, and of a boundary; comp. Joshua 15:5; Joshua 18:12, Joshua 18:14-15, Joshua 18:20. According to this, Bertheau rightly takes the words to say: Thou didst divide them (the kingdoms and nations, i.e., the land of these nations) according to sides or boundaries, i.e., according to certain definite limits. Sihon is the king of Heshbon (Deuteronomy 1:4), and the ו before ח את־ארץ מ is not to be expunged as a gloss, but regarded as explicative: and, indeed, both the land of the king of Heshbon and the land of Og. The conquest of these two kingdoms is named first, because it preceded the possession of Canaan (Numbers 21:21-35). The increase of the children of the Israelites is next mentioned, Nehemiah 9:23; the fathers having fallen in the wilderness, and only their children coming into the land of Canaan. The numbering of the people in the plains of Moab (Numbers 26) is here alluded to, when the new generation was found to be twice as numerous as that which marched out of Egypt; while the words לרשׁת לבוא, here and in Nehemiah 9:15, are similar to Deuteronomy 1:10. The taking possession of Canaan is spoken of in Nehemiah 9:24. ותּכנע recalls Deuteronomy 9:3. כּרצונם, according to their pleasure, comp. Daniel 8:4. Fortified cities, as Jericho and Ai.
23Their 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.
24So 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.
25And 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.
26Nevertheless 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.
But even in that good land the fathers were disobedient: they rejected the commands of God, slew the prophets who admonished them, and were not brought back to the obedience of God even by the chastisement inflicted on them, till at length God delivered them into the hands of Gentile kings, though after His great mercy He did not utterly forsake them. - Nehemiah 9:26 "And 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. Nehemiah 9:27 And Thou deliveredst them into the hand of their oppressors, so that they oppressed them; and in the time of their oppression they cried unto Thee. Then Thou heardest them from heaven, and according to Thy manifold mercies Thou gavest them deliverers, who delivered them out of the hand of their oppressors. Nehemiah 9:28 And when they had rest, they again did evil before Thee. Then Thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them; and they cried again unto Thee, and Thou heardest from heaven, and didst deliver them according to Thy great mercy, many times."
Nehemiah 9:26 again contains, like Nehemiah 9:16, a general condemnation of the conduct of the children of Israel towards the Lord their God during the period between their entrance into Canaan and the captivity, which is then justified by the facts adduced in the verses following. In proof of their disobedience, it is mentioned that they cast the commands of God behind their back (comp. 1 Kings 14:19; Ezekiel 23:35), and slew the prophets, e.g., Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:21), the prophets of the days of Jezebel (1 Kings 18:13; 1 Kings 19:10), and others who rebuked their sins to turn them from them. בּ העיד, to testify against sinners, comp. 2 Kings 17:13, 2 Kings 17:15. The last clause of Nehemiah 9:26 is a kind of refrain, repeated from Nehemiah 9:18.
27Therefore 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.
Nehemiah 9:27 and Nehemiah 9:28 refer to the times of the judges; comp. Judges 2:11-23. מושׁיעים are the judges whom God raised up to deliver Israel out of the power of their oppressors; comp. Judges 3:9. with Nehemiah 2:16. עתּים רבּות, multitudes of times, is a co-ordinate accusative: at many times, frequently; רבּות like Leviticus 25:51.
28But 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;
29And 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.
"And testifiedst against them, to bring them back again to Thy law; yet they hearkened not to Thy commandments, and sinned against Thy judgments, which if a man do he shall live in them, and gave a resisting shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear. Nehemiah 9:30 And Thou didst bear with them many years, and didst testify against them by Thy Spirit through Thy prophets; but they would not hearken, therefore Thou gavest them into the hand of the people of the lands. Nehemiah 9:31 Nevertheless in Thy great mercy Thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for Thou art gracious and merciful."
Nehemiah 9:29 and Nehemiah 9:30 treat of the times of the kings. בּהם ותּעד is the testimony of the prophets against the idolatrous people; comp. Nehemiah 9:26. וּבמשׁפּטיך is emphatically prefixed, and taken up again by בּם. The sentence, which if a man do he shall live in them, is formed upon Leviticus 18:5, comp. Ezekiel 20:11. On the figurative expression, they gave a resisting shoulder, comp. Zechariah 7:11. The simile is taken from the ox, who rears against the yoke, and desires not to bear it; comp. Hosea 4:16. The sentences following are repeated from Nehemiah 9:16. עליהם תּמשׁך is an abbreviated expression for חסד משׁך, Psalm 36:11; Psalm 109:12; Jeremiah 31:3, to draw out, to extend for a long time favour to any one: Thou hadst patience with them for many years, viz., the whole period of kingly rule from Solomon to the times of the Assyrians. The delivering into the power of the people of the lands, i.e., of the heathen (comp. Psalm 106:40.), began with the invasion of the Assyrians (comp. Nehemiah 9:32), who destroyed the kingdom of the ten tribes, and was inflicted upon Judah also by means of the Chaldeans.
30Yet 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.
31Nevertheless for thy great mercies' sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.
But in the midst of these judgments also, God, according to His promise, Jeremiah 4:27; Jeremiah 5:10, Jeremiah 5:18; Jeremiah 30:11, and elsewhere, did not utterly forsake His people, nor make a full end of them; for He did not suffer them to become extinct in exile, but preserved a remnant, and delivered it from captivity.
32Now 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.
May then, God, who keepeth covenant and mercy, now also look upon the affliction of His people, though kings, rulers, priests, and people have fully deserved this punishment; for they are now bondmen, and in great affliction, in the land of their fathers. Nehemiah 9:32 "And now, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble that hath come upon us, on our kings, our princes our priests, our prophets, and our fathers, and on all Thy people, since the times of the kings of Assyria unto this day, seem little to Thee. Nehemiah 9:33 Thou art just in all that is come upon us; for Thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly. Nehemiah 9:34 And our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept Thy law, nor hearkened to Thy commandments and Thy testimonies, wherewith Thou didst testify against them. Nehemiah 9:35 And 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 up to them, and have not turned from their wicked works. Nehemiah 9:36 Behold, we are now bondmen; and the land that Thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof, and the good thereof, behold, we are bondmen in it. Nehemiah 9:37 And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom Thou hast set over us because of our sins; and they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle at their pleasure, and we are in great distress." The invocation of God, Nehemiah 9:32, like that in Nehemiah 1:5, is similar to Deuteronomy 10:17. לפניך ימעט אל stands independently, the following clause being emphasized by את, like e.g., Nehemiah 9:19 : Let not what concerns all our trouble be little before Thee; comp. the similar construction with מעט in Joshua 22:17. What seems little is easily disregarded. The prayer is a litotes; and the sense is, Let our affliction be regarded by Thee as great and heavy. The nouns למלכינוּ, etc., are in apposition to the suffix of מצאתנוּ, the object being continued by ל.
33Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly:
Thou art just: comp. Nehemiah 9:8, Deuteronomy 32:4; Ezra 9:15. כּל על, upon all, i.e., concerning all that has befallen us; because their sins deserved punishment, and God is only fulfilling His word upon the sinners. In Nehemiah 9:34, את again 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.
34Neither 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.
35For 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.
הם are the fathers who were not brought to repentance by God's goodness. בּמלכוּתם, in their independent kingdom. הרב טוּבך, Thy much good, i.e., the fulness of Thy goodness, or "in the midst of Thy great blessing" (Bertheau). The predicate הרחבה, the wide, extensive country, is derived from Exodus 3:8. In Nehemiah 9:36., the prayer that God would not lightly regard the trouble of His people, is supported by a statement of the need and affliction in which they still are. They are bondmen in the land which God gave to their fathers as a free people, bondmen of the Persian monarchs; and the increase of the land which God appointed for His people belongs to the kings who rule over them. The rulers of the land dispose of their bodies and their cattle, by carrying off both men and cattle for their use, e.g., for military service. כּרצונם like Nehemiah 9:24.
36Behold, 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:
37And 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.
38And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.