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Nehemiah 9: The Fingerprints and Bows of God

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: The Fingerprints and Bows of God

The Text in Context

Ezra thru Nehemiah highlights the reestablishment of the remnant of Israel in the promised land as a partial fulfillment of the prophetic promise of restoration of the relationship between God and Israel. An important facet of the promised restoration is the new-covenant prophecy of ,
Jeremiah 31:31–34 CSB
31 “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt—my covenant that they broke even though I am their master”—the Lord’s declaration. 33 “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.
Nehemiah highlights the reestablishment of the remnant of Israel in the promised land as a partial fulfillment of the prophetic promise of restoration of the relationship between God and Israel. An important facet of the promised restoration is the new-covenant prophecy of , which looks forward to the time when Israel will obey God from the heart. Nehemiah shows that he understands that reestablishment in the land and new-covenant obedience belong together in his prayer in . With the temple and wall of Jerusalem rebuilt and thousands of exiles resettled in Judea, it is appropriate for the narrative focus to shift from their physical reestablishment in the land and concentrate on spiritual renewal, a theme that was previously introduced in the mixed-marriage incident in . The structure of follows a pattern recognizable from a number of covenant renewals in earlier parts of the Old Testament (; ; ; ; )—proclamation of God’s law, confession of sin, renewal of commitment to obedience. Whereas records the reading of God’s law and the community’s joy in knowing and obeying it, relates their confession and mourning over sin. This leads to the renewed commitment to obedience in . The actions of the remnant seem to anticipate the new covenant. Since God has brought his people back to their land from captivity and they are returning to him sincerely, the prayer in this chapter expresses hope for another promised aspect of restoration, that they will be freed from servitude to foreign rulers (e.g., ). Historical and Cultural Background One of the ways in which ancient Near Eastern culture differed from contemporary Western society was in the concept of corporate identity. Whereas modern Westerners think of themselves primarily as individuals, the ancients took their identity just as much, if not more, from the community with whom they shared a common ancestry. The community was represented by all of its members, including those of the past and future. What happened to one member was considered to some extent to have happened to all, and what one did was considered to have consequences, either positive or negative, for all. This helps to explain why God expected his people to confess the sins of their ancestors (; compare ). For the people to be reconciled to God, they have to address the history of their relationship with him. Interpretive Insights 9:2  Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. The separation mentioned here would involve at least avoidance of marriages with non-Israelites, thus representing an improvement over the situation in . The point is not to be antisocial but to avoid participating in activities that violate God’s law (see ). 9:7  who chose Abram. God took the initiative in beginning a relationship with Israel. He is the subject of all the verbs in verses 6–15. The emphasis is on his gracious acts that benefit his people. 9:8  you made a covenant with him . . . the land. This prayer tells the story of the relationship between God and Israel, and that relationship was founded on the covenant with Abraham. Since the status of Israel’s possession of the land is a major concern to the community in , as well as throughout Israelite history, God’s gift of the land receives greatest attention among his covenant promises. 9:9  you heard their cry. In verse 4 the Levites cried out to God. The Hebrew word for “cry” in verse 9 is the noun form of the verb used in verse 4. The implied hope is that God will hear the present community’s cry as he heard their ancestors’ cry at the Red Sea. 9:16  But they . . . became arrogant and stiff-necked. The first part of the prayer has portrayed God as giving blessing after blessing to Israel. In response, however, Israel was not humble and thankful, as they should have been. They are contrasted with their faithful God, acting arrogantly, like the Egyptians of verse 10, and being stiff-necked, which draws on the image of an animal struggling to resist a yoke placed on its neck. They refused to cooperate with God in spite of his goodness to them. 9:17  But you are a forgiving God. A key theme of the prayer is introduced here. The Israelites behaved ungratefully and rebelliously toward God, but instead of punishing them, he forgave and continued to provide for them. It is God’s consistent demonstration of his willingness to forgive that inspires confidence in the returned exiles that he will do so again. 9:19  By day the pillar of cloud did not fail. Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15. Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before. 9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
which looks forward to the time when Israel will obey God from the heart.
which looks forward to the time when Israel will obey God from the heart. Nehemiah shows that he understands that reestablishment in the land and new-covenant obedience belong together in his prayer in . With the temple and wall of Jerusalem rebuilt and thousands of exiles resettled in Judea, it is appropriate for the narrative focus to shift from their physical reestablishment in the land and concentrate on spiritual renewal, a theme that was previously introduced in the mixed-marriage incident in . The structure of follows a pattern recognizable from a number of covenant renewals in earlier parts of the Old Testament (; ; ; ; )—proclamation of God’s law, confession of sin, renewal of commitment to obedience. Whereas records the reading of God’s law and the community’s joy in knowing and obeying it, relates their confession and mourning over sin. This leads to the renewed commitment to obedience in . The actions of the remnant seem to anticipate the new covenant. Since God has brought his people back to their land from captivity and they are returning to him sincerely, the prayer in this chapter expresses hope for another promised aspect of restoration, that they will be freed from servitude to foreign rulers (e.g., ). Historical and Cultural Background One of the ways in which ancient Near Eastern culture differed from contemporary Western society was in the concept of corporate identity. Whereas modern Westerners think of themselves primarily as individuals, the ancients took their identity just as much, if not more, from the community with whom they shared a common ancestry. The community was represented by all of its members, including those of the past and future. What happened to one member was considered to some extent to have happened to all, and what one did was considered to have consequences, either positive or negative, for all. This helps to explain why God expected his people to confess the sins of their ancestors (; compare ). For the people to be reconciled to God, they have to address the history of their relationship with him. Interpretive Insights 9:2  Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. The separation mentioned here would involve at least avoidance of marriages with non-Israelites, thus representing an improvement over the situation in . The point is not to be antisocial but to avoid participating in activities that violate God’s law (see ). 9:7  who chose Abram. God took the initiative in beginning a relationship with Israel. He is the subject of all the verbs in verses 6–15. The emphasis is on his gracious acts that benefit his people. 9:8  you made a covenant with him . . . the land. This prayer tells the story of the relationship between God and Israel, and that relationship was founded on the covenant with Abraham. Since the status of Israel’s possession of the land is a major concern to the community in , as well as throughout Israelite history, God’s gift of the land receives greatest attention among his covenant promises. 9:9  you heard their cry. In verse 4 the Levites cried out to God. The Hebrew word for “cry” in verse 9 is the noun form of the verb used in verse 4. The implied hope is that God will hear the present community’s cry as he heard their ancestors’ cry at the Red Sea. 9:16  But they . . . became arrogant and stiff-necked. The first part of the prayer has portrayed God as giving blessing after blessing to Israel. In response, however, Israel was not humble and thankful, as they should have been. They are contrasted with their faithful God, acting arrogantly, like the Egyptians of verse 10, and being stiff-necked, which draws on the image of an animal struggling to resist a yoke placed on its neck. They refused to cooperate with God in spite of his goodness to them. 9:17  But you are a forgiving God. A key theme of the prayer is introduced here. The Israelites behaved ungratefully and rebelliously toward God, but instead of punishing them, he forgave and continued to provide for them. It is God’s consistent demonstration of his willingness to forgive that inspires confidence in the returned exiles that he will do so again. 9:19  By day the pillar of cloud did not fail. Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15. Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before. 9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
Nehemiah shows that he understands that reestablishment in the land and new-covenant obedience belong together in his prayer in .
Nehemiah 1:7–9 CSB
7 We have acted corruptly toward you and have not kept the commands, statutes, and ordinances you gave your servant Moses. 8 Please remember what you commanded your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. 9 But if you return to me and carefully observe my commands, even though your exiles were banished to the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I chose to have my name dwell.”
With the temple and wall of Jerusalem rebuilt and thousands of exiles resettled in Judea, it is appropriate for the narrative focus to shift from their physical reestablishment in the land and concentrate on spiritual renewal.
Whereas records the reading of God’s law and the community’s joy in knowing and obeying it, relates their confession and mourning over sin.
This leads to the renewed commitment to obedience in .
The actions of the remnants seem to anticipate the new covenant.
Since God has brought his people back to their land from captivity and they are returning to him sincerely, the prayer in this chapter expresses hope for another promised aspect of restoration, that they will be freed from servitude to foreign rulers (e.g., ).
Isaiah 49:22–23 CSB
22 This is what the Lord God says: Look, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my banner to the peoples. They will bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. 23 Kings will be your guardians and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down to you with their faces to the ground and lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who put their hope in me will not be put to shame.

Historical and Cultural Background

One of the ways in which ancient Near Eastern culture differed from contemporary Western society was in the concept of corporate identity.
Whereas modern Westerners think of themselves primarily as individuals, the ancients took their identity just as much, if not more, from the community with whom they shared a common ancestry.
The community was represented by all of its members, including those of the past and future.
What happened to one member was considered to some extent to have happened to all, and what one did was considered to have consequences, either positive or negative, for all.
This helps to explain why God expected his people to confess the sins of their ancestors (; compare ). For the people to be reconciled to God, they have to address the history of their relationship with him.

Let’s read and Expand on His Word...

Starting thru verse 15
Nehemiah 9:1–15 CSB
1 On the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites assembled; they were fasting, wearing sackcloth, and had put dust on their heads. 2 Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 While they stood in their places, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day and spent another fourth of the day in confession and worship of the Lord their God. 4 Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the raised platform built for the Levites and cried out loudly to the Lord their God. 5 Then the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah—said, “Stand up. Blessed be the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting.” Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You, Lord, are the only God. You created the heavens, the highest heavens with all their stars, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them, and all the stars of heaven worship you. 7 You, the Lord, are the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and changed his name to Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful in your sight, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites— to give it to his descendants. You have fulfilled your promise, for you are righteous. 9 You saw the oppression of our ancestors in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, all his officials, and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly they treated our ancestors. You made a name for yourself that endures to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, and they crossed through it on dry ground. You hurled their pursuers into the depths like a stone into raging water. 12 You led them with a pillar of cloud by day, and with a pillar of fire by night, to illuminate the way they should go. 13 You came down on Mount Sinai, and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them impartial ordinances, reliable instructions, and good statutes and commands. 14 You revealed your holy Sabbath to them, and gave them commands, statutes, and instruction through your servant Moses. 15 You provided bread from heaven for their hunger; you brought them water from the rock for their thirst. You told them to go in and possess the land you had sworn to give them.
Nehemiah 9:1–8 CSB
1 On the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites assembled; they were fasting, wearing sackcloth, and had put dust on their heads. 2 Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 While they stood in their places, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day and spent another fourth of the day in confession and worship of the Lord their God. 4 Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the raised platform built for the Levites and cried out loudly to the Lord their God. 5 Then the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah—said, “Stand up. Blessed be the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting.” Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You, Lord, are the only God. You created the heavens, the highest heavens with all their stars, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them, and all the stars of heaven worship you. 7 You, the Lord, are the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and changed his name to Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful in your sight, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites— to give it to his descendants. You have fulfilled your promise, for you are righteous.
Nehemiah 9
Nehemiah 9:9–19 CSB
9 You saw the oppression of our ancestors in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, all his officials, and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly they treated our ancestors. You made a name for yourself that endures to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, and they crossed through it on dry ground. You hurled their pursuers into the depths like a stone into raging water. 12 You led them with a pillar of cloud by day, and with a pillar of fire by night, to illuminate the way they should go. 13 You came down on Mount Sinai, and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them impartial ordinances, reliable instructions, and good statutes and commands. 14 You revealed your holy Sabbath to them, and gave them commands, statutes, and instruction through your servant Moses. 15 You provided bread from heaven for their hunger; you brought them water from the rock for their thirst. You told them to go in and possess the land you had sworn to give them. 16 But our ancestors acted arrogantly; they became stiff-necked and did not listen to your commands. 17 They refused to listen and did not remember your wonders you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, and you did not abandon them. 18 Even after they had cast an image of a calf for themselves and said, “This is your god who brought you out of Egypt,” and they had committed terrible blasphemies, 19 you did not abandon them in the wilderness because of your great compassion. During the day the pillar of cloud never turned away from them, guiding them on their journey. And during the night the pillar of fire illuminated the way they should go.
Now, thru verse 28
Nehemiah 9:20–28 CSB
20 You sent your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 You provided for them in the wilderness forty years, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell. 22 You gave them kingdoms and peoples and established boundaries for them. They took possession of the land of King Sihon of Heshbon and of the land of King Og of Bashan. 23 You multiplied their descendants like the stars of the sky and brought them to the land you told their ancestors to go in and possess. 24 So their descendants went in and possessed the land: You subdued the Canaanites who inhabited the land before them and handed their kings and the surrounding peoples over to them, to do as they pleased with them. 25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land and took possession of well-supplied houses, cisterns cut out of rock, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. They ate, were filled, became prosperous, and delighted in your great goodness. 26 But they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They flung your law behind their backs and killed your prophets who warned them in order to turn them back to you. They committed terrible blasphemies. 27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. In their time of distress, they cried out to you, and you heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the power of their enemies. 28 But as soon as they had relief, they again did what was evil in your sight. So you abandoned them to the power of their enemies, who dominated them. When they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven and rescued them many times in your compassion.
Ok…lets focus on some key verses in these first 15
Nehemiah 9:29–38 CSB
29 You warned them to turn back to your law, but they acted arrogantly and would not obey your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, which a person will live by if he does them. They stubbornly resisted, stiffened their necks, and would not obey. 30 You were patient with them for many years, and your Spirit warned them through your prophets, but they would not listen. Therefore, you handed them over to the surrounding peoples. 31 However, in your abundant compassion, you did not destroy them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and compassionate God. 32 So now, our God—the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant— do not view lightly all the hardships that have afflicted us, our kings and leaders, our priests and prophets, our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the Assyrian kings until today. 33 You are righteous concerning all that has happened to us, because you have acted faithfully, while we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey your law or listen to your commands and warnings you gave them. 35 When they were in their kingdom, with your abundant goodness that you gave them, and in the spacious and fertile land you set before them, they would not serve you or turn from their wicked ways. 36 Here we are today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so that they could enjoy its fruit and its goodness. Here we are—slaves in it! 37 Its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have set over us, because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and our livestock as they please. We are in great distress. 38 In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement in writing on a sealed document containing the names of our leaders, Levites, and priests.

Historical and Cultural Background

One of the ways in which ancient Near Eastern culture differed from contemporary Western society was in the concept of corporate identity.
Whereas modern Westerners think of themselves primarily as individuals, the ancients took their identity just as much, if not more, from the community with whom they shared a common ancestry.
The community was represented by all of its members, including those of the past and future.
What happened to one member was considered to some extent to have happened to all, and what one did was considered to have consequences, either positive or negative, for all.
This helps to explain why God expected his people to confess the sins of their ancestors (; compare ). For the people to be reconciled to God, they have to address the history of their relationship with him.

Nehemiah 9:1–2 CSB
1 On the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites assembled; they were fasting, wearing sackcloth, and had put dust on their heads. 2 Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.
Nehemiah 9:2 CSB
2 Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.
9:2  Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. The separation mentioned here would involve at least avoidance of marriages with non-Israelites, thus representing an improvement over the situation in . The point is not to be antisocial but to avoid participating in activities that violate God’s law (see ). 9:7  who chose Abram. God took the initiative in beginning a relationship with Israel. He is the subject of all the verbs in verses 6–15. The emphasis is on his gracious acts that benefit his people. 9:8  you made a covenant with him . . . the land. This prayer tells the story of the relationship between God and Israel, and that relationship was founded on the covenant with Abraham. Since the status of Israel’s possession of the land is a major concern to the community in , as well as throughout Israelite history, God’s gift of the land receives greatest attention among his covenant promises. 9:9  you heard their cry. In verse 4 the Levites cried out to God. The Hebrew word for “cry” in verse 9 is the noun form of the verb used in verse 4. The implied hope is that God will hear the present community’s cry as he heard their ancestors’ cry at the Red Sea. 9:16  But they . . . became arrogant and stiff-necked. The first part of the prayer has portrayed God as giving blessing after blessing to Israel. In response, however, Israel was not humble and thankful, as they should have been. They are contrasted with their faithful God, acting arrogantly, like the Egyptians of verse 10, and being stiff-necked, which draws on the image of an animal struggling to resist a yoke placed on its neck. They refused to cooperate with God in spite of his goodness to them. 9:17  But you are a forgiving God. A key theme of the prayer is introduced here. The Israelites behaved ungratefully and rebelliously toward God, but instead of punishing them, he forgave and continued to provide for them. It is God’s consistent demonstration of his willingness to forgive that inspires confidence in the returned exiles that he will do so again. 9:19  By day the pillar of cloud did not fail. Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15. Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before. 9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
9:2  Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners.
The separation mentioned here would involve at least avoidance of marriages with non-Israelites, thus representing an improvement over the situation in .
Ezra 9:1 CSB
1 After these things had been done, the leaders approached me and said: “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the surrounding peoples whose detestable practices are like those of the Canaanites, Hethites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites.
The point is not to be antisocial but to avoid participating in activities that violate God’s law.
The point is not to be antisocial but to avoid participating in activities that violate God’s law (see ). 9:7  who chose Abram. God took the initiative in beginning a relationship with Israel. He is the subject of all the verbs in verses 6–15. The emphasis is on his gracious acts that benefit his people. 9:8  you made a covenant with him . . . the land. This prayer tells the story of the relationship between God and Israel, and that relationship was founded on the covenant with Abraham. Since the status of Israel’s possession of the land is a major concern to the community in , as well as throughout Israelite history, God’s gift of the land receives greatest attention among his covenant promises. 9:9  you heard their cry. In verse 4 the Levites cried out to God. The Hebrew word for “cry” in verse 9 is the noun form of the verb used in verse 4. The implied hope is that God will hear the present community’s cry as he heard their ancestors’ cry at the Red Sea. 9:16  But they . . . became arrogant and stiff-necked. The first part of the prayer has portrayed God as giving blessing after blessing to Israel. In response, however, Israel was not humble and thankful, as they should have been. They are contrasted with their faithful God, acting arrogantly, like the Egyptians of verse 10, and being stiff-necked, which draws on the image of an animal struggling to resist a yoke placed on its neck. They refused to cooperate with God in spite of his goodness to them. 9:17  But you are a forgiving God. A key theme of the prayer is introduced here. The Israelites behaved ungratefully and rebelliously toward God, but instead of punishing them, he forgave and continued to provide for them. It is God’s consistent demonstration of his willingness to forgive that inspires confidence in the returned exiles that he will do so again. 9:19  By day the pillar of cloud did not fail. Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15. Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before. 9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
Nehemiah 9:7 CSB
7 You, the Lord, are the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and changed his name to Abraham.
9:7  who chose Abram.
9:7  who chose Abram. God took the initiative in beginning a relationship with Israel. He is the subject of all the verbs in verses 6–15. The emphasis is on his gracious acts that benefit his people. 9:8  you made a covenant with him . . . the land. This prayer tells the story of the relationship between God and Israel, and that relationship was founded on the covenant with Abraham. Since the status of Israel’s possession of the land is a major concern to the community in , as well as throughout Israelite history, God’s gift of the land receives greatest attention among his covenant promises. 9:9  you heard their cry. In verse 4 the Levites cried out to God. The Hebrew word for “cry” in verse 9 is the noun form of the verb used in verse 4. The implied hope is that God will hear the present community’s cry as he heard their ancestors’ cry at the Red Sea. 9:16  But they . . . became arrogant and stiff-necked. The first part of the prayer has portrayed God as giving blessing after blessing to Israel. In response, however, Israel was not humble and thankful, as they should have been. They are contrasted with their faithful God, acting arrogantly, like the Egyptians of verse 10, and being stiff-necked, which draws on the image of an animal struggling to resist a yoke placed on its neck. They refused to cooperate with God in spite of his goodness to them. 9:17  But you are a forgiving God. A key theme of the prayer is introduced here. The Israelites behaved ungratefully and rebelliously toward God, but instead of punishing them, he forgave and continued to provide for them. It is God’s consistent demonstration of his willingness to forgive that inspires confidence in the returned exiles that he will do so again. 9:19  By day the pillar of cloud did not fail. Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15. Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before. 9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
God took the initiative in beginning a relationship with Israel. He is the subject of all the verbs in verses 6–15. “You” The emphasis is on his gracious acts that benefit his people.
Nehemiah 9:8 CSB
8 You found his heart faithful in your sight, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites— to give it to his descendants. You have fulfilled your promise, for you are righteous.
9:8  you made a covenant with him . . . the land. This prayer tells the story of the relationship between God and Israel, and that relationship was founded on the covenant with Abraham. Since the status of Israel’s possession of the land is a major concern to the community in , as well as throughout Israelite history, God’s gift of the land receives greatest attention among his covenant promises. 9:9  you heard their cry. In verse 4 the Levites cried out to God. The Hebrew word for “cry” in verse 9 is the noun form of the verb used in verse 4. The implied hope is that God will hear the present community’s cry as he heard their ancestors’ cry at the Red Sea. 9:16  But they . . . became arrogant and stiff-necked. The first part of the prayer has portrayed God as giving blessing after blessing to Israel. In response, however, Israel was not humble and thankful, as they should have been. They are contrasted with their faithful God, acting arrogantly, like the Egyptians of verse 10, and being stiff-necked, which draws on the image of an animal struggling to resist a yoke placed on its neck. They refused to cooperate with God in spite of his goodness to them. 9:17  But you are a forgiving God. A key theme of the prayer is introduced here. The Israelites behaved ungratefully and rebelliously toward God, but instead of punishing them, he forgave and continued to provide for them. It is God’s consistent demonstration of his willingness to forgive that inspires confidence in the returned exiles that he will do so again. 9:19  By day the pillar of cloud did not fail. Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15. Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before. 9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
9:8  you made a covenant with him . . . the land.
This prayer tells the story of the relationship between God and Israel, and that relationship was founded on the covenant with Abraham. Since the status of Israel’s possession of the land is a major concern to the community in , as well as throughout Israelite history, God’s gift of the land receives greatest attention among his covenant promises.
9:9  you heard their cry. In verse 4 the Levites cried out to God. The Hebrew word for “cry” in verse 9 is the noun form of the verb used in verse 4. The implied hope is that God will hear the present community’s cry as he heard their ancestors’ cry at the Red Sea. 9:16  But they . . . became arrogant and stiff-necked. The first part of the prayer has portrayed God as giving blessing after blessing to Israel. In response, however, Israel was not humble and thankful, as they should have been. They are contrasted with their faithful God, acting arrogantly, like the Egyptians of verse 10, and being stiff-necked, which draws on the image of an animal struggling to resist a yoke placed on its neck. They refused to cooperate with God in spite of his goodness to them. 9:17  But you are a forgiving God. A key theme of the prayer is introduced here. The Israelites behaved ungratefully and rebelliously toward God, but instead of punishing them, he forgave and continued to provide for them. It is God’s consistent demonstration of his willingness to forgive that inspires confidence in the returned exiles that he will do so again. 9:19  By day the pillar of cloud did not fail. Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15. Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before. 9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
Nehemiah 9:9 CSB
9 You saw the oppression of our ancestors in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea.
9:9  you heard their cry.
In verse 4 the Levites cried out to God. The Hebrew word for “cry” in verse 9 is the noun form of the verb used in verse 4.
The implied hope is that God will hear the present community’s cry as he heard their ancestors’ cry at the Red Sea.
Question:
“What did God speak to you in these first 15 verses?”
Now, let’s read the next 10 verses
Nehemiah 9:16–25 CSB
16 But our ancestors acted arrogantly; they became stiff-necked and did not listen to your commands. 17 They refused to listen and did not remember your wonders you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, and you did not abandon them. 18 Even after they had cast an image of a calf for themselves and said, “This is your god who brought you out of Egypt,” and they had committed terrible blasphemies, 19 you did not abandon them in the wilderness because of your great compassion. During the day the pillar of cloud never turned away from them, guiding them on their journey. And during the night the pillar of fire illuminated the way they should go. 20 You sent your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 You provided for them in the wilderness forty years, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell. 22 You gave them kingdoms and peoples and established boundaries for them. They took possession of the land of King Sihon of Heshbon and of the land of King Og of Bashan. 23 You multiplied their descendants like the stars of the sky and brought them to the land you told their ancestors to go in and possess. 24 So their descendants went in and possessed the land: You subdued the Canaanites who inhabited the land before them and handed their kings and the surrounding peoples over to them, to do as they pleased with them. 25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land and took possession of well-supplied houses, cisterns cut out of rock, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. They ate, were filled, became prosperous, and delighted in your great goodness.
Break some key verses down in these 10.
Nehemiah 9:16 CSB
16 But our ancestors acted arrogantly; they became stiff-necked and did not listen to your commands.
9:16  But they . . . became arrogant and stiff-necked.
9:16  But they . . . became arrogant and stiff-necked. The first part of the prayer has portrayed God as giving blessing after blessing to Israel. In response, however, Israel was not humble and thankful, as they should have been. They are contrasted with their faithful God, acting arrogantly, like the Egyptians of verse 10, and being stiff-necked, which draws on the image of an animal struggling to resist a yoke placed on its neck. They refused to cooperate with God in spite of his goodness to them. 9:17  But you are a forgiving God. A key theme of the prayer is introduced here. The Israelites behaved ungratefully and rebelliously toward God, but instead of punishing them, he forgave and continued to provide for them. It is God’s consistent demonstration of his willingness to forgive that inspires confidence in the returned exiles that he will do so again. 9:19  By day the pillar of cloud did not fail. Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15. Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before. 9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
The first part of the prayer has portrayed God as giving blessing after blessing to Israel.
In response, however, Israel was not humble and thankful, as they should have been.
They are contrasted with their faithful God, acting arrogantly, like the Egyptians of verse 10, and being stiff-necked, which draws on the image of an animal struggling to resist a yoke placed on its neck. They refused to cooperate with God in spite of his goodness to them.
Nehemiah 9:17 CSB
17 They refused to listen and did not remember your wonders you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, and you did not abandon them.
9:17  But you are a forgiving God.
9:17  But you are a forgiving God. A key theme of the prayer is introduced here. The Israelites behaved ungratefully and rebelliously toward God, but instead of punishing them, he forgave and continued to provide for them. It is God’s consistent demonstration of his willingness to forgive that inspires confidence in the returned exiles that he will do so again. 9:19  By day the pillar of cloud did not fail. Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15. Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before. 9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
A key theme of the prayer is introduced here.
The Israelites behaved ungratefully and rebelliously toward God, but instead of punishing them, he forgave and continued to provide for them.
It is God’s consistent demonstration of his willingness to forgive that inspires confidence in the returned exiles that he will do so again.
Nehemiah 9:19 CSB
19 you did not abandon them in the wilderness because of your great compassion. During the day the pillar of cloud never turned away from them, guiding them on their journey. And during the night the pillar of fire illuminated the way they should go.
9:19  By day the pillar of cloud never turned away.
Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15.
9:19  By day the pillar of cloud did not fail. Verses 19–21 list several acts of God that correspond closely to his actions of verses 12–15. Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before. 9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
Even after the insulting rebellion and idolatry of the Israelites in verses 16–18, God still treated them as compassionately as he had before.
Nehemiah 9:24 CSB
24 So their descendants went in and possessed the land: You subdued the Canaanites who inhabited the land before them and handed their kings and the surrounding peoples over to them, to do as they pleased with them.
9:24  You subdued the Canaanites.
9:24  You subdued before them the Canaanites. The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites. This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings. as they pleased. The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans. The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it. 9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
The prayer makes continual reference to God overpowering other peoples for the benefit of the Israelites, including Pharaoh and the Egyptians (vv. 10–11), various kingdoms (v. 22), Sihon and Og (v. 22), and the Canaanites.
This sets up an expectation that God will deliver the current generation from the domination of the Persian kings as they pleased.
The identical phrase is used in verse 37 to describe the control the Persian kings exercise over the Judeans.
The Israelites of Joshua’s day both settled the land and controlled it, but the returned exiles have only been able to settle it.
Nehemiah 9:25 CSB
25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land and took possession of well-supplied houses, cisterns cut out of rock, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. They ate, were filled, became prosperous, and delighted in your great goodness.
9:25  delighted in your great goodness.
9:25  they reveled in your great goodness. The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36. The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances. 9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
The enjoyment of blessing that the Israelites experienced after the conquest contrasts with the situation described in verse 36.
The same goodness cannot now be enjoyed by the community because they live as slaves in the same land. Once again, the current generation is depicted as enduring inferior circumstances.
Question:
“What did God speak to you in these 10 verses?”
Now, onto the next 6 verses
Nehemiah 9:26–31 CSB
26 But they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They flung your law behind their backs and killed your prophets who warned them in order to turn them back to you. They committed terrible blasphemies. 27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. In their time of distress, they cried out to you, and you heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the power of their enemies. 28 But as soon as they had relief, they again did what was evil in your sight. So you abandoned them to the power of their enemies, who dominated them. When they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven and rescued them many times in your compassion. 29 You warned them to turn back to your law, but they acted arrogantly and would not obey your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, which a person will live by if he does them. They stubbornly resisted, stiffened their necks, and would not obey. 30 You were patient with them for many years, and your Spirit warned them through your prophets, but they would not listen. Therefore, you handed them over to the surrounding peoples. 31 However, in your abundant compassion, you did not destroy them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and compassionate God.
Nehemiah 9:
Let’s start to break down some of these verses
Nehemiah 9:26 CSB
26 But they were disobedient and rebelled against you. They flung your law behind their backs and killed your prophets who warned them in order to turn them back to you. They committed terrible blasphemies.
9:26  But they were disobedient . . . terrible blasphemies.
9:26  But they were disobedient . . . awful blasphemies. This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it. 9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
This entire verse describes the insulting behavior of the Israelites. Ignoring God’s law implied that his instructions were unimportant. By sending prophets to warn the people, God was graciously going the extra mile to avoid judging them, but they simply killed his prophets. The prayer underlines the Israelites’ insolence and ingratitude to the point where no one could expect God to tolerate it.
Nehemiah 9:27 CSB
27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. In their time of distress, they cried out to you, and you heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the power of their enemies.
9:27  gave them deliverers . . . rescued them from the power(hand) of their enemies.
9:27  So you delivered them . . . rescued them from the hand of their enemies. To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted. Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors. Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them. It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response. As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse. 9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
To this point in the prayer, only God’s actions that benefited Israel have been recounted.
Here it is recalled that he punished their behavior by placing them under oppressors.
Even then, however, when the Israelites cried out to him, he compassionately delivered them.
It would have been just for God to ignore their cries, but the extent of his mercy is illustrated by his response.
Please notice this...As the prayer progresses, God’s character shines brighter and the Israelites’ looks worse.
Question:
“How did God speak to you thru these 6 verses?”
Now let’s land this chapter with these last 6 verses
Nehemiah 9:32–37 CSB
32 So now, our God—the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant— do not view lightly all the hardships that have afflicted us, our kings and leaders, our priests and prophets, our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the Assyrian kings until today. 33 You are righteous concerning all that has happened to us, because you have acted faithfully, while we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey your law or listen to your commands and warnings you gave them. 35 When they were in their kingdom, with your abundant goodness that you gave them, and in the spacious and fertile land you set before them, they would not serve you or turn from their wicked ways. 36 Here we are today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so that they could enjoy its fruit and its goodness. Here we are—slaves in it! 37 Its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have set over us, because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and our livestock as they please. We are in great distress.
Nehemiah 9:32-37
Breakdown time...
9:32  do not let all this hardship seem trifling. This is the only actual request in the entire prayer. Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context. Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance. The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28. The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time. Thus, verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community. Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before. 9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire () as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
Nehemiah 9:32 CSB
32 So now, our God—the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God who keeps his gracious covenant— do not view lightly all the hardships that have afflicted us, our kings and leaders, our priests and prophets, our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the Assyrian kings until today.
9:32  do not view lightly all the hardships that have afflicted us.
This is the only actual request in the entire prayer.
Its significance is closely related to the structure of the preceding context.
Verses 26–27 present a cycle of Israelite disobedience, God’s judgment through oppression by foreigners, the Israelites’ call to God, and God’s deliverance.
The entire cycle is repeated in verse 28.
The cycle then begins again in verses 29–31, but only includes the first two steps, bringing the account to the present time.
In my humble opinion then... verse 32 represents the call for help made by the community.
Given that God has so consistently acted mercifully and powerfully in the past, the implication is that the Judeans can expect him to deliver them from their current foreign oppression as before.
Nehemiah 9:36 CSB
36 Here we are today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so that they could enjoy its fruit and its goodness. Here we are—slaves in it!
9:36  we are slaves today. The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt. It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians. The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors. The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians. The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire (Neh. 5:4) as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., Jer. 31:12–14). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in Nehemiah 8–10, it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in Nehemiah 9 is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in Nehemiah 9, Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in Nehemiah 9 and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
9:36  Here we are today, slaves.
The Judeans’ description of their situation recalls the time of slavery in Egypt.
It is also a way of saying that the oppression brought on by the Assyrians and extended by the Babylonians continues under the Persians.
The Judeans are once again in need of God’s deliverance from subjugation. slaves in the land you gave our ancestors.
The cruel irony is that, whereas the ancestors left Egypt and inherited the promised land as freed people, this generation has entered the land but continues to be slaves to the Persians.
The sense of slavery likely arises from the heavy taxes imposed by the empire ()
Nehemiah 5:4 CSB
4 Still others were saying, “We have borrowed money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards.
as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37).
as well as the right of conscription for military duty and forced labor and the requisition of cattle (9:37). As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ). Theological Insights The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked. They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness. They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word. They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it. They marvel at his patience. All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law. He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him. Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration. For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin. Teaching the Text The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Christians today as it was for Judeans in the postexilic period. Indeed, it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God. It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives. We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin. But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered. Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion. This is difficult for many people to accept. The tendency in contemporary culture is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God. Yet without the frank acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God. Once one’s sinfulness is authentically owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because he has not yet terminated one’s life. The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31). The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy. The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears. The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s help, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him. The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33). But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair. God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of believers today. The New Testament describes these blessings, and most will be experienced in full only when the present age passes away. Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. The important difference between the situation of the Judeans in and Christians today has to do with the way God’s people express their faith in and submission to him. One of God’s great gifts to the Israelites was his law (v. 13). By following it and ordering their lives around it, they demonstrated their devotion to him. The even greater gift God has now given is Jesus Christ. Since his coming to earth, it is by devoting their lives to following him that people express faith in God.
As long as these circumstances persist, the covenant has not been fully restored (compare, e.g., ).
Jeremiah 31:12–14 CSB
12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will be radiant with joy because of the Lord’s goodness, because of the grain, the new wine, the fresh oil, and because of the young of the flocks and herds. Their life will be like an irrigated garden, and they will no longer grow weak from hunger. 13 Then the young women will rejoice with dancing, while young and old men rejoice together. I will turn their mourning into joy, give them consolation, and bring happiness out of grief. 14 I will refresh the priests with an abundance, and my people will be satisfied with my goodness. This is the Lord’s declaration.

Insights on this prayer: God’s Fingerprints in our Lives

The Israelites’ prayer shows God they understand that in the history of their relationship with him he has consistently been righteous and they have consistently been wicked.
They recognize his many benevolent acts of provision, compassion, and forgiveness.
They see that he has always kept his word and even been better than his word.
They agree that when he has judged them for disobedience, they have deserved it.
They marvel at his patience.
All this is accentuated by their own history of rebellion and proud disregard for God’s law.
He has maintained his impeccable character even though they have acted so insultingly toward him.
Therefore, since the community is demonstrating its own desire to be faithful to the covenant through its actions in , it confidently requests that God act in mercy yet again to forgive and complete the promised restoration.
Look at it this way...For the original readers of this book, this was a strong encouragement to believe that, regardless of past disobedience, God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin.
Here is the question for each of us to wrestle with today… "Do you believe that statement-God is ready to extend forgiveness to those who honestly confess sin.”
“What is ‘Honest Confession of Sin’?”

Let’s Own This

The attitude illustrated by the prayer in is as appropriate for Followers of Christ today as it was for Judeans returning from exile.
We can all agree that it is the only attitude that allows for a healthy relationship with God.
It is based on the recognition that God, as the creator and sustainer of all, is the one who has brought every good thing into our lives.
We realize that we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude, even before considering the effects of our sin.
But the picture comes into sharp contrast when sin is considered.
Honest reflection on both human history in general and one’s personal history leads to the conclusion that all are guilty of responding to God’s good gifts with shameful disobedience and rebellion.
This, I truly believe, is difficult for many people to accept.
The tendency in our culture today is to minimize the wrongness of one’s own actions or to assign blame for them to others, even to God.
Entitlement..Focus on Self…Pride…Intolerance
Yet without the clear acceptance of responsibility for disobedience, it is impossible to proceed to reconciliation with God.
Remember: Forgiveness + REPENTANCE = Reconciliation
Once one’s sinfulness is authentically, genuinely, and humbly owned, it follows that God has already responded with grace, even if only because He has not yet terminated one’s life.
The Israelites understood that God could justly have brought them to an end as a people (v. 31).
The very fact that a person has the opportunity to repent is proof of God’s mercy.
The more one comprehends one’s own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears.
Did you catch that...The more YOU comprehends YOUR own sin, the more wonderful—even shocking—God’s grace appears to you. Humble yourself before God.
The conclusion to be drawn from history, with Scripture’s overall guidance, is that when people understand the story of their lives in this way, they can be confident that God is willing to forgive them and restore their relationship with him.
The prayer’s expression of the bottom line is that God is righteous and faithful, while humans act wickedly (v. 33).
But, amazingly, the realization of these facts leads to the expectation of forgiveness and reconciliation rather than to despair.
God’s gracious forgiveness leads to inclusion in the blessings of his covenant, the new covenant in the case of Followers of Christ today.
Think of it this way...Like the Judeans in , Christians do not know when all of God’s promises will be fulfilled for them, but they can be confident that those promises will be fulfilled for those whose faith resembles the faith that characterizes this prayer. They can also rely on His presence in their lives…they only need to look for His Fingerprints and Bows.
In closing..
Turn to
Jeremiah 29:11–14 CSB
11 For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “I will restore you to the place from which I deported you.”
Jeremiah 29:
“When you search for me with all your heart.”
These are the fingerprints of God. This is you seeking God. This is you turning your heart to Him.
“Call to Me…Pray to Me…Seek Me”
Again, these are the Fingerprints of God that you, yourself, must search for and acknowledge.
Now...Turn to
Genesis 9:12–16 CSB
12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all future generations: 13 I have placed my bow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I form clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all the living creatures: water will never again become a flood to destroy every creature. 16 The bow will be in the clouds, and I will look at it and remember the permanent covenant between God and all the living creatures on earth.”
“I have placed a bow in the clouds…a sign of the covenant.”
These are the Bows of God’s promises. This is a clear sign in times of storms, distress, or even one in the distant.
The focus is not on the storms, the focus should be on the Bow God has revealed to you of His presence.
Know this, God has, is and continues to affirm His Fingerprints and Bows in your life today. His promises and covenant is without any loopholes you may look for. This is all through His Son, Jesus Christ…nothing else.
So, how are you identifying the fingerprints and bows of God in your life?
Remember my question in our class email:
"How do you display God's Character of Grace-Mercy-Love to your spouse, your children and those around you?" 
Thoughts to share?
Next Week…Garrett Smith will be leading class..Thanks Garrett
On the 26th, we will return to Nehemiah and go deeper into 10:Devoted Obedience
Close in Prayer
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