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Nehemiah 9

The Israelites Confess Their Sins

1 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads.

2 Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers.

3 They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God.

4 Standing on the stairs were the Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani—who called with loud voices to the LORD their God.

5 And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. [a]
“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.

6 You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

7 “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham.

8 You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.

9 “You saw the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea.

10 You sent miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day.

11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters.

12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.

13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good.

14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses.

15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.

16 “But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands.

17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,

18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.

19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.

20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst.

21 For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

22 “You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan.

23 You made their sons as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their fathers to enter and possess.

24 Their sons went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you handed the Canaanites over to them, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased.

25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness.

26 “But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs. They killed your prophets, who had admonished them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies.

27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.

28 “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.

29 “You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, by which a man will live if he obeys them. Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen.

30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples.

31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

32 “Now therefore, O our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come upon us, upon our kings and leaders, upon our priests and prophets, upon our fathers and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today.

33 In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong.

34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the warnings you gave them.

35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.

36 “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces.

37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.

The Agreement of the People

38 “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”

INTRODUCTION TO NEHEMIAH 9

Spiritual preparation—God’s deliverance—During this spiritual retreat they are wearing burlap and udges of dirt on their faces.  They stood and confessed their sins and read from the book 3 hours a day.  Everyone engaged in a long—long praise marathon then they drew up a sealed document and each signed it.

EXPOSITION OF NEHEMIAH 9

The Israelites Confess Their Sins

1 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads.

On the 30th of October BC 444 the Israelites gather together dressed in burlap and dirt smeared on their faces.  It was a time of total abstinence from food—to the Israelites it was a sign of a religious duty and a token of grief.  While they were starving their physical body’s they were showing by the burlap and dirt smeared on their face that they were dirty inside and were grieving over their condition.

 

2 Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers.

No  foreigner was allowed in this assembly—It was a time of deep inner searching of the soul a full inspection of one’s life and a total confession of their sins—this confession went beyond their own personal wrong doing, it looked at the source of their national plight.  Each man—woman and child was on their knees—praying—sobbing—broken of heart—personally seeking forgiveness and begging for the grace of God.  It was a national day of repentance and prayer.

3 They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God.

They spent the first three hours listening to the law as it was being read and explained.  The next three hours was spent in a prayer session for forgiveness.

4 Standing on the stairs were the Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani—who called with loud voices to the LORD their God.

A number of Levites (assistants to the Priest) stood on the stairs that led up to the platform on which Ezra stood and raised their voices so they could be heard above the praying of the crowd—it was a vociferous calling out of everyone to seek the Lord with all their heart.

5 And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”
“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.

Joined now by more Levites who were standing and shouting at the top of their voices for everyone to rise to their feet and hold their hands high in the air and praise God who is from everlasting to everlasting.  This long period of praise begins with praising the Name of God.

6 You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

With the entire multitude standing with uplifted hands—their voices in unison merge together in an harmonious praise—first they praise God—there is no other God—He made the highest heavens—the entire universe—the starry host and earth and sea—He gave life to all things and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

7 “You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham.

The chant of praise is now directed to God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur (Turkey) and gave him a new name (Abraham).

8 You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.

The extolling of God continues with Abraham being faithful and the covenant and land promise you have him.

9 “You saw the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea.

The praise session continues to laud our God for hearing the cries of his people in Egypt.

10 You sent miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day.

They glorify God for his miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh and how God made a name for himself.

11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters.

They are applauding God for the dividing of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army.

12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.

The eulogizing continues by praising God for his divine providence in caring for them on this forty year camping journey to the promise land.  Two things that is necessary in the desert— Protection from the awful heat in the day and Protection from the extreme temperature change at night.

13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good.

Now they glorify God because he didn’t send the Law down but personally delivered it and wrote it himself on the stone tablets.

14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses.

The litany of praise continues because God had given them a day of rest.

15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.

They hail his name because he fed them—they were on his welfare program for forty years.

16 “But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands.

16 “But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands.

The anthem of praise changes with the word but—our ancestors were bullheaded and arrogant.

17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,

The admiration of prayer continues insomuch as God was slow to anger, gracious and compassionate even when they were about to appoint a new leader and return to Egypt.

 

18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.

They continue to admire and praise God who did not abandon them when they made an Idol of Gold.

19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.

This intercession of praise continues with them thanking God for the pillar of fire at night and a cloud in the day.  They spent a lot of time at the camp and God not only provided food and water abut the also provided warm nights and the cloud over the camp kept them from the burning rays of the desert sun.

20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst.

This intercession of praise continues with them thanking God for the pillar of fire at night and a cloud in the day.  They spent a lot of time at the camp and God not only provided food and water abut the also provided warm nights and the cloud over the camp kept them from the burning rays of the desert sun.

21 For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

Their exultations in prayer were for the fact that even their clothes did not show any signs of wear and their feet were not swollen.

22 “You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan.

Their admiration of God continues by saying that he had given them two countries—Heshbon and Bashar.

23 You made their sons as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their fathers to enter and possess.

In this revival they praise God for the abundant offspring of children and then gave the land that had formally been promised to their fathers.

 

24 Their sons went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you handed the Canaanites over to them, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased.

They continue to adore the God of heaven for handing over the land of the Canaanites and its peoples and kings to them.

25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness.

They continue to adore the God of heaven for handing over the land of the Canaanites and its peoples and kings to them.

26 “But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs. They killed your prophets, who had admonished them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies.

They continue to praise God and form an estimation of the mutiny of their ancestors.  They threw out the law, went from bad to worse, killed the prophets and committed blasphemies.

27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.

They are still in a state of adoration even though God has thrown their ancestors out—cleaned their clock—swept their house—and then put them on probation.

28 “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.

In their glorification of praise to God they remember that God had let them out of their troubles and put them on probation but now they have violated their probation and God has them back in his court room.

 

29 “You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, by which a man will live if he obeys them. Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen.

In this invocation of praise they acknowledge that God had issued a warning and an ultimatum.  But this stubborn—stiff-necked people would not listen.

30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples.

In this “caught up in the spirit” praise cession they confess to God that their fathers were haughty, arrogant, stiff—necked, defiant people who flouted the law and that God had put up with it year after year.

31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

The antiphony of praise continues as they laud the God who was great in mercy and didn’t completely destroy them or walk out on them for good.

32 “Now therefore, O our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come upon us, upon our kings and leaders, upon our priests and prophets, upon our fathers and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today.

These heavenly-minded people in this praise session beg the covenant keeping God not to treat lightly the trouble and suffering that they had gone through.  They acknowledge that it was their entire fault and assume all responsibility.  They tell God that it’s not his fault and that he had acted honorably in all circumstances.

33 In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong.

These God admirers praise God and continue to confess that it was their entire fault—that God had acted faithfully.

34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the warnings you gave them.

The chant continues—four classes are named—from the top rung of the ladder to the bottom—all had dismissed warnings and ignored commands.

35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.

They continue to marvel at the goodness of God even though this pleasure—loving—worldly  minded group of ancestors had taken the wrong turn in life.

36 “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces.

This praise worthy group who are praising God now direct their request to God and ask him for his help at the present time.  Note:  Moses won every case with God except one (not going into Canaan) Moses knew how to pray and always closed with a precedent—these people under the leadership of Ezra have now prayed and close with a precedent (a decision that had already been made) they are asking God to decide in their favor and on the aforementioned precedent.

37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.

The session is about to close—a document will be prepared in which a binding pledge will be enforceable—signatures of Priest’s, Levites and clan leaders will be affixed.

The Agreement of the People

38 “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”

With all the signatures on the document it will now be recorded for future reference.

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