Nehemiah 8:1, 5–6, 9–10; 9:1–2, 38; 10:28–29comment (0)
January 11, 2007
By John A. Nixon
Related Scripture: Nehemiah 8:1, 5–6, 9–10; 9:1–2, 38; 10:28–29
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Nehemiah 8:1, 5–6, 9–10; 9:1–2, 38; 10:28–29
Read God’s Word (8:1, 5–6, 9–10)
Just as the people had gathered together on the first day of the seventh month to rebuild the altar (see Ezra 3), they gathered together again to worship and celebrate the Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23:23–25; Num. 29:1–6).
They asked Ezra to read to them the “book of the law of Moses.” This book probably represents the Pentateuch, that is, the first five books of our Bible.
Ezra stood on a high wooden platform and read aloud as the people also stood and listened attentively (4–5). The writer emphasizes the people’s hunger for the Word of God. They asked Ezra to read (1), they stood “from daybreak until noon” as he read (3) and they wept as they listened to the words of the Law (9). This weeping, however, turned to joy (12).
As Ezra read, the Levites explained the Law to the people. Jeshua and the 12 Levites read from the Law of God, paragraph by paragraph. As they did, they gave “the meaning so that the people could understand what was read” (8).
Then Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites called the people to worship, to celebrate and to walk in obedience to God’s Word. In response, the people rejoiced greatly “because they had understood the words that were explained to them” (12). Thus the narrative describes a people who are eager to study God’s Word and to do it (cf. Ezra 7:10).
Repent and Confess Sins (9:1–2)
Ezra continued teaching the Law to the people (8:13, 18), and the people continued to respond in obedience. This obedience resulted in the celebration of the Feast of Booths (8:13–18; see Lev. 23:33–36). Moreover this celebration led to a special day of fasting and repentance.
The people of Israel “separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the guilt of their fathers.” As they confessed their sins, they focused on God’s faithfulness as well as their continual failure to trust Him (6–37).
This prayer of confession and praise summarizes the Old Testament story. Thus the writer again emphasizes the connection between the reading of the Word of God and the people’s response (e.g., 2–3). The text seems clear: when God’s Word reveals our sins, the only appropriate response is to confess and repent.
Return to God’s Ways (9:38; 10:28–29)
After repenting and confessing their sins, the people joined together and “commit[ted] themselves with a sworn oath to follow the law of God given through God’s servant Moses and to carefully obey all the commands, ordinances, and statues of the Lord our Lord” (10:29).
It should be noted the Book of Nehemiah knows nothing of private confession, repentance or rededication. The writer recounts for us the public actions of the people of God. They read God’s Word together, they confessed their sins together, they repented together and they covenanted to follow God’s Word together. We are reminded that God’s Word does not call us to a private faith or spirituality, but rather it calls us to live according to God’s Word and to pursue His purposes together as followers of Jesus Christ.
In sum, Nehemiah 8–10 is not so much concerned with individuals returning to God’s ways, but rather these chapters stress the response of the community of God’s people to God’s Word.
The last chapter concludes with specific examples of how these people were going to obey God’s Word in their daily lives (10:30–39).