Nehemiah 1

 

The authorship of this book has been ascribed to Ezra, not Nehemiah.  The book’s name is derived not from the alleged author but from the man whose story is told here.  The Talmudists thought of this book as the second book of Ezra.  Moreover, the dating of this book is in question.  Whether Nehemiah preceded Ezra to Jerusalem or not is the basis for this doubt.  I will have more to say about this in later chapters.

דִּבְרֵי נְחֶמְיָה בֶּן־חֲכַלְיָה וַיְהִי בְחֹדֶשׁ־(כִּסְלֵו) [כִּסְלֵיו] שְׁנַת עֶשְׂרִים וַאֲנִי הָיִיתִי בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה׃   1:1

Nehe. 1:1   The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah:  And it was in the month of Chislev of the twentieth year and I was in Shushan the castle,

The word in the parentheses is the name of the month Chislev.  It is misspelled.  The correction in the brackets removes the yad.  Chislev is the ninth month of the Jewish year.  Now I suggest that before you continue here, see my remarks following Nehe. 2:1, pertaining to the timing of this chapter and book.

וַיָּבֹא חֲנָנִי אֶחָד מֵאַחַי הוּא וַאֲנָשִׁים מִיהוּדָה וָאֶשְׁאָלֵם עַל־הַיְּהוּדִים הַפְּלֵיטָה אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁאֲרוּ   1:2

מִן־הַשֶּׁבִי וְעַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָם׃

Nehe. 1:2   and Hanani, one from my brethren, came, he and others, from Judah, and I asked them about the escaped Jews who were left from the captivity and about Jerusalem.

The first of many exceptions to my inverting vavs theory in this book is found in this verse.  The eighth word, translated as and I asked them, is an error according to me.  The Hebrew should be ~h,ytlea'v. ynIa]w.

וַיֹּאמְרוּ לִי הַנִּשְׁאָרִים אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁאֲרוּ מִן־הַשְּׁבִי שָׁם בַּמְּדִינָה בְּרָעָה גְדֹלָה וּבְחֶרְפָּה וְחוֹמַת יְרוּשָׁלִַם   1:3

מְפֹרָצֶת וּשְׁעָרֶיהָ נִצְּתוּ בָאֵשׁ׃

Nehe. 1:3   And they said to me, “Those remaining from the captivity there in the province are in great distress and in shame, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates burned to ashes.”

וַיְהִי כְּשָׁמְעִי אֶת־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה יָשַׁבְתִּי וָאֶבְכֶּה וָאֶתְאַבְּלָה יָמִים וָאֱהִי צָם וּמִתְפַּלֵּל לִפְנֵי אֱלֹהֵי   1:4

הַשָּׁמָיִם׃

Nehe. 1:4   And it was at my hearing these words I sat down and wept and mourned days, and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven

The fifth-from-last word in the top line of this verse is another exception to my theory of inverting vavs.  Translated as and I was, it should be written as __ ynIa]w, where the double underscore, which would not appear in the text, symbolizes the implicit to be verb, was, as in and I was.  Thus the phrase and I was fasting should appear as ~c' ynIa]w.

וָאֹמַר אָנָּא יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם הָאֵל הַגָּדוֹל וְהַנּוֹרָא שֹׁמֵר הַבְּרִית וָחֶסֶד לְאֹהֲבָיו וּלְשֹׁמְרֵי מִצְוֺתָיו׃   1:5

Nehe. 1:5   and I said, “I beseech You, Lord, God of heaven, great and awesome God, keeping the covenant and being merciful to those loving Him and to the guardians of His commandments!”

We have here another exception to my theory of inverting vavs.  It seems Nehemiah was “guilty” of the same sort of “oversight” as Ezra (at one time until fairly recently history-wise, this book of Nehemiah was attributed to Ezra and was part of that book).  I now suspect this book was transcribed by Ezra, perhaps at the dictation of Nehemiah.  My guess is that Nehemiah was not an expert in bible Hebrew after having spent about 40 years of his life in captivity.  According to me, the Hebrew should be ytir'm.ai ynIa]w:.

תְּהִי נָא אָזְנְךָ־קַשֶּׁבֶת וְעֵינֶיךָ פְתֻוּחֹות לִשְׁמֹעַ אֶל־תְּפִלַּת עַבְדְּךָ אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מִתְפַּלֵּל לְפָנֶיךָ הַיֹּום יֹוםָם   1:6

 וָלַיְלָה עַל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲבָדֶיךָ וּמִתְוַדֶּה עַל־חַטֹּאות בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר חָטָאנוּ לָךְ וַאֲנִי וּבֵית־אָבִי חָטָאנוּ׃

Nehe. 1:6   “May Your ‘ear’ now be attentive and Your ‘eyes’ open to give heed to the prayer of Your servant that I am praying before You this day, by day and by night, for the children of Israel, Your servants, and confessing for the sins of the children of Israel that we have committed toward You, and I and the house of my father have committed.”

חֲבֹל חָבַלְנוּ לָךְ וְלֹא־שָׁמַרְנוּ אֶת־הַמִּצְוֺת וְאֶת־הַחֻקִּים וְאֶת־הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתָ אֶת־מֹשֶׁה עַבְדֶּךָ׃   1:7

Nehe. 1:7   “We have been greatly offensive to You that we have not kept the commandments or the statutes or the ordinances that You had commanded Moses, Your servant.”

זְכָר־נָא אֶת־הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתָ אֶת־מֹשֶׁה עַבְדְּךָ לֵאמֹר אַתֶּם תִּמְעָלוּ אֲנִי אָפִיץ אֶתְכֶם בָּעַמִּים׃   1:8

Nehe. 1:8   “Please remember Your word by which You charged Moses, Your servant, saying, ‘You will act treacherously, I will disperse you among the peoples.’

Something very interesting in this verse, which contains within the single quotes what the scholars call a “paraphrase” of the “curses” in Deut. 28.  Except for one of the popular bibles (Young’s Literal Translation), they all add the word “if” to the Hebrew of this verse, as in “If you will act ....”  Now, as a paraphrase of part of Deut. 28, the addition of the “if” is fairly accurate.  The “ifs” do indeed appear in Deut. 28.  However, the Lord through Moses makes it quite clear in Deut. 30 that the verses of Chapter 28 are prophesies, not conditional warnings.  As appropriate as the conditional “if” is there, it is inappropriate here.  I’m certain the scribe is not paraphrasing a conditional warning, he is expressing his belief that the prophecy has been fulfilled.  So he appropriately omitted the “if.”  The paraphrase of the prophecy is continued in the next verse.  I read this verse and the next as if Nehemiah is reminding God of His promise in Deut. 30.

וְשַׁבְתֶּם אֵלַי וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם מִצְוֹתַי וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אֹתָם אִם־יִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲכֶם בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמַיִם מִשָּׁם אֲקַבְּצֵם   1:9

 וַהֲבֹואֹתִים) [וַהֲבִיאֹותִים] אֶל־הַמָּקֹום אֲשֶׁר בָּחַרְתִּי לְשַׁכֵּן אֶת־שְׁמִי שָׁם׃

Nehe. 1:9   ‘Then you will return to Me and keep My commandments and observe them.  Though your banishment would be to the uttermost part of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place where I have chosen to establish My name.’”

The word before the left parenthesis appears to be misspelled.  The correction in the brackets appears in only one other place in the bible; it conforms to the spelling in Isai. 56:7.  I’m not sure the spelling in the brackets or in Isai. 56:7 is correct.  After investigating other spellings for this word in various places in the bible, I am fairly convinced that the vav should be replaced by a yad in this form of the verb, which means and [I will] bring them.  Then the more appropriate correction would be ~ytiaoybih]w:.                                                     [Return to Isai. 56:7]

וְהֵם עֲבָדֶיךָ וְעַמֶּךָ אֲשֶׁר פָּדִיתָ בְּכֹחֲךָ הַגָּדוֹל וּבְיָדְךָ הַחֲזָקָה׃   1:10

Nehe. 1:10   “Now they are Your servants and Your people whom You have redeemed with Your great power and by Your mighty ‘hand.’”

אָנָּא אֲדֹנָי תְּהִי נָא אָזְנְךָ־קַשֶּׁבֶת אֶל־תְּפִלַּת עַבְדְּךָ וְאֶל־תְּפִלַּת עֲבָדֶיךָ הַחֲפֵצִים לְיִרְאָה אֶת־שְׁמֶךָ   1:11

וְהַצְלִיחָה־נָּא לְעַבְדְּךָ הַיּוֹם וּתְנֵהוּ לְרַחֲמִים לִפְנֵי הָאִישׁ הַזֶּה וַאֲנִי הָיִיתִי מַשְׁקֶה לַמֶּלֶךְ׃

Nehe. 1:11   “Please, my Master, may Your ‘ear’ now be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who are delighters in revering Your name, and bring prosperity, I pray, to Your servant today and provide for him compassion before this man, as I am cup bearer for the king.”

The phrase “this man” is referring to Artaxerxes, the king.  Notice that with all this wordiness, Nehemiah is pleading for compassion for himself as the Lord’s servant, apparently because he is the king’s cup bearer.  We will see how this plays out in the next chapter.  Spoiler alert:  Nehemiah will ask the king for permission to visit Jerusalem.

 

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