וּבְיוֹם עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה לַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה נֶאֶסְפוּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּצוֹם וּבְשַׂקִּים וַאֲדָמָה עֲלֵיהֶם׃ 9:1
Nehe. 9:1 Then on the twenty-fourth day in this month the children of Israel assembled with fasting, and sackcloth and earth upon them.
Now what is this about? There is no such day of fasting on the twenty-fourth of Tishrei. This sounds like Yom Kippur, but it can’t be. It’s the day after Simchat Torah (which is not mentioned in the Torah), the day of rejoicing over the Torah. Very strange.
וַיִּבָּדְלוּ זֶרַע יִשְׂרָאֵל מִכֹּל בְּנֵי נֵכָר וַיַּעַמְדוּ וַיִּתְוַדּוּ עַל־חַטֹּאתֵיהֶם וַעֲוֺנוֹת אֲבֹתֵיהֶם׃ 9:2
Nehe. 9:2 And the seed of Israel set themselves apart from all those born of a foreigner, and they stood and confessed about their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.
וַיָּקוּמוּ עַל־עָמְדָם וַיִּקְרְאוּ בְּסֵפֶר תּוֹרַת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיהֶם רְבִעִית הַיּוֹם וּרְבִעִית מִתְוַדִּים וּמִשְׁתַּחֲוִים 9:3
Nehe. 9:3 And they stood up at their place and read aloud in the book of the law of the Lord, their God, a quarter of the day and a quarter confessing and bowing down to the Lord, their God.
וַיָּקָם עַל־מַעֲלֵה הַלְוִיִּם יֵשׁוּעַ וּבָנִי קַדְמִיאֵל שְׁבַנְיָה בֻּנִּי שֵׁרֵבְיָה בָּנִי כְנָנִי וַיִּזְעֲקוּ בְּקוֹל גָּדוֹל אֶל־יְהוָה 9:4
Nehe. 9:4 And Jeshua, with Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, Chenani stood up on the platform of the Levites, and they cried out in a great voice to the Lord, their God.
וַיֹּאמְרוּ הַלְוִיִּם יֵשׁוּעַ וְקַדְמִיאֵל בָּנִי חֲשַׁבְנְיָה שֵׁרֵבְיָה הוֹדִיָּה שְׁבַנְיָה פְתַחְיָה קוּמוּ בָּרֲכוּ אֶת־יְהוָה 9:5
אֱלֹהֵיכֶם מִן־הָעוֹלָם עַד־הָעוֹלָם וִיבָרְכוּ שֵׁם כְּבוֹדֶךָ וּמְרוֹמַם עַל־כָּל־בְּרָכָה וּתְהִלָּה׃
Nehe. 9:5 And the Levites, Jashua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, Pethachiah said, “Arise! Bless the Lord, your God, from everlasting to everlasting.” And they blessed Your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
Now I have presumed that the rest of this chapter constitutes the blessing and confession by the people, perhaps following a leader chanting or reciting the words.
אַתָּה־הוּא יְהוָה לְבַדֶּךָ (אַתְּ) [אַתָּה] עָשִׂיתָ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַיִם שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְכָל־צְבָאָם הָאָרֶץ וְכָל־אֲשֶׁר 9:6
עָלֶיהָ הַיַּמִּים וְכָל־אֲשֶׁר בָּהֶם וְאַתָּה מְחַיֶּה אֶת־כֻּלָּם וּצְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם לְךָ מִשְׁתַּחֲוִים׃
Nehe. 9:6 “You are He, the Lord. Only You! You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens and all their host, and the land and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You are preserving all of them, and the host of heaven are bowing down to You.
The word in the parentheses, translated as you, is the feminine form of the pronoun. The correction in the brackets makes it masculine.
Also In this verse we have a rare example of a grammatical anomaly. A singular noun takes a plural participle. The fourth-from-last word, translated as the host, is singular, but its participle, the last word, which is translated as are bowing down, is plural. It seems obvious that the scribe was thinking of the host as the “individuals” in an army of heavenly beings or stars.
אַתָּה־הוּא יְהוָה הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר בָּחַרְתָּ בְּאַבְרָם וְהוֹצֵאתוֹ מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים וְשַׂמְתָּ שְּׁמוֹ אַבְרָהָם׃ 9:7
Nehe. 9:7 “You are He, the Lord, the God Who decided on Abram, that You could bring him from Ur of the Chaldees and make his name Abraham,
וּמָצָאתָ אֶת־לְבָבוֹ נֶאֱמָן לְפָנֶיךָ וְכָרוֹת עִמּוֹ הַבְּרִית לָתֵת אֶת־אֶרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי הַחִתִּי הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַפְּרִזִּי 9:8
וְהַיְבוּסִי וְהַגִּרְגָּשִׁי לָתֵת לְזַרְעוֹ וַתָּקֶם אֶת־דְּבָרֶיךָ כִּי צַדִּיק אָתָּה׃
Nehe. 9:8 and find his heart to be faithful before You, and to make the covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Jebusite and the Girgashite, giving to his seed, and You established Your words, for You are righteous.”
וַתֵּרֶא אֶת־עֳנִי אֲבֹתֵינוּ בְּמִצְרָיִם וְאֶת־זַעֲקָתָם שָׁמַעְתָּ עַל־יַם־סוּף׃ 9:9
Nehe. 9:9 “And You saw the affliction of our ancestors, and You heard their cry at the Reed Sea.
וַתִּתֵּן אֹתֹת וּמֹפְתִים בְּפַרְעֹה וּבְכָל־עֲבָדָיו וּבְכָל־עַם אַרְצוֹ כִּי יָדַעְתָּ כִּי הֵזִידוּ עֲלֵיהֶם וַתַּעַשׂ־לְךָ שֵׁם 9:10
Nehe. 9:10 “And You delivered signs and wonders to Pharoah and to all his servants, and with all the people of his land, for You knew that they acted insolently against them, and You made for Yourself the name that it is this day.”
וְהַיָּם בָּקַעְתָּ לִפְנֵיהֶם וַיַּעַבְרוּ בְתוֹךְ־הַיָּם בַּיַּבָּשָׁה וְאֶת־רֹדְפֵיהֶם הִשְׁלַכְתָּ בִמְצוֹלֹת כְּמוֹ־אֶבֶן בְּמַיִם 9:11
Nehe. 9:11 “And You divided the sea before them that they passed over in the midst of the sea on dry land, and You cast their pursuers down into the depths like a stone amid the raging water.”
וּבְעַמּוּד עָנָן הִנְחִיתָם יוֹמָם וּבְעַמּוּד אֵשׁ לַיְלָה לְהָאִיר לָהֶם אֶת־הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יֵלְכוּ־בָהּ׃ 9:12
Nehe. 9:12 “Then with a pillar of cloud You led them by day and with a pillar of fire at night to light for them the way by which they could proceed.”
וְעַל הַר־סִינַי יָרַדְתָּ וְדַבֵּר עִמָּהֶם מִשָּׁמָיִם וַתִּתֵּן לָהֶם מִשְׁפָּטִים יְשָׁרִים וְתוֹרוֹת אֱמֶת חֻקִּים וּמִצְוֺת 9:13
Nehe. 9:13 “Then at Mount Sinai You descended so You could speak with them from the heavens and You gave upright ordinances and laws of truth, statutes and good commandments to them.”
וְאֶת־שַׁבַּת קָדְשְׁךָ הֹודַעַתָ לָהֶם וּמִצְוֹות וְחֻקִּים וְתֹורָה צִוִּיתָ לָהֶם בְּיַד מֹשֶׁה עַבְדֶּךָ׃ 9:14
Nehe. 9:14 Then You made known Your holy Sabbath to them and commandments and statutes and the law You commanded for them by the hand of Moses, Your servant.”
וְלֶחֶם מִשָּׁמַיִם נָתַתָּה לָהֶם לִרְעָבָם וּמַיִם מִסֶּלַע הוֹצֵאתָ לָהֶם לִצְמָאָם וַתֹּאמֶר לָהֶם לָבוֹא לָרֶשֶׁת 9:15
אֶת־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־נָשָׂאתָ אֶת־יָדְךָ לָתֵת לָהֶם׃
Nehe. 9:15 Then You gave food from the heavens to them for their hunger, and caused water to come forth from the rock for them for their thirst, and You spoke to them to go in to seize the land that You had raised Your ‘hand’ to give to them.”
וְהֵם וַאֲבֹתֵינוּ הֵזִידוּ וַיַּקְשׁוּ אֶת־עָרְפָּם וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ אֶל־מִצְוֺתֶיךָ׃ 9:16
Nehe. 9:16 “But they and our fathers acted insolently and stiffened their neck, and were not obedient to Your commandments
וַיְמָאֲנוּ לִשְׁמֹעַ וְלֹא־זָכְרוּ נִפְלְאֹתֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ עִמָּהֶם וַיַּקְשׁוּ אֶת־עָרְפָּם וַיִּתְּנוּ־רֹאשׁ לָשׁוּב 9:17
לְעַבְדֻתָם בְּמִרְיָם וְאַתָּה אֱלֹוהַּ סְלִיחֹות חַנּוּן וְרַחוּם אֶרֶךְ־אַפַּיִם וְרַב־(וְחֶסֶד) [חֶסֶד] וְלֹא עֲזַבְתָּם׃
Nehe. 9:17 and refused to listen. And they did not mention Your wonders that You did with them, but stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their bondage in their rebellion. But You are a God of forgiveness, so gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abundant of mercy that You did not forsake them.”
The word in the parentheses, translated as of mercy, contains an extraneous vav prefix. The correction in the brackets removes the vav.
אַף כִּי־עָשׂוּ לָהֶם עֵגֶל מַסֵּכָה וַיֹּאמְרוּ זֶה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר הֶעֶלְךָ מִמִּצְרָיִם וַיַּעֲשׂוּ נֶאָצוֹת גְּדֹלוֹת׃ 9:18
Nehe. 9:18 “Indeed, though they made a molten calf for themselves and said, ‘This is your God that brought you up from Egypt, and fashioned great blasphemies,’
וְאַתָּה בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים לֹא עֲזַבְתָּם בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶת־עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן לֹא־סָר מֵעֲלֵיהֶם בְּיוֹמָם לְהַנְחֹתָם 9:19
בְּהַדֶּרֶךְ וְאֶת־עַמּוּד הָאֵשׁ בְּלַיְלָה לְהָאִיר לָהֶם וְאֶת־הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יֵלְכוּ־בָהּ׃
Nehe. 9:19 yet You, in Your infinite mercy, not did keep from them the pillar of cloud in the wilderness -- it did not depart from being over them by day to guide them in the way -- or the pillar of fire by night to give light for them, or the way on which they should go.”
וְרוּחֲךָ הַטּוֹבָה נָתַתָּ לְהַשְׂכִּילָם וּמַנְךָ לֹא־מָנַעְתָּ מִפִּיהֶם וּמַיִם נָתַתָּה לָהֶם לִצְמָאָם׃ 9:20
Nehe. 9:20 “And You provided Your good spirit to teach them, and You did not withhold Your manna from their mouths, and You provided water for them for their thirst.”
וְאַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה כִּלְכַּלְתָּם בַּמִּדְבָּר לֹא חָסֵרוּ שַׂלְמֹתֵיהֶם לֹא בָלוּ וְרַגְלֵיהֶם לֹא בָצֵקוּ׃ 9:21
Nehe. 9:21 “So You sustained them forty years in the wilderness. They lacked nothing; their garments did not wear out, and their feet did not swell.”
וַתִּתֵּן לָהֶם מַמְלָכוֹת וַעֲמָמִים וַתַּחְלְקֵם לְפֵאָה וַיִּירְשׁוּ אֶת־אֶרֶץ סִיחוֹן וְאֶת־אֶרֶץ מֶלֶךְ חֶשְׁבּוֹן 9:22
וְאֶת־אֶרֶץ עוֹג מֶלֶךְ־הַבָּשָׁן׃
Nehe. 9:22 “Then You gave kingdoms and nations to them, and allotted them for an edge, and they seized the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og, the king of Bashan.”
וּבְנֵיהֶם הִרְבִּיתָ כְּכֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם וַתְּבִיאֵם אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־אָמַרְתָּ לַאֲבֹתֵיהֶם לָבוֹא לָרָשֶׁת׃ 9:23
Nehe. 9:23 “And You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven as You brought them to the land that You had said to their fathers to go in to seize.”
וַיָּבֹאוּ הַבָּנִים וַיִּירְשׁוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ וַתַּכְנַע לִפְנֵיהֶם אֶת־יֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִים וַתִּתְּנֵם בְּיָדָם 9:24
וְאֶת־מַלְכֵיהֶם וְאֶת־עַמְמֵי הָאָרֶץ לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּהֶם כִּרְצוֹנָם׃
Nehe. 9:24 “And the children went in and seized the land as You subdued the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, before them and delivered them into their hand, and their kings, and the peoples of the land, to do with them according to their desire.”
וַיִּלְכְּדוּ עָרִים בְּצֻרוֹת וַאֲדָמָה שְׁמֵנָה וַיִּירְשׁוּ בָּתִּים מְלֵאִים־כָּל־טוּב בֹּרוֹת חֲצוּבִים כְּרָמִים וְזֵיתִים 9:25
וְעֵץ מַאֲכָל לָרֹב וַיֹּאכְלוּ וַיִּשְׂבְּעוּ וַיַּשְׁמִינוּ וַיִּתְעַדְּנוּ בְּטוּבְךָ הַגָּדוֹל׃
Nehe. 9:25 “And they captured fortified cities and rich ground, and seized houses full of everything good, hewn cisterns, vineyards, and olive groves, and fruit tree in abundance. And they ate and were satisfied, and grew fat, and luxuriated in Your great goodness.”
וַיַּמְרוּ וַיִּמְרְדוּ בָּךְ וַיַּשְׁלִכוּ אֶת־תּוֹרָתְךָ אַחֲרֵי גַוָּם וְאֶת־נְבִיאֶיךָ הָרָגוּ אֲשֶׁר־הֵעִידוּ בָם לַהֲשִׁיבָם אֵלֶיךָ 9:26
וַיַּעֲשׂוּ נֶאָצוֹת גְּדוֹלֹת׃
Nehe. 9:26 “Yet they were disobedient and rebellious with You as they cast Your law behind their back and slew Your prophets who had pleaded with them for their returning to You, and they executed greater blasphemies.”
וַתִּתְּנֵם בְּיַד צָרֵיהֶם וַיָּצֵרוּ לָהֶם וּבְעֵת צָרָתָם יִצְעֲקוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְאַתָּה מִשָּׁמַיִם תִּשְׁמָע וּכְרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים 9:27
תִּתֵּן לָהֶם מוֹשִׁיעִים וְיוֹשִׁיעוּם מִיַּד צָרֵיהֶם׃
Nehe. 9:27 “So You delivered them into the hand of their enemies, and they caused distress for them. But in any time of their trouble they would cry out to You, and You would hear from heaven and according to Your infinite mercy would give saviors for them, and they would save them from the hand of their oppressors.”
וּכְנוֹחַ לָהֶם יָשׁוּבוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת רַע לְפָנֶיךָ וַתַּעַזְבֵם בְּיַד אֹיְבֵיהֶם וַיִּרְדּוּ בָהֶם וַיָּשׁוּבוּ וַיִּזְעָקוּךָ וְאַתָּה 9:28
מִשָּׁמַיִם תִּשְׁמַע וְתַצִּילֵם כְּרַחֲמֶיךָ רַבּוֹת עִתִּים׃
Nehe. 9:28 “When it would be settled down for them, they would turn back to doing evil before You, so You left them in the hand of their enemies and they subjugated them. Then they returned and cried out to You, and You would hear from heaven, and You delivered them, according to Your mercies, many times.”
וַתָּעַד בָּהֶם לַהֲשִׁיבָם אֶל־תּוֹרָתֶךָ וְהֵמָּה הֵזִידוּ וְלֹא־שָׁמְעוּ לְמִצְוֺתֶיךָ וּבְמִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ חָטְאוּ־בָם 9:29
אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם וְחָיָה בָהֶם וַיִּתְּנוּ כָתֵף סוֹרֶרֶת וְעָרְפָּם הִקְשׁוּ וְלֹא שָׁמֵעוּ׃
Nehe. 9:29 “And You pleaded with them for their return to Your Torah, but they acted insolently and did not listen to Your commandments and according to Your ordinances they sinned by them, which a person were to do, then he would live by, and they set a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and did not hear.”
וַתִּמְשֹׁךְ עֲלֵיהֶם שָׁנִים רַבּוֹת וַתָּעַד בָּם בְּרוּחֲךָ בְּיַד־נְבִיאֶיךָ וְלֹא הֶאֱזִינוּ וַתִּתְּנֵם בְּיַד עַמֵּי הָאֲרָצֹת׃ 9:30
Nehe. 9:30 “Still You continued with them many years and pleaded with them with Your spirit by the hand of Your prophets, but they were not obedient, so You delivered them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.”
וּבְרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים לֹא־עֲשִׂיתָם כָּלָה וְלֹא עֲזַבְתָּם כִּי אֵל־חַנּוּן וְרַחוּם אָתָּה׃ 9:31
Nehe. 9:31 “Yet in Your infinite mercy You did not make a complete end of them or forsake them, for You are a gracious and merciful God.”
וְעַתָּה אֱלֹהֵינוּ הָאֵל הַגָּדוֹל הַגִּבּוֹר וְהַנּוֹרָא שׁוֹמֵר הַבְּרִית וְהַחֶסֶד אַל־יִמְעַט לְפָנֶיךָ אֵת כָּל־הַתְּלָאָה 9:32
אֲשֶׁר־מְצָאַתְנוּ לִמְלָכֵינוּ לְשָׂרֵינוּ וּלְכֹהֲנֵינוּ וְלִנְבִיאֵנוּ וְלַאֲבֹתֵינוּ וּלְכָל־עַמֶּךָ מִימֵי מַלְכֵי אַשּׁוּר עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה׃
Nehe. 9:32 “So now, our God, the great, mighty, and awesome God, keeping covenant and faithfulness (do not let all the hardship that has come to us be small before You) with our kings, with our princes, and with our priests, and with our prophets, and with our fathers and with all the people from the days of the kings of Assyria until this day.”
וְאַתָּה צַדִּיק עַל כָּל־הַבָּא עָלֵינוּ כִּי־אֱמֶת עָשִׂיתָ וַאֲנַחְנוּ הִרְשָׁעְנוּ׃ 9:33
Nehe. 9:33 “Now You are just concerning everything coming upon us, for You deal truthfully, but we have acted wickedly.”
וְאֶת־מְלָכֵינוּ שָׂרֵינוּ כֹּהֲנֵינוּ וַאֲבֹתֵינוּ לֹא עָשׂוּ תּוֹרָתֶךָ וְלֹא הִקְשִׁיבוּ אֶל־מִצְוֺתֶיךָ וּלְעֵדְוֺתֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר 9:34
Nehe. 9:34 “And with our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers they have not observed Your Torah or paid attention to Your commandments or to Your testimonies that You invoked among them.”
וְהֵם בְּמַלְכוּתָם וּבְטוּבְךָ הָרָב אֲשֶׁר־נָתַתָּ לָהֶם וּבְאֶרֶץ הָרְחָבָה וְהַשְּׁמֵנָה אֲשֶׁר־נָתַתָּ לִפְנֵיהֶם לֹא 9:35
עֲבָדוּךָ וְלֹא־שָׁבוּ מִמַּעַלְלֵיהֶם הָרָעִים׃
Nehe. 9:35 “And they in their kingdom, and that in Your abundant goodness You had given to them, and in the broad and rich land that You had delivered before them, did not serve You or turn away from their evil practices.”
הִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ הַיּוֹם עֲבָדִים וְהָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־נָתַתָּה לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ לֶאֱכֹל אֶת־פִּרְיָהּ וְאֶת־טוּבָהּ הִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ 9:36
Nehe. 9:36 “See, we are servants today, and the land that You gave to our fathers to eat its fruit and its goodness, behold, we are slaves upon it,
וּתְבוּאָתָהּ מַרְבָּה לַמְּלָכִים אֲשֶׁר־נָתַתָּה עָלֵינוּ בְּחַטֹּאותֵינוּ וְעַל גְּוִיֹּתֵינוּ מֹשְׁלִים וּבִבְהֶמְתֵּנוּ כִּרְצוֹנָם 9:37
וּבְצָרָה גְדוֹלָה אֲנָחְנוּ׃
Nehe. 9:37 so that its produce is increasingly for the kings whom You have set over us because of our sins with dominion over our bodies and with our cattle according to their desire, and we are in great distress.”
You may know by now that my belief about all this is the following: The cause of the events recalled here, described as punishments for our sins, is not the direct “hand” of God, but are primarily the consequences of our own actions. Because that’s the way the good and infinite Lord created this world, with its immutable laws, actions and reactions.
[Return to Nehemiah Chapters] [Prev.: Nehe. 8] [Next: Nehe. 10]