Now these are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power, and by your strong hand.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Nehemiah 1:10. Whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, &c. — In days of old, and thy power is still the same; wilt thou not therefore still redeem them, and perfect their redemption? Let not them be overpowered by the enemy that have a God of infinite power on their side.2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:2 note; Ezra 6:10; Ezra 7:12, Ezra 7:21), is a favorite one with Nehemiah, who had been born and brought up in Persia.
4. when I heard these words, that I sat down … and mourned … and fasted, and prayed—The recital deeply affected the patriotic feelings of this good man, and no comfort could he find but in earnest and protracted prayer, that God would favor the purpose, which he seems to have secretly formed, of asking the royal permission to go to Jerusalem.Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. This verse states the ground on which the privilege of the promise is claimed.
Now these are thy servants, &c.] The connexion of thought, which is not very obvious at first sight, seems to be as follows. Having stated the Divine promise, Nehemiah returns in thought to ‘the children of thy servants’ of Nehemiah 1:6. They, by their confession of sin, had fulfilled the condition, they had ‘returned’ unto their God. They could claim the fulfilment of His promise. They were not aliens. They were His own people whom He Himself had redeemed.
whom thou hast redeemed] Of the two Hebrew words, rendered by the English ‘redeem,’ i.e. ‘ga’al’ and ‘padah,’ the word here used is ‘padah.’ It is noteworthy that in the similar expression, Exodus 6:6, ‘redeem you with a stretched out arm,’ the word ‘ga’al’ is used, while here, as always in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 7:8, Deuteronomy 9:26, Deuteronomy 13:5, Deuteronomy 15:15, Deuteronomy 21:8, Deuteronomy 24:18), the word ‘redeem’ is ‘padah.’ LXX. ἐλυτρώσω; Vulg. redemisti. The redemption, here spoken of, looks back, beyond the recent restoration from Babylon, to the original deliverance from Egypt, which sealed for ever the relation between Jehovah and His people.
by thy great power, and by thy strong hand] Nehemiah combines two familiar phrases which do not seem to be elsewhere combined except in Exodus 32:11 ‘thy people which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand.’ Along with ‘great power’ we frequently find ‘a stretched out arm,’ as in Deuteronomy 9:29; 2 Kings 17:36; Jeremiah 27:5; Jeremiah 32:17 : and again ‘a stretched out arm’ following upon ‘a strong (or mighty) hand,’ as in Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 11:2; 1 Kings 8:42; 2 Chronicles 6:32; Psalm 136:12; Jeremiah 32:21; Ezekiel 20:33-34.
It is possible that Nehemiah here has the Jehovist Exodus 32:11 in his thoughts. But as the reading there is doubtful, both the Samaritan and the LXX. texts having ‘a stretched out arm’ instead of ‘a mighty hand,’ we cannot be confident that we have here a quotation.
The words ‘yad hakhezakah’ are rendered by the R.V. ‘strong hand’ here and Exodus 3:19; Exodus 6:1; Exodus 13:9; Numbers 20:20; Psalm 136:12; Jeremiah 32:21 (Ezekiel 30:22), and ‘mighty hand’ in Exodus 32:11; Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 6:21; Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 7:19; Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 11:2; Deuteronomy 26:8; Deuteronomy 34:12; Joshua 4:24; 1 Kings 8:42; 2 Chronicles 6:32; Ezekiel 20:33-34.Verse 10. - Thy people whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power. It would be better to translate, "Whom thou didst redeem." The reference is especially to the deliverance from Egypt, which is so constantly spoken of as effected "with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm" (Deuteronomy 9:29; Deuteronomy 26:8, etc. ). Nehemiah 1:3. Some older expositors thought that Hanani could not have spoken of the destruction of the walls and gates of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, because this was already sufficiently known to Nehemiah, but of some recent demolition on the part of Samaritans and other hostile neighbours of the Jews; in opposition to which, Rambach simply replies that we are told nothing of a restoration of the wall of Jerusalem by Zerubbabel and Ezra. More recently Ewald (Geschichte, iv. p. 137f.) has endeavoured to show, from certain psalms which he transposes to post-Babylonian times, the probability of a destruction of the rebuilt wall, but gives a decided negative to the question, whether this took place during the thirteen years between the arrivals of Ezra and Nehemiah. "For," says he, "there is not in the whole of Nehemiah's record the most distant hint that the walls had been destroyed only a short time since; but, on the contrary, this destruction was already so remote an event, that its occasion and authors were no longer spoken of." Vaihinger (Theol. Stud. und Krit., 1857, p. 88, comp. 1854, p. 124f.) and Bertheau are of opinion that it indisputably follows from Nehemiah 1:3-4, as appearances show, that the walls of Jerusalem were actually rebuilt and the gates set up before the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, and that the destruction of this laborious work, which occasioned the sending of an embassy to the Persian court, was of quite recent occurrence, since otherwise Nehemiah would not have been so painfully affected by it. But even the very opposite opinion held concerning the impression made upon the reader by these verses, shows that appearances are deceitful, and the view that the destruction of the walls and gates was of quite recent occurrence is not implied by the words themselves, but only inserted in them by expositors. There is no kind of historical evidence that the walls of Jerusalem which had been destroyed by the Chaldeans were once more rebuilt before Nehemiah's arrival.
The documents given by Ezra 4:8-22, which are in this instance appealed to, so far from proving the fact, rather bear testimony against it. The counsellor Rehum and the scribe Shimshai, in their letter to Artaxerxes, accuse indeed the Jews of building a rebellious and bad city, of restoring its walls and digging its foundations (Ezra 4:12); but they only give the king to understand that if this city be built and its walls restored, the king will no longer have a portion on this side the river (Ezra 4:16), and hasten to Jerusalem, as soon as they receive the king's decision, to hinder the Jews by force and power (Ezra 4:23). Now, even if this accusation were quite well founded, nothing further can be inferred from it than that the Jews had begun to restore the walls, but were hindered in the midst of their undertaking. Nothing is said in these documents either of a rebuilding, i.e., a complete restoration, of the walls and setting up of the gates, or of breaking down the walls and burning the gates. It cannot be said that to build a wall means the same as pulling down a wall already built. Nor is anything said in Nehemiah 1:3 and Nehemiah 1:4 of a recent demolition. The assertion, too, that the destruction of this laborious work was the occasion of the mission of Hanani and certain men of Judah to the Persian court (Vaihinger), is entirely without scriptural support. In Nehemiah 1:2 and Nehemiah 1:3 it is merely said that Hanani and his companions came from Judah to Nehemiah, and that Nehemiah questioned them concerning the condition of the Jews in the province of Judah, and concerning Jerusalem, and that they answered: The Jews there are in great affliction and reproach, for the wall of Jerusalem is broken down (מפרצת is a participle expressing the state, not the praeter. or perfect, which would be found here if a destruction recently effected were spoken of). Nehemiah, too, in Nehemiah 2:3 and Nehemiah 2:17, only says: The city of my fathers' sepulchres (Jerusalem) lieth desolate (חרבה is an adjective), not: has been desolated. Nor can a visit on the part of Jews from Judah to their compatriot and relative, the king's cup-bearer, be called a mission to the Persian court. - With respect also to the deep affliction of Nehemiah, upon which Bertheau lays so much stress, it by no means proves that he had received a terrible account of some fresh calamity which had but just befallen the community at Jerusalem, and whose whole extent was as yet unknown to him. Nehemiah had not as yet been to Jerusalem, and could not from his own experience know the state of affairs in Judah and Jerusalem; hence he questioned the newly arrived visitors, not concerning the latest occurrences, but as to the general condition of the returned captives. The fact of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldees could not, of course, be unknown to him; but neither could he be ignorant that now ninety years since a great number of captives had returned to their homes with Zerubbabel and settled in Judah and Jerusalem, and that seventy years since the temple at Jerusalem had been rebuilt. Judging from these facts, he might not have imagined that the state of affairs in Judah and Jerusalem was so bad as it really was. When, then, he now learnt that those who had returned to Judah were in great affliction, that the walls of the town were still lying in ruins and its gates burned, and that it was therefore exposed defenceless to all the insults of hostile neighbours, even this information might well grieve him. It is also probable that it was through Hanani and his companions that he first learnt of the inimical epistle of the royal officials Rehum and Shimshai to Artaxerxes, and of the answer sent thereto by that monarch and thus became for the first time aware of the magnitude of his fellow-countrymen's difficulties. Such intelligence might well be such a shock to him as to cause the amount of distress described Nehemiah 1:4. For even if he indulged the hope that the king might repeal the decree by which the rebuilding of the wall had been prohibited till further orders, he could not but perceive how difficult it would be effectually to remedy the grievous state in which his countrymen who had returned to the land of their fathers found themselves, while the disposition of their neighbours towards them was thus hostile. This state was indeed sufficiently distressing to cause deep pain to one who had a heart alive to the welfare of his nation, and there is no need for inventing new "calamities," of which history knows nothing, to account for the sorrow of Nehemiah. Finally, the circumstance that the destruction of the walls and burning of the gates are alone mentioned as proofs of the affliction and reproach which the returned exiles were suffering, arises simply from an intention to hint at the remedy about to be described in the narrative which follows, by bringing this special kind of reproach prominently forward.
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