But if you turn to me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out to the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from there, and will bring them to the place that I have chosen to set my name there.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Nehemiah 1:9. But if ye turn unto me, I will gather them from thence, &c. — This promise made by Moses he trusted God would fulfil, as he had the threatening. It is to be observed, that Nehemiah was directed in this prayer to God, and in his efforts for the restoration of Jerusalem, by the predictions of Moses, Deuteronomy 30:1-4. And he plainly found the truth of that prophecy in the readiness of the king of Persia to grant his petition, which, no doubt, confirmed his faith in what Moses there declares.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.
though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven; that is, the uttermost parts of the earth, the most distant regions; so called, because at the extreme parts of the horizon, according to our apprehension, the heavens and earth touch each other; so that what is the uttermost part of the one is supposed to be of the other:But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. The Promise. The appeal to this promise marks the crisis of the prayer.
if ye turn] R.V. return. The word, as in Deuteronomy 30:2, is stronger than to ‘turn’. It denotes a ‘return’ from a wrong road. The back is turned upon the former wrong direction. Cf. Malachi 3:18.
and keep my commandments, and do them] R.V. omits comma. These words contain the practical explanation of the ‘return.’ No distinction can really be drawn between ‘keeping’ and ‘doing’ the commandments. The words occur together with great frequency in Deuteronomy, both as ‘observe to do’ and ‘observe (or keep) and do.’
though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, &c.] R.V. though your outcasts were in the uttermost part of the heaven, &c. This and the next clauses are clearly taken from Deuteronomy 30:4, where the same words (except for the use of the 2nd sing. for the 2nd plur.) occur. The term ‘your outcasts’ does not occur with this usage elsewhere in the Pentateuch, while the exact phrase ‘in the uttermost part of heaven’ also only occurs there. The word ‘outcasts’ may be illustrated from 2 Samuel 14:13-14; Isaiah 16:3-4; Isaiah 27:13; Isaiah 56:8; Jeremiah 30:17; Jeremiah 49:36, and ‘the uttermost part of heaven’ from Deuteronomy 4:32 and Jdg 7:11. But the occurrence here side by side of these two forms can only be accounted for on the supposition that Nehemiah has here in his thoughts the passage Deuteronomy 30:1-4.
On ‘gathering the outcasts’ compare the title given to the Lord in Isaiah 56:8, ‘The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel.’
and will bring them] The promise to bring together ‘the outcasts’ of Israel should be compared with the metaphor of the shepherd and the scattered sheep, in Ezekiel 34:11-18. See especially, Ezekiel 34:13, ‘And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land.’
unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there] R.V., to cause my name to dwell there. This sentence is again characteristically Deuteronomic. The words, ‘the place which the Lord thy God shall choose,’ do not occur in the Pentateuch except in the book Deuteronomy, where they are found some 20 times. In five of these passages (Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 14:23, Deuteronomy 16:6; Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 26:2) the full phrase is found, ‘the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there,’ which Nehemiah here quotes.
That ‘the place’ so designated is Jerusalem and the Temple at Jerusalem is beyond all doubt. This was the place of which God had said ‘My name shall be there’ (1 Kings 8:29). At Shiloh God ‘caused his name to dwell at the first’ (Jeremiah 7:12). But Shiloh passed away. And though Jerusalem for a time seemed threatened with a like fate (Jeremiah 7:12-15), the day came when the watchmen upon the hills of Ephraim cried, ‘Arise ye and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God’ (Jeremiah 31:6).
The Hebrew verb ‘cause to dwell’ is that from which came the late Hebrew word ‘Shechinah’, applied to the visible manifestation in Glory of the Divine Presence.
The association of ‘the Name’ with the Temple is very frequent in Chronicles (e.g. 1 Chronicles 22:7-10; 1 Chronicles 22:19; 1 Chronicles 28:3; 1 Chronicles 29:16; 2 Chronicles 2:1; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 2 Chronicles 6:5-9; 2 Chronicles 6:20; 2 Chronicles 6:33-34; 2 Chronicles 6:38; 2 Chronicles 7:16; 2 Chronicles 7:20; 2 Chronicles 12:13; 2 Chronicles 20:8-9; 2 Chronicles 33:4; 2 Chronicles 33:7).Nehemiah 7:10, it is evident that his own brother is meant. "And I asked them concerning the Jews, and concerning Jerusalem." היּהוּדים is further defined by וגו הפּליטה, who had escaped, who were left from the captivity; those who had returned to Judah are intended, as contrasted with those who still remained in heathen, lands. In the answer, Nehemiah 1:3, they are more precisely designated as being "there in the province (of Judah)." With respect to המּדינה, see remarks on Ezra 2:1. They are said to be "in great affliction (רעה) and in reproach." Their affliction is more nearly defined by the accessory clause which follows: and the wall equals because the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates burned with fire. מפרצת, Pual (the intensive form), broken down, does not necessarily mean that the whole wall was destroyed, but only portions, as appears from the subsequent description of the building of the wall, Nehemiah 3.
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