Nehemiah 1:9
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.
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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.

1:15-44 The best reformers can but do their endeavour; when the Redeemer himself shall come to Zion, he shall effectually turn away ungodliness from Jacob. And when sin is repented of and forsaken, God will forgive it; but the blood of Christ, our Sin-offering, is the only atonement which takes away our guilt. No seeming repentance or amendment will benefit those who reject Him, for self-dependence proves them still unhumbled. All the names written in the book of life, are those of penitent sinners, not of self-righteous persons, who think they have no need of repentance.The God of heaven - This title of the Almighty, which is Persian rather than Jewish (see 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. Ne 1:4-11. His Prayer.

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.

No text from Poole on this verse.

But if ye return unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them,.... Return by repentance, and, as a proof of the genuineness of it, yield obedience to the commands of God, and continue therein:

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:

yet will I gather them from thence and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there; that is to Jerusalem where the temple was built, and his name was called upon.

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 1:9With his confession of grievous transgression, Nehemiah combines the petition that the Lord would be mindful of His word declared by Moses, that if His people, whom He had scattered among the heathen for their sins, should turn to Him and keep His commandments, He would gather them from all places where He had scattered them, and bring them back to the place which He had chosen to place His name there. This word (הדּבר) he designates, as that which God had commanded to His servant Moses, inasmuch as it formed a part of that covenant law which was prescribed to the Israelites as their rule of life. The matter of this word is introduced by לאמר: ye transgress, I will scatter; i.e., if ye transgress by revolting from me, I will scatter you among the nations, - and ye turn to me and keep my commandments (i.e., if ye turn to me and ... ), if there were of you cast out to the end of heaven (i.e., to the most distant regions where the end of heaven touches the earth), thence will I gather you, etc. נדּח, pat. Niphal, with a collective meaning, cast-out ones, like Deuteronomy 30:4. These words are no verbal quotation, but a free summary, in which Nehemiah had Deuteronomy 30:1-5 chiefly in view, of what God had proclaimed in the law of Moses concerning the dispersion of His people among the heathen if they sinned against Him, and of their return to the land of their fathers if they repented and turned to Him. The clause: if the cast-out ones were at the end of heaven, etc., stands verbally in Nehemiah 1:4. The last words, Nehemiah 1:9, "(I will bring them) to the place which I have chosen, that my name may dwell there," are a special application of the general promise of the law to the present case. Jerusalem is meant, where the Lord caused His name to dwell in the temple; comp. Deuteronomy 12:11. The entreaty to remember this word and to fulfil it, seems ill adapted to existing circumstances, for a portion of the people were already brought back to Jerusalem; and Nehemiah's immediate purpose was to pray, not for the return of those still sojourning among the heathen, but for the removal of the affliction and reproach resting on those who were now at Jerusalem. Still less appropriate seems the citation of the words: If ye transgress, I will scatter you among the nations. It must, however, be remembered that Nehemiah is not so much invoking the divine compassion as the righteousness and faithfulness of a covenant God, the great and terrible God that keepeth covenant and mercy (Nehemiah 1:5). Now this, God had shown Himself to be, by fulfilling the threats of His law that He would scatter His faithless and transgressing people among the nations. Thus His fulfilment of this one side of the covenant strengthened the hope that God would also keep His other covenant word to His people who turned to Him, viz., that He would bring them again to the land of their fathers, to the place of His gracious presence. Hence the reference to the dispersion of the nation among the heathen, forms the actual substructure for the request that so much of the promise as yet remained unfulfilled might come to pass. Nehemiah, moreover, views this promise in the full depth of its import, as securing to Israel not merely an external return to their native land, but their restoration as a community, in the midst of whom the Lord had His dwelling, and manifested Himself as the defence and refuge of His people. To the re-establishment of this covenant relation very much was still wanting. Those who had returned from captivity had indeed settled in the land of their fathers; and the temple in which they might worship God with sacrifices, according to the law, was rebuilt at Jerusalem. But notwithstanding all this, Jerusalem, with its ruined walls and burned gates, was still like a city lying waste, and exposed to attacks of all kinds; while the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah were loaded with shame and contempt by their heathen neighbours. In this sense, Jerusalem was not yet restored, and the community dwelling therein not yet brought to the place where the name of the Lord dwelt. In this respect, the promise that Jahve would again manifest Himself to His repentant people as the God of the covenant was still unfulfilled, and the petition that He would gather His people to the place which He had chosen to put His name there, i.e., to manifest Himself according to His nature, as testified in His covenant (Exodus 34:6-7), quite justifiable. In Nehemiah 1:10 Nehemiah supports his petition by the words: And these (now dwelling in Judah and Jerusalem) are Thy servants and Thy people whom Thou hast redeemed, etc. His servants who worship Him in His temple, His people whom He has redeemed from Egypt by His great power and by His strong arm, God cannot leave in affliction and reproach. The words: "redeemed with great power" ... are reminiscences from Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 9:26, Deuteronomy 9:29, and other passages in the Pentateuch, and refer to the deliverance from Egypt.
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