Nehemiah 9:2
And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
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(2) The seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers.—The change to “seed” has here a deep propriety. They carefully avoided the many aliens among them throughout this fast.

And stood and confessed.—It must be remembered that these verses give the programme of what is afterwards filled up: the very praise for which they “stood” was filled with confession.

Nehemiah 9:2. The seed of Israel separated themselves — From all unnecessary society with the heathen, and particularly from those strange women whom some of them had married. For although Ezra had effected this separation formerly, as far as he had knowledge of the faulty persons, and power to reform them; yet it seems there were some criminals who either had escaped his knowledge, or were beyond the reach of his power; or there were some new delinquents that since that time had fallen into the same error, and now showed the truth of their repentance by forsaking their beloved sins and dearest relations. And the iniquities of their fathers — Which they confess, partly as one cause of their present sufferings; and partly because they, by their practices, had justified their father’s sins, and made them their own.9:1-3 The word will direct and quicken prayer, for by it the Spirit helps our infirmities in prayer. The careful study of God's word will more and more discover to us our own sinfulness, and the plenteousness of his salvation; thus it calls us to mourn for sin, and to rejoice in him. Every discovery of the truth of God, should render us more unwearied in attendance on his sacred word, and on his worship.The festival lasted from the 15th day of the 7th month to the first. The 22nd day was a day of solemn observance Nehemiah 8:18. One day seems to have been allowed the people for rest; and then the work of repentance, for which they had shown themselves ready Nehemiah 8:9, was taken in hand, and a general fast was proclaimed. 2. confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers—Not only did they read in their recent sufferings a punishment of the national apostasy and guilt, but they had made themselves partakers of their fathers' sins by following the same evil ways. From all strangers; from all familiar and unnecessary society with the heathens, and particularly from those strange women whom some of them had married. For though Ezra had done this formerly, Ezra 10, as far as he had knowledge of the persons faulty, and power to redress their faults, yet, it seems, there were some criminals, who were either without his knowledge, or out of his power; or these were some new delinquents, that since that time had fallen into the same error, and showed the truth of their repentance by the forsaking of their beloved sins and dearest relations. See again Nehemiah 13:3.

The iniquities of their fathers; which they confess partly as one cause of their present sufferings; and partly because they by their practices had justified their fathers’ sins, and made them their own. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers,.... Such as were genuine Israelites, of the seed of Abraham, who had married wives of the Gentiles, strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, either before the reformation by Ezra, not being then discovered, or had fallen into this evil since; but now, on the reading of the law, were convinced of it, and so separated themselves from such wives, which was a proof of the truth of their repentance:

and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers: particularly their taking of strange wives, which their fathers had also done, and set them a bad example, which they had followed; of standing and confessing, see Luke 18:13.

And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
2. the seed of Israel] A more formal and poetical expression than ‘the children of Israel.’ It does not occur again in these books; but we find it in 2 Kings 17:20; 1 Chronicles 16:13; Psalm 22:23, and in Is. Jer. The phrase to be compared with it is ‘the holy seed’ in Ezra 9:2 (Esther 10:3).

separated themselves] See on Nehemiah 10:28; Ezra 9:2-3. No stranger was to take part in this national act of humiliation and confession. The ‘strangers,’ i.e. the heathen who had not joined themselves to the ‘holy seed,’ and yet resided in Jerusalem, were not permitted to take part in the ceremony about to be described. Some commentators regard the words as describing in anticipation the result of the action taken by the Israelites on this day, as if by their penitence and confession they finally severed themselves from ‘the strangers.’ But from the position of the verse it is more natural to understand it of a solemn act of separation preliminary to the ratification of the Covenant.

from all strangers] ‘b’ ney nêkar,’ i.e. ‘children of the foreigner,’ LXX. ἀπὸ παντὸς υἱοῦ ἀλλοτρίου. Vulg. ‘ab omni filio alienigena,’ as in Psalm 18:45; Psalm 144:7; Psalm 144:11; Isaiah 60:10; Isaiah 61:5; Isaiah 62:8; Ezekiel 44:7.

confessed their sins] So in chap. Nehemiah 1:6; and compare a possibly parallel instance of national ‘confession,’ 2 Chronicles 30:22, where however there is some doubt whether ‘confession’ or ‘thanksgiving’ is intended: cf. Ezra 10:11.

sins, and the iniquities] ‘Sin’ (ḥattâth) denoting ‘failure’ generally from the right way; ‘iniquity’ (‘âvôn), carrying also the sense of ‘guilt,’ but denoting especially ‘crookedness’ and ‘perverseness’ (2 Samuel 7:14). Both words occur with the verb ‘confess;’ ‘sins,’ Leviticus 5:5; Numbers 5:7; Daniel 9:20; ‘iniquities,’ Leviticus 16:21; Leviticus 26:40.Verse 2. - The seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers. Compare Nehemiah 10:28, by which it appears that the "strangers" are "the people of the lands," or neighbouring heathen, of whom there were at all times considerable numbers in Jerusalem (comp. Nehemiah 13:16). It was not fitting that these aliens should take part in a ceremony of which the main object was that the special people of God should renew their covenant with him. Stood and confessed. Attitude is perhaps scarcely intended here, since the Jews confessed their sins kneeling (Ezra 9:5), or prostrate (Ezra 10:1). Hence we hear in the next verse that they "stood up," or "rose up" (consurrexerunt, Vulg.). And they found written in the law that the Lord had commanded Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month; and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying: "Go forth to the mount, and fetch olive branches, etc. to make booths, as it is written." This statement is not to be understood as saying that the heads of the people sought in the law, fourteen days before the feast, for information as to what they would have to do, that they might prepare for the due celebration of the feast of tabernacles (Bertheau). The text only states that the heads of the people again betook themselves to Ezra on the second day, to receive from him instruction in the law, and that in reading the law they found the precept concerning the celebration of the festival in booths, i.e., they met with this precept, and were thereby induced to celebrate the approaching festival in strict accordance with its directions. The law concerning the feast of tabernacles, of which the essentials are here communicated, is found Leviticus 23:39-43. In Deuteronomy 16:13 they were only commanded to keep the feast with gladness. The particular of dwelling in booths or bowers is taken from Leviticus 23:43; the further details in Nehemiah 8:15 relate to the carrying out of the direction: "He shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook" (Leviticus 23:43). Go to the mountain, a woody district, whence branches may be obtained. עלי, state constructive plural of עלה, leaf, foliage, here leafy boughs or branches of trees. זית, the olive, שׁמן עץ, the wild olive (oleaster), the myrtle, the palm, and branches of thick-leaved trees, are here mentioned (the two latter being also named in Leviticus). כּכּתוּב does not relate to the preparation of the booths, but to the precept that the feast should be kept in booths. In Nehemiah 8:16 the accomplishment of the matter is related, presupposing a compliance with the proclamation sent out into all the cities in the land, and indeed so speedy a compliance that the booths were finished by the day of the feast. The object (the branches of Nehemiah 8:15) must be supplied to ויּביאוּ from the context. They made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the open space at the water-gate (see on Nehemiah 8:3), and the open space at the gate of Ephraim. On the situation of this gate, see rem. on Nehemiah 3:8. The open space before it must be thought of as within the city walls. On these two public places, booths were probably made by those who had come to Jerusalem, but did not dwell there; while the priests and Levites belonging to other places would build theirs in the courts of the temple.
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