Nehemiah 9:38
And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal to it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(38) Because of all this.—On the ground of this confession, and to prove our sincerity.

Seal unto it.—On the sealed [document]. Each party impressed his seal on moist clay, which was then hardened. Sometimes these seals were attached to the document by separate strings. In Nehemiah 11, “those who sealed” is, literally, those on the sealed [documents], in the plural.

Nehemiah 9:38. Because of all this we make a sure covenant — Considering all this, they resolved to renew their covenant with God for better obedience, which they promise as the only remedy to procure perfect deliverance. And to make it more effectual, they seem to have declared this in the presence of God, at the conclusion of the foregoing confession and prayer. And write it — It was but of little consequence what such a refractory people promised, even in writing; for what regard would they have to their own hand-writing, who regarded not the ten commandments, written on tables of stone by the finger of God? It was, however, very useful that there should be a public instrument to convince them of their impiety, that they might be publicly confounded if they proved perfidious deserters, by showing them their engagements, under their own hands, to future fidelity. And our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it — Thus they would become witnesses against themselves if they dealt deceitfully. 9:4-38 The summary of their prayers we have here upon record. Much more, no doubt, was said. Whatever ability we have to do any thing in the way of duty, we are to serve and glorify God according to the utmost of it. When confessing our sins, it is good to notice the mercies of God, that we may be the more humbled and ashamed. The dealings of the Lord showed his goodness and long-suffering, and the hardness of their hearts. The testimony of the prophets was the testimony of the Spirit in the prophets, and it was the Spirit of Christ in them. They spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and what they said is to be received accordingly. The result was, wonder at the Lord's mercies, and the feeling that sin had brought them to their present state, from which nothing but unmerited love could rescue them. And is not their conduct a specimen of human nature? Let us study the history of our land, and our own history. Let us recollect our advantages from childhood, and ask what were our first returns? Let us frequently do so, that we may be kept humble, thankful, and watchful. Let all remember that pride and obstinacy are sins which ruin the soul. But it is often as hard to persuade the broken-hearted to hope, as formerly it was to bring them to fear. Is this thy case? Behold this sweet promise, A God ready to pardon! Instead of keeping away from God under a sense of unworthiness, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. He is a God ready to pardon.Seal unto it - The exact force of the phrase used is doubtful; but its general sense must be that the classes named took part in the sealing. It was usual in the East to authenticate covenants by appending the seals of those who were parties to them (see Jeremiah 32:10). 38. we make a sure covenant, and write—that is, subscribe or sign it. This written document would exercise a wholesome influence in restraining their backslidings or in animating them to duty, by being a witness against them if in the future they were unfaithful to their engagements. Because of all this; because all this misery lies upon us for our sins, we do heartily repent of them, and resolve to forsake them. Or, we faithfully promise and engage ourselves to future obedience. And because of all this,.... Of all this distress, and that it might be removed, and be clear of it; or "in all this distress and evil", as Jarchi and Aben Ezra, in the midst of it all:

we make a sure covenant; or faithfully promise to observe the law of God, and particularly put away strange wives, and not intermarry with the people of the land:

and write it; that it may remain and be a testimony against them should they break it, being their own handwriting:

and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it; as witnesses of it, and thereby binding themselves to observe the same things; their names that sealed are given in the next chapter.

And because of all this we make {n} a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.

(n) Thus by affliction they promise to keep God's commandments to which they could not be brought by God's great benefits.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
38. Chap. Nehemiah 10:1 in Heb.; so Luther. The A.V. and R.V. follow the division of the Vulg. and LXX.

And because of all this] R.V. And yet for all this. R.V. marg. ‘Or, because of’. The relation of this sentence to the preceding confession is not certain. This uncertainty has given rise to the doubt whether chap. 9 should not have closed at Nehemiah 9:37. The English translation treats the verse as the concluding sentence of the Confession. The A.V. rendering ‘And because of all this’ refers back to the whole summary of Israelite history (7–37), i.e. ‘because of Jehovah’s mercy in spite of our disobedience.’ The R.V. rendering ‘And yet for all this’ refers especially to the concluding words, describing the sorrows and afflictions which had come upon the people, i.e. ‘And yet in spite of all this oppression our faith in God’s mercy is unshaken, and in proof thereof we sign the covenant.’ This explanation, which is preferable, seems to derive support from other passages where the same prep. and pron. occur. Cf. Isaiah 5:25; Isaiah 9:12, ‘For all this his anger is not turned away.’ Job 1:22, ‘In all this Job sinned not.’

The view that the verse resumes the narrative of Nehemiah 9:1-5 is very improbable on account of the use of the 1st pers. plur., which has not been employed in this section (chaps. 8 and 9).

The Massoretic division into chapters, which begins chap. 10 with this verse, severs the connexion with the previous verses. It was perhaps considered that a more considerable break should be introduced between the conclusion of the Confession and the signing of the Covenant. The Massoretes regarded the present verse as Nehemiah’s preface to the new section.

sure] R.V. marg. ‘Or, faithful’. The words ‘a sure covenant’ render the Hebrew ‘’emanah,’ which elsewhere in the O. T. is only found in Nehemiah 11:23, ‘a settled provision’ (marg. ‘a sure ordinance’). The regular phrase for ‘making’ (lit. ‘cutting’) a covenant (cf. Nehemiah 9:8) occurs; and there can be no doubt of its meaning here. LXX. διατιθέμεθα πίστιν. Vulg. ‘percutimus foedus.’ The Covenant is not between Ezra and the people, but between the people and Jehovah.

our princes, Levites, and priests] R.V. our princes, our Levites, and our priests. The position of the Levites between the ‘princes’ and the ‘priests’ deserves notice, as it illustrates the prominence of the Levites in the movement.

seal unto it] R.V. marg. ‘Or, are at the sealing’. The A.V. rendering suggests the idea of a seal being affixed by each of the chief representatives. But the meaning is rather that the document having been prepared and rendered official by the addition of the seal, the leaders of the people were ‘upon’ the sealed writing, viz. they either appended signatures as witnesses, or made marks to endorse the document and to testify to their approval. In many of the Assyrian tablets, recording business transactions, the marks of the thumb-nails of the witnesses still attest the fact of their presence and approbation.

The National confession (Nehemiah 9:5-38) is thus brought to a conclusion in Nehemiah 9:38 as abruptly as it was begun in Nehemiah 9:5. It consists of four portions, (1) Nehemiah 9:5, the opening ascription; (2) 6–31, the summary of Israel’s religious history; (3) 32–37, the prayer of deprecation and submission; (4) 38, the announcement of the national covenant. This strikingly practical termination of the Confession is very characteristic of the movement headed by Ezra and Nehemiah. Repentance is to take shape in immediate action.

The summary of past history should be compared with that in Psalms 105, 106, 135, 136. It is expressed for the most part in general terms. The only individuals of the chosen people mentioned by name are Abram (Nehemiah 9:7), and Moses (Nehemiah 9:14); but the events recorded in the Pentateuch which are here alluded to are numerous—(1) the call of Abram from Ur; (2) the change of name to Abraham; (3) the covenant with Abraham; (4) the overthrow of Pharaoh and the crossing of the Red Sea; (5) the pillar of cloud and fire; (6) the giving of the law on Mt Sinai; (7) manna; (8) water from the rock; (9) the golden calf; (10) the defeat of Sihon and Og. The possession of the land (Nehemiah 9:24-25) and the sending of the judges (Nehemiah 9:27) are mentioned, but with much less definiteness.

It is strange that we have no mention of Joshua, Samuel, David or Solomon. But very probably the reason of the omission is that the contents of the Pentateuch in the age of Nehemiah were alone regarded as sacred Scripture. Reference to subsequent events and later names would not carry the same weight. These would not be so familiar to the people, and would not carry with them the authority of Divine teaching which already belonged to the ‘Law.’Verse 38. - Because of all this. Because of our past sins and their punishment - to prevent a recurrence of similar conduct and similar afflictions. We... seal unto it. In the East it is always the seal that authenticates a document. Babylonian documents were often stamped with half a dozen seals or more. These were impressed upon the moist clay, and then the clay was baked. Sometimes each party to the contract stamped his seal upon a separate piece of sealing clay, which he then attached to the document by means of a string (Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 154). Any number of seals could be attached in this way.



May then, God, who keepeth covenant and mercy, now also look upon the affliction of His people, though kings, rulers, priests, and people have fully deserved this punishment; for they are now bondmen, and in great affliction, in the land of their fathers. Nehemiah 9:32 "And now, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble that hath come upon us, on our kings, our princes our priests, our prophets, and our fathers, and on all Thy people, since the times of the kings of Assyria unto this day, seem little to Thee. Nehemiah 9:33 Thou art just in all that is come upon us; for Thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly. Nehemiah 9:34 And our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept Thy law, nor hearkened to Thy commandments and Thy testimonies, wherewith Thou didst testify against them. Nehemiah 9:35 And they have not served Thee in their kingdom, and in Thy great goodness that Thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which Thou gavest up to them, and have not turned from their wicked works. Nehemiah 9:36 Behold, we are now bondmen; and the land that Thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof, and the good thereof, behold, we are bondmen in it. Nehemiah 9:37 And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom Thou hast set over us because of our sins; and they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle at their pleasure, and we are in great distress." The invocation of God, Nehemiah 9:32, like that in Nehemiah 1:5, is similar to Deuteronomy 10:17. לפניך ימעט אל stands independently, the following clause being emphasized by את, like e.g., Nehemiah 9:19 : Let not what concerns all our trouble be little before Thee; comp. the similar construction with מעט in Joshua 22:17. What seems little is easily disregarded. The prayer is a litotes; and the sense is, Let our affliction be regarded by Thee as great and heavy. The nouns למלכינוּ, etc., are in apposition to the suffix of מצאתנוּ, the object being continued by ל.
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