News of Jerusalem in crisis. Although both the Masoretic tradition and the Septuagint pre‐sent Ezra‐Nehemiah as a single work, the transition from the
conclusion of Ezra to the opening section of Nehemiah is awkward.
“Nehemiah” means “the LORD is compassionate.” Most date this to
(the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I), shortly after some kind of attack on the returnees reflected in the narrative of v. 3
Jerusalem's wall is full of breaches, and its gates have been destroyed by fire: The language recalls the destruction and burning of Jerusalem under the direction of Nebuzaradan, the chief of the guards
under Nebuchadnezzar some 140 years earlier. Nehemiah expresses an urgent need to prevent what threatens to be a second destruction
of the Jerusalem Temple. Cf. 2 Kings 25.8–12
Prayer of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah's behavior accords with mourning and supplication practices that are characteristic of exilic and Second Temple narratives.
Cf. Ezra 9.3–15, where Ezra participates in mourning rituals, fasts, confesses his sins, and then offers an elaborate prayer to the LORD. Similarly, in Dan. 9.3ff.
, Daniel prays while fasting and wearing sackcloth and ashes, then confesses and offers an elaborate prayer to the LORD.
Petionary prayers typically start with an invocation, often just “LORD” or “God.” The unusually long invocation of this v. is meant to remind God of both His power and His obligation to redress
Nehemiah employs the formula used by priests in the confession on Yom Kippur when he says: Confessing the sins that we Israelites have committed against You, sins that I and my father's house have committed.
See Lev. ch 16
and m. Yoma 6.2.
By recalling the history of Israel, Nehemiah reminds God of the promises made to Israel and also of God's own compassion at
times when the Israelites strayed from their course. Much of this passage is a paraphrase of sections of Deuteronomy, though
conceptions from Priestly literature, such as Israel being unfaithful (v. 8
) are mixed in, suggesting that the author was working from a complete Torah similar to our own.
Nehemiah's request to return to Jerusalem is granted.
Nehemiah either demonstrates quick thinking or he has planned this response in advance. Josephus seems to prefer the first
option, reporting this event as occurring on the same day on which Nehemiah is informed of Jerusalem's present situation.
As the cupbearer, Nehemiah occupies a significant and trusted position in the palace of Artaxerxes.
This v. is adduced as proof that it is permissible to accept a gift for the Temple from an idol worshipper only if the gift
is from the government (b. ‘Arak. 6a).
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