The People Confess Their Sin

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites assembled with fasting and in sackcloth and with dirt [a]on their heads. The [b]descendants of Israel (Jacob) separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the wrongdoings of their fathers. While they stood in their places, they read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day and for another fourth [of it] they confessed [their sins] and worshiped the Lord their God. On the platform of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and they called out with a loud voice to the Lord their God.

Then the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah—said, “Stand up and bless (praise, honor) the Lord your God from [c]everlasting to everlasting.

May Your glorious name be blessed
And exalted above all blessing and praise.”

[And Ezra said],
“You are the Lord, You alone;
You have made the heavens,
The heaven of heavens with all their host (the heavenly bodies),
The earth and everything that is on it,
The seas and everything that is in them.
You give life to all of them,
And the heavenly host is bowing down [in worship] to You.

“You are the Lord God,
Who chose Abram
And brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees,
And gave him the name Abraham.

“You found his heart to be faithful [d]before You,
And You [e]made a covenant with him
To give him the land of the Canaanite,
Of the Hittite, of the Amorite,
Of the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite—
To give it to his descendants.
And You have fulfilled Your promise,
For You are righteous and just.

“You saw our fathers’ affliction in Egypt,
And You heard their cry by the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds).
“Then You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh,
Against all his servants and all the people of his land;
For You knew that they behaved arrogantly toward them (the Israelites),
And You made a name for Yourself, as it is to this day.
“You divided the sea before them,
So that they passed through the midst of the sea on dry land;
You hurled their pursuers into the depths,
Like a stone into mighty and raging waters.
“And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day,
And with a pillar of fire by night
To light the way for them
In which they were to go.
“Then You came down on Mount Sinai,
And spoke with them from heaven;
And You gave them fair ordinances and true laws,
Good statutes and commandments.
“So You made known to them Your holy Sabbath,
And gave them commandments, statutes, and law,
[f]Through Your servant Moses.
“You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger,
And brought water for them out of a rock for their thirst,
And You told them to enter and take possession of
The land that You [g]swore to give them.(A)

“But they, our fathers, acted arrogantly;
They stiffened their necks and would not heed Your commandments.
“They refused to listen and obey,
And did not remember Your wondrous acts which You had performed among them;
So they stiffened their necks and [in their rebellion] appointed a leader in order to return them to slavery in Egypt.
But You are a God of forgiveness,
Gracious and merciful and compassionate,
[h]Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness;
And You did not abandon them.(B)
“Even when they had made for themselves
A [i]calf of cast metal
And said, ‘This is your god
Who brought you up from Egypt,’
And committed great [and contemptible] blasphemies,
You, in Your great mercy and compassion,
Did not abandon them in the wilderness;
The pillar of the cloud did not leave them by day,
To lead them in the way,
Nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way they should go.
“You [also] gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,
You did not withhold Your manna from their mouth,
And You gave them water for their thirst.
“Indeed, for forty years You sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing,
Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell.
“You also gave them kingdoms and peoples,
And You allotted the kingdoms to them as a boundary.
So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon
And the land of Og king of Bashan.
“You made their children as numerous as the stars of heaven,
And You brought them into the land
Which You told their fathers to enter and possess.
“So their sons (descendants) went in and took possession of the land;
And You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites,
And You gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land,
To do with them as they pleased.
“They captured fortified cities and a fertile land.
They took possession of houses full of all good things,
Hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves,
And [j]fruit trees in abundance.
So they ate and were filled and became fat,
And they reveled and were delighted in Your great goodness.

“Yet they were disobedient and rebelled against You,
And cast Your law behind their backs
And killed Your prophets who warned them
To return to You;
And they committed great [and contemptible] blasphemies.
“Therefore You handed them over to their enemies who oppressed them.
But when they cried out to You in the time of their suffering and distress,
You heard them from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them [k]people to rescue them.
Who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.
“But as soon as they had rest, they again did evil before You;
Therefore You abandoned them into the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them.
Yet when they turned and cried out again to You, You heard them from heaven,
And You rescued them many times in accordance with Your compassion,
And You admonished them and warned them to turn them back to Your law.
Yet they acted presumptuously and arrogantly and did not heed Your commandments, but sinned against Your ordinances,
Which by keeping, a man will live.
But they turned a stubborn shoulder, stiffened their neck, and would not listen.
“Yet You were patient with them for many years,
And admonished them and warned them by Your Spirit through Your prophets;
Still they would not [l]listen.
Therefore You gave them into the hand (power) of the peoples of the lands.
“Yet in Your great compassion You did not utterly destroy them or abandon them,
For You are a gracious and merciful God.

“Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps the covenant and lovingkindness,
Do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You,
Which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people,
Since the time of the kings of Assyria to this day.
“However, You are just and righteous in everything that has come upon us;
For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly.
Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept Your law
Or paid attention to Your commandments and Your warnings which You have given them.
“But they, in their kingdom,
With Your great goodness which You gave them,
With the broad and rich land which You set before them,
Did not serve You or turn from their wicked deeds.
“Behold, we are slaves today,
And as for the land which You gave our fathers, to eat of its fruit and its goodness,
Behold, we are slaves in it.
“Its abundant produce is for the kings
Whom You have set over us because of our sins;
They also rule over our bodies
And over our cattle as they please,
So we are in great distress.

A Covenant Results

[m]Now because of all this
We are making an agreement in writing;
And on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.”


  1. Nehemiah 9:1 Lit upon them.
  2. Nehemiah 9:2 Lit seed.
  3. Nehemiah 9:5 Lit from the eternity to the eternity.
  4. Nehemiah 9:8 Lit before Your face.
  5. Nehemiah 9:8 Lit cut.
  6. Nehemiah 9:14 Lit by the hand of.
  7. Nehemiah 9:15 Lit lifted up Your hand.
  8. Nehemiah 9:17 Lit with a long nose.
  9. Nehemiah 9:18 The selection of a calf-god was probably inspired by the Egyptian bull-god Apis (Hapis), believed to be a living manifestation of the Egyptian god, Ptah. In ancient Egypt, a bull-calf with specific markings was chosen from the herd and worshiped as Apis. The Apis was the most important of the sacred animals of Egypt. At the age of twenty-eight the Apis bull was sacrificed and buried in a highly structured ritual and a new bull-calf was selected to take his place. Numerous elaborate burial sites containing the Apis bulls have been discovered in Egypt. Both the Greeks and Romans adopted the cultic worship of Apis and it continued until about a.d. 400.
  10. Nehemiah 9:25 Lit food.
  11. Nehemiah 9:27 Lit deliverers.
  12. Nehemiah 9:30 Lit give ear.
  13. Nehemiah 9:38 Ch 10:1 in Hebrew.

Cross references

  1. Nehemiah 9:15 : John 6:31-34
  2. Nehemiah 9:17 : Num 14:4