Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.CHAPTER 9
1. The public humiliation and confession (Nehemiah 9:1-5)
2. The great confession and prayer (Nehemiah 9:6-38)
Nehemiah 9:1-5. Two days after the feast of tabernacles had been concluded this humiliation and confession of sin took place. The assembled congregation fasted, with sackcloth and earth upon them. Separation was next. Evil confessed must mean evil put away. They separated themselves from all strangers, and after their confession they worshipped the Lord. Here again is the right order of a spiritual revival. Reading, hearing and believing the Word always comes first; humiliation, self-judgment, confession and true worship follow.
Nehemiah 9:6-38. The Levites who occupied the platform (called here stairs) called upon the people to stand up and to bless the Lord and His glorious Name. Then follows the prayer. It is the longest recorded prayer in the Bible and is much like Daniel’s prayer (Dan. 9) and Ezra’s prayer (Ezra 9). These three prayers deserve a careful comparison and study.
First there is a beautiful invocation and outburst of worship. “Thou art the LORD, even thou alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things that are thereon, the seas and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.” Here is the praise of the Creator, whose power is acknowledged, as well as the Preserver of His creation. The covenant of God with Abraham and the seed of Abraham is next mentioned (Nehemiah 9:7-8) and then follows the account of the deliverance of their fathers from Egypt. He was their Redeemer (Nehemiah 9:9-11). The experience of the wilderness is stated in verses Nehemiah 9:12-21. The Creator-Redeemer led them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night; He spoke with them, gave them His commandments. He supplied them with bread from heaven and water from the rock. Then follows the story of their disobedience, and with what graciousness the Lord had dealt with their fathers. “Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst. Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.” The possession of the land of Canaan is given in verses Nehemiah 9:22-25, revealing God’s faithfulness and His power in behalf of His redeemed people. Nehemiah 9:26-30 cover the period of the judges and the prophets. In all the mercy of God is exalted. Then comes the prayer for mercy, with the acknowledgment of their sins as a nation.