Israel’s confession and oath (9:1-10:39)
Two days after the end of the Feast of Tabernacles (which lasted from the fifteenth day to the twenty- second day of the month; see 8:18; Lev 23:34), the people reassembled for another reading of the law.
After this came a time of confession and worship led by the Levites (9:1-5).
The prayer began by exalting God as the great Creator, and by praising him for choosing Abraham and making his covenant with him (6-8). God was faithful to his people through all their trials, whether in Egypt or in the wilderness (9-15). Even when they rebelled against him, he forgave them and brought them into the promised land (16-25). Still the people were rebellious and still God forgave them. But they continued in their disobedience. In the end, after many defeats and much oppression, they were taken captive into foreign lands, so that God might humble them and bring them to repentance (26-31). Though they were now back in their land, they were still under the rule of foreigners. They confessed that this was a just reward for their sins, for they had been disobedient to the covenant (32-37).
Having confessed their failures, the people made a fresh covenant promise to be faithful to God. They confirmed their promise with a written oath signed by their leaders on their behalf (38). Nehemiah was the first to sign (10:1), followed by the priests (2-8), Levites (9-13) and civil leaders (14-27). All the people were bound by the covenant document to be obedient to God’s law (28-29).
Specific matters mentioned in the document concerned mixed marriages (30; see Exod 34:15-16), the Sabbath day and the sabbatical year (31; see Exod 20:8-10, 23:10-11; Deut 15:1-2), the temple tax (32; see Exod 30:11-16), the maintenance of the temple and its rituals (33-34), offerings of firstfruits and firstborn (35-36; see Num 18:13-18) and tithes (37-39; see Num 18:21-28).