Confession of the People. 1 On the twenty-fourth day of this month, the Israelites, wearing sackcloth and with their heads covered with dust, assembled together for a fast. 2 Then those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, after which they stood up and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors.[a]
3 They next stood in their places and read from the book of the law of the Lord, their God, for a fourth part of the day, after which they spent another quarter of the day in confessing their sins and worshiping the Lord, their God. 4 Standing on the platform of the Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and they cried aloud to the Lord, their God.
5 Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said:
“Stand up and bless the Lord, your God
from everlasting to everlasting.
And blessed is your glorious name
that is exalted above all blessing and praise.”
6 Then Ezra said:
“You alone are the Lord:
you have created the heavens,
the highest heavens with all their host,
the earth and all that is upon it,
the seas and all that is in them.
To all of them you gave life,
and the hosts of heaven worship you.
7 “You are the Lord,
the God who chose Abram,
who brought him out from Ur of the Chaldeans
and changed his name to Abraham.
8 Finding that his heart was faithful,
you made a covenant with him
to give to his descendants
the land of the Canaanites,
Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites,
Jebusites, and Girgashites.
The promises of yours you fulfilled,
for you are just.
9 “You beheld the misery of our ancestors in Egypt
and heard their cry at the Red Sea.
10 “You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh,
against all his servants and the people of his land.
Because you knew of the great arrogance
with which they treated our forefathers,
and you won renown for yourself
that has lasted even to this very day.
11 “You divided the sea before them,
and they passed through the sea on dry ground.
However, their pursuers you hurled into the depths
like a stone cast into turbulent waters.
12 By a pillar of cloud you led them by day,
and by a pillar of fire during the night,
to light the way ahead of them
along which they were to follow.
13 “You came down on Mount Sinai
and spoke with them from heaven.
You gave them regulations and laws
that are just and right,
statutes and commandments that are good.
14 You made known to them your holy sabbath,
and through your servant Moses
you gave them commandments, statutes, and laws.
15 “You gave them bread from heaven
to ease their hunger,
and you brought forth water from a rock
to quench their thirst.
You also told them to enter
and take possession of the land
which you had solemnly sworn to give them.
16 “However, they and our ancestors acted with arrogance;
they stubbornly refused to obey your commandments.
17 They refused to obey you
and no longer recalled the miracles
you had wrought among them.
In their obstinacy they became stiff-necked
and came to a decision
to return to their slavery in Egypt.
But because you are a forgiving God,
gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and rich in mercy,
you did not forsake them.
18 “Even when they had cast for themselves
a calf out of molten metal
and proclaimed: ‘Here is your God
who brought you up from Egypt,’
and were guilty of gross blasphemies,
19 you in your great compassion
did not abandon them in the wilderness.
The pillar of cloud never failed
to lead them on their journey by night,
nor did the pillar of fire fail by night
to light the way ahead of them
by which they were to go.
20 “You bestowed your good spirit on them
to give them understanding.
Your manna you did not withhold from their mouths,
and you gave them water in their thirst.
21 For forty years you sustained them;
they lacked nothing in the wilderness.
Their clothes did not become worn,
and their feet did not become swollen.
22 “You gave them kingdoms and peoples,
allotting to them even the most remote frontiers.
They took possession of the land of King Sihon of Heshbon
and the land of King Og of Bashan.
23 You made their children as numerous
as the stars of the heavens,
and you brought them into the land
which you had commanded their fathers to enter and possess.
24 “The sons entered and took possession of the land,
and you subdued the Canaanite inhabitants
and delivered them into your power,
their kings as well as the peoples of the land,
to deal with them as they pleased.
25 They captured fortified towns and fertile land;
they took possession of houses
filled with all kinds of good things,
cisterns already dug, vineyards,
olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance.
They ate and had their fill, grew fat,
and found delight in your great goodness.
26 “Nevertheless they grew disobedient,
rebelled against you,
and cast your law behind their backs.
They also killed your prophets
who bore witness against them
to bring them back to you,
while they committed great blasphemies.
27 Therefore, you delivered them
into the power of their enemies
who caused them to suffer greatly.
But when they would cry out to you
in the midst of their oppression,
from heaven you heard them,
and in your great compassion
you would send them saviors
to deliver them from the clutches
of their oppressors.
28 “However, after some respite,
they would resume their evil deeds,
and so the Lord abandoned them to their enemies
who then became their rulers.
When once again they appealed to you,
you heard them from heaven,
and because of your compassion
you rescued them on many occasions.
29 You solemnly warned them
in order to bring them back to your law.
However, they became arrogant
and refused to obey your commandments,
and they sinned against your ordinances
whose observance would bring life
to those who keep them.
Rather they stubbornly turned aside,
and in their obstinacy they refused to obey.
30 “You were patient with them for many years
and warned them by your spirit
through the prophets.
However, when they continued to refuse to listen,
you put them at the mercy
of the people of other lands.
31 Yet even so, because of your great compassion,
you did not completely destroy them,
nor did you forsake them,
for you are a gracious and merciful God.
32 “Therefore, O our God,
you are great, mighty, and awesome,
maintaining the covenant and your faithful love.
Do not treat lightly,
as something of little account,
these hardships that have afflicted us,
our kings, our princes, our priests,
our prophets and all your people,
from the days of the kings of Assyria
until this very day.
33 You have treated us with justice
in everything that has happened to us,
for you have remained faithful to us
even though we have done wrong in your eyes.
34 “Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our ancestors
did not keep your law,
nor did they pay attention to your commandments
or heed the warnings you gave them.
35 Even while they were in their own kingdom,
despite the abundant goodness
that you bestowed upon them,
and despite the wide and fertile land
that you lavished upon them,
they did not serve you
or renounce their evil deeds.
36 “But see, here we are slaves today,
slaves in this land
that you gave to our ancestors
so that we might savor its fruits
and all the good things it produces.[b]
37 All its abundant yield
is given to the kings
whom you have set over us
because of our sins.
They also rule over our bodies
and do as they please with our cattle;
therefore we are in great distress.”
- Nehemiah 9:2 In addition to fasting and wearing sackcloth, the repentant Israelites made a public confession of their sins and that of their ancestors.
- Nehemiah 9:36 The Israelites reoccupied the land that God had provided for them, but were still required to return part of their resources to a foreign king.