Nehemiah 9

The people tell God that they are sorry about the bad things that they have done

1 On the 24th day of the same month, the Jews met together. They did not eat or drink. They wore sackcloth and they put dust on their heads.

9:1Sackcloth is hard. It is not nice to wear. Jews wore sackcloth to show that they were sorry. Jews put dust on their heads to show that they were sad or in trouble.

2 The people from Jewish families had kept themselves separate from foreign people. The Jewish people stood up because they were sorry for their sins. They said that they and their ancestors had done many bad things. 3 The Jews read from the Book of the Law during a quarter of the day. During a quarter of the day they told the Lord their God their sins and they worshipped him. 4 The Levites stood above the other people on steps made from wood. They cried aloud to the Lord their God. The Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. 5 The Levites Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah said, ‘Stand up and praise the Lord your God. He lives always and for ever.’ They said, ‘Your name is great and beautiful. We praise you more than words could ever say. 6 Only you are the Lord. You made the sky. You made even the highest sky and everything in it and the stars. You made the earth and everything on it. You made the sea and everything in it. You gave life to everything. All things in heaven worship you. 7 You are the Lord God who chose Abram. You brought him out of Ur, the country where the people called Chaldeans live. You called him Abraham. 8 Abraham was faithful. He believed you and he obeyed you. You made a promise to him. You promised to give to his descendants the country where the people called Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites lived. You have always kept your promises because you are good. You do only good things.

9 You saw that our ancestors were not happy in Egypt. You heard them cry aloud to you at the Red Sea. 10 You made great things happen against Pharaoh (the king of Egypt) and all his people and soldiers. You knew their thoughts. They thought that your people had no value. And they did bad things to your people. You showed everyone that you are a powerful God. And people believe this still. 11 You made a path in the sea between two walls. The Jews walked through on a dry path. When Pharaoh and his soldiers followed, you threw the sea over them. You closed the path through the sea. And so Pharaoh's soldiers drowned. 12 During the day, you led the Jews with a tall cloud. At night, you led them with a cloud of fire to give them light. You showed them the way to go.

13 You came to Sinai mountain. You spoke to Moses there. You gave him your laws and rules. Your laws are good and true. All that you told them was right. 14 You told the Jews about the Sabbath. And by your servant Moses you gave them your laws. 15 You gave the Jews bread from heaven when they were hungry. You gave them water from a rock to drink. You told them to go and take the land. You had promised to give it to them.

16 But our ancestors did not obey you. They thought that their way was better. 17 They did not listen to you. They forgot all the good things that you had done on their behalf. They chose a leader to take them back to Egypt. They chose to return to where they had been slaves. But you forgave them. You are God who loves his people very much. You do not become angry quickly. So you did not leave your people. 18 The Jewish people made a gold calf to worship. They said that this was a god. They said that the gold calf had brought them out of Egypt. But even then you did not leave your people. 19 You did not leave them in the desert, because you loved your people. In the day, the pillar of cloud did not stop showing them the way. The pillar of fire did not stop showing them the way at night.’

9:18A calf is a young cow. The Jews used gold to make something in the shape of a calf. Then they worshipped it.
9:19A desert is a large piece of land made of sand and stone. It is empty because there is not much water there.

20 ‘You gave them your good Spirit to tell them what to do. You continued to give them bread from heaven. You gave them water from a rock to drink. 21 During 40 years you gave them everything that they needed. Their clothes did not become thin. Their feet did not get big and hurt. 22 You gave the Jews countries that other kings had ruled. You gave them the country Heshbon, of King Sihon and the country Bashan, of King Og. 23 The Jewish people had many sons. You brought their sons into the country. You had told their fathers to take it and to live there. 24 The sons of the Jewish people took the land. You gave them power over the Canaanites who lived there. You gave the Canaanites' kings and people to the Jewish people's sons. They did with the Canaanites as they wanted to do. 25 They took their cities and land. The houses that they took were full of good things. Your people did not have to dig wells. The country was full of fruit and olive trees. They had plenty of food to eat. Everyone said how good God was.

26 But the Jews did not obey you. They stopped obeying your laws. They killed the prophets that you sent. Those prophets had told them that they should return to your ways. Your people had said very bad things about you. 27 So you gave the Jews to their enemies. Their enemies ruled over them. Then the Jews cried aloud to you. From heaven you heard them cry. You loved them very much. So you sent people to save them from their enemies.

28 But when they were safe from their enemies, they did bad things again. So you gave them back to their enemies. Their enemies ruled over them. Your people cried aloud to you again, and again you heard them. You saved them many, many times because you loved them. 29 You told them that they must obey your laws. But they would not listen to you. They thought that their ways were better than yours. They sinned against you. They would not obey your laws. But those laws help people to live. 30 You helped the Jews during many years. You sent your Spirit to them by your prophets. They told them that they should remember your laws. And they told them that they should return to you. But they would not listen to you. So you gave them to enemies from the countries round Israel. 31 You are a God who loves your people. And you are kind to them. So you did not let your people die nor did you leave them alone.

32 Our God, you are great and powerful and you keep your promises. You continue to love us. Remember how many troubles we have had. They are not small troubles. Our kings, priests, prophets and our ancestors have all had great troubles. We have had trouble since the time of the kings of Assyria. 33 But in all our troubles, you have always been fair to us. When we did wrong things, you were always fair to us. 34 Our kings, leaders, priests and our fathers did not obey your laws. They did not listen to your rules. They would not do as your prophets told them to do. 35 You gave them good land and food. They enjoyed these, but they would not obey you. They did not stop doing things that were wrong. 36 So now we are slaves. We are slaves in the country that you gave to our ancestors. You wanted them to enjoy its food and good things. 37 But we have sinned. So their kings take the food that grows in our fields. You put these kings to rule over us. They use us and our animals as they like. We have many troubles.

The people promise to obey the Law

38 Because of this we are all making a promise. We are writing our promise. Our leaders, Levites and priests are putting their mark of authority on it.’