This Post covers part of the book of Nehemiah. It looks first at different observations for Nehemiah 1:4-11, but also has two additional sections. The second section covers an outline for this part of Nehemiah, while the final section concludes with a compare and contrast between the beginning and end of this section. This focuses on how the writer changes in mood, tone.
Part 1: Observations about Nehemiah 1:4-11 (NASB)
4 When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
- “When” is a temporal word of connection describing a word of time.
- “I” indicates that this is a biographical structure.
- This verse also represents a historical structure.
- “These words” indicates that he was told something in a prior verse.
- The atmosphere in this verse is one of sadness.
- “When I heard these words, I sat down” is an example of an explanation or analysis law.
- “When I heard these words” is an example of a preparation or introduction law.
- “I sat down and wept and mourned for days” is an example of a continuation law.
- “I sat down and wept and mourned for days” is the independent clause.
- “And I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” is the dependent clause.
- The cause of the author sitting down and weeping is the words he had heard.
- The effect of “these words” is the author weeping, mourning, fasting and praying.
- The clauses are an example of the causation law.
5 I said, “I beseech You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,
- “You, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God” is an example of the law of continuity.
- “Covenant” and “commandments” describes the law of continuation.
- “I said” indicates the law of preparation or introduction.
- “Who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments” indicates the law of causation and substantiation by the audience loves God and keeps His commands, God will preserve the covenant.
- This verse indicates the law of proportion by the number of times God is emphasized.
- “Beseech” indicates the author knows only God can help him.
- “Beseech” also indicates a time of great need for the author.
- The author begins his prayer by exalting God and reminding himself who God is.
- The author’s use of describing God as “great and awesome” and His sustenance in the statement “preserves the covenant and lovingkindness” is an example of the law of instrumentation which will be shown later in verses nine and ten.
- “Commandments” indicates a set of rules for the people to follow.
- “Covenant” indicates that God is a God of truth and made an agreement with those “who love Him.”
6 let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned.
- The speaker continues his attitude of humility as seen in the previous verse.
- The speaker recognizes himself as a servant.
- The law of continuation is shown here as the speaker continues the thought of the divine “You”.
- “Before” is a word of connection that indicates time.
- The speaker indicates that the “sons of Israel are also servants of God.
- The terms “now, day and night” describe the law of particularization and generalization by mentioning praying “day and night” in general, but indicating the particular time of “now.
- The law of particularization and generalization is also shown in the general form of confessing the sins of the “sons of Israel” and the particular in stating “I and my father’s house have sinned.”
- The law of harmony is indicated here by the way that God can hear the speaker’s prayer is by having attentive ears and open eyes.
- The speaker confesses that he and the “sons of Israel” have broken that covenant and commandments that were mentioned in the previous verse.
- The verse indicates the geography of where these events are taking place.
- The verse indicates the speaker’s closeness or familiarity with the “sons of Israel”.
7 We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.
- The theme of breaking commandments and sinning is continued from previous verses into this verse, which is an example of the law on continuation.
- “We” is the speaker speaking on behalf of himself and the sons of Israel from the previous verse.
- “You” is the “great and awesome God” mentioned in verse 5.
- The “nor” statements are a series of facts.
- This verse indicates the law of causation and substantiation by tying verse six together with this verse in that verse six describes the confessing (effect) and verse seven the corruption (cause).
- This verse indicates that Moses was a leader that received the commands from God.
- This verse also describes the law of explanation or analysis by explaining the need for confession from the previous verse.
- The verse points to the hinge or pivot point of the prayer, which indicates the law of cruciality. The reason for the scattering of people mentioned in verses eight and nine is because they “acted very corruptly”.
- The terms “commandments”, “statutes” and “ordinances” indicate the law on continuity.
- The speaker recognizes the “You” or God as a king or ruler.
- The law of continuation is shown by the speaker identifying himself as a servant in the previous verse and referring to Moses as a servant in this verse.
8 Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples;
- This verse indicates the law of explanation by describing that unfaithfulness will lead to the “sons of Israel” being scattered “among the peoples”.
- The instrument that caused them to be scattered is their unfaithfulness displays the law of instrumentation.
- “If” is a word that connects a logical condition to being “unfaithful”.
- “Peoples” indicates a large body of population.
- “Remember” is used emotionally to ask God to recall this command.
- The law of particularization and generalization is used by the general being command and the particular being what happens with being unfaithful.
- The law of causation and substantiation is applied in the verse with the cause being “unfaithful” and the effect being “I will scatter you among the peoples.”
- The law of continuity is indicated by the word “commanded”.
- The law of preparation or introduction is used here to indicate the background on the “sons of Israel” being scattered.
- The law of repetition is displayed here by repeating the phrase “Your servant Moses” from the previous verse.
9 but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’
- “But” is a contrastive conjunction indicating a continuation from the previous text.
- “If” is a logical word indicating a condition.
- Law of interchange works in this verse by the people being scattered to the remote parts of the heavens. Then to the gathering to bring them to the place God has chosen.
- The causation and substantiation laws are at work with the “return to Me and keep My commandments” resulting in God bringing them back together at “the place where I have chosen.”
- “Though” is a logical contrastive word beginning a contrastive clause.
- The law of contrast is used by describing people being scattered in remote parts of heaven to all of them being back together in a single place.
- “Where” is a local word of connection indicating a certain geographical area where God’s “name” will “dwell”.
- The law of repetition is used in this verse with the word “scattered” which was used in the previous verse.
- The law of continuation is indicated in this verse by the keeping of commandments.
- The law of continuation is also used here to continue the thought of God’s authority to bring the people back together that has been indicated in previous verses.
- “Return to Me and keep My commandments and do them” is the instrument used to show the law of instrumentation.
- The opportunity to go from being scattered in remote parts of the heavens to being back together and dwelling where God chose to “cause My name to dwell” indicates the law of climax.
10 They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand.
- “Great power” and “strong hand” are the instruments used to indicate how God redeemed these people which is indicative of the law of instrumentation.
- “Your servants” is used to show the law of repetition from previous verses talking about “the sons of Israel Your servants” in verse six.
- “They” and “Your people” indicates the law of continuation for the people who are to be restored back together after being scattered.
- The law of repetition is used in this verse in describing whose servant, whose people, who redeemed and by whose power and strong hand.
- The law of comparison is shown by the people being redeemed by God’s “great power” and “strong hand”.
- Law of cruciality is utilized in this verse as it describes redemption comes to God’s people by His “great power” and “strong hand” after they have returned to God as mentioned in the previous verse.
- “Great power” and “strong hand” are used to illustrate the law of instrumentation.
- The law of proportion is used in this verse with the words “You” and Your” to emphasize God.
- “Your servants” and “Your people” illustrate the law of harmony that the “sons of Israel” will once again be God’s people who received the commands as mentioned in verse six.
- “Your great power” and “Your strong hand” indicate the why and how of the logical structural progression in this narrative.
- The law of comparison is demonstrated in the phrases “Your servants” and “Your people”.
11 O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.” Now I was the cupbearer to the king.
- “I beseech You” indicates the law of repetition that had the same phrase used in verse five.
- “May Your ear be attentive” demonstrates the law of continuity with verse six as the speaker alters the phrasing between the two verses.
- “Prayer of Your servant” illustrates the law of repetition by using the same phrase as in verse six.
- “Your servants” illustrates the law of continuation between verses six and ten and eleven.
- “Now” is a temporal word of time indicating that at that time the speaker was a cupbearer to the king.
- The atmosphere of this verse is more of hope and strength compared to when the prayer started which had a mood of despair.
- “Cupbearer” indicates the type of occupation that the speaker had to the king.
- Law of instrumentation is demonstrated here with the instrument being compassion to do his job as cupbearer to the king.
- “Now I was the cupbearer to the king” indicates the law of explanation or analysis because the speaker explains who “this man” was in the previous sentence.
- The law of particularization and substantiation is used in this verse to indicate “the prayer of Your servant” and the particular use of the word “I” in the phrase “I beseech You”.
- The law of continuation continues in this verse by the speaker recognizing that God has the power to grant him compassion and success.
Part 2. Basic outline of the major structural divisions.
- Nehemiah’s Prayer for the Sons of Israel (1:4-7).
- Nehemiah mourns and prays to God (1:4).
- Nehemiah proclaims God’s power and keeps his covenant (1:5).
- Nehemiah asks God to hear his prayers so that he may confess the sins of Israel, his own and his fathers (1:6).
- Nehemiah asks God for His attention to hear his prayers (1:6a).
- Nehemiah prays on behalf of the sons of Israel to confess their sins against God (1:6b).
- Nehemiah confesses his sin and his father’s houses sin (1:6c).
- Israel has acted corruptly and not obeyed the commands given to Moses (1:7).
- Nehemiah Recalls the Covenant Back to God and Israel’s Redemption (1:8-11a).
- Nehemiah reminds God of his command to Moses (1:8-9).
- The law states that if they are unfaithful they will be scattered (1:8b).
- The law states if they are faithful to God and keeps His command that He will gather them and His name will dwell among them (1:9).
- Israel is redeemed by God’s power (1:10).
- Nehemiah asks that God listens to his prayer (1:11a).
- Nehemiah reminds God of his command to Moses (1:8-9).
- Nehemiah is the Cupbearer to the King (1:11b).
Part 3. Compare and contrast the beginning of the chapter with the end.
The beginning of the chapter starts with Nehemiah distraught and sorrowful for what has happened to the people of Israel. He humbly turns to God to pray and implore God to help Israel. Nehemiah knows that he and Israel have turned from God and have sinned against God by breaking the commands that God has given them. His heart is breaking as he deals with confessing his own sin along with his families and Israel’s. But, then as if God reminded him, Nehemiah changes themes to recall the promises of the law that God gave to Moses. He knows that if Israel returns to God, they will be restored and God will dwell among them again. As Nehemiah closes his prayer, he starts almost exactly as he did in the beginning—with humility and seeking God’s help—however this time filled with the hope and strength of God. With a renewed commitment, he knows that he needs God this day to face his challenges.