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Nehemiah 9 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

The People Confess Their Sins

On the twenty-fourth day of the seventh month,[a] the people of Israel went without eating, and they dressed in sackcloth and threw dirt on their heads to show their sorrow. They refused to let foreigners join them, as they met to confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors. For three hours they stood and listened to the Law of the Lord their God, and then for the next three hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord.

Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the special platform for the Levites and prayed aloud to the Lord their God. Then the Levites Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah said:

“Stand and shout praises
to your Lord,
    the eternal God![b]
Praise his wonderful name,
though he is greater
    than words can express.”

The People Pray

You alone are the Lord,
Creator of the heavens
    and all the stars,
Creator of the earth
    and those who live on it,
Creator of the ocean
    and all its creatures.
You are the source of life,
praised by the stars
    that fill the heavens.
You are the Lord our God,
    the one who chose Abram—
you brought him from Ur
in Babylonia
    and named him Abraham.
Because he was faithful,
    you made an agreement
to give his descendants
the land of the Canaanites
    and Hittites,
of the Amorites and Perizzites,
and of the Jebusites
    and Girgashites.
Now you have kept your promise,
    just as you always do.

When our ancestors
were in Egypt,
    you saw their suffering;
when they were at the Red Sea,[c]
    you heard their cry for help.
10 You knew that the King of Egypt
and his officials and his nation
    had mistreated your people.
So you worked fearsome miracles
    against the Egyptians
and earned a reputation
    that still remains.
11 You divided the deep sea,
and your people walked through
    on dry land.
But you tossed their enemies in,
and they sank down
    like a heavy stone.
12 Each day you led your people
    with a thick cloud,
and at night you showed the way
    with a flaming fire.
13 At Sinai you came down
    from heaven,
and you gave your people
good laws and teachings
    that are fair and honest.
14 You commanded them to respect
    your holy Sabbath,
and you instructed
your servant Moses
    to teach them your laws.
15 When they were hungry,
    you sent bread from heaven,
and when they were thirsty,
you let water flow
    from a rock.
Then you commanded them
    to capture the land
that you had solemnly promised.

16 Our stubborn ancestors
    refused to obey—
they forgot about the miracles
    you had worked for them,
and they were determined
to return to Egypt
    and become slaves again.
17 But, our God, you are merciful
    and quick to forgive;
you are loving, kind,
    and very patient.
So you never turned away
    from them—
18 not even when they made
    an idol shaped like a calf
and insulted you by claiming,
“This is the god who rescued us
    from Egypt.”

19 Because of your great mercy,
you never abandoned them
    in the desert.
And you always guided them
with a cloud by day
    and a fire at night.
20 Your gentle Spirit
    instructed them,[d]
and you gave them manna[e] to eat
    and water to drink.
21 You took good care of them,
and for forty years
    they never lacked a thing.
Their shoes didn’t wear out,
and their feet were never swollen.

22 You let them conquer kings
    and take their land,
including King Sihon of Heshbon
    and King Og of Bashan.[f]
23 You brought them into the land
that you had promised
    their ancestors,
and you blessed their nation
with people
that outnumbered
    the stars in the sky.

24 Then their descendants
    conquered the land.
You helped them defeat
    the kings and nations
and treat their enemies
    however they wished.
25 They captured strong cities
    and rich farmland;
they took furnished houses,
    as well as cisterns,[g]
    vineyards, olive orchards,
    and numerous fruit trees.
They ate till they were satisfied,
and they celebrated
    your abundant blessings.

26 In spite of this, they rebelled
    and disobeyed your laws.
They killed your prophets,
    who warned them
to turn back to you,
    and they cursed your name.
27 So you handed them over
to their enemies,
    who treated them terribly.
But in their sufferings,
    they begged you to help.
From heaven you listened
    to their prayers
and because of your great mercy,
you sent leaders to rescue them.

28 But when they were at peace,
    they would turn against you,
and you would hand them over
    to their enemies.
Then they would beg for help,
and because you are merciful,
    you rescued them
    over and over again.
29 You warned them to turn back
and discover true life
    by obeying your laws.
But they stubbornly refused
    and continued to sin.
30 For years, you were patient,
    and your Spirit[h] warned them
with messages spoken
    by your prophets.
Still they refused to listen,
and you handed them over
    to their enemies.
31 But you are merciful and kind,
and so you never forgot them
    or let them be destroyed.

32 Our God, you are powerful,
fearsome, and faithful,
    always true to your word.
So please keep in mind
    the terrible sufferings
of our people, kings, leaders,
    priests, and prophets,
from the time Assyria ruled
    until this very day.
33 You have always been fair
when you punished us
    for our sins.

34 Our kings, leaders, and priests
have never obeyed your commands
    or heeded your warnings.
35 You blessed them with a kingdom
and with an abundance
    of rich, fertile land,
but they refused to worship you
    or turn from their evil.
36 Now we are slaves
in this fruitful land
    you gave to our ancestors.
37 Its plentiful harvest is taken
by kings you placed over us
    because of our sins.
Our suffering is unbearable,
because they do as they wish
    to us and our livestock.

The People Make an Agreement

38 And so, a firm agreement was made that had the official approval of the leaders, the Levites, and priests.


  1. 8.13; 9.1 seventh month: Hebrew “same month.”
  2. 9.5 shout. . . God: Or “shout eternal praises to the Lord your God.”
  3. 9.9 Red Sea: Hebrew yam suph “Sea of Reeds,” one of the marshes of fresh water lakes near the eastern part of the Nile Delta. This identification is based on Exodus 13.17—14.9, which lists the towns on the route of the Israelites before crossing the sea. In the Greek translation of the Scriptures made about 200 B.C., the “Sea of Reeds” was named “Red Sea.”
  4. 9.20 Your gentle Spirit instructed them: Or “You gently instructed them.”
  5. 9.20 manna: This was something like a thin wafer (see Exodus 16.1-36).
  6. 9.22 Bashan: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 22.
  7. 9.25 cisterns: Pits dug into the ground to hold water.
  8. 9.30 your Spirit: Or “you.”

Nehemiah 9 New International Version (NIV)

The Israelites Confess Their Sins

On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God. Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God. And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.[a]

“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

“You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.

“You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea.[b] 10 You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. 12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.

13 “You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. 14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. 15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.

16 “But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.

19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

22 “You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon[c] king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan. 23 You made their children as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their parents to enter and possess. 24 Their children went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you gave the Canaanites into their hands, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased. 25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness.

26 “But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they turned their backs on your law. They killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. 27 So you delivered them into the hands of their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.

28 “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.

29 “You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

32 “Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep. 35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.

36 “But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our ancestors so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. 37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.

The Agreement of the People

38 “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”[d]


  1. Nehemiah 9:5 Or God for ever and ever
  2. Nehemiah 9:9 Or the Sea of Reeds
  3. Nehemiah 9:22 One Hebrew manuscript and Septuagint; most Hebrew manuscripts Sihon, that is, the country of the
  4. Nehemiah 9:38 In Hebrew texts this verse (9:38) is numbered 10:1.
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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