Nehemiah 9–10: Structure and Significance
AbstractAs some have recognized long ago, Nehemiah 9 is the theological centerpiece of Ezra-Nehemiah. Yet, until recently the long prayer has not received the attention that it deserves. The excellent essays about Nehemiah 9 by Rolf Rentdorff and Hugh Williamson stand out as exceptions to the general neglect of the prayer. Fortunately, the neglect has been remedied with some new and important studies that greatly enrich our ability to appreciate Nehemiah 9. This paper has two goals: first it reviews some central contributions to the discussion about Nehemiah 9 made by new studies of Nehemiah 9. Second, it builds upon these studies in order to shed more light on the function and meaning of the prayer. In particular, the paper shows how the three-part structure of Nehemiah 9 discloses a specific response to the challenge of continuity and new beginnings in the postexilic era. The implications of such response are also addressed.