Original Research

Remembering and constructing Israelite identity in postexilic Yehud: Some remarks on the penitential prayer of Nehemiah 9:6–37

V. Ndikhokele N. Mtshiselwa
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 37, No 1 | a1506 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v37i1.1506 | © 2016 V. Ndikhokele N. Mtshiselwa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 August 2015 | Published: 15 April 2016

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V. Ndikhokele N. Mtshiselwa, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa


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Abstract

That there is a growing focus and elaboration of prayers in the Old Testament scholarship on the postexilic biblical writings suggests that such prayers received an authoritative status in postexilic Yehud. Firstly, this paper argues that not only did the remembrance of the story of Israel confer an authoritative status to Nehemiah 9:6–37, it also served the purpose of casting a hopeful and prophetic imagination of a liberated community in Yehud. Secondly, it is argued in this paper that the prayer of Nehemiah 9:6–37 shaped the identity of the Jews in Yehud amidst socio-economic injustices. This identity was linked to the patriarch Abraham (cf. Neh 9:7–8), to the liberation of the Jews from Pharaoh under the leadership of Moses (cf. Neh 9:9–15, 21), to the possession of the Promised Land (cf. Neh 9:22–25), to the caution about the consequence of disobedience to Yahweh – the exile (cf. Neh 9:16–21, 26–30)- and to the demise of the kingdom in the Babylonian exile (cf. Neh 9:31–37). On the whole, it is argued in this paper that the prayer of Nehemiah 9:6–37 was composed and transmitted with the view to remember and construct the identity of the Jews in postexilic Yehud.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Not only does this article explore the religious aspect of Nehemiah 9:6–37, it equally investigates the socio-economic and political undertones in the text in order to determine the context from which the penitential prayer emerged. It is argued here that in the postexilic Yehud context, Nehemiah 9:6–37 served to remember and construct the identity of the Jews.

Keywords: Nehemiah; story of Israel; identity construction; prayer; prophetic imaginations; socio-economic injustice


Keywords

Nehemiah; story of Israel; identity construction; prayer; prophetic imaginations; socio-economic injustice

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