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Praying The Tradition: The Origin And Use Of Tradition In Nehemiah 9

Walter De Gruyter

The goal of this work is to determine those who were responsible for the prayer in Nehemiah 9 and how they used existing traditions for their own purposes. Nehemiah 9 is associated with a series of compositions, which represent a transformation of the classical Hebrew Gattung of lament, i.e., penitential prayers (Ezra 9, Nehemiah 1, Daniel 9, Psalm 106). A traditio-historical evaluation of this Gattung reveals that in their handling of it Priestly/Ezekelian circles supplemented and superseded a Deuteronomistic foundation. The various exemplars of the Gattung also evidence a consistent approach to the Pentateuch: a desire to synthesize either its legal or its historical traditions. An evaluation of Nehemiah 9 results in similar conclusions, confirming its membership in the above Gattung.One element unique to Nehemiah 9 provides an initial clue to the text’s precise historical provenance: its clear connections to Zechariah 1 and 7-8. This finding points to the early Persian period as the prayer’s most likely time of origin. Within this era the period immediately preceding the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah is favored for its composition, although the period after the disappearance of Zerubbabel but before the coming of Ezra cannot be discounted. This investigation also shows that, although tradition is being used for purposes of praise and confession in Nehemiah 9, ultimately the prayer is shaped by the agenda of petition, i.e., the tradition is employed in such a way as to strengthen the suppliant’s appeal.