- The people keep a solemn fast, verse 1-3.
- The Levites bless God for his goodness to them and their fathers, verse 4-8.
- In Egypt and in their journey out of it, verse 9-12.
- On mount Sinai, verse 13, 14.
- And their journey toward Canaan, verse 15-18.
- In the wilderness, verse 19-21.
- In driving out the Canaanites, verse 22-26.
- In hearing their prayer when in trouble, verse 27-31.
- They confess their sin, verse 32-37.
- And seal a covenant with God, verse 38.
Now - The next day, but one after the feast of tabernacles, which begun on the fourteenth day, and ended on the twenty second, for their consciences having been fully awakened and their hearts filled with grief for their sins, which they were not allowed to express in that time of publick joy; now they resume their former thoughts, and recalling their sins to mind, set apart a day for solemn fasting and humiliation.
Separated - From all unnecessary society with the Heathens, and particularly from those strange women whom some of them had married. For though Ezra had done this formerly, yet, it seems, there were some criminals, without his knowledge, or, these were some new delinquents, that since that time had fallen into the same error, and shewed the truth of their repentance by forsaking their beloved sins, and dearest relations.
Book of the law - As they did before, giving them the sense of what they read. Fourth part - For three hours; there were twelve hours in their day, probably they began after the morning sacrifice, and continued their work till the evening sacrifice. The work of a fast-day is good work. We should endeavour to make a day's work, a good day's work of it.
Stairs - Upon such stairs, or pulpits, as the Levites used to stand upon, when they taught the people. But they stood upon several pulpits, each of them teaching that part of the congregation which was allotted him, or praying, or blessing God with them. Loud voice - Thereby testifying their deep sense of their sins and miseries, and their servant, and importunate desire of God's mercy.
Good statutes - The moral and judicial precepts were all founded on natural equity. And even the ceremonial were tokens of God's goodness, being types of gospel-grace.
Made - Designed, and resolved to do so, Numbers 14:4, and therefore they are said to do so, as Abraham is said to have offered up Isaac, Hebrews 11:17, because he intended to do it.
Divide - The Heathen nations, whom God in a great measure destroyed, and the remainders of them he dispersed into corners; that whereas before the Israelites came, they had large habitations, now they were cooped up, some in one town, and some in another, in the several corners of their land, while the Israelites dwelt in a large place, and had the possession of their whole land, some few and small parcels excepted.
Mercy - He adds mercy, because the covenant in itself was not a sufficient ground of hope, because they had so basely broken it. God was discharged from keeping it, and therefore they fly to God's free and rich mercy for relief.
Thou art just. &c. - It becomes us, when we are under the rebukes of providence, be they ever so sharp, or ever so long continued, still to justify God, and to own we are punished less than our iniquities deserve.
Yieldeth much, &c. - We plow, and sow, and labour, and thou givest thy blessing to our endeavours; and yet in a great measure this is not for ourselves, as formerly it was, but for our kings, to whom we pay heavy tributes. Dominion - Pressing or forcing both us and our beasts to go and to do what they please.
Sure covenant, &c. - It was sealed and left upon record, that it might be a witness against them, if they dealt deceitfully.