Nehemiah 9:17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

17 “They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery [a]in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.

But in the original narrative there is no record of them actually appointing a leader to take them back to Egypt other a suggestion to do so

Numbers 14 New American Standard Bible (NASB) The People Rebel

14 Then all the congregation [a]lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept [b]that night. 2 All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”

Did they actually appoint a leader?

1 Answer 1


There are two possible ways to understand Neh 9:17 in the light of the earlier record in Num 14:4.

  • The intention to appoint a leader to return to Egypt was taken by God as tantamount to having done the deed. This understanding would be consistent with Jesus declaration in Matt 5:28, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
  • The record in Num 14:4 is incomplete and the incident about actually appointing a leader is omitted - a distinct possibility as the entire scenario would have played out over some time (many days or weeks??) and all the details of dialogues and politics involved are clearly not recorded. If this is true, then Neh 9:17 can be seen as adding some extra information not recorded in Num 14.

I am unsure which of these is true - both are consistent with Biblical style. The first is the simplest but the second is more satisfying. However, we do not know.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.