While shame is often cast in a negative light as a response accompanied by destructive forces in modern culture, this article examines a different phenomenon and argues that shame plays an important positive role for post-exilic returnees in Ezra/Nehemiah. Shame can be progressive and edifying if it is oriented in the right direction.
This article surveys key shame terms in Ezra/Nehemiah by examining בושׁ I in Ezra 8:22, בושׁ I and כלם in Ezra 9:6-7, חרפה in Neh 1:3; 2:17 and בוזה in Neh 3:36 (Eng. 4:4) for their semantics and concludes that shame plays a positive role in social control for the post-exilic returnees. Shame, in each of these cases, motivated the people of God not for bad but for good; it contributed to the rebuilding of the temple of the Lord, the rebuilding of the wall, and the restoration of a holy people to the Lord in the midst of fierce opposition.
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