Reading Nehemiah 5: 1-19, 9:1-37 with James C. Scott’s theory of hidden transcripts, this study attempts to examine the daily resistance of Judean community in the shadow of the Persian Empire. Scott offers profound politically understandings of power relationships between the dominant and the subjugated, but he is most concerned with the voices of the subjugated. In this study, I will explain two passages selected from that of the book of Nehemiah server as the “hidden transcript” of the subordinated group, who are struggling to maintain their life and identity in the Persian Empire.
Reading Nehemiah 9:1-37 with the illumination of hidden transcripts, the text itself represents a counter-narrative of the Judean community to resist imperial narrative. Within the context of empire, the dominant manipulate systematic strategies to suppress folk discourses and to sever heterodox stories of any subordinated group, even distorting the mind and identity with hegemonic ideology. Thus, the Judean community’s gathering and retelling of stories seeks a social space to resist imperial ideology.
The crying and complaining of the poor in Nehemiah 5:1-19 not only criticized the injustice among the Judean community, but also allows us to see the exploitation of the economic system of the Persian Empire. Nehemiah asks the nobles to return the lands, vineyards, and houses of the poor, and Nehemiah himself never demanded the governor’s food allowance. The acts of Nehemiah itself sever as political symbols; that is, the mutual support within Judean community helps to resist the heavy burdens from that come from the domination and exploitation of the imperial economic system.