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We now come to the second section of the Book, which gives an account of the special reading of the Law, and the reform which followed. Ezra now appears on the scene. There has been some speculation as to why he has not been mentioned before. It may be that he was absent from Jerusalem during the earlier part of the work of Nehemiah, or it may be-which perhaps is more probable-that the work already done was such as he had no direct part in, and that now he appeared in co-operation with Nehemiah in the particular kind of work which was especially his.
In this section we have the account of a most interesting and remarkable religious convention. The first day saw the assembling of the people. The phrase, "gathered as one man," indicates the unity of purpose with which they had come. It was a day given to reading the Law. This was not merely reading aloud passages from the Law, or even the whole book of the Law. It was reading, accompanied by exposition, and the exposition was undertaken by men especially appointed to act with Ezra. It would seem almost as if there were first a public reading, and then a separation of the assembly into groups, while the appointed Levites explained and enforced the terms of the Law. It was a day of conviction, resulting in great sadness among the people as they became conscious of their failure. It was a day of comfort, for Nehemiah and those associated with him, insisted on it. The finding of the Law, and the return of the people to its consideration, were reasons for joy rather than for sadness.
It is almost impossible to read this chapter without being reminded of the words of the Master spoken long afterwards, "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." On the second day there was a smaller gathering of the rulers, who came in order more perfectly to understand the law of God. Here, as always if such gatherings are sincere, an immediate application was made in observing the feast of Tabernacles.
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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Nehemiah 8". "Morgan's Exposition on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany