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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 8

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.

All the people gathered themselves together as one man. Having completed the insertion of the long parenthetical register (Nehemiah 7:6-73), Nehemiah resumes his narrative in this chapter. The occasion was the celebration of the feast of the seventh month (Nehemiah 7:73). The beginning of every month was ushered in as a sacred festival; but this, the commencement of the seventh month (Tisri), had been formerly kept with distinguished honour as "the feast of trumpets," which extended over two days. It was the first day of the seventh ecclesiastical year, and the new year's day of the civil year, on which account it was held as "a great day." The place where the general concourse of people was held was 'at the watergate,' on the south rampart. Through that gate the Nethinims or Gibeonites brought water into the temple, and there was a spacious area in front of it.

They spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses. He had come to Jerusalem twelve or thirteen years previous to Nehemiah; and either remained there, or had returned to Babylon in obedience to the royal order, and for the discharge of important duties. He had returned along with Nehemiah, but in a subordinate capacity. From the time of Nehemiah's appointment to the dignity of Tirshatha, Ezra had retired into private life; and, although cordially and zealously cooperating with the former patriot in his important measures of reform, the pious priest had devoted his time and attention principally toward producing a complete edition of the canonical Scriptures. The public reading of the Scriptures was required by the law to be made every seventh year, but during the long period of the captivity this excellent practice, with many others, had fallen into neglect, until revived on this occasion; and it indicates a greatly improved tone of religious feeling that there was a strong and general desire among the returned exiles in Jerusalem to hear the word of God read to them.

Verses 2-3

And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 4

And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.

Ezra ... upon a pulpit of wood - not made in the form known to us, but only a raised scaffold or platform, broad enough to allow fourteen persons to stand with ease upon it. Ezra was present and took an active part in this festal anniversary; but his duty was special and very laborious, as he continued reading aloud from morning until mid-day, but his labour was lightened by the aid of the other priests present. Their presence was of use, partly to show their cordial agreement with Ezra's declaration of divine truth, and partly to take their share with him in the important duty of publicly reading and expounding the Scripture.

Verse 5

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:

When he opened it, all the people stood up. This, attitude they assumed either from respect to God's word, or, rather, because the reading was prefaced by a solemn prayer, which was concluded by a general expression of Amen, Amen.

Verse 6

And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 7

Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.

Caused the people to understand the Law ...

Verse 8

So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. Gave the sense. Commentators are divided in opinion as to the import of this statement, some thinking that Ezra read the law in pure Hebrew, while the Levites who assisted him translated it sentence by sentence into Chaldee, the vernacular dialect which the exiles spoke in Babylon; while others maintain that the duty of these Levites consisted in explaining to the people, many of whom had become very ignorant, what Ezra had read.

Verse 9

And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.

This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. A deep sense of their national sins, impressively brought to their remembrance by the reading of the law and its denunciations, affected the hearts of the people with penitential sorrow; but notwithstanding the painful remembrances of their national sins which the reading of the law awakened, the people were exhorted to cherish the feelings of joy and thankfulness associated with a sacred festival-namely, the feast of trumpets (see the notes at Leviticus 23:23-25), and by sending portions of it to their poorer brethren (Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14; Esther 9:19), a usual custom on occasions of great joy and festivity (cf. Esther 9:19-23; Revelation 11:10), enable them to participate in the public rejoicings.

Verses 10-14

Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 15

And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. Go forth unto the mount, and fetch ... palm branches ... It appears from this that palms were growing in the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem, probably on the mount of Olives (cf. John 12:13).

Verse 16

So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim.

The people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths - (see the notes at Leviticus 23:34-44; Deuteronomy 16:13-17.)

Every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God ... It is evident that when this feast was celebrated, not only were there inhabited houses, regular streets, and gates in the city walls, but the restoration of the temple was completed.

Verse 17

And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.

Since the days of Jeshua ... had not the children of Israel done so. This national feast had not been neglected for so protracted a period; because, besides that it is impossible that such a flagrant disregard of the law could have been tolerated by Samuel, David, and other pious rulers, its observance is sufficiently indicated, 1 Kings 8:2; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chronicles 7:9; and expressly recorded, Ezra 3:4. But the meaning is, that the popular feelings had never been raised to such a height of enthusiastic joy since the time of their entrance into Canaan, as now on their return after a long and painful captivity. The sacred ceremonies extended over eight days, from the fifteenth to the twenty-second (inclusive) of Tisri.

Verse 18

Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner. Also day by day ... he read in the book of the law of God. This was more than was enjoined (Deuteronomy 31:10-12), and arose from the exuberant zeal of the time.

On the eighth day was a solemn assembly. This was the last and great day of the feast (Num. 30:35 ). In later times other ceremonies, which increased the rejoicing, were added (John 7:37).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Nehemiah 8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/nehemiah-8.html. 1871-8.
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