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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Nehemiah 8

The Reading of the Law (7:73-8:12)

The account of the solemn assembly and Ezra’s reading of the Law needs little comment. Although it is marked by a somewhat repetitious style, wholly unlike the Nehemiah memoirs, it is not lacking in lively details. There are certain correspondences to the description of the similar situation during the time of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:29-33). "The book of the law of Moses" may be either the Pentateuch or, more probably, selected portions of it. The reading took place on the New Year or the Feast of the Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25). The length of time required is to be explained by the fact that, as verses 7-8 indicate, there were pauses for explanation.

Nehemiah, designated as "the governor" (see Ezra 2:63), joined with Ezra and the Levites in encouraging the people. The weeping of the multitude may be understood as mourning over the evil which the Law had revealed, or it may have been an emotional reaction to the occasion.

Although the chronology of the event traced here cannot be determined with precision, there can be no doubt that it represented a significant moment in the life of the nation and laid the foundation of the adherence to the Law which so strongly marked later Judaism.

Verses 13-18

The Observance of the Feast of Tabernacles (8:13-18)

Closer study of the Law by the leaders revealed the failure of the community to observe the prescribed Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles (see, for example, Leviticus 23:33-36; Deuteronomy 16:13-15). There followed, consequently, a great reinstitution of the feast, including, as required, the reading of the Law. The remark that such an observance had not been held since "the days of Jeshua [Joshua] the son of Nun" probably refers to the manner rather than to the actual observance itself. It is likely that at this time what had been well established in Israel’s history became an urban festival and assumed a new significance in association with the Law.

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"Commentary on Nehemiah 8". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/nehemiah-8.html.