Nehemiah Chapter Eight
New King James Version (NKJV)
Nehemiah 8:1. Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel.
YLT And all the people are gathered as one man unto the broad place that [is] before the water-gate, and they say to Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, that Jehovah commanded Israel.
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the watergate,....
A large and commodious street for such a company of people, which led to the water gate, of which see Nehemiah 3:26 hither the people gathered with great unanimity, zeal, and affection:
and they spoke unto Ezra the scribe;
the same who is called Ezra the priest, and scribe of the law of God, and said to be a ready one, Ezra 7:6, who came to Jerusalem thirteen years before this time; but very probably returned to Babylon again, and was lately come from thence:
to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel;
to observe what was commanded in it, and which he had ordered to be read, particularly every seventh year, at the feast of tabernacles, Deuteronomy 31:10 which was now drawing near, though this was not the precise time of reading it; hence some have thought this year was the sabbatical year; see Nehemiah 5:11.
Nehemiah 8:2. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.
YLT And Ezra the priest bringeth the law before the assembly, both of men and women, and every one intelligent to hear, on the first day of the seventh month,
And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation,....
Having a perfect copy of it, which the people knew, and therefore desired him to bring it; he brought it either out of his own case or chest, or out of the temple where it was laid up; some restrain this to the book of Deuteronomy; this he produced in sight of the whole assembly:
both of men and women;
adult persons of each sex, who met promiscuously; though Grotius thinks the women had a separate place:
and all that could hear with understanding;
all under age, who yet were capable of hearing the law read to some advantage to them:
upon the first day of the seventh month;
the month Tisri, answering to part of September and October; this was a high day, for not only the first of every month was a festival, but the first of the seventh month was the feast of blowing of trumpets, Leviticus 23:24, and besides, this was New Year's day, the first day of their civil year, as the first of Nisan was of their ecclesiastical year, and was of greater antiquity than that; and so Jarchi says, this was the first day of the year; to which may be added, that this was the day on which the altar was first set up, on the Jews' return from captivity, Ezra 3:6.
Nehemiah 8:3. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
YLT and he readeth in it before the broad place that [is] before the water-gate, from the light till the middle of the day, over-against the men, and the women, and those intelligent, and the ears of all the people [are] unto the book of the law.
And he read therein,....
Some passages in it, here and there, which it was necessary the people should have knowledge of; for it can hardly be thought be began and read on just in the order in which it was: this he did
before the street; at the top of it, at one end of it:
that was before the water gate;
which looked directly to that:
from the morning until midday;
from the rising of the sun to noon, so that he must read six hours; but very probably was relieved at times by the men with him, after mentioned:
before the men and the women, and those that could understand; see Nehemiah 8:2,
and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law;
to the hearing of it read, and to the things contained in it; hence MaimonidesF8Hilchot Tephillah, c. 12. sect. 9. gathers, that as soon as the reader begins the reading of the law, it is not lawful to speak about anything, not even the constitutions of the law, but silently to attend to what is read.
Nehemiah 8:4. So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
YLT And Ezra the scribe standeth on a tower of wood that they made for the purpose, and Mattithiah standeth near him, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right; and on his left Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchijah, and Hashum, and Hashbaddana, Zechariah, Meshullam.
And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose,....
Or to speak out of, as the Syriac and Arabic versions; this, in the Hebrew text, is called a "tower"F9על מגדל עץ "super turrem ligni", Montanus; so Dionysius is said, "concionari ex turri alta", Ciceron. Tuscul. Quaest. l. 5. , partly because of its height, and partly because in the form of one; and also for its largeness, considering the use it was for; for it was so large as to hold fourteen men, as appears by what follows: a pulpit of wood was made for the king in the court, to read the law fromF11Schulchan Aruch, par. 1. c. 141. sect. 7. ; though, according to Jacob Leo, it was a throne like an high tower; see Gill on 2 Kings 11:14, the pulpits, in the Jewish synagogues, made after the same manner, as Aben Ezra observes, are called by the sameF12Misn. Sotah, c. 7. sect. 8. name:
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;
in all thirteen; there were six on his right, and seven on his left, who stood here, not merely in honour to him, and as approvers and supporters of the truth of what he read, but to relieve him when weary.
Nehemiah 8:5. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
YLT And Ezra openeth the book before the eyes of all the people -- for above all the people he hath been -- and at his opening [it] all the people have stood up,
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people (for he was above all the people),....
So plainly seen by them, and what he did, and the more easily heard, for which purpose the pulpit was made for him to stand in:
and, when he opened it, all the people stood up;
that they might the better hear the law read, as well as in honour and reverence of it; the Jews sayF13T. Bab. Megillah, fol. 21. 1. , that from the times of Moses to Rabban Gamaliel, they learned the law only standing; but after his death a disease came into the world, and they learned it sitting; and now it is a canon with them, that it is not necessary to stand at the reading of the lawF14Schulchan Aruch, par. 1. Orach Chayim, c. 146. sect. 4. .
Nehemiah 8:6. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
YLT and Ezra blesseth Jehovah, the great God, and all the people answer, `Amen, Amen,' with lifting up of their hands, and they bow and do obeisance to Jehovah -- faces to the earth.
And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God,....
Before he began to read in the book of the law, he addressed himself to God in a short prayer, wholly in the benedictory way; ascribing blessing, honour, and glory to him, celebrating his being and perfections, setting forth his greatness and his excellency, who was the author and giver of the law he was about to read; and this he the rather did, that what he read might be the more carefully attended to, and come with the greater authority, weight, and influence on those that heard it; and so, MaimonidesF15Hilchot Tephillah, c. 12. sect. 5. says, it is the custom with the Jews, in their synagogues, for the reader, after he has opened the book, and looked out the place he reads, to say this blessing,"Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the world, who hath chosen us out of all people, and hath given us his law; blessed art thou, O Lord, who hast given us the law; and all the people answer, Amen;'as they now did, as follows:
and all the people answered, Amen, Amen:
repeating the word, to declare their hearty assent to what Ezra had expressed; the Jews have many rules concerning pronouncing the "Amen", that it must not be too quick, curt, and short, nor with too high a voiceF16Schulchan Aruch, ut supra, (par. 1.) c. 124. sect. 12. :
with lifting up their hands;
a prayer gesture, to which the apostle refers, 1 Timothy 2:8,
and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground;
expressing hereby the awful sense they had of the Divine Being, and their profound adoration of him.
Nehemiah 8:7. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place.
YLT And Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, giving the people understanding in the law, and the people, [are] on their station,
Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites,....
That is, others of them besides those named; for they seem all to be Levites, unless they can be thought to be priests, and so the Levites are distinguished from them; but the former seems evident from Nehemiah 9:4 these also
caused the people to understand the law;
as well as Ezra; from whence it is plain that he did not only read the law, but gave the sense of it, especially where there was any seeming difficulty, and these men were assisting in the same work: and the people stood in their place; to hear the law read and explained; they did not move from their first station, but continued in it from morning to noon; they were both attentive and constant.
Nehemiah 8:8. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.
YLT and they read in the book, in the law of God, explaining -- so as to give the meaning, and they give understanding to the convocation.
So they read in the book,....
Ezra and those with him; he first began to read and expound, and when weary they relieved him, and did the same:
in the law of God distinctly;
which was the book they read in, and which they read plainly and intelligibly, so as to be heard and understood; this seems to respect the clear and distinct pronunciation of the words of it, and not the explanation or meaning of it, which is after expressed; some think the sense is, that they first read it in Hebrew, and then translated it into Chaldee, that the people might better understand it, being just come out of Babylon, where they had been used to the Chaldee language; but though this was a practice in later times, it does not seem to have obtained so early, or that there was a necessity of it:
and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading;
not hereby how to read it, but chiefly to understand what was read, that they might clearly know their duty to God and men: the TalmudistsF17T. Bab. Nedarim, fol. 37. 2. & Megillah, fol. 3. 1. & Hieros. Megillah, fol. 74. 4. give the meaning of the text thus; "by the law of God" they understand the Scripture; by the phrase "distinctly", the Targum or translation of it into Chaldee; by "the sense", the verses or the accents; and by "the reading", the distinction of the accents: some think from hence came the practice of reading the law in the synagogues every sabbath day, Acts 13:15.
Nehemiah 8:9. And Nehemiah, who was the governor,[a] Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.
YLT And Nehemiah -- he [is] the Tirshatha -- saith (and Ezra the priest, the scribe, and the Levites who are instructing the people) to all the people, `To-day is holy to Jehovah your God, do not mourn, nor weep:' for all the people are weeping at their hearing the words of the law.
And Nehemiah which is the Tirshatha,....
Or governor, as Zerubbabel had been, and now Nehemiah, see Ezra 2:63
and Ezra the priest and scribe;
see Nehemiah 8:1,
and the Levites that taught the people;
see Nehemiah 8:7
said unto all the people, this day is holy unto the Lord your God;
being both the new moon and the feast of blowing of trumpets:
mourn not, nor weep;
which was unsuitable to a festival, and especially such an one as this, in which trumpets were to be blown, and gladness to be shown, Numbers 10:10
for all the people wept when they heard the words of the law;
perceiving they had not kept it, but had broke it in many instances, and so liable to the wrath and judgment of God in case of disobedience.
Nehemiah 8:10. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
YLT And he saith to them, `Go, eat fat things, and drink sweet things, and sent portions to him for whom nothing is prepared, for to-day [is] holy to our Lord, and be not grieved, for the joy of Jehovah is your strength.'
Then he said unto them,....
Nehemiah the Tirshatha or governor:
go your way;
to their own houses, and refresh themselves; it being noon, and they had stood many hours attentive to the reading and expounding of the law:
eat the fat, and drink the sweet:
not a common meal, but a feast, consisting of the richest provisions, the best of food and liquors
and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared;
for the poor, who had no food at home provided for them; the widow, fatherless, and stranger, who at festivals were to partake of the entertainment, Deuteronomy 16:11
for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be you sorry;
confirming what the Levites had said and exhorted to, Nehemiah 8:9
for the joy of the Lord is your strength;
to rejoice, as the Lord commanded them on such days as these, was a means both of increasing their bodily strength and their inward strength, and of fitting them the more to perform their duty to God and men with cheerfulness, which sorrow and heaviness made unfit for; and the joy which has the Lord for its object, and comes from him, is the cause of renewing spiritual strength, so as to run and not be weary, walk and not faint, in the ways of God.
Nehemiah 8:11. So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.”
YLT And the Levites are keeping all the people silent, saying, `Be silent, for to-day [is] holy, and be not grieved.'
So the Levites stilled all the people,....
Made them quiet and easy, being backed by the governor:
saying, hold your peace;
refrain from weeping and mourning:
for the day is holy;
a festival, set apart for joy and gladness:
neither be ye grieved;
inwardly; as they were not to show any signs of sorrow outwardly, so they were not to cherish grief inwardly.
Nehemiah 8:12. And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.
YLT And all the people go to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great joy, because they have understood concerning the words that they made known to them.
And all the people went their way to eat and to drink,....
Freely and cheerfully:
and to send portions;
to the poor, who had nothing to eat and drink:
and to make great mirth;
with music, vocal and instrumental:
because they had understood the words that were declared unto them;
the meaning of the several laws read and explained unto them, whereby they better understood their duty, and in what instances and in what manner it was to be performed; how much more reason is there for joy and gladness, when the Gospel, and the doctrines of it, are clearly known and understood? Psalm 89:15.
Nehemiah 8:13. Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law.
YLT And on the second day have been gathered heads of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to act wisely concerning the words of the law.
And on the second day were gathered together,....
The second day of the month, and of the new year, the day after the feast of blowing of trumpets, and after the law had been read and explained:
the chief of the fathers of all the people:
heads of tribes and families: the priests and the Levites; who, though they were instructors of others, needed to be taught themselves, of which they were sensible: and therefore came
unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law;
some things in it, which, upon reading the day before, they observed had some difficulty in them, and which they did not clearly and thoroughly understand; and therefore applied to Ezra, a ready scribe in the law, for better information, and that they might be better able to teach the people; which was highly commendable in them.
Nehemiah 8:14. And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month,
YLT And they find written in the law that Jehovah commanded by the hand of Moses, that the sons of Israel dwell in booths in the feast, in the seventh month,
And they found written in the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses,....
The children of Israel, to be observed by them; either by hearing it read the day before, or by conversation with Ezra, they perceived it was enjoined in the law, particularly in Leviticus 23:39
that the children of Israel should dwell in booths, in the feast of the seventh month:
which was the same month, and this the second day of it, and therefore the time drew near for keeping it; for it was to begin the fifteenth.
Nehemiah 8:15. and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.”
YLT and that they proclaim and cause to pass over all their cities, (and in Jerusalem,) saying, `Go ye out to the mount, and bring leaves of the olive, and leaves of the oil tree, and leaves of the myrtle, and leaves of the palms, and leaves of thick trees, to make booths as it is written.'
And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem,....
That is, as Jarchi interprets it, by supplying it thus:
and they commanded that they should publish, &c.
Ezra and those with him gave orders that heralds should proclaim in all cities where the Jews dwelt that the feast of tabernacles would be kept, and they should prepare for it; and which seems to be the true sense, since it is not written in the law that such a proclamation should be made; but this was an order of their own, thereby to give notice of it, that all might be provided:
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;
in Leviticus 23:40, where the first three of these seem to be called boughs of goodly trees; though the JewsF18T. Bab. Succah, fol. 35. 1. commonly understand them of pomecitrons, of which the Syriac version here interprets the myrtle branches; and by them are meant the citron branches, with the leaves and fruit, and which the Jews make absolutely necessary to the keeping of the feast, and for beautiful ones will give a large price; some of them go every year to Spain, and buy as many as they can, and dispose of them wherever Jews liveF19Buxtorf. Synagog. Jud. c. 21. p. 454. : and those branches were to be fetched, not properly speaking to make the booths of, which were made of boards and planks, but for the decoration of them; and it was not necessary, according to Aben Ezra, that some of each of these should be gathered for that purpose, but of any sort of them; for he interprets the words disjunctively olive branches, or pine branches, or myrtle branches, &c. these, according to the common notion of the Jews, were tied up in little bundles, and carried in the hand, which they call "lulabs"; and they observeF20Succah, fol. 12. 1. , the thick branches were for them, which included the rest; now these they were to fetch from the mount of Olives, and other mountains about Jerusalem; near to which also there was a place called MotzaF21Misn. Saccah, c. 4. sect. 5. ; whither they went, and gathered the willows of the brook mentioned in Leviticus 23:39.
Nehemiah 8:16. Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves booths, each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of God, and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim.
YLT And the people go out, and bring in, and make for themselves booths, each on his roof, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the broad place of the water-gate, and in the broad place of the gate of Ephraim.
So the people went forth, and brought them,....
Went out of Jerusalem to the mountains adjacent, and fetched in branches of the said trees, one or another:
and made themselves booths, everyone upon the roof of his house;
which were flat, Deuteronomy 22:8, and they might be made anywhere, so be it they were open to the air:
and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God;
the common people in the courtyards belonging to their houses, and the priests and Levites in the courts of the temple, the yards or open places adjoining to them:
and in the street of the watergate;
which led to that, and seems to have been a very large street, in which many booths might be built, Nehemiah 3:26
and in the street of the gate of Ephraim;
which led to the gate through which the road lay to the tribe of Ephraim, see 2 Kings 14:13, none were erected without the walls of the city, for fear of the enemy.
Nehemiah 8:17. So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness.
YLT And they make -- all the assembly of the captives of the captivity -- booths, and they sit in booths; for the sons of Israel had not done, from the days of Jeshua son of Nun, so unto that day, and there is very great joy.
And all the congregation of them that were come again out of captivity made booths,....
These came to Jerusalem, and made them booths there; for there only was this feast kept, see John 7:2,
and sat under the booths;
there they dwelt during the seven days of it, in commemoration of their ancestors dwelling in booths in the wilderness, see Leviticus 23:42
for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so;
Joshua observed it, when be had brought and settled the people of Israel in the land of Canaan; and it had been observed since, before this time, as appears from 1 Kings 8:2 Ezra 3:4; but not so, with such exactness, with such zeal and affection, with such a regard to the law of God, as to read it every day of the feast, as in the next verse, and with such joy and gladness; wherefore there is no reason to suspect a corruption in the text, as a learned manF23Delancy's Life of King David, vol. 1. p. 395. marg. does, who supposes that Joshua is put for Josiah:
and there was very great gladness;
that they were restored unto and settled in their land, had the book of the law, and the knowledge of it, and were directed and enabled to observe it.
Nehemiah 8:18. Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.
YLT And he readeth in the book of the law of God day by day, from the first day till the last day, and they make a feast seven days, and on the eighth day a restraint, according to the ordinance.
Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God,....
That is, Ezra; this was done by him every day during the feast, whereas only the first and last days were the holy convocations on which it seems to have been read:
and they kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according to the manner;
prescribed in Leviticus 23:39.
──《John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible》
New King James Version (NKJV)
a. Nehemiah 8:9 Hebrew Tirshatha