Religious Manner of Reading and Hearing the
1. all the people gathered themselves together as
one man—The occasion was the celebration of the feast of the
seventh month (Ne 7:73). The
beginning of every month was ushered in as a sacred festival; but this,
the commencement of the seventh month, was kept with distinguished
honor 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 Jewish 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 water gate," 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. He 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.
Although cordially and zealously co-operating 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, till revived, on this occasion. That there was a
strong and general desire among the returned exiles in Jerusalem to
hear the word of God read to them indicates a greatly improved tone of
4. Ezra … stood 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's duty was very laborious, as he continued
reading aloud from morning until midday, but his labor was lightened by
the aid of the other priests present. Their presence was of importance,
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.
5. 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."
7, 8. caused the people to understand the law
… gave the sense—Commentators are divided in opinion as
to the import of this statement. Some think 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. 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.
The People Comforted.
9, 10. This day is holy unto the Lord …
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 (see on Le 23:24). By sending portions
of it to their poorer brethren (De 16:11, 14; Es 9:19), they would also enable them to
participate in the public rejoicings.
Ne 8:16-18. They Keep the
Feast of Tabernacles.
16. the people went forth, and brought … and
made themselves booths, &c.—(See on Le
23:34; De 16:13).
17. 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. 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 (1Ki 8:2, 65; 2Ch 7:9) and expressly recorded (Ezr 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.
18. Also day by day … he read in the book of
the law of God—This was more than was enjoined (De 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 (see on
Nu 29:35). In later times, other ceremonies
which increased the rejoicing were added (Joh 7:37).