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Ne 8:1-8. RELIGIOUS MANNER OF READING AND HEARING THE LAW.
1. all the people gathered themselves together as one man--The
occasion was the celebration of the feast of the seventh month
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.
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.
Ne 8:9-15. 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.
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
and arose from the exuberant zeal of the time.