Nehemiah 8:12
And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) They had understood.—They had caught the meaning of the command to rejoice.

8:9-12 It was a good sign that their hearts were tender, when they heard the words of the law. The people were to send portions to those for whom nothing was prepared. It is the duty of a religious feast, as well as of a religious fast, to draw out the soul to the hungry; God's bounty should make us bountiful. We must not only give to those that offer themselves, but send to those out of sight. Their strength consisted in joy in the Lord. The better we understand God's word, the more comfort we find in it; the darkness of trouble arises from the darkness of ignorance.The "sending of portions" to the poor is not distinctly mentioned in any but the later historical Scriptures (compare the margin reference). The practice naturally grew out of this injunction of the Law Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 16:14. 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 [489]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.

Because they now knew God’s mind, and their own duty, which they were resolved to practise; which gave them ground of hope and trust in God’s mercy, and consequently of great and just joy. 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.

And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. send portions] Cf. Nehemiah 8:10.

because they had understood the words that were declared unto them] Literally, ‘the words which they had declared unto them.’ The LXX. ἐγνώρισεν, Vulg. ‘docuerat’ make it probable that there was a reading ‘Which he had declared unto them.’ What are ‘the words’ here referred to? Some think that we should understand by them the command of Ezra and the Levites that the people should be joyful (Nehemiah 8:9-11). But this gives a very limited application, and we should then have expected some other verb like ‘obeyed’ or ‘gave heed to’ rather than ‘understood.’ It will be noticed that the word ‘understood’ is the same as that used in Nehemiah 8:8. This supplies the probable interpretation. The people sorrowed (Nehemiah 8:9) because they had not kept the Law: they now rejoiced because they were able to understand it.Verse 12. - To make great mirth. Or "great rejoicing," not "mirth" in the sense which the word now commonly bears.

CHAPTER 8:13-18 Ezra began by blessing the Lord, the great God, perhaps with a sentence of thanksgiving, as David did, 1 Chronicles 29:10, but scarcely by using a whole psalm, as in 1 Chronicles 16:8. To this thanksgiving the people answered Amen, Amen (comp. 1 Chronicles 16:36), lifting up their hands (ידיהם בּמעל, with lifting up of their hands; the form מעל occurring only here), and worshipping the Lord, bowing down towards the ground.
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