And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, to Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) The chief of the fathers.—Not the vast multitude now, as the great feast was not yet.
Even to understand.—To consider, or give attention to: that is, to learn the full meaning of the almost forgotten festival. The dwelling in booths had fallen into disuse.Nehemiah 8:13. On the second day were gathered to him the chief of the fathers, the priests, &c. — Thus manifesting both humility and serious godliness, in that they chose rather to confess their ignorance, in order that they might be instructed, than vainly to pretend to more knowledge than they had, and were more careful to learn and practise their duty than to preserve their reputation with the people. To understand the words of the law — That they might obtain a more perfect knowledge of some things, which they had heard, and partly knew before, and so might instruct the people in them.
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.
Even to understand the words of the law; that they might more exactly understand the meaning of some things which they had heard before, and so instruct the people in them.
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.And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)13–18. The Feast of Tabernacles
13. the second day] i.e. of the month Tisri, cf. Nehemiah 8:2.
the chief of the fathers] R.V. the heads of the fathers’ houses. The leading men of the nation apply to Ezra for further instruction in ‘the law.’ It will be observed that ‘the priests and the Levites’ join in this application with the laymen. Are we to suppose that they too were ignorant of the full contents of ‘the law’? This is possible, if the contents of ‘the law’ had hitherto been chiefly known by oral tradition or by disconnected writings. If this had been the case and Ezra had made himself master of the complete continuous ‘law,’ we shall be able to understand the action of ‘the priests and Levites.’ From the subsequent verses (Nehemiah 8:14-15) it appears that Ezra supplied them not so much with profound interpretations of the Law as with statements relative to its contents and positive enactments.
even to understand] R.V. even to give attention to. The Hebrew word (l’haskîl) denotes intelligent consideration, as in Psalm 41:1, ‘Blessed is he that considereth the poor;’ Psalm 101:2, ‘I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way’ (marg. ‘give heed unto’); Daniel 9:13, ‘have discernment in thy truth.’ The copula, rendered ‘even,’ with the infinitive defines the action of the main verb, as in Isaiah 44:28, ‘shall perform all my pleasure: even saying (lit. and to say) of Jerusalem, She shall be built.’ This is better than supposing the infinitive to be used for the finite verb = ‘and they gave attention.’Verse 13. - And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers. At times it is true that "increase of appetite doth grow by what it feeds on." Once let the sweetness of the Divine word be tasted and appreciated, and there springs up in the heart instantly a desire for more - a wish to continue in the study - a feeling like that of the Psalmist when he said, "Lord, what love have I unto thy law: all the day long is my study in it" (Psalm 119:97). The Jews, taught by Ezra in the law of God on the first day of the month, return to him on the second, desirous of hearing more, hungering and thirsting after the word of life, of which they have felt the power and the excellency. To understand. Rather, "to consider," as in Psalm 41:1. Nehemiah 9:4-5. The names Jeshua, Sherebiah, Shabtai, and Jozabad are also met with Nehemiah 12:14; Nehemiah 11:16, but belong in these latter passages to other individuals who were heads of classes of Levites.
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