Nehemiah 8:15
And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, 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.
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(15) Saying.—There is no such command in Leviticus; the Septuagint inserts, And Ezra spake.” But it is better to adopt Houbigant’s slight emendation of the text, which thus runs: “And when they heard it, they proclaimed,” &c. The command, then, is to go out to the Mount of Olives, and gather, not precisely the branches which the ancient law required, but such as circumstances allowed.

8:13-18 They found written in the law about the feast of tabernacles. Those who diligently search the Scriptures, find things written there which they have forgotten. This feast of tabernacles was a representation of the believer's tabernacle state in this world, and a type of the holy joy of the gospel church. The conversion of the nations to the faith of Christ, is foretold under the figure of this feast, Zec 14:16. True religion will render us strangers and pilgrims upon earth. We read and hear the word acceptably and profitably, when we do according to what is written therein; when what appears to be our duty is revived, after it has been neglected. They minded the substance; else the ceremony had been of no use. They did it, rejoicing in God and his goodness. These are the means which the Spirit of God crowns with success, in bringing the hearts of sinners to tremble and to become humbled before God. But those are enemies to their own growth in holiness, who always indulge sorrow, even for sin, and put away from them the consolations tendered by the word and Spirit of God.The mount - The "mount of Olives" is probably intended.

Pine branches - Rather, "branches of the wild olive." The actual trees named by the Law may have become scarce. It was probably considered that the spirit of the command was kept if branches of trees similar in general character to those named in Leviticus were employed.

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.

And that they should publish, i.e. and they found this also written, which is to be supplied out of the former verse, that they should, &c., which, though it be not particularly required, so as is expressed in the words here following, yet in the general is required by virtue of that precept, Leviticus 23:4 Numbers 10:10. And according to this translation, it must be understood in the close of this verse, that they did accordingly publish and proclaim, &c. But these words may be rendered, which (as this Hebrew word is rendered here, Nehemiah 8:14, and most commonly) also (so the particle vau is used, Isaiah 6:1 Jeremiah 1:3) they did publish, &c. For so they did, as is evident and acknowledged; and it seems fit that so much should be expressed; and these words being particular and proper to this special occasion, seem to intimate that this is rather an historical relation of what they now did, than a declaration of that which the law required them to do, which was but in very general terms, and not so exact and particular as this following precept is said to be. Unto the mount; the Mount of Olives, which was next Jerusalem, and stored with olive branches, and probably with the rest here mentioned; for these trees may seem to have been planted hereabouts principally for the use of this capital city in this very feast, which, though long neglected, should have been celebrated once every year. And therefore this place seems to be here designed as the most eminent place, but with a usual synecdoche, this place being put for any place nearest to the several cities of Judah, where these branches were to be procured.

Branches of thick trees; of which See Poole "Leviticus 23:34"; See Poole "Deu 16:13".

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 Jews (r) 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 live (s): 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 observe (t), 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 Motza (u); whither they went, and gathered the willows of the brook mentioned in Leviticus 23:39.

(r) T. Bab. Succah, fol. 35. 1.((s) Buxtorf. Synagog. Jud. c. 21. p. 454. (t) Succah, fol. 12. 1.((u) Misn. Saccah, c. 4. sect. 5.

And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, 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.
15. and that they should publish and proclaim … saying] In Leviticus 23:1; Leviticus 23:4 the children of Israel are commanded to ‘proclaim the set feasts of the Lord.’ The actual words of this verse are nowhere to be found in the Pentateuch. But there is no reason on that account to suppose a corruption in the text, and to read as Houbigant, whom Rawlinson follows, ‘And when they heard it, they proclaimed &c.,’ a text for which only a slight emendation is necessary. The LXX. puts a full stop at ‘Jerusalem,’ and begins a new sentence, ‘And Ezra said, Go forth.’ The fact is that the writer only refers in a general way to the substance of the passage in Leviticus 23 relating to ‘the feast of tabernacles.’ The mention of ‘Jerusalem’ is alone sufficient to show the spirit of free adaptation in which the reference to ‘the law’ is made. Possibly Jerusalem is mentioned as embodying the Deuteronomic phrase ‘the place which the Lord shall choose’ in Deuteronomy 16:15.

the mount] i.e. the mountain region or hill country of Judah. Not to be restricted to the Mt of Olives.

pine branches] R.V. branches of wild olive. Cf. Isaiah 41:19, ‘the oil tree’ (Marg. Or, oleaster). Both the olive (ἐλαία) and the wild olive (ἀγριέλαιος) were conspicuous for their thick foliage; cf. Romans 11:17. For ‘palms’ near Jerusalem cf. Mark 11:8, and Jericho ‘the city of palms’ (Jdg 1:16; Jdg 3:13; 2 Chronicles 28:15).

as it is written] The reference is evidently to Leviticus 23:40, ‘And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook.’ But the quotation only agrees in the general sense. The only words which are found in both passages are ‘palm’ and ‘thick trees’ (Ezekiel 20:28). The ‘goodly trees’ (‘ec̣ hadar) possibly include ‘the branches of myrtle’ (‘eley hédas). The myrtle (cf. Isaiah 55:13; Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 1:10-11) is mentioned with ‘the wild olive’ in Isaiah 41:19.

Verse 15. - And that they should publish. See Leviticus 23:4. Saying, Go forth, etc. These words are not found in any existing Scripture, and some corruption of the present text may therefore be suspected. The Septuagint interposes, between "Jerusalem" and "Go forth," the words "And Esdras said," which would remove the difficulty; but it is difficult to understand how Ezra's name should have fallen out. Perhaps Houbigant is right in his suggestion of an emendation, by which the verse would run thus: - "And when they heard it, they proclaimed in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth," etc. Into the mountain. i.e. the neighbouring mountain, the Mount of Olives. Pine branches. Rather "oleaster branches." Branches of thick trees. The same expression is used in Leviticus 23:40, the meaning in each place being uncertain. Perhaps trees with thick, viscous leaves are intended. It is remark- able that two of the trees commanded in Leviticus are omitted, viz., the hadar and the "willow of the brook," while three not mentioned in Leviticus - the olive, oleaster, and myrtle - are added. Nehemiah 8:15And they found written in the law that the Lord had commanded Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month; and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying: "Go forth to the mount, and fetch olive branches, etc. to make booths, as it is written." This statement is not to be understood as saying that the heads of the people sought in the law, fourteen days before the feast, for information as to what they would have to do, that they might prepare for the due celebration of the feast of tabernacles (Bertheau). The text only states that the heads of the people again betook themselves to Ezra on the second day, to receive from him instruction in the law, and that in reading the law they found the precept concerning the celebration of the festival in booths, i.e., they met with this precept, and were thereby induced to celebrate the approaching festival in strict accordance with its directions. The law concerning the feast of tabernacles, of which the essentials are here communicated, is found Leviticus 23:39-43. In Deuteronomy 16:13 they were only commanded to keep the feast with gladness. The particular of dwelling in booths or bowers is taken from Leviticus 23:43; the further details in Nehemiah 8:15 relate to the carrying out of the direction: "He shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook" (Leviticus 23:43). Go to the mountain, a woody district, whence branches may be obtained. עלי, state constructive plural of עלה, leaf, foliage, here leafy boughs or branches of trees. זית, the olive, שׁמן עץ, the wild olive (oleaster), the myrtle, the palm, and branches of thick-leaved trees, are here mentioned (the two latter being also named in Leviticus). כּכּתוּב does not relate to the preparation of the booths, but to the precept that the feast should be kept in booths. In Nehemiah 8:16 the accomplishment of the matter is related, presupposing a compliance with the proclamation sent out into all the cities in the land, and indeed so speedy a compliance that the booths were finished by the day of the feast. The object (the branches of Nehemiah 8:15) must be supplied to ויּביאוּ from the context. They made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the open space at the water-gate (see on Nehemiah 8:3), and the open space at the gate of Ephraim. On the situation of this gate, see rem. on Nehemiah 3:8. The open space before it must be thought of as within the city walls. On these two public places, booths were probably made by those who had come to Jerusalem, but did not dwell there; while the priests and Levites belonging to other places would build theirs in the courts of the temple.
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