Nehemiah 8:2
And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
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(2) Both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding.—Men, women, and children who had reached years of discretion.

Upon the first day of the seventh month.—As the seventh was the most important month, in a religious sense, so the first day, the Feast of Trumpets, was the most important new moon (Leviticus 23:24).

Nehemiah 8:2. Upon the first day of the seventh month — This was the feast of trumpets, which is called a sabbath, and on which they were to have a holy convocation, Leviticus 23:24. And it was on this day the altar was set up, after their return from captivity; in remembrance of which they had probably kept it ever since, with more than ordinary solemnity.

8:1-8 Sacrifices were to be offered only at the door of the temple; but praying and preaching were, and are, services of religion, as acceptably performed in one place as in another. Masters of families should bring their families with them to the public worship of God. Women and children have souls to save, and are therefore to acquaint themselves with the word of God, and to attend on the means of grace. Little ones, as they come to reason, must be trained up in religion. Ministers when they go to the pulpit, should take their Bibles with them; Ezra did so. Thence they must fetch their knowledge; according to that rule they must speak, and must show that they do so. Reading the Scriptures in religious assemblies is an ordinance of God, whereby he is honoured, and his church edified. Those who hear the word, should understand it, else it is to them but an empty sound of words. It is therefore required of teachers that they explain the word, and give the sense of it. Reading is good, and preaching is good, but expounding makes reading the better understood, and preaching the more convincing. It has pleased God in almost every age of the church to raise up, not only those who have preached the gospel, but also those who have given their views of Divine truth in writing; and though many who have attempted to explain Scripture, have darkened counsel by words without knowledge, yet the labours of others are of excellent use. All that we hear must, however, be brought to the test of Scripture. They heard readily, and minded every word. The word of God demands attention. If through carelessness we let much slip in hearing, there is danger that through forgetfulness we shall let all slip after hearing.Upon the first day of the seventh month - The day of the "Feast of Trumpets" (see the margin reference note). The gathering together of the people, spoken of in Nehemiah 8:1, was probably to observe this feast. CHAPTER 8

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 (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 religious feeling.

Ezra the priest came twelve or thirteen years before Nehemiah to Jerusalem; and either tarried there, or went back to Babylon, being forced to do so by the king’s command, or indispensable occasions, and then returned again with Nehemiah.

All that could hear with understanding, i.e. and such children as were come to years of understanding.

And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation,.... Having a perfect copy of it, which the people knew, and therefore desired him to bring it; he brought it either out of his own case or chest, or out of the temple where it was laid up; some restrain this to the book of Deuteronomy; this he produced in sight of the whole assembly:

both of men and women; adult persons of each sex, who met promiscuously; though Grotius thinks the women had a separate place:

and all that could hear with understanding; all under age, who yet were capable of hearing the law read to some advantage to them:

upon the first day of the seventh month; the month Tisri, answering to part of September and October; this was a high day, for not only the first of every month was a festival, but the first of the seventh month was the feast of blowing of trumpets, Leviticus 23:24, and besides, this was New Year's day, the first day of their civil year, as the first of Nisan was of their ecclesiastical year, and was of greater antiquity than that; and so Jarchi says, this was the first day of the year; to which may be added, that this was the day on which the altar was first set up, on the Jews' return from captivity, Ezra 3:6.

And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all {b} that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.

(b) Who had age and discretion to understand.

2. Ezra the priest] cf. Ezra 7:1; Ezra 7:11.

the law] i.e. the book of the law. Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14 ‘the old covenant’ for ‘the book of the old covenant.’ The word ‘Torah’ is here used in the sense, which afterwards became universal, of the written ‘Law.’

all that could hear with understanding] lit. ‘every one of intelligence to hear and understand,’ i.e. all except quite children, cf. Nehemiah 10:28 ‘all …, their wives and their sons and their daughters, every one that had knowledge and understanding.’ The Vulgate ‘sapientium’ gives a wrong idea.

upon the first day of the seventh month] In the Priestly Laws the first day of the month Tisri was ‘the Feast of Trumpets’ (see Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6), a day of ‘holy convocation,’ cf. Nehemiah 8:9; see Ezra 3:1.

Were the people assembled to celebrate this festival, or were the people summoned on the first day of the month, because the new-moon days were always regarded as sacred in Palestine? Considering that the people were even uninstructed how to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles according to the Law (Nehemiah 8:13-15), it is not likely that they would have been acquainted with the ‘feast of trumpets’ before the time of the reading of the Law. It is therefore most probable that the special holiness of the day lay in its being the new-moon day of the month in which occurred not only the change of year according to the autumn era but also the most popular of the Israelite festivals, ‘the feast of tabernacles.’ The observance of the new-moon seems to have been universal among Oriental nations in ancient times. Among the Israelites, it was at all times strictly maintained, cf. 1 Samuel 20:5; 2 Kings 4:23; Isaiah 1:13; Isaiah 66:23; Ezekiel 26:1; Ezekiel 46:1; Hosea 2:11; Amos 8:5; Haggai 1:1; Jdt 8:6; Colossians 2:16.

Verse 2. - Ezra the priest brought the law. Ezra, God's true priest, at once responded to the call He did not say, "The law is difficult, hard to be understood, might mislead you, should be reserved for the learned;" but at once "brought it," and "read therein" before the congregation both of men and women, and of all that could hear with understanding, i.e. of all (youths and maidens) that were old enough to understand the words. Nehemiah 8:2Nehemiah 8:1-2. The public reading of the law. - Nehemiah 8:1-3. The introduction to this narrative (Nehemiah 7:73b-8:1a) is identical with Ezra 3:1. The same matter, the assembling of the people on the approach of the seventh month, is described in the same words. But the object of this assembling of the people was a different one from that mentioned in Ezra 3:1-13. Then they met to restore the altar of burnt-offering and the sacrificial worship; now, on the contrary, for the due solemnization of the seventh month, the festal month of the year. For this purpose the people came from the cities and villages of Judah to Jerusalem, and assembled "in the open space before the water-gate," i.e., to the south-east of the temple space. On the situation of the water-gate, see rem. on Nehemiah 3:26; Nehemiah 12:37., and Ezra 10:9. "And they spake unto Ezra the scribe" (see rem. on Ezra 7:11). The subject of ויּאמרוּ is the assembled people. These requested, through their rulers, that Ezra should fetch the book of the law of Moses, and publicly read it. This reading, then, was desired by the assembly. The motive for this request is undoubtedly to be found in the desire of the congregation to keep the new moon of the seventh month, as a feast of thanksgiving for the gracious assistance they had received from the Lord during the building of the wall, and through which it had been speedily and successfully completed, in spite of the attempts of their enemies to obstruct the work. This feeling of thankfulness impelled them to the hearing of the word of God for the purpose of making His law their rule of life. The assembly consisted of men and women indiscriminately (אשּׁה ועד אישׁ, like Joshua 6:21; Joshua 8:25; 1 Samuel 22:19; 1 Chronicles 16:3), and לשׁמע מבין כּל, every one that understood in hearing, which would certainly include the elder children. The first day of the seventh month was distinguished above the other new moons of the year as the feast of trumpets, and celebrated as a high festival by a solemn assembly and a cessation from labour; comp. Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6.
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