Nehemiah 8:4
And Ezra the scribe stood on a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Pulpit of wood.—Literally, a tower of wood. Fourteen persons, however, were on what is afterwards called a platform, or stair, by his side.

Nehemiah 8:4. Ezra stood upon a pulpit of wood — To raise him higher than the people; that he might be better seen and heard by them all; whence, in the Hebrew, it is called a tower of wood: but it was not like our pulpits, made to contain only one or two persons, but large and long, that many might stand in it at once, as appears from so many as fourteen, here mentioned, standing in it. And beside him stood Mattithiah, &c. — These stood with him, partly to declare their consent and concurrence with what he said and did; and partly that they, or some of them, might bear a part in the work.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.The 13 persons mentioned were probably the chief priests of the course (shift) which was at the time performing the temple service. 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. Partly to declare their consent and concurrence with Ezra in what-he said and did; and partly that they, or some of them, might bear a part in the work. And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose,.... Or to speak out of, as the Syriac and Arabic versions; this, in the Hebrew text, is called a "tower" (i), partly because of its height, and partly because in the form of one; and also for its largeness, considering the use it was for; for it was so large as to hold fourteen men, as appears by what follows: a pulpit of wood was made for the king in the court, to read the law from (k); though, according to Jacob Leo, it was a throne like an high tower; see Gill on 2 Kings 11:14, the pulpits, in the Jewish synagogues, made after the same manner, as Aben Ezra observes, are called by the same (l) name:

and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah; and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam; in all thirteen; there were six on his right, and seven on his left, who stood here, not merely in honour to him, and as approvers and supporters of the truth of what he read, but to relieve him when weary.

(i) "super turrem ligni", Montanus; so Dionysius is said, "concionari ex turri alta", Ciceron. Tuscul. Quaest. l. 5. (k) Schulchan Aruch, par. 1. c. 141. sect. 7. (l) Misn. Sotah, c. 7. sect. 8.

And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. a pulpit of wood] R.V. marg. Heb. tower. Literally ‘upon a tower of wood.’ LXX. ἐπὶ βήματος ξυλίνου, 1 Esdr. ἐπὶ τοῦ ξυλίνου βήματος. Vulg. ‘super gradum ligneum:’ cf. ‘the stairs’ on which the Levites stood in Nehemiah 9:4. The mention of the erection of a platform or tribune which the Jews had erected ‘for the purpose’ shows that the incident was one of exceptional character. This is the first mention of a pulpit or lectern.

for the purpose] Literally ‘for the word,’ which not being understood was omitted by the LXX. The Vulg. ‘quem fecerat ad loquen-dum’ follows a different vocalization, l’dhabbêr for laddâbhâr.

Urijah] R.V. Uriah: possibly the same as is mentioned in Nehemiah 3:4. ‘Hilkiah,’ possibly mentioned also Nehemiah 12:7. ‘Pedaiah’ possibly mentioned Nehemiah 3:25. ‘Meshullam’ possibly mentioned Nehemiah 10:7.

Malchiah … Hashbadana] R.V. Malchijah … Hashbaddanah.

There is a discrepancy respecting the numbers and position of the individuals here mentioned. The Hebrew text and the LXX. mention six names on the right hand, seven on the left: the parallel passage in 1 Esdras gives seven on the right hand, inserting an Azariah between Anaiah and Uriah, but six only on the left, omitting the last name Meshullam. If we retain both Azariah and Meshullam we should have seven on either side; if we reject them both, we should have six on either side. It seems probable that the names are those of Levites. There would be especial appropriateness in the number twelve, symbolizing the union of Israel in obedience to the Law. The conjecture of Rawlinson that they ‘were probably the chief priests of the course which was at the time performing the Temple service’ is improbable. (1) They were clearly men who could leave the Temple precincts for six or seven hours consecutively. (2) On such an impressive occasion Ezra, if he were attended by priests, would probably have selected either those who represented the principal houses or those who especially supported his religious attitude. (3) Ezra’s supporters in this great religious movement seem to have been Laymen and Levites, not Priests. The popularizing of the knowledge of ‘the Law’ struck a blow at a priestly monopoly. The thirteen names are in one respect of especial interest. They seem to be the names of individuals and not as in Nehemiah 8:7 and ch. Nehemiah 9:4, Nehemiah 10:9 the names of houses or clans, which happened to be represented. The reader should take notice that the high-priest’s name is not mentioned on this occasion. If as some critics have supposed, Ezra himself had composed the Priestly Laws, and was now promulgating them for the first time, the high-priest, whose position owed so much of its dignity in later days to those laws, would surely have been mentioned as countenancing Ezra’s action. If however, as seems more probable, Ezra was for the first time publishing to the people laws which had hitherto been kept in the priests’ hands, we have a possible explanation for the absence of the high-priest and his party, who would regard his action as subversive of their authority.Verse 4. - Ezra... stood upon a pulpit of wood. Compare 2 Kings 11:14; 2 Kings 23:3, where, however, the term used is עמוד, "stand," and not מגדל, "tower." In either case an elevated platform seems to be meant. Mattithiah, and Shema. These persons are commonly supposed to have been priests, but there is nothing to prove it. They need not even have been Levites, since they were there not to teach, but only to do honour to Ezra. And God put into my heart, i.e., God inspired me with the resolution; comp. Nehemiah 2:12. What resolution, is declared by the sentences following, which detail its execution. The resolution to gather together the nobles and rulers of the people for the purpose of making a list of their kinsmen, and thus to obtain a basis for the operations contemplated for increasing the inhabitants of Jerusalem. והסּגנים החרים are combined, as in Nehemiah 2:16. On התיחשׂ, comp. 1 Chronicles 5:17.

While this resolve was under consideration, Nehemiah found the register, i.e., the genealogical registry, of those who came up at first (from Babylon). בּראשׁונה, at the beginning, i.e., with Zerubbabel and Joshua under Cyrus (Ezra 2), and not subsequently with Ezra (Ezra 7). "And I found written therein." These words introduce the list now given. This list, vv. 6-73a, is identical with that in Ezra 2, and has been already discussed in our remarks on that chapter.

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