Nehemiah 8:5
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:
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Nehemiah 8:5-6. When he opened it, all the people stood up — Either in reverence to God’s word, or that they might hear his words more distinctly. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God — He blessed him as the great God, superior to all other powers whatsoever; and gave honour to him by praising his perfections, and praying for his favour. And all the people answered, Amen! Amen! — In token of their concurrence with him, both in the praises and prayers. With lifting up their hands — In token that their desire was toward God, and all their expectation from him. And they bowed their heads — In token of their reverence for him, and subjection to him. Thus must we adore and address ourselves to God, when we are going to read or hear his word, as those that see him in his word very great and very good.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.Stood up - The attitude of attention and respect. Compare the existing practice of the Christian Church at the reading of the Gospel for the day. 5. when he opened it, all the people stood up—This attitude they assumed either from respect to God's word, or, rather, because the reading was prefaced by a solemn prayer, which was concluded by a general expression of "Amen, Amen." Either in reverence to God’s word, of which see Numbers 11:32 Judges 3:20; or that they might hear his words the more distinctly: or rather, because they observed that Ezra composed himself to prayer or thanksgiving; which is here generally declared, but doubtless was more particularly and largely expressed in that assembly, as appears by their answering

Amen, Amen, to his prayer. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people (for he was above all the people),.... So plainly seen by them, and what he did, and the more easily heard, for which purpose the pulpit was made for him to stand in:

and, when he opened it, all the people stood up; that they might the better hear the law read, as well as in honour and reverence of it; the Jews say (m), that from the times of Moses to Rabban Gamaliel, they learned the law only standing; but after his death a disease came into the world, and they learned it sitting; and now it is a canon with them, that it is not necessary to stand at the reading of the law (n).

(m) T. Bab. Megillah, fol. 21. 1.((n) Schulchan Aruch, par. 1. Orach Chayim, c. 146. sect. 4.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people;

(for he was {d} above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:

(d) So that his voice might be heard the better.

5. opened] i.e. unrolled, cf. Luke 4:17.

above all the people] i.e. raised above them in his pulpit.

all the people stood up] We need not conclude from these words that they stood during the whole time that the reading went on. Rather ‘they rose to their feet,’ signifying by this gesture their reverence for ‘the law’ that was to be read. After Ezra’s blessing and the response (Nehemiah 8:6), they probably resumed their seats. ‘Standing’ was sometimes the posture of prayer denoting humility, cf. 1 Samuel 1:26; 1 Kings 8:22; Luke 18:11; Luke 18:13. In later times it was the attitude adopted during the reading of ‘the Law’ in the service of the Synagogue.Verse 5. - All the people stood up. The Jews commonly sat to hear and stood up to pray; but in hearing they occasionally stood up, to do greater honour to the person or the occasion (see Judges 3:20). It is not to be supposed that they stood during the whole of the six hours that Ezra's reading lasted. 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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