Nehemiah 9:4
Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto the LORD their God.
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(4) Stairs, of the Levites.The scaffold of the Levites, without the comma: the steps of ascent to the pulpit of Ezra (Nehemiah 8:2).

Bani, and Chenani.—Probably, Binnui and Haman (Nehemiah 10:9-10).

Their God.—When the people are called upon (Nehemiah 9:5), it is “your God”; hence these eight Levites offered a prayer which is not inserted.

Nehemiah 9:4. They stood upon the stairs — Upon such stairs or pulpits as the Levites usually stood upon when they taught the people. But they stood upon several pulpits, each of them teaching that part of the congregation which was allotted him, or praying or blessing God with them. And cried with a loud voice — Thereby testifying their deep sense of their sins and miseries, and their fervent and importunate desire of God’s mercy.

9:4-38 The summary of their prayers we have here upon record. Much more, no doubt, was said. Whatever ability we have to do any thing in the way of duty, we are to serve and glorify God according to the utmost of it. When confessing our sins, it is good to notice the mercies of God, that we may be the more humbled and ashamed. The dealings of the Lord showed his goodness and long-suffering, and the hardness of their hearts. The testimony of the prophets was the testimony of the Spirit in the prophets, and it was the Spirit of Christ in them. They spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and what they said is to be received accordingly. The result was, wonder at the Lord's mercies, and the feeling that sin had brought them to their present state, from which nothing but unmerited love could rescue them. And is not their conduct a specimen of human nature? Let us study the history of our land, and our own history. Let us recollect our advantages from childhood, and ask what were our first returns? Let us frequently do so, that we may be kept humble, thankful, and watchful. Let all remember that pride and obstinacy are sins which ruin the soul. But it is often as hard to persuade the broken-hearted to hope, as formerly it was to bring them to fear. Is this thy case? Behold this sweet promise, A God ready to pardon! Instead of keeping away from God under a sense of unworthiness, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. He is a God ready to pardon.The Septuagint and the Vulgate remove the comma after "stairs." By the "stairs (or scaffold) of the Levites" is to be understood as an elevated platform from which they could the better address and lead the people (compare Nehemiah 8:4). Ne 9:4-38. The Levites Confess God's Manifold Goodness, and Their Own Wickedness.

4. Then stood up upon the stairs—the scaffolds or pulpits, whence the Levites usually addressed the people. There were probably several placed at convenient distances, to prevent confusion and the voice of one drowning those of the others.

cried with a loud voice unto the Lord—Such an exertion, of course, was indispensably necessary, in order that the speakers might be heard by the vast multitude congregated in the open air. But these speakers were then engaged in expressing their deep sense of sin, as well as fervently imploring the forgiving mercy of God; and "crying with a loud voice" was a natural accompaniment of this extraordinary prayer meeting, as violent gestures and vehement tones are always the way in which the Jews, and other people in the East, have been accustomed to give utterance to deep and earnest feelings.

Upon the stairs, of the Levites, or, upon the scaffold, &c., i.e. upon such stairs, or rather scaffolds, or pulpits, as the Levites used to stand upon when they taught the people. But you must not think that all the persons here named stood in one place, and uttered the following words together, which would have caused great confusion in their speeches, by which means but few of the people could have distinctly heard or understood them; but that they stood upon several pulpits, each of them either teaching of that part of the congregation which was allotted to him, or praying or blessing God with them.

Cried with a loud voice; thereby testifying their deep sense of their sins and miseries, and their fervent and importunate desire of God’s mercy.

Then stood up upon the stairs of the Levites,.... On an ascent; an elevated place where the Levites used to stand when they sang at the time of sacrifice, and where they might be seen and heard by the people:

Jeshua and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; who seem to be all Levites, see Nehemiah 8:7,

and cried with a loud voice unto the Lord their God; praying with great fervency, and making bitter lamentation for the sins of the people and their own.

Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto the LORD their God.
4. upon the stairs (Marg. Or, scaffold) of the Levites] R.V. upon the stairs of the Levites. According to a common but inaccurate punctuation of the A.V., of the Levites is applied to the list of names which follows. It refers to the pulpit or stage erected for the Levites, that they might read the Law and conduct the service standing in view of the people. Cf. Nehemiah 8:4. For the word rendered ‘stairs’ (LXX. ἀνάβασις. Vulg. ‘gradus’) compare Nehemiah 12:37. It more generally appears as ‘ascent,’ e.g. Joshua 10:10; 2 Samuel 15:30; Isaiah 15:5.

Jeshua, &c.] See note on Nehemiah 8:7; cf. Nehemiah 10:9.

Kadmiel] cf. Nehemiah 10:9.

Bani … Bunni … Bani] The repetition of Bani’s name is probably due to an error of copyists. The Syriac version for the second ‘Bani’ reads ‘Binnui’; but as in Nehemiah 10:9, Nehemiah 12:8, Binnui’s name comes, as here, between those of Jeshua and Kadmiel, we should here substitute Binnui for the first Bani. The LXX. renders all three names as if the Hebrew in each case had been ‘B’nêy’ = ‘sons of,’ reducing the number of proper names in the verse to five (Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ υἱοὶ Καδμιήλ, Σεχενία υἱὸς Σαραβία, υἱοὶ Χωνενί). For ‘Bunni,’ cf. Nehemiah 10:15; for ‘Shebaniah,’ ‘Sherebiah,’ cf. Nehemiah 10:12. The names probably represent the chief Levitical houses and not individuals; cf. the mention of Jeshua, Binnui, and Kadmiel in Ezra 2:40; Ezra 3:9, and of Sherebiah in Ezra 8:18. But whether the whole house is in each case intended, or a single representative of each house mentioned, we are not told.

cried with a loud voice] If the names represent houses or families, we can picture to ourselves the platform crowded with the members of eight Levite houses, who burst forth into some well-known Psalm of adoration to the God of Israel. If they are names of individual representatives, we must suppose them to have been deputed to recite or chant a specially prepared form of prayer, in order to direct the worship of the people.

Verse 4. - Upon the stairs, of the Levites. Rather, "upon the platform of the Levites," the same probably as the "pulpit of Nehemiah 8:4. Bani. Rather, "Binnui" (see Nehemiah 10:9; Nehemiah 12:8),the representative of the "sons of Henadad. Jeshua, Binnui, and Kadmiel are the three principal families of the Levites (comp. Ezra 2:40; Ezra 3:9; Nehemiah 3:24; Nehemiah 8:7, etc.). Sherebiah was the head of a family which returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:18). Chenani is probably the "Hanan" of Nehemiah 8:7, and Nehemiah 10:10. Nehemiah 9:4There stood upon the scaffold of the Levites, i.e., upon the platform erected for the Levites (comp. Nehemiah 8:4), Jeshua and seven other Levites whose names are given, and they cried with a loud voice to God, and said to the assembled congregation, "Stand up, bless the Lord your God for ever and ever! and blessed be the name of Thy glory, which is exalted above all blessing and praise." The repetition of the names of the Levites in Nehemiah 9:5 shows that this invitation to praise God is distinct from the crying to God with a loud voice of Nehemiah 9:4, and seems to say that the Levites first cried to God, i.e., addressed to Him their confessions and supplications, and after having done so, called upon the congregation to worship God. Eight names of Levites being given in both verses, and five of these - Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, and Sherebiah - being identical, the difference of the three others in the two verses - Bunni, Bani, and Chenani (Nehemiah 9:4), and Hashabniah, Hodijah, and Pethahiah (Nehemiah 9:5) - seems to have arisen from a clerical error, - an appearance favoured also by the circumstance that Bani occurs twice in Nehemiah 9:4. Of the other names in question, Hodijah occurs Nehemiah 10:14, and Pethahiah Ezra 10:23, as names of Levites, but כּנני and חשׁבניה nowhere else. Hence Bunni, Bani, and Chenani (Nehemiah 9:4), and Hashabniah (Nehemiah 9:5), may be assigned to a clerical error; but we have no means for restoring the correct names. With regard to the matter of these verses, Ramb. remarks on Nehemiah 9:4 : constitisse opinor omnes simul, ita tamen ut unus tantum eodem tempore fuerit precatus, ceteris ipsi adstantibus atque sua etiam vice Deum orantibus, hence that the eight Levites prayed to God successively; while Bertheau thinks that these Levites entreated God, in penitential and supplicatory psalms, to have mercy on His sinful but penitent people. In this case we must also regard their address to the congregation in Nehemiah 9:5 as a liturgical hymn, to which the congregation responded by praising God in chorus. To this view may be objected the circumstance, that no allusion is made in the narrative to the singing of penitential or other songs. Besides, a confession of sins follows in vv. 6-37, which may fitly be called a crying unto God, without its being stated by whom it was uttered. "This section," says Bertheau, "whether we regard its form or contents, cannot have been sung either by the Levites or the congregation. We recognise in it the speech of an individual, and hence accept the view that the statement of the lxx, that after the singing of the Levites, Nehemiah 9:4, and the praising of God in Nehemiah 9:5, Ezra came forward and spoke the words following, is correct, and that the words καὶ εἶπεν Ἔσδρας, which it inserts before Nehemiah 9:6, originally stood in the Hebrew text." But if Psalms, such as Psalm 105-106, and 107, were evidently appointed to be sung to the praise of God by the Levites or by the congregation, there can be no reason why the prayer vv. 6-37 should not be adapted both in form and matter for this purpose. This prayer by no means bears the impress of being the address of an individual, but is throughout the confession of the whole congregation. The prayer speaks of our fathers (Nehemiah 9:9, Nehemiah 9:16), of what is come upon us (Nehemiah 9:33), addresses Jahve as our God, and says we have sinned. Of course Ezra might have uttered it in the name of the congregation; but that the addition of the lxx, καὶ εἶπεν Ἔσδρας, is of no critical value, and is a mere conjecture of the translators, is evident from the circumstance that the prayer does not begin with the words יהוה הוּא אתּה of v. 6, but passes into the form of direct address to God in the last clause of v. 5: Blessed be the name of Thy glory. By these words the prayer which follows is evidently declared to be the confession of those who are to praise the glory of the Lord; and the addition, "and Ezra said," characterized as an unskilful interpolation.

According to what has now been said, the summons, יהוה את בּרכוּ קוּמוּ, Nehemiah 9:5, like the introductions to may Hodu and Hallelujah Psalms (e.g., Psalm 105:1; Psalm 106:1), is to be regarded as only an exhortation to the congregation to praise God, i.e., to join in the praises following, and to unite heartily in the confession of sin. This view of the connection of Nehemiah 9:5 and Nehemiah 9:6 explains the reason why it is not stated either in Nehemiah 9:6, or at the close of this prayer in Nehemiah 9:37, that the assembled congregation blessed God agreeably to the summons thus addressed to them. They did so by silently and heartily praying to, and praising God with the Levites, who were reciting aloud the confession of sin. On ויברכוּ R. Sal. already remarks: nunc incipiunt loqui Levitae versus Shechinam s. ad ipsum Deum. The invitation to praise God insensibly passes into the action of praising. If, moreover, vv. 6-37 are related in the manner above stated to Nehemiah 9:5, then it is not probable that the crying to God with a loud voice (Nehemiah 9:4) was anything else than the utterance of the prayer subsequently given, vv. 6-37. The repetition of the names in Nehemiah 9:5 is not enough to confirm this view, but must be explained by the breadth of the representation here given, and is rescued from the charge of mere tautology by the fact that in Nehemiah 9:4 the office of the individuals in question is not named, which it is by the word הלויּם in Nehemiah 9:5. For הלויּם in Nehemiah 9:4 belongs as genitive to מעלה, and both priests and laymen might have stood on the platform of the Levites. For this reason it is subsequently stated in Nehemiah 9:5, that Jeshua, etc., were Levites; and in doing this the names are again enumerated. In the exhortation, Stand up and bless, etc., Bertheau seeks to separate "for ever and ever" from the imp. בּרכוּ, and to take it as a further qualification of אלהיכם. This is, however, unnatural and arbitrary; comp. 1 Chronicles 16:26. Still more arbitrary is it to supply "One day all people" to ויברכוּ, "shall bless Thy name," etc. וגו וּמרומם adds a second predicate to שׁם: and which is exalted above all blessing and praise, i.e., sublimius est quam ut pro dignitate laudari possit (R. Sal.).

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