Nehemiah 9:4
Then stood up on the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and cried with a loud voice to 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. And 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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