Nehemiah 8

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Ezra Reads the Law

1 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before 1the Water Gate. And they told 2Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel.
2 So Ezra the priest 3brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, 4on the first day of the seventh month.
3 5And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand.
5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.
6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, 6"Amen, Amen,"7lifting up their hands. 8And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
7 9Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites,[a]10helped the people to understand the Law, 11while the people remained in their places.
8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly,[b] and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

This Day Is Holy

9 And Nehemiah, who was 12the governor, and Ezra 13the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, 14"This day is holy to the LORD your God; 15do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.
10 Then he said to them, "Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and 16send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
11 So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, "Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved."
12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because 17they had understood the words that were declared to them.

Feast of Booths Celebrated

13 On the second day the heads of fathers' houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law.
14 And they found it written in the Law that the LORD had commanded by Moses 18that the people of Israel should dwell in booths[c] during the feast of the seventh month,
15 and that they should proclaim it and 19publish it in all their towns and 20in Jerusalem, "Go out to the hills and bring 21branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written."
16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each 22on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at 23the Water Gate and in the square at 24the Gate of Ephraim.
17 And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day 25the people of Israel had not done so. And there was 26very great rejoicing.
18 And day by day, from the first day to the last day, 27he read from the Book of the Law of God. They kept the feast seven days, and 28on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the rule.

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Nehemiah 8 Commentary

Chapter 8

The reading and expounding the law. (1-8) The people called upon to be joyful. (9-12) The feast of tabernacles, The joy of the people. (13-18)

Verses 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.

Verses 9-12 It was a good sign that their hearts were tender, when they heard the words of the law. The people were to send portions to those for whom nothing was prepared. It is the duty of a religious feast, as well as of a religious fast, to draw out the soul to the hungry; God's bounty should make us bountiful. We must not only give to those that offer themselves, but send to those out of sight. Their strength consisted in joy in the Lord. The better we understand God's word, the more comfort we find in it; the darkness of trouble arises from the darkness of ignorance.

Verses 13-18 They found written in the law about the feast of tabernacles. Those who diligently search the Scriptures, find things written there which they have forgotten. This feast of tabernacles was a representation of the believer's tabernacle state in this world, and a type of the holy joy of the gospel church. The conversion of the nations to the faith of Christ, is foretold under the figure of this feast, ( Zechariah 14:16 ) . True religion will render us strangers and pilgrims upon earth. We read and hear the word acceptably and profitably, when we do according to what is written therein; when what appears to be our duty is revived, after it has been neglected. They minded the substance; else the ceremony had been of no use. They did it, rejoicing in God and his goodness. These are the means which the Spirit of God crowns with success, in bringing the hearts of sinners to tremble and to become humbled before God. But those are enemies to their own growth in holiness, who always indulge sorrow, even for sin, and put away from them the consolations tendered by the word and Spirit of God.

Cross References 28

  • 1. Nehemiah 3:26
  • 2. See Ezra 7:6
  • 3. See Deuteronomy 31:11
  • 4. Leviticus 23:24
  • 5. See Nehemiah 13:1
  • 6. See Nehemiah 5:13
  • 7. Psalms 134:2; Lamentations 3:41; [1 Timothy 2:8]
  • 8. See 2 Chronicles 20:18
  • 9. [Nehemiah 9:4]
  • 10. See 2 Chronicles 35:3
  • 11. Nehemiah 9:3
  • 12. Nehemiah 7:65, 70; Nehemiah 10:1; Ezra 2:63
  • 13. Nehemiah 12:26
  • 14. ver. 2; Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1
  • 15. [Ecclesiastes 3:4]
  • 16. Esther 9:19, 22
  • 17. ver. 7, 8
  • 18. Lev. 23:34, 40, 42
  • 19. Leviticus 23:4
  • 20. Deuteronomy 16:16
  • 21. [Leviticus 23:40]
  • 22. See 1 Samuel 9:25
  • 23. ver. 1, 3; Nehemiah 3:26
  • 24. Nehemiah 12:39; 2 Kings 14:13; 2 Chronicles 25:23
  • 25. [1 Kings 8:2; 2 Chronicles 7:9; 2 Chronicles 8:13; Ezra 3:4]
  • 26. [2 Chronicles 30:21]
  • 27. Deuteronomy 31:10, 11
  • 28. Leviticus 23:36; Numbers 29:35

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Vulgate; Hebrew and the Levites
  • [b]. Or with interpretation, or paragraph by paragraph
  • [c]. Or temporary shelters

Chapter Summary


Ezra being desired to bring forth the book of the law, read it to the people and others, expounded it to them, Ne 8:1-8 and Nehemiah exhorted the people to express joy and gladness on this occasion, which they did, Ne 8:9-12 and observing the feast of tabernacles was in the law commanded to be observed, they kept it very strictly and joyfully, Ne 8:13-18.

Nehemiah 8 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.