King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Nehemiah 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)

Nehemiah 8 Audio:

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The reading and expounding the law

1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.

2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.

3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.

4 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.

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:

6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

7 Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.

8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.

The people called upon to be joyful

9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.

10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.

12 And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.

The feast of tabernacles, The joy of the people

13 And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law.

14 And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month:

15 And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.

16 So the people went forth, and brought them, and 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 street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim.

17 And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.

18 Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Were in, or had been at home, (H.) after the dedication of the walls, (C.) till they assembled (H.) at the beginning of the civil year, on the feast of trumpets, which was a day of rejoicing, (v. 9. Num. xxix. 1.) the festival of the new moon. Riberia. M. — Gate, near the temple. C. iii. 26. C. — Moses; the pentateuch. M. — He is not desired to restore what was lost. T. — As many copies had been preserved by the prophets, which Esdras revised. W.

Ver. 2. Women, who were in a separate place. — Understand, being come to the use of reason. C.

Ver. 3. In plainly. Prot. “therein, before the street.” H. — Esdras probably read select pieces from Leviticus, &c. but principally from Deuteronomy. M.

Ver. 4. Step. Heb. “wooden tower.” C. — Prot. “pulpit,” (H.) made in the form of a cup,” (C.) like the cior, or tribune of Solomon. 2 Par. vi. 13. — Mosollam. We should imagine that this was not the person who had given his daughter in marriage to the son of Tobias. C. vi. 18. H.

Ver. 5. Stood, out of respect, as we do while the gospel is read. See Num. xxiii. 18. C.

Ver. 8. Understood, by those who were near enough, and were skilled in Heb. (H.) though many began to forget that language; (C. xiii. 24.) and for their benefit, an explanation was given in Chaldee, (v. 9.; Calmet) or Syriac, the vulgar tongue after the captivity. Pure Hebrew was still retained in the public liturgy. T. — Thus the Catholic Church retains the use of the language first use in the conversion of the respective people, whether Greek, Latin, &c. while she takes care to explain to the people what is necessary, in their own language. Any change might be attended with more serious inconveniences than benefit. Our Saviour never blamed this practice, which subsisted among the Jews in his time, no more than that which obliged the people to keep without, while the priest offered incense, &c. Luke i. 10. 21. — And plainly. Prot. “and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading,” as much as they were able, though many would, no doubt, still find difficulties, as we at present. H.

Ver. 9. Interpreted. S. Jerom renders the same term, made silence, (v. 7.) as it was the office of the Levites to keep the people in awe, v. 11. C. — Prot. “taught.” They had also (H.) to instruct. 1 Esd. viii. 16. M. — Weep. The Jews had only one feast for mourning, the day of expiation. On all the rest, a holy joy was commended. For the same reason, the Church does not fast on such days. C. — Law, reflecting on the threats denounced against transgressors, which they had so lately witnessed. T.

Ver. 10. Wine. Heb. and Sept. “things.” Syr. and Arab. have simply, “drink.” — Portions. The Greeks styled them, merides; and the Latins, sportul√¶. The custom prevailed not only among the Jews, (Est. ix. 19.) but also among Christians and pagans. Moses frequently exhorts the people to invite the poor; (Deut. xvi. 14.) and S. Paul blames the rich Corinthians, for giving no part of their feast to them. 1 Cor. xi. 21. — Strength. By this holy joy, we shall be encouraged to perform all our duties. C. — Sept. “Be not downcast, because he (the Lord) is our strength.” H.

Ver. 13. Law, concerning some difficulties, particularly the manner of keeping the ensuing festival. T. — Thus Christ explained to his disciples what he had spoken to the people. H.

Ver. 15. And that. This is not expressed in the law, though it was probably practised. C. — Some translate, “And they proclaimed,” &c. Vatable. — Beautiful. Lit. “very or most beautiful.” H. — Heb. “of oily wood.” Sept. “cypress.” Syr. “nut-tree.” Others understand the pine, (Pagnin) balm, (Mariana) citron, (H.) or any other species of branches, which might then be used. C. T.

Ver. 16. House, which was flat. H. — The tents might be erected in any place; in the open air. T.

Ver. 17. Done so, with such alacrity, though they had displayed more magnificence. See the meaning of similar expressions, 4 K. xxiii. 22. C.

Ver. 18. Assembly. Lit. “the collect.” H. — Heb. “the day of retention;” the people being kept at the temple. C. — Sept. “the dismission;” as they were afterwards permitted to depart. H. — See Lev. xxiii. 26. — It was probably on this occasion, that the sacred fire was found again; (2 Mac. i. 18. C.) and also the ark, the tabernacle, and the altar of incense, which had been hidden by Jeremias. 2 Mac. ii. 4. Torniel, A. 3610. Cano, &c. — But this is not so certain. H. C. Diss.