Nehemiah 8-9 They helped the people to understand the Law

From Nehemiah 8-9

16 Neh Rebuilding

Now that the wall has been built and the administration for the temple worked out. The people need a fresh start. They need to hear from the law again to be reminded how to live according to Moses’ commands.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

8 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. (Neh 8.1-2)

Ezra makes and appearance in Nehemiah. Its good to hear of him again. Being a priest well versed in the law he is quite capable in reading it to the people who could understand.

3 And 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. (Neh 8.3)

The Hebrew day technically started at 6pm the previous day. The first part being the night (Gen 1.3 ‘evening then morning’ = the day). In terms of daylight the start was at 6am, the third hour 9am, the sixth hour is midday, the ninth 3pm, the twelfth 6pm, which as the end of the day and the start of the next. Ezra read for about 6hrs.

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. (Neh 8.4-5)

This must have been quite a sight to see all the people standing to hear the scripture read.

6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Neh 8.6-8)

You might not know it. But this is one of the passages that supports expository preaching. Having the scriptures read out and then explained to the people.

9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. (Neh 8.9)

We should be reminded of the people’s response when Ezra first saw to the rebuilding on the temple. When the foundation was built the people cheered and cried. These people are mourning and weeping because they realise why they were sent into exile. They are grieving for their own sin and the sins of their fathers.

10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send 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 they had understood the words that were declared to them. (Neh 8.10-12)

Ezra commands them to stop grieving, but to be joyful. They should be joyful because the LORD has restored them to the land and their temple and wall has been rebuilt. They should also celebrate because they understand the words of the law.

On the following day the people celebrate the Feast of Booths. This particular festival commemorates their time wandering in the wilderness when they lived in tents (Booths). A bit after this Nehemiah and the people gather and pray to the LORD. They confess their sins and the sins of their fathers. They acknowledge the LORD has been righteous in dealing out the covenant curses on the people. At the end of the prayer they reaffirm their commitment to the covenant.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Perhaps one of the reasons why Israel had so many issues with disobedience was because she was not aware of the law. Rather chose to ignore it and follow the ways of the other nations. Had they been familiar with the law they would have known about the curses the LORD would inflict on them for disobedience (Dt 28). Psalm 119 commends the law and the value in meditating on it.

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

12 Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!

13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.

14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.

15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Ps 119:9–16)

Likewise we should be reading the scriptures. Soaking up God’s word, letting determine our ways.

Story of Jesus

Following Jesus death and resurrection Jesus appeared to some of his followers.

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.

18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Lk 24:13–27)

In the same way as Ezra and the priests explained the scripture to the people. So also does Jesus interpret the scripture in light of himself. Read the scripture and understand it is speaking about Jesus.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.