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Nehemiah 8:8-12

Context
8:8 They read from the book of God’s law, explaining it 1  and imparting insight. Thus the people 2  gained understanding from what was read.

8:9 Then Nehemiah the governor, 3  Ezra the priestly scribe, 4  and the Levites who were imparting understanding to the people said to all of them, 5  “This day is holy to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping when they heard the words of the law. 8:10 He said to them, “Go and eat delicacies and drink sweet drinks and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared. For this day is holy to our Lord. 6  Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

8:11 Then the Levites quieted all the people saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy. Do not grieve.” 8:12 So all the people departed to eat and drink and to share their food 7  with others 8  and to enjoy tremendous joy, 9  for they had gained insight in the matters that had been made known to them.

1 tn The exact meaning of the pual participle מְפֹרָשׁ (mÿforash) in this verse is uncertain. The basic sense of the Hebrew word seems to be “to make distinct.” The word may also have the sense of “to divide in parts,” “to interpret,” or “to translate.” The context of Neh 8:8 does not decisively clarify how the participle is to be understood here. It probably refers to the role of the Levites as those who explained or interpreted the portions of biblical text that had been publicly read on this occasion. A different option, however, is suggested by the translation distincte (“distinctly”) of the Vulgate (cf. KJV, ASV). If the Hebrew word means “distinctly” here, it would imply that the readers paid particular attention to such things as word-grouping and pronunciation so as to be sure that the listeners had every opportunity to understand the message that was being read. Yet another view is found in the Talmud, which understands translation of the Hebrew text into Aramaic to be what is in view here. The following explanation of Neh 8:8 is found in b. Megillah 3a: “‘And they read in the book, in the law of God’: this indicates the [Hebrew] text; ‘with an interpretation’: this indicates the targum; ‘and they gave the sense’: this indicates the verse stops; ‘and caused them to understand the reading’: this indicates the accentuation, or, according to another version, the Masoretic notes.” However, this ancient rabbinic view that the origins of the Targum are found in Neh 8:8 is debatable. It is not clear that the practice of paraphrasing the Hebrew biblical text into Aramaic in order to accommodate the needs of those Jews who were not at home in the Hebrew language developed this early. The translation of מְפֹרָשׁ adopted above (i.e., “explaining it”) understands the word to have in mind an explanatory function (cf. NAB, NCV, TEV, NLT) rather than one of translation.

2 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

3 tc The unexpected reference to Nehemiah here has led some scholars to suspect that the phrase “Nehemiah the governor” is a later addition to the text and not original.

4 tn Heb “the priest, the scribe.”

5 tn Heb “the people.” The pronoun has been used in the translation for stylistic reasons, to avoid redundancy.

6 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

7 tn Heb “to send portions.”

8 tn The Hebrew text does not include the phrase “with others” but it has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

9 tn Heb “to make great joy.”



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