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Nehemiah 8:1-12

Context
8:1 all the people gathered together 1  in the plaza which was in front of the Water Gate. They asked 2  Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had commanded Israel. 8:2 So Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly which included men and women and all those able to understand what they heard. (This happened on the first day of the seventh month.) 8:3 So he read it before the plaza in front of the Water Gate from dawn till noon 3  before the men and women and those children who could understand. 4  All the people were eager to hear 5  the book of the law.

8:4 Ezra the scribe stood on a towering wooden platform 6  constructed for this purpose. Standing near him on his right were Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Masseiah. On his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 8:5 Ezra opened the book in plain view 7  of all the people, for he was elevated above all the people. When he opened the book, 8  all the people stood up. 8:6 Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people replied “Amen! Amen!” as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

8:7 Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah – all of whom were Levites 9  – were teaching the people the law, as the people remained standing. 8:8 They read from the book of God’s law, explaining it 10  and imparting insight. Thus the people 11  gained understanding from what was read.

8:9 Then Nehemiah the governor, 12  Ezra the priestly scribe, 13  and the Levites who were imparting understanding to the people said to all of them, 14  “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. 15  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 16  with others 17  and to enjoy tremendous joy, 18  for they had gained insight in the matters that had been made known to them.

Nehemiah 8:18--9:37

Context
8:18 Ezra 19  read in the book of the law of God day by day, from the first day to the last. 20  They observed the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day they held an assembly 21  as was required. 22 

The People Acknowledge Their Sin before God

9:1 On the twenty-fourth day of this same month the Israelites assembled; they were fasting and wearing sackcloth, their heads covered with dust. 9:2 Those truly of Israelite descent 23  separated from all the foreigners, 24  standing and confessing their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors. 25  9:3 For one-fourth of the day they stood in their place and read from the book of the law of the LORD their God, and for another fourth they were confessing their sins 26  and worshiping the LORD their God. 9:4 Then the Levites – Jeshua, Binnui, 27  Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Kenani – stood on the steps and called out loudly 28  to the LORD their God. 9:5 The Levites – Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah – said, “Stand up and bless the LORD your God!”

“May you be blessed, O LORD our God, from age to age. 29  May your glorious name 30  be blessed; may it be lifted up above all blessing and praise. 9:6 You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, 31  along with all their multitude of stars, 32  the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You impart life to them all, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

9:7 “You are the LORD God who chose Abram and brought him forth from Ur of the Chaldeans. You changed his name to Abraham. 9:8 When you perceived that his heart was faithful toward you, you established a 33  covenant with him to give his descendants 34  the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the Girgashites. You have fulfilled your promise, 35  for you are righteous.

9:9 “You saw the affliction of our ancestors in Egypt, and you heard their cry at the Red Sea. 36  9:10 You performed awesome signs 37  against Pharaoh, against his servants, and against all the people of his land, for you knew that the Egyptians 38  had acted presumptuously 39  against them. You made for yourself a name that is celebrated to this day. 9:11 You split the sea before them, and they crossed through 40  the sea on dry ground! But you threw their pursuers 41  into the depths, like a stone into surging 42  waters. 9:12 You guided them with a pillar of cloud by day and with a pillar of fire by night to illumine for them the path they were to travel.

9:13 “You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven. You provided them with just judgments, true laws, and good statutes and commandments. 9:14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath; you issued commandments, statutes, and law to them through 43  Moses your servant. 9:15 You provided bread from heaven for them in their time of hunger, and you brought forth water from the rock for them in their time of thirst. You told them to enter in order to possess the land that you had sworn 44  to give them.

9:16 “But they – our ancestors 45  – behaved presumptuously; they rebelled 46  and did not obey your commandments. 9:17 They refused to obey and did not recall your miracles that you had performed among them. Instead, they rebelled and appointed a leader to return to their bondage in Egypt. 47  But you are a God of forgiveness, merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and unfailing in your loyal love. 48  You did not abandon them, 9:18 even when they made a cast image of a calf for themselves and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up from Egypt,’ or when they committed atrocious 49  blasphemies.

9:19 “Due to your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. The pillar of cloud did not stop guiding them in the path by day, 50  nor did the pillar of fire stop illuminating for them by night the path on which they should travel. 9:20 You imparted your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths; you provided water for their thirst. 9:21 For forty years you sustained them. Even in the desert they never lacked anything. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

9:22 “You gave them kingdoms and peoples, and you allocated them to every corner of the land. 51  They inherited the land of King Sihon of Heshbon 52  and the land of King Og of Bashan. 9:23 You multiplied their descendants like the stars of the sky. You brought them to the land you had told their ancestors to enter in order to possess. 9:24 Their descendants 53  entered and possessed the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites who were the inhabitants of the land. You delivered them into their hand, together with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with as they pleased. 9:25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land. They took possession of houses full of all sorts of good things – wells previously dug, vineyards, olive trees, and fruit trees in abundance. They ate until they were full 54  and grew fat. They enjoyed to the full your great goodness.

9:26 “Nonetheless they grew disobedient and rebelled against you; they disregarded your law. 55  They killed your prophets who had solemnly admonished them in order to cause them to return to you. They committed atrocious blasphemies. 9:27 Therefore you delivered them into the hand of their adversaries, who oppressed them. But in the time of their distress they called to you, and you heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion you provided them with deliverers to rescue them from 56  their adversaries.

9:28 “Then, when they were at rest again, they went back to doing evil before you. Then you abandoned them to 57  their enemies, and they gained dominion over them. When they again cried out to you, in your compassion you heard from heaven and rescued them time and again. 9:29 And you solemnly admonished them in order to return them to your law, but they behaved presumptuously and did not obey your commandments. They sinned against your ordinances – those by which an individual, if he obeys them, 58  will live. They boldly turned from you; 59  they rebelled 60  and did not obey. 9:30 You prolonged your kindness 61  with them for many years, and you solemnly admonished them by your Spirit through your prophets. Still they paid no attention, 62  so you delivered them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. 63  9:31 However, due to your abundant mercy you did not do away with them altogether; you did not abandon them. For you are a merciful and compassionate God.

9:32 “So now, our God – the great, powerful, and awesome God, who keeps covenant fidelity 64  – do not regard as inconsequential 65  all the hardship that has befallen us – our kings, our leaders, our priests, our prophets, our ancestors, and all your people – from the days of the kings of Assyria until this very day! 9:33 You are righteous with regard to all that has happened to us, for you have acted faithfully. 66  It is we who have been in the wrong! 9:34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests, and our ancestors have not kept your law. They have not paid attention to your commandments or your testimonies by which you have solemnly admonished them. 9:35 Even when they were in their kingdom and benefiting from your incredible 67  goodness that you had lavished 68  on them in the spacious and fertile land you had set 69  before them, they did not serve you, nor did they turn from their evil practices.

9:36 “So today we are slaves! In the very land you gave to our ancestors to eat its fruit and to enjoy 70  its good things – we are slaves! 9:37 Its abundant produce goes to the kings you have placed over us due to our sins. They rule over our bodies and our livestock as they see fit, 71  and we are in great distress!

1 tn Heb “like one man.”

2 tn Heb “said [to].”

3 tn Heb “from the light till the noon of the day.”

4 tn Heb “all who could hear with understanding.” The word “children” is understood to be implied here by a number of English versions (e.g., NAB, TEV, NLT).

5 tn Heb “the ears of all the people were toward.”

6 tn Heb “a tower of wood.”

7 tn Heb “to the eyes.”

8 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the book) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

9 tc The MT reads “and the Levites.” The conjunction (“and”) should be deleted, following the LXX, Aquila, and the Vulgate. That the vav (ו) of the MT is the vav explicativum (“even the Levites”) is unlikely here.

10 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.

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

12 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.

13 tn Heb “the priest, the scribe.”

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

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

16 tn Heb “to send portions.”

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

18 tn Heb “to make great joy.”

19 tn Heb “He”; the referent (Ezra) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

20 tn Heb “the last day.”

21 tn Heb “on the eighth day an assembly.” The words “they held” have been supplied in the translation for clarity.

22 tn Heb “according to the judgment.”

23 tn Heb “the seed of Israel.”

24 tn Heb “sons of a foreigner.”

25 tn Heb “fathers” (also in vv. 9, 16, 23, 32, 34, 36).

26 tn Heb “confessing.” The words “their sins” are not present in the Hebrew text of v. 3, but are clearly implied here because they are explicitly stated in v. 2.

27 tc Heb “Bani.” The translation reads “Binnui” (so also NAB) rather than the MT reading “Bani.” Otherwise there are two individuals with the same name in this verse. The name “Binnui” appears, for example, in Neh 10:10.

28 tn Heb “in a great voice.”

29 tc The MT reads here only “from age to age,” without the preceding words “May you be blessed, O LORD our God” which are included in the present translation. But apparently something has dropped out of the text. This phrase occurs elsewhere in the OT as a description of the Lord (see Ps 41:13; 106:48), and it seems best to understand it here in that light. The LXX adds “And Ezra said” at the beginning of v. 6 as a transition: “And Ezra said, ‘You alone are the LORD.” Without this addition (which is not included by most modern English translations) the speakers of vv. 9:5b-10:1 continue to be the Levites of v. 5a.

30 tn Heb “the name of your glory.”

31 tn Heb “the heavens of the heavens.”

32 tn Heb “all their host.”

33 tn Heb “the” (so NAB).

34 tn Heb “seed.”

35 tn Heb “your words.”

36 tn Heb “the Sea of Reeds.” Traditionally this is identified as the Red Sea, and the modern designation has been used in the translation for clarity.

37 tn Heb “signs and wonders.” This phrase is a hendiadys. The second noun functions adjectivally, while the first noun retains its full nominal sense: “awesome signs” or “miraculous signs.”

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

39 tn Or “arrogantly” (so NASB); NRSV “insolently.”

40 tn Heb “in the midst of.”

41 tn Heb “those who pursued them.”

42 tn Heb “mighty.”

43 tn Heb “by the hand of.”

44 tn Heb “had lifted your hand.”

45 tn Heb “and our fathers.” The vav is explicative.

46 tn Heb “they stiffened their neck” (so also in the following verse).

47 tc The present translation follows a few medieval Hebrew MSS and the LXX in reading בְּמִצְרָיִם (bÿmitsrayim, “in Egypt”; so also NAB, NASB, NRSV, TEV, NLT) rather than the MT reading בְּמִרְיָם (bÿmiryam, “in their rebellion”).

48 tc The translation follows the Qere reading חֶסֶד (khesed, “loyal love”) rather than the Kethib reading וְחֶסֶד (vÿkhesed, “and loyal love”) of the MT.

49 tn Heb “great.”

50 tn Heb “did not turn from them by day to guide them in the path.”

51 tn The words “of the land” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.

52 tc Most Hebrew MSS read “the land of Sihon and the land of the king of Heshbon.” The present translation (along with NAB, NASB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, CEV, NLT) follows the reading of one Hebrew MS, the LXX, and the Vulgate.

53 tn Heb “the sons.”

54 tn Heb “they ate and were sated.” This expression is a hendiadys. The first verb retains its full verbal sense, while the second functions adverbially: “they ate and were filled” = “they ate until they were full.”

55 tn Heb “they cast your law behind their backs.”

56 tn Heb “from the hand of” (so NASB, NIV); NAB “from the power of.”

57 tn Heb “in the hand of” (so KJV, ASV); NAB “to the power of.”

58 tn Heb “if a man keep.” See note on the word “obey” in Neh 1:5.

59 tn Heb “they gave a stubborn shoulder.”

60 tn Heb “they stiffened their neck.”

61 tn The Hebrew expression here is elliptical. The words “your kindness” are not included in the Hebrew text, but have been supplied in the translation for clarity.

62 tn Heb “did not give ear to.”

63 tn Heb “the peoples of the lands.”

64 tn Heb “the covenant and loyal love.” The expression is a hendiadys. The second noun retains its full nominal sense, while the first functions adjectivally: “the covenant and loyalty” = covenant fidelity.

65 tn Heb “do not let it seem small in your sight.”

66 tn Heb “you have done truth.”

67 tn Heb “great.”

68 tn Heb “given them.”

69 tn Heb “given.”

70 tn The expression “to enjoy” is not included in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

71 tn Heb “according to their desire.”



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