New Defender's Study Bible Notes
8:1 all the people. Even if “all” is not taken literally, there must have been gathered here one of the largest congregations ever to hear the Scriptures read in their presence. Even the older children were included (Nehemiah 8:2).
8:1 Ezra the scribe. Ezra is here mentioned for the first time by Nehemiah, but he had been preaching to the people already for at least thirteen years.
8:1 law of Moses. “The book of the law of Moses” undoubtedly included all the Pentateuch, and possibly is used here generically for all of the Scriptures which had been received by this time. Ezra is generally believed to have been largely responsible for organizing the canon of the Old Testament Scriptures.
8:2 the first day of the seventh month. The wall had been completed just a month previously (Nehemiah 6:15).
8:5 people stood up. Apparently the congregation stood on their feet from morning until noon, for seven days, as the Scriptures were read and expounded (compare Nehemiah 8:3,7,8,18). This is an amazing testimony of reverence toward God’s Word, seldom, if ever, repeated since.
8:8 gave the sense. The Scriptures were written in Hebrew, but the people had no doubt used the Aramaic language while in Babylon, or possibly other languages while scattered in Assyria. Thus translation, as well as simple reading and exposition, would have been required for many of the people.
8:9 the Tirshatha. This was the Persian title for governor of a province.
8:10 joy of the LORD. The reading of the law had caused weeping, as the people realized their failures. Nevertheless, God had preserved them, as He had promised, and this new beginning was a time for thankful rejoicing. This particular phrase, “the joy of the LORD,” occurs elsewhere only in Matthew 25:21,23, where the Lord rewards His faithful servants with the invitation to “enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
8:13 unto Ezra the scribe. Note also Nehemiah 8:4,7. Jewish tradition indicates that Ezra gathered together a body of learned men, called the Great Synagogue. They not only taught the people God’s Word but also gathered all the available copies of the Scriptures for comparison and correction of any errors that might have occurred in copying, finally settling on what they believed must have been the original text.
8:17 very great gladness. Although the children of Israel had occasionally observed the feasts of the Lord, as commanded in Leviticus 23, the observances had generally been perfunctory and often ignored altogether. The Feast of Tabernacles had actually been observed by the captives who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Ezra 3:4), but it was not like this, with all the people of Israel dwelling in their own hand-made “booths,” with great gladness everywhere.