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And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of the people, the priests and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the · words of the law.
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,
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. .
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.
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 Joshua the son of Nun, unto that day, had not the children of Israel done so: and there was very great gladness.
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.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS. The scaffold or pulpit, whence Ezra read the law to the people, was erected in the largest street of the city, probably because the court of the Temple was not capable of containing so great a multitude. He read it in Hebrew, and the Levites repeated it, period by period, to the people, in the Chaldee tongue, which was usually spoken by the Jews at that time; from hence we may
infer, that Ezra thought it agreeable to the Divine will that the Scriptures should be translated for the use of the common people.
This was a very affecting ceremony to the Jews, and there is no wonder that it caused their tears to flow. The spiritual famine, which the prophet Amos had foretold *, had been of long continuance, the bread of life was now restored to them. Had they set a proper value on it before, it would not have been taken from them; but they slighted the Divine ordinances, till they provoked the LORD to cast a veil over them, which it required a diligent hand, guided by his Holy Spirit to draw aside.
May all who enjoy the advantage of a translation of those scriptures, which they have not skill to read in their original language, set as high a value on them, as the Jews at this time did on that which was vouchsafed to them! And may every one who hears them read, pay the same ready and devout attention to them!
A SOLEMN FAST AND REPENTANCE OF THE PEOPLE
THEY SOLEMNLY PROMISE TO KEEP GOD'S LAWS.
From Nehemiah, Chap. ix. Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.
And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
And they stood up in their place, and read in the
* Amos viii. 11.
book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God
And when they had declared the mercies of God to the seed of Abraham, the house of Israel, they said, Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and all thy people, since the time of the kings of As. syria unto this day.
Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us ; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly: · Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments, and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them.
For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works.
Behold we are servants this day; and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers, to eat the fruit thereof, and the good thereof, behold we are servants in it.
And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins : also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at : their pleasure, and we are in great distress.
And because of all this, we make a sure covenart, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.
And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they VOL. IV.
that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and hav. ing understanding;
They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes.
And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons ::
And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath-day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy-day; and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.
Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God;
For the shew-bread, and for the continual meat-offering, and for the continual burnt-offering of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set-feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin-offerings, to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.
And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood-offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed, year by year, to burn upon the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law;
And to bring the first-fruits of our ground, and the first-fruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD;
Also the first-born of our sons, and of our cattle, (as
it is written in the law), and the firstlings of our herds, and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God.
And that we should bring the first-fruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.
And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes : and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure-house.
For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers; and we will not forsake the house of our God.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
It appears from this Section, that the Levites perfectly well understood the conditions of the original covenant, which God made with Abraham, and were thoroughly convinced, that the Lord had faithfully performed His part of it. It is needless to comment on every part of this covenant; but one particular should not be passed over, namely, the resolution they took, not to buy victuals or exact debts on the Sabbath; the doing such things, unless in cases of absolute necessity, is a profanation of that holy day, which should carefully be avoided by all those who profess to honour God.
That the Israelites might no more plead ignorance of the law, in excuse for their sins, they from this time o 2