Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 - A new day dawning from the Book of Law
Updated: Dec 10, 2021
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All the people of Israel gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which Yahweh had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 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. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed Yahweh haelohim the great, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped Yahweh with their faces to the ground. So they read from the book, from the law haelohim, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
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 Yahweh elohekem; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy laadonenu; and do not be grieved, for the joy of Yahweh is your strength."
This is the Old Testament selection to be read aloud on the third Sunday after the Epiphany. It will precede a singing of Psalm 19, which includes the verse: “The law of Yahweh is perfect and revives the soul; the testimony of Yahweh is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.” That pair will be followed by a reading from Paul’s first letter to the true Christians of Corinth, where he wrote: “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” All will accompany the Gospel reading from Luke, where the Saint wrote of Jesus returning to Nazareth, where he read from the scroll of Isaiah, saying, “And [Jesus] rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”’
This one reading from Nehemiah is the only time in the entire three-year lectionary cycle that anything will be read from the Book of Nehemiah. This means the rarity of reading something he wrote makes the person be equally obscure. This means it becomes important to know who Nehemiah was and where he fits into the history of Israel.
Basically, Nehemiah was an exilic Jew in Persia, who is believed to have been castrated and then allowed to serve the King of Persia, including attending to the queen. He is called by some a “cupbearer,” which means he was trusted to serve wine at the king’s table, even tasting it for poison. That role would not be relevant as to why Nehemiah would be selected by the king to go to Jerusalem and begin a project that would first rebuild the walls of the city and then restore Judaism in that place, where much corruption had set in. One must assume Nehemiah had some abilities with architecture and building projects management. Above all, Nehemiah must be seen as a devout Israelite, based on the truth of that title. All of the history Nehemiah became involved in unfolds in thirteen chapters, with chapter eight being a public reading of the Book of Law, which (due to the collapse and ruin of Judah and Jerusalem) had been absent for some time (including well before that fall).
Nehemiah would be joined by Ezra, where together they would lead the resurrection of Judaism in a lost land, with exiled, scattered and mixed peoples of religious values. Both men were of Judaic histories or ancestry, which is why they petitioned the king as to their desire to rebuild Jerusalem. The king agreed this was right, as the Jews had been destroyed by the Babylonians; and, it was King Artaxerxes that sent Nehemiah with approval and financing, with Ezra sent later by the same king, who is named Cyrus I [or Xerxes I], with the specificity of which king(s) irrelevant for the understanding of this reading.
In the above translation presented by the Episcopal Church (sourced as from the NRSV), you will note how I restored five specific namings of “Yahweh,” in bold type. Each was erroneously shows as “the Lord.” A “Lord” is unknown. “Yahweh” is a supreme deity that is personally known … otherwise one is a pagan and should go play in the street, while reading fiction.
Additionally, in four places I took mistranslations and returned the Hebrew written, shown in italics. In three of those, some form of “God” is translated (of, your, the), when the plural root is “elohim,” meaning “gods,” in the lower case. Yahweh is MUCH MORE than a “god” or even “God.” Yahweh IS; and, anything spiritual and eternal is “a god,” where any demonic spirit that possesses a weak body of human flesh (dominating the soul giving that dirt-bag the animation of life) can become a “Lord” over that flesh. In the one other word mistranslated, it is shown as “Yahweh,” when the reality is the plural form of “lords” is written – “adonay”. That is a statement of those who are divinely possessed by Yahweh, so His Son [Jesus] then “lords” over their souls-flesh. Because the translation is wrong, I have corrected it in italics.
In the third Sunday of Advent reading choices, the Old Testament reading came from Zephaniah, who is another who gets little ‘air time.’ In my commentary for that reading, I wrote that Zephaniah was a prophet during the reign of King Josiah; and, I told how Josiah ‘discovered’ the Book of the Law, after he ordered a restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Book of the Law had become hidden (there are a vast array of underground tunnels under where the Temple stood) and the people had not been told anything about Moses and the Law for a long time prior. They just sang the Psalms of David (I suppose). This reading from Nehemiah needs to be seen in that same light, as the people (Jews) living in and returning to Jerusalem (all Gentiles having been cast out) are who Ezra is reading the Book of Law to in these words of Nehemiah.
In verse one, the NRSV does not translate so it says, “All the people of Israel gathered together into the square.” Nothing whatsoever is written that says “Israel.” The Episcopal Church has thrown that in to mislead the people, because the NRSV does not show that. The whole of “Israel,” under David, included Judah and Jerusalem. After Solomon died, the nation split in two, with the Northern Kingdom retaining the name “Israel.” Thus, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, in what was a land under Persian rule, with Nehemiah an appointed Persian governor, had nothing to do with a place called "Israel."
The truth written says, “and together gathered all the people as man one , in the open square”. The Hebrew that says “as man one” [from “kə·’îš ’e·ḥāḏ,” rooted in “ish echad”] needs to be seen as saying “all were as one,” where all shared a like mind that was relative to their religious beliefs, as devotion to Judaism. In that sense, they were the truth behind the word “Israel,” which means “all were those Who Retained Yahweh as His elohim.”
In verse two, the translation is somewhat correct in stating, “the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding.” The truth written says: “the assembly of men and women , and all with understanding.” This says two things of importance. First, “an assembly” or a “synagogue” or a "congregation" of people are known to always contain “men and women.” This must be always understood, so any references only to “men” needs to be understood, before adding in “women,” when that is not the point of that written. Women were never excluded from Judaism, so they can be assumed to be included in everything written that is relative to Judaism lessons [with that spreading to Christianity and its women].
Second, it says everyone (men and women alike) were able to understand Hebrew, so when Ezra read aloud they understood what was read aloud. However, the deeper understanding must be seen as the meaning contained in the words read aloud was also understood. That becomes a statement of a divine presence entering each soul, opening the minds of all so true understanding of the Book of Law could be understood.
When we read “This was on the first day of the seventh month,” this is the month of Tishri, with the first day of that month recognized as the Jewish New Year or Head of the Year – Rosh Hashanah. Tishri is the first month of the Hebrew civil year, as the ecclesiastical calendar begins in Nisan. The old Roman calendar matched the ecclesiastical calendar, because the 'new year' began on the first day of spring. However, the Romans adjusted their calendar to begin on January first, meaning Jews can celebrate a new year three times a year.
This must be realized as not being one of the three festivals commanded by Yahweh for the Israelites to observe. It is near Sukkot, which is in the same month, between 15 and 21 Tishri. This means Rosh Hasanah is a festival deemed most sacred by the Jews who returned from exile, which means it is self-recognition, more than Yahweh devotion. The event known as Yom Kippur is on the tenth of Tishri, which is the Jewish observance of a Day of Atonement. This, again, is a Jewish day of fasting that originated in the post-exilic period. Any day designated as a day to recognize Yahweh, not commanded by Him is thus a voluntary recognition; and, voluntary recognitions – like the Book of Law being read – is only as good as each individual’s commitment is to Yahweh (soul married to Spirit), otherwise it becomes the reason this reading is important. People forget and get self-involved. So, a religion saying, “Recognize this day” is meaningless. Each soul must recognize Yahweh at all times. Thus, "This was on the first day of the seventh month" must be seen as every day, like the old saying, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."
When we read, “He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday,” it is important to realize where the “Water Gate” is.
From this diagram, one can see that Ezra read from a position that was near where the Tabernacle had been placed by David, when he moved it, along with the Ark of the Covenant [which contained the Book of Law] into the city named after him. Zion, or the City of David, had previously been known as Jebus, the stronghold of the Jebusites. This should be seen as not being where Solomon built his temple, which was where he ordered the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant be moved, into a stone building [where things found a way of getting lost]. This position must be seen as high over shear drops of elevation, into valleys below, making this scene be reminiscent of Jesus speaking from the mount alongside the sea, where the people below could hear him clearly. This needs to be seen as a place of acoustics (aided by Yahweh’s presence) that made it easy to hear the words read (while also understanding the meaning of those words).
Verse six is shown to state, “Then Ezra blessed Yahweh haelohim the great, and all the people answered, "Amen, Amen," lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped Yahweh with their faces to the ground.” This is not correct and dangerously misleading. It is misleading because it clearly gives the impression that Ezra was such a high and might priest [akin to a pope, an archbishop, a presiding bishop, or any other kind of ‘grand pooh-bah’] that he was in any position to bless Yahweh. That is an impossibility. No human can ever judge Yahweh, in any way, good or bad. Yahweh is the Judge of everything spiritual [and souls are spirits animating otherwise dead flesh], with Yahweh being the Creator of everything material [the physical universe].
The reality of that written is it translates literally to state this: “and blessed Ezra , did Yahweh his elohim in great magnitude ; and answered all the people truly truly while lifting up their hands , and they bowed down bowed down Yahweh with faces in the ground .” This makes it clear that Ezra was the one who was “blessed,” with that also meaning Ezra “knelt” before reading, in honor of Yahweh, as the Hebrew word “barak” means “to kneel, bless.” Ezra postured himself before Yahweh ceremoniously as fully subservient to Yahweh. With that statement made sincerely and symbolically, Yahweh not only gave His approval to Ezra, but He filled Ezra with His divine Spirit, making Ezra have the power of an angel in his soul and flesh – an “elohim” of Yahweh [“hā·’ĕ·lō·hîm”]. This divine presence then spread out among the people, so they felt the presence of Yahweh in Ezra, so they knew Ezra was a Saint and spoke the truth. All then were spiritually uplifted as also the "hands" of Yahweh on earth. They held their hands upward to signal they knew the heavens had descended upon them; so, they then turned their faces to the earth, wearing the face of Yahweh on each of themselves. [This is what the First Commandment says to do.]
When verse eight (jumping over verse seven) is shown to say, “So they read from the book, from the law haelohim, with interpretation,” the literal translation states more clearly, “so they read from the book in the law of the elohim distinctly ; and they had laid upon them insight , and helped to understand .” Here, again, the presence of “hā·’ĕ·lō·hîm” is a statement of those who are filled with the Spirit of Yahweh, becoming one of His elohim, so Yahweh is within their souls communicating with them. This is where it should be seen that the “Book of Law” is the Covenant, which becomes the marriage agreement committed to by ALL souls that marry Yahweh. ALL must agree to be His elohim [“hā·’ĕ·lō·hîm”], so the agreements found in the Book of Law are ONLY relative to “hā·’ĕ·lō·hîm,” not Joe Schmoe Jew or Henrietta Dogooder Christian, who equally like the ‘idea’ of special favors from a God they call “the Lord,” but have no intent of ever agreeing to ALL that is in the Book of Law [way too much for them]. Those who were filled with Yahweh’s Spirit and “intently” listened to Ezra read [for quite some length of time] all the terms of divine marriage, the divine Spirit within them made it clear what each term of marriage meant. They ALL had divine insight laid upon them; so, they were each led by the Spirit to understand.
When verse nine than has all the ‘elders’ [Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites] tell the people, “This day is holy to Yahweh elohekem; do not mourn or weep,” the word “hay·yō·wm” [from “yom”] needs to be fully understood. That use of “this day” is less about the particular “day” of the month, as if the ‘elders’ were all saying, “Mark this one day on your calendars at home!” It is more about the light of truth that is symbolized by the word “day.” This means the announcement spoken by several 'elders' was saying, “This truth and light of illumination is divine, sacred and holy." That means they said the Book of Law [not 1 Tishri] is not made up crap served to you by someone in a robe, wearing a high hat, and holding some fancy stick. They said, “This light of day comes to you from you being Yahweh elohim – the Saints of Yahweh. The purpose of this enlightenment is so you fully understand that divine marriage of your souls to Yahweh will forevermore keep your bodies of flesh from weeping and mourning." Weeping and mourning is what all the lazy pretenders end up doing, when their souls part ways with the dead flesh hanging from them and those souls then go to be judged by Yahweh. [They also gnash their soul-teeth at that time.]
The last verse of this reading is then shown to say, “for this day is holy laadonenu; and do not be grieved, for the joy of Yahweh is your strength.” In this is found the Hebrew transliterated word “la·’ă·ḏō·nê·nū,” which literally translates to say, “to our lords” [plural number]. This should then be realized to be a statement of possession, where “our” can be turned to face the other way, where “our” becomes “his,” to accommodate the plural number of “lords” [“adonay”]. This means that stated is “us who Yahweh makes lords.” This is then a statement of ministry, where Yahweh’s elohim go forth and lead others to also marry their souls to Him. This is then one becoming like the 'elders' Nehemiah, Ezra, the Levites, et al. All the Apostles and Saints become the leaders of others, therefore they become “lords of Yahweh.” All are filled with His Son, who guides this ability to be “lords,” as Jesus is the “Lord” over each soul-body of Yahweh. When Nehemiah wrote that “the joy of Yahweh is your strength,” His “joy” is His Son; so, His Son reborn in His elohim is the “strength” those need to be “lords” over others.
As a reading selection for the third Sunday after the Epiphany, the importance is to see the purpose behind a soul-body having married Yahweh and been allowed to give rebirth to His Son. Without a constant presence on earth that teaches the Book of the Law to others, so the marriage proposal is not lost and people do not become ignorantly wayward, Yahweh sends out His shepherds … like Nehemiah, Ezra, the Levites, Apostles and Saints. The go to teach others to know this agreement to divine marriage is the difference between the joy of eternal salvation and the weeping that comes with mourning cries that say, “Nobody told me I should take all this seriously!” This is then the gift of the after the Epiphany - ministry. One Epiphany demands another, or else the short attention spans of American Christians will lead them all to ruin and exile once more.