Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

178

NEHEMIAH GOES TO PERSIA.

to acknowledge the Lord's favour and mercy on the completion of any new building. Nehemiah was well aware of the declaration in Psa. cxxvii. 1:

Except the Lord build the house,
They labour in vain that build it:
Except the Lord keep the city,
The watchman waketh but in vain.

The manner of the ceremonial of dedication is described in Nehemiah xii. 27–43. The people were assembled, and moved along the wall in solemn procession, with instruments of music, also uttering vocal praises, rejoicing loudly so "that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off." Arrangements were then made for the appointment of officers, and the due discharge of the services of the temple.

Having thus happily brought to a conclusion this very important work, Nehemiah appointed his brother Hanani, jointly with Hananiah, the ruler of the palace, to have charge over Jerusalem, and to cause the gates to be carefully watched. Observe the qualification for this office, "He was a faithful man, and feared God above many." Nehemiah then returned to the Persian court; but in a few months came back again to Jerusalem. Prideaux considers that Nehemiah's first return to the Persian court was in conformity to his promise to the king, and that he might give a correct report, both of what he had done in building the wall, and of what remained to be done in other matters; whereby he prevailed upon the Persian monarch to spare him, that he might continue ruler of the province, and promote the welfare of his people; and he continued to govern them for the next twelve years.

[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small]

NEHEMIAH'S CARE FOR THE PROSPERITY OF JERUSALEM-THE PUBLIC READING OF THE LAW-A PUBLIC FAST AND HUMILIATION.

ON Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem, which was in the same or the following year, he set himself with much energy to carry into effect various matters which were important for the settlement of the Jewish state. Among these, one of the first was the bringing a larger number of inhabitants to reside in Jerusalem. He prevailed upon some of the higher ranks to build houses there; others were induced by their example to do the same a further portion, a tenth of the people, residing hitherto in the country, allowed themselves

180

NEHEMIAH CLEARS THE GENEALOGIES.

to be selected by lot to settle in the city. It was now fortified with walls and gates, making it a secure place of residence, which caused the people to be more willing to dwell there: thus Jerusalem again became a place of importance. It is spoken of as such by Herodotus, the earliest Greek historian, who visited it about the time under consideration; he describes it as nearly the size of Sardis, then the chief city of Lesser Asia; but it was far, very far below the Jerusalem of Solomon, for wealth and importance among the surrounding lands. The products of the East, and the riches of the West, were no longer brought to Judea as a central mart of the nations. No longer could it be said,

For thee his ivory load Behemoth bore,
And far Sofala teemed with golden ore;

Thine all the arts that wait on wealth's increase,
Or bask and wanton in the beam of peace.

The caravans passed beyond their borders; the Jews were as yet a people seeming to be struggling for their existence. They were dependent upon the Persian government for the timber needful for their sacred buildings. How different from the time when silver was in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars as the sycamore trees that were in the vale, for abundance ! 1 Kings x. 27.

Another important subject that engaged the attention of Nehemiah, was the examining and clearing up the genealogies of the people. By this measure, civil rights as to possessions were more correctly ascertained; also, several matters relative to the Levites, and the service of the sanctuary, were thereby settled. The inquiry was regulated by the genealogy or list of those who first returned with Zerubbabel, corrected according to some alterations which had taken place in the interim. This accounts for the similarity between the genealogies in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, with some differences which may be observed

THE LAW PUBLICLY READ.

181

in them; the apparent discrepancies have been carefully examined and explained by commentators.

Ezra was long engaged in the great work of collecting the Holy Scriptures, already described. The books of the law being now completed in the Chaldean character, were read to the people at the feast of trumpets, which took place on the first day of the seventh month, or Tisri, the beginning of the civil or common year, as the month Nisan, in which the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt, was the beginning of their ecclesiastical year. The particulars relative to these festivals will be found in "The Rites and Worship of the Jews." The people having assembled from all parts of the land, called upon Ezra, that the law should be publicly read on this occasion. The circumstances are related Nehemiah viii.

A wooden scaffold, or pulpit, being erected in the widest street of the city, Ezra stood thereon, with thirteen elders, and the congregation, both men and women, all that could hear with understanding, were assembled before him. He was engaged several hours in reading the Hebrew text, while the elders, who were instructed for the purpose, repeated it sentence by sentence in Chaldee, the language or dialect understood by the people, "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading." How important this brief remark! how fully it shows that the reading of the word of God should ever be accompanied by care to make it known to the people! Several hours having been thus occupied, the people were dismissed to partake of the feast they had prepared, with an exhortation, to be mindful of those who were destitute, verses 9, 10;

And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he

182

THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.

said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

A counsel which should be attended to at all times, not only in the literal sense, but in the spiritual one, for all who enjoy the sacred rites, the blessings of Divine ordinances, should send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared.

The next morning the people assembled again; the word was in like manner read to them. In Leviticus they found the directions concerning the feast of tabernacles, which excited an earnest desire to keep it at the time appointed, on the fifteenth day of the same month. Proclamation was accordingly made throughout the land, the booths were erected upon the flat roofs of the houses, and in the streets, of branches of olives, pines, myrtles, and other thick trees. The festival was kept with more solemnity and rejoicings than had been observed from the days of Joshua.

Go forth to the mount-bring the olive branch home,
And rejoice, for the day of our freedom is come!
From that time, when the moon upon Ajalon's vale,
Looking motionless down, saw the kings of the earth,
In the presence of God's mighty champion grow pale-
Oh never had Judah an hour of such mirth!
Go forth to the mount-bring the olive branch home,
And rejoice, for the day of our freedom is come!

Bring myrtle and palm-bring the boughs of each tree,
That is worthy to wave o'er the tents of the free.
From that day, when the footsteps of Israel shone,

With a light not their own, through the Jordan's deep
tide,

Whose waters shrunk back as the ark glided on,

Oh never had Judah an hour of such pride!
Go forth to the mount-bring the olive branch home,
And rejoice, for the day of our freedom is come.

Ezra improved the opportunity by causing portions of the law to be read on each day. By this they

« VorigeDoorgaan »