An Exposition of Nehemiah Chapter 8


Nehemiah Chapter 8 takes place in Jerusalem after the restoration of the Temple and the rebuilding of the walls of the city following the Great Captivity in Babylon roughly 450 years BC. In Nehemiah chapter 8, we read where the long forgotten word of God, the “book of the law of Moses” was brought before the people by Ezra (meaning help in time of trouble), the priest and scribe who stood before the people on a pulpit (or tower) made of wood for the purpose.

Note to the Reader: This study should be viewed in conjunction with another study of Nehemiah focusing on the role of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem as an allegorical “Type” of the Lord Jesus Christ building His Church, the New Jerusalem.

Ezra “read therein” and in verse 4, beside him stood 13 men, six at his right hand and seven at his left hand (13 total, which together with Ezra, made a total of 14). Nehemiah 8:4 ¶And Ezra the scribstood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and HashbadanaZechariah, [andMeshullam.” Their names provide us insights on their spiritual significance.

These 13 men and the meaning of their names are as follows:

Ezra (“Help”) is the Priest in the middle

On Ezra’s Right Hand: The God Man Is in View…The Prophet

  1. Mattithiah (“Gift of God“) Romans 5:15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, [which is] by one man,Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
  2. Shema (“Hear” or announcement (report)) John 12:38That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled,which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report?and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
  3. Anaiah (“God Has Answered”, and that which is humble, lowly, meek, and poor or afflicted) Isaiah 53:4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
  4. Uriah (“God is My Light”) John 8:12Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
  5. Hilkiah (“God is My Portion“) Psa 142:5 “I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou [art] my refuge [and] my portion in the land of the living.
  6. Maaseiah (“Work of God”) John 6:29Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

On Ezra’s Left Hand: The Son of God Is in View…The King

  1. Pedaiah (God Has Redeemed), rescued, ransomed) Job 19:25, “For I know [that] my redeemer liveth, and [that] he shall stand at the latter [day] upon the earth:
  2. Mishael (Who is What God Is?) Psalm 18:31For who [is] God save the LORD? or who is a rock saveour God?
  3. Malchiah (God is My King)  Psalm 47:7For God [is] the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.”
  4. Hashum (Of great wealth, rich) Psalm 50:10For every beast of the forest [is] mine, [and] the cattle upon a thousand hills.
  5. Hashbadanak (Considerate Judge) Hebrews 10:30For we know him that hath said, Vengeance [belongeth] unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.
  6. Zechariah (God Remembers) Psalm 105:7-10, “He [is] the LORD our God: his judgments [are] in all the earth. He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word [which] he commanded to a thousand generations.Which [covenant] he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, [and] to Israel [for] an everlasting covenant:
  7. Meshullam (Friend) John 15:13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

From this analysis it would not be inconsistent with scripture to conclude that at Ezra’s right hand were those who God wanted to portray Jesus Christ as the man (featured by the number six, for mankind of humble birth who would be the Savior and Sacrifice and Prophet of God). On the Left hand were those who God wanted to portray as Jesus Christ as Divine (featured by the number seven, perfection) at His second coming who would return as both King and Judge. It can also be said that from the people’s point of view they had Jesus Christ portrayed in front of them as Prophet (the six at Ezra’s right hand), Priest (Ezra in the middle), and King (the seven at Ezra’s left hand) We should also remember that Ezra stood on a “pulpit” (or tower) of wood made for the purpose. Does that not bring to mind that Jesus was erected on a cross, made of wood “for the purpose”, on which Jesus was both the sacrificial Lamb of God and the High Priest Who offered the Sacrifice.

13 More Men

In Nehemiah 8:5, we read “And Ezra (representing God as our Help) opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people; and when he opened it all the people stood up:” and also in verse 7 that there were 13 more men (evidently tribal elders) and the Levites who”caused the people to understand the law:” In verse 8 we read, “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense (meaning), and caused them to understand the reading.”

  1. They read the Word “distinctly
  2. They gave the “sense
  3. They caused the people to “understand”

Those men were:

  1. Jeshua (Salvation/Savior). The same as Joshua given what we read in Nehemiah 8:17 “Jeshua the son of NunPsalm 37:39But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: [he is] their strength in the time of trouble.” 2 Peter 3:18But grow in grace, and [in] the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.”
  2. Bani (My Building) “1 Corinthians 3:9-11. “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, [ye are] God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilderI have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 
  3. Sherebiah (God has scorched, parched, set free) Isaiah 61:1The Spirit of the Lord GOD [Is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound;
  4. Jamin (Right Hand) Revelation 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
  5. Akkub (Supplant/usurp) We are all Jacobs, Genesis 27:36And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?
  6. Shabbethai (My Sabbaths, hence “Rest”) Mark 2:27And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
  7. Hodijah (God is Majesty)  Hebrews 1:3Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
  8. Maaseiah (Work of God) Ephesians 2:10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
  9. Kelita (Crippled, lacking, Assembly). Sam as Kelaiah (dishonored of God, voice of God?). Ezra 10:23 We are all by nature lacking like Mephibosheth
  10. Azariah (God has Helped) Hebrews13:6So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
  11. Jozabad (God has Endowed) Hosea 2:19-20 “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.
  12. Hanan (Gracious/Merciful Giver) Hebrews 4:16Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
  13. Pelaiah (God does Wonders) Hebrews 2:4God also bearing [them] witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

It would seem that these 13 men represent all of the believers throughout time, who are viewed by God as His Eternal Church and Bride and are a viewed as a living reflection of Jesus and His attributes. Moreover all believers are commanded by Jesus in the Great Commission to go into the world and preach the gospel as we read in Mark 16:15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” And, based on what we have learned in Nehemiah chapter 8, the believers should preach the Gospel/the Word “distinctly“, and give the “sense“, and make it to be “understood“.

NOTE: Jesus makes all believers “kings” and “priests”, as we read in Revelation 1:5&6 “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”  This is reiterated in Revelation 5:10, where we see from the preceding verses that Jesus, as the Lamb of God, has redeemed the believers by His shed blood, “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

And in 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;”

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