(Neh. 8:4). (See EZRA ¯T0001294.)
the lord is my light. (1.) A high priest in the time of Ahaz (2
Kings 16:10-16), at whose bidding he constructed an idolatrous
altar like one the king had seen at Damascus, to be set up
instead of the brazen altar.
(2.) One of the priests who stood at the right hand of Ezra's
pulpit when he read and expounded the law (Neh. 8:4).
(3.) A prophet of Kirjath-jearim in the reign of Jehoiakim,
king of Judah (Jer. 26:20-23). He fled into Egypt from the
cruelty of the king, but having been brought back he was
beheaded and his body "cast into the graves of the common
help. (1.) A priest among those that returned to Jerusalem under
Zerubabel (Neh. 12:1).
(2.) The "scribe" who led the second body of exiles that
returned from Babylon to Jerusalem B.C. 459, and author of the
book of Scripture which bears his name. He was the son, or
perhaps grandson, of Seraiah (2 Kings 25:18-21), and a lineal
descendant of Phinehas, the son of Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5). All we
know of his personal history is contained in the last four
chapters of his book, and in Neh. 8 and 12:26.
In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus (see
DARIUS ¯T0000975), he obtained leave to go up to Jerusalem and
to take with him a company of Israelites (Ezra 8). Artaxerxes
manifested great interest in Ezra's undertaking, granting him
"all his request," and loading him with gifts for the house of
God. Ezra assembled the band of exiles, probably about 5,000 in
all, who were prepared to go up with him to Jerusalem, on the
banks of the Ahava, where they rested for three days, and were
put into order for their march across the desert, which was
completed in four months. His proceedings at Jerusalem on his
arrival there are recorded in his book.
He was "a ready scribe in the law of Moses," who "had prepared
his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach
in Israel statutes and judgments." "He is," says Professor
Binnie, "the first well-defined example of an order of men who
have never since ceased in the church; men of sacred erudition,
who devote their lives to the study of the Holy Scriptures, in
order that they may be in a condition to interpret them for the
instruction and edification of the church. It is significant
that the earliest mention of the pulpit occurs in the history of
Ezra's ministry (Neh. 8:4). He was much more of a teacher than a
priest. We learn from the account of his labours in the book of
Nehemiah that he was careful to have the whole people instructed
in the law of Moses; and there is no reason to reject the
constant tradition of the Jews which connects his name with the
collecting and editing of the Old Testament canon. The final
completion of the canon may have been, and probably was, the
work of a later generation; but Ezra seems to have put it much
into the shape in which it is still found in the Hebrew Bible.
When it is added that the complete organization of the synagogue
dates from this period, it will be seen that the age was
emphatically one of Biblical study" (The Psalms: their History,
For about fourteen years, i.e., till B.C. 445, we have no
record of what went on in Jerusalem after Ezra had set in order
the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the nation. In that year
another distinguished personage, Nehemiah, appears on the scene.
After the ruined wall of the city had been built by Nehemiah,
there was a great gathering of the people at Jerusalem
preparatory to the dedication of the wall. On the appointed day
the whole population assembled, and the law was read aloud to
them by Ezra and his assistants (Neh. 8:3). The remarkable scene
is described in detail. There was a great religious awakening.
For successive days they held solemn assemblies, confessing
their sins and offering up solemn sacrifices. They kept also the
feast of Tabernacles with great solemnity and joyous enthusiasm,
and then renewed their national covenant to be the Lord's.
Abuses were rectified, and arrangements for the temple service
completed, and now nothing remained but the dedication of the
walls of the city (Neh. 12).
(Gr. sunagoge, i.e., "an assembly"), found only once in the
Authorized Version of Ps. 74:8, where the margin of Revised
Version has "places of assembly," which is probably correct; for
while the origin of synagogues is unknown, it may well be
supposed that buildings or tents for the accommodation of
worshippers may have existed in the land from an early time, and
thus the system of synagogues would be gradually developed.
Some, however, are of opinion that it was specially during the
Babylonian captivity that the system of synagogue worship, if
not actually introduced, was at least reorganized on a
systematic plan (Ezek. 8:1; 14:1). The exiles gathered together
for the reading of the law and the prophets as they had
opportunity, and after their return synagogues were established
all over the land (Ezra 8:15; Neh. 8:2). In after years, when
the Jews were dispersed abroad, wherever they went they erected
synagogues and kept up the stated services of worship (Acts
9:20; 13:5; 17:1; 17:17; 18:4). The form and internal
arrangements of the synagogue would greatly depend on the wealth
of the Jews who erected it, and on the place where it was built.
"Yet there are certain traditional pecularities which have
doubtless united together by a common resemblance the Jewish
synagogues of all ages and countries. The arrangements for the
women's place in a separate gallery or behind a partition of
lattice-work; the desk in the centre, where the reader, like
Ezra in ancient days, from his 'pulpit of wood,' may 'open the
book in the sight of all of people and read in the book of the
law of God distinctly, and give the sense, and cause them to
understand the reading' (Neh. 8:4, 8); the carefully closed ark
on the side of the building nearest to Jerusalem, for the
preservation of the rolls or manuscripts of the law; the seats
all round the building, whence 'the eyes of all them that are in
the synagogue' may 'be fastened' on him who speaks (Luke 4:20);
the 'chief seats' (Matt. 23:6) which were appropriated to the
'ruler' or 'rulers' of the synagogue, according as its
organization may have been more or less complete;", these were
features common to all the synagogues.
Where perfected into a system, the services of the synagogue,
which were at the same hours as those of the temple, consisted,
(1) of prayer, which formed a kind of liturgy, there were in all
eighteen prayers; (2) the reading of the Scriptures in certain
definite portions; and (3) the exposition of the portions read.
(See Luke 4:15, 22; Acts 13:14.)
The synagogue was also sometimes used as a court of
judicature, in which the rulers presided (Matt. 10:17; Mark
5:22; Luke 12:11; 21:12; Acts 13:15; 22:19); also as public
The establishment of synagogues wherever the Jews were found
in sufficient numbers helped greatly to keep alive Israel's hope
of the coming of the Messiah, and to prepare the way for the
spread of the gospel in other lands. The worship of the
Christian Church was afterwards modelled after that of the
Christ and his disciples frequently taught in the synagogues
(Matt. 13:54; Mark 6:2; John 18:20; Acts 13:5, 15, 44; 14:1;
17:2-4, 10, 17; 18:4, 26; 19:8).
To be "put out of the synagogue," a phrase used by John (9:22;
12:42; 16:2), means to be excommunicated.