The joy of the Lord

I dare say one of the most popular verses in the OT book of Nehemiah is 8:10: ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’.

It’s normally understood as referring to the joy that the people gathered in Jerusalem should be expressing. They experience, and express joy that comes to them from the Lord.

But what if that’s not exactly what the verse means?

Another suggestion (GCI Wong in an Old Testament journal in 1995) is that the verse is referring to joy experienced by the Lord: he is the one who is rejoicing. ‘Strength’ could also be translated along the lines of a place of shelter, in which case the Jews, previously weeping in response to the reading of the Law, could find shelter in the fact that the Lord was rejoicing – so they too could rejoice. You think of the reference to God’s joyful singing in Zephaniah. Or – a NT illustration – the fact that the returning son in Jesus’ famous story found safety in his father’s joy.

I’m far from an OT expert, and I don’t know if any translators have followed this outlier, but it’s an interesting thought!

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