The Missing And
“And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for that 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 Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam”
As we read this chapter a few days ago, something in the sentence above bothered me. Why doesn’t Zechariah have an “and”? All the other men are introduced with an and...where is Zechariah’s and ? Its intriguing!
Polysyndeton is the fancy word for describing the style of speech that employs many conjunctions between clauses. It’s acceptable as a style, a way to draw a pause, or to emphasize the following clause.
Anaphora is another fancy word for the style of speech that repeats the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines. Genesis chapter 1 employs the Anaphora Style by the repeated use of “And” in all but two of its sentences.
I’m not sure if Nehemiah 8:4 is a Polysyndeton or an Anaphora (or both!) and really it doesn’t matter, except to understand there is a subtle variation in this otherwise boring list. So, why is there no and before Zechariah’s name?
There were six men on Ezra’s right side, and there were seven on his left side. An unbalanced line! I investigated each man by name and there were 12 priests (6 per side). The only man up there who was not a priest was...yes, you guessed it, Zechariah. While there are many men named Zechariah, there was only one prominent one at that time, and that would be Zechariah the prophet (Ezra 5:11; 6:14; Zechariah 1:1). Being a prophet, he surely was a respected dignitary and belonged in the public eye up there next to Ezra and the others. However, in order for the readers to understand that Zechariah was not of the same office as the others, the word of God gives us this little variation, this small but evident clue.