Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, 1897 (https://archive.org/details/booksofezra ... 4/mode/2up
'saving that every one put them off for washing] R.V. every one went with his weapon to the water. R.V. marg. ‘The text is probably faulty.’
The clause has occasioned great difficulty. Literally rendered the words run, ‘each one his weapon the water.’ The LXX. omit the words, probably from inability to discover their meaning. The error in the text is therefore of very early date. The Syriac seems to have conjectured ‘days’ for ‘water.’
(a) The A.V. follows the conjecture of the Vulg. ‘unusquisque tantum nudabatur ad baptismum,’ according to which the Hebrew word for ‘his weapon’ becomes by a change of vocalization a verb = ‘they sent (i.e. cast off) each one his clothes for the water,’ i.e. in order to wash. The Hebrew however could not possibly bear this very strained interpretation.
(b) Another old rendering is ‘each one his weapon was (in the place of, or equivalent to) water,’ i.e. ‘instead of washing they had each to stand fast to their arms,’ is equally improbable.
(c) Another rendering ‘each one had (by his side) his weapon (and) his (draught of) water’ gives intelligible sense, but not such as can be justified by the original.
(d) Ewald’s rendering, ‘the taking off of each man’s clothes was for water,’ i.e. ‘to satisfy his necessities, not to lie down to rest,’ seems very uncalled for. It is greatly to be questioned whether Nehemiah even ‘in his rough and open style’ would have introduced such an allusion or in such words. (Ewald, Hist. of Isr. vol. v. p. 156, note 1, Eng. Transl.).
(e) Some moderns rendering ‘his weapon’ (shil’kho) as if it were the verb (shâl’khû) translate ‘they sent each one for water.’ They could not leave their post, and had to have the necessaries of life brought to them where they stood. This use of ‘send’ as equivalent to ‘send for,’ is scarcely supported by 2 Samuel 15:12, since here a thing and not a person is the object of the verb. Others, reading ‘shâl’khû, render, ‘Every one gave up the use of water,’ a quite inadmissible translation.
(f) The R.V. rendering which introduces the words ‘went with … to’ makes good sense of the clause, but follows very unnaturally upon ‘none of us put off our clothes,’ neither stating an exception nor introducing a cognate idea.
(g) A good conjectural emendation of the text gives the sense ‘each one remained with his weapon in his hand’ (or ‘in his right hand’).
(h) But it is probable that the error of the text is due to the accidental omission of certain words. We expect some statement of the length of time during which Nehemiah and his followers continued without retiring to rest. Perhaps the clause may have run ‘each one with his weapon in his hand for a full month of days.’ The Syriac version ‘we will not put off our clothes during a month of days’ agrees with this suggestion, and the Arabic gives a similar rendering, ‘till the end of a month and days.’