Nehemiah 8

Ezra reads God's Law to the people

1 All the people met together in the open place near the Water Gate. They asked Ezra to bring the book of the Law of Moses. The Lord had given those laws to the Israelites so that they would obey them. 2 On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra brought the book of the Law to the people. In the crowd, there were men and women, as well as children who were old enough to understand. 3 Ezra read aloud while he stood there, in the open place near the Water Gate. He read to all the men, women and children from dawn until noon. Everyone listened carefully to Ezra while he read the book of the Law.

4 Ezra stood on a tall tower to speak to the people. They had built it from wood so that they could hear him. Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah stood at his right side. Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam stood at his left side. 5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was high above them. When he opened the book, the crowd all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God. All the people lifted their hands and they shouted, ‘Amen! Amen!’ They bent their heads to the ground and they worshipped the Lord.

7 As the people listened, some Levites taught them the meaning of God's Law. The names of the Levites were: Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah. 8 They read the book of the Law and they explained it to the people. They helped the people to understand what Ezra read to them.

8:8‘explained’ or ‘translated’ into Aramaic so that the people would understand it.

9 Then Ezra (the priest who studied God's Law), Nehemiah (the ruler) and the Levites who were teaching the people said to all the people, ‘Do not cry or weep. Today is a special holy day for the Lord your God.’

They said this because the people were weeping. The words of the Law had made them sad. 10 Nehemiah said to the people, ‘Go to your homes and eat some good food. Drink sweet drinks. Share your food and your drink with people who do not have enough for themselves. This is a holy day for our Lord, so do not be sad. The Lord will give you joy so that you can be strong.’

11 The Levites also comforted the people. They said, ‘Do not weep. Today is a holy day, so do not be sad.’ 12 Then the people went away to eat and to drink. They shared their food with other people. They were very happy because they now understood God's word that they had heard.

The feast of the seventh month

13 On the second day of the seventh month, the leaders of families met together. They met with the priests, the Levites and with Ezra. They wanted to study the message of God's Law. 14 They discovered what the Lord had commanded about a certain feast. The Lord had told Moses that the Israelites should live in huts during this feast. They should do that in the seventh month of each year.

8:14God brought the Israelites out of Egypt in the seventh month. So they must remember this with a special feast. We read about this in Leviticus 23:33-43.

15 They discovered that they must send a message to everyone in Jerusalem and all Judah's cities. They must tell people, ‘Go into the hill country. Bring back branches from olive trees, wild olive trees, myrtle trees, palm trees and other trees with lots of leaves. Use these branches to build huts to live in. That is what God's Law teaches.’

16 So the people went out and they brought back branches. They built huts on their roofs and in the yards of their houses. They also built them in the yards of the temple and in the open places near the Water Gate and the Gate of Ephraim. 17 Everyone who had returned from exile built a hut. They lived in them during the feast and they were very happy. The Israelites had not done this before, since the time of Nun's son, Joshua.

18 Every day of the feast, Ezra read aloud from the book of God's Law. The feast continued for seven days. On the eighth day, the people all met together, as the Law said that they should do.