Ezra Reads the Law
So all the Israelites met together in the seventh month of the year. They were united and in complete agreement. They all met together in the open place in front of the Water Gate. All the people asked Ezra the teacher to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had given to the Israelites. So Ezra the priest brought the law before those who had met together. This was on the first day of the month.* It was the seventh month of the year. Men, women, and anyone old enough to listen and understand were at the meeting. Ezra read in a loud voice from the Book of the Law from early morning until noon. He was facing the open place that was in front of the Water Gate. He read to all the men and women, and to everyone old enough to listen and understand. All the people listened carefully and paid attention to the Book of the Law.
Ezra stood on a high wooden stage. It had been built just for this special time. On his right side stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. And on his left side stood Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
So Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them on the high stage. As he opened the Book of the Law, all the people stood up. Ezra praised the LORD, the great God, and all the people held up their hands and said, “Amen! Amen!” Then all the people bowed down and put their faces low to the ground and they worshiped the LORD.
These men from the tribe of Levi taught the people about the law as they were all standing there. The Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah. They read the Book of the Law of God. They made it easy to understand, and explained what it meant. They did this so that the people could understand what was being read.
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher, and the Levites who were teaching the people spoke. They said, “Today is a special day to the LORD your God. Don’t be sad and cry.” They said that because all the people had begun to cry as they were listening to the messages of God in the law.
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy the good food and sweet drinks. Give some food and drinks to those who didn’t prepare any food. Today is a special day to our Lord. Don’t be sad, because the joy of the LORD will make you strong.”
11 The Levites helped the people to calm down. They said, “Be quiet, calm down, this is a special day. Don’t be sad.”
12 Then all the people went to eat the special meal. They shared their food and drinks. They celebrated that special day. They were happy that they could hear the reading of God’s law and were now able to understand it.
13 Then on the second day of the month, the leaders of all the families went to meet with Ezra, the priests, and the Levites. They all gathered around Ezra the teacher to study the words of the law.
14-15 They studied and found these commands in the law. The LORD gave this command to the people through Moses: In the seventh month of the year, the Israelites must go to Jerusalem to celebrate a special festival. They must live in temporary shelters. And the people are supposed to go through all of their towns and Jerusalem and say this: “Go out into the hill country and get branches from different kinds of olive trees. Get branches from myrtle trees, palm trees, and shade trees. Use the branches to make temporary shelters. Do what the law says.”
16 So the people went out and got tree branches. Then they built temporary shelters for themselves. They built shelters on their own roofs and in their own yards. And they built shelters in the Temple yard, in the open place near the Water Gate, and near Ephraim Gate. 17 The whole group that had come back from captivity built shelters. They lived in the shelters they had built. Since the days of Joshua son of Nun up until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated the Festival of Shelters like this. Everyone was very happy!
18 Ezra read to them from the Book of the Law every day of the festival from the first day of the festival to the last day. The Israelites celebrated the festival for seven days. Then on the eighth day, the people met together for a special meeting, as the law says.
* 8:2 first day of the month This was a special day of worship. The people met together and shared a fellowship meal. 8:9 special day The first and second days of each month were special days of worship. The people met together and shared a fellowship meal. 8:13 second day of the month The first and second days of each month were special days of worship. The people met together and shared a fellowship meal.