1-5 Now, in mid-September, all the people assembled at the plaza in front of the Water Gate and requested Ezra, their religious leader, to read to them the law of God, which he had given to Moses.

So Ezra the priest brought out to them the scroll of Moses’ laws. He stood on a wooden stand made especially for the occasion so that everyone could see him as he read. He faced the square in front of the Water Gate and read from early morning until noon. Everyone stood up as he opened the scroll. And all who were old enough to understand paid close attention. To his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. To his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddenah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.

Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people said, “Amen,” and lifted their hands toward heaven; then they bowed and worshiped the Lord with their faces toward the ground.

7-8 As Ezra read from the scroll, Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites went among the people[a] and explained the meaning of the passage that was being read. All the people began sobbing when they heard the commands of the law.

Then Ezra the priest, and I as governor, and the Levites who were assisting me said to them, “Don’t cry on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God— 10 it is a time to celebrate with a hearty meal and to send presents to those in need, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. You must not be dejected and sad!”

11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “That’s right! Don’t weep! For this is a day of holy joy, not of sadness.”

12 So the people went away to eat a festive meal and to send presents; it was a time of great and joyful celebration because they could hear and understand God’s words.

13 The next day the clan leaders and the priests and Levites met with Ezra to go over the law in greater detail. 14 As they studied it, they noted that Jehovah had told Moses that the people of Israel should live in tents during the Festival of Tabernacles to be held that month. 15 He had said also that a proclamation should be made throughout the cities of the land, especially in Jerusalem, telling the people to go to the hills to get branches from olive, myrtle, palm, and fig trees and to make huts in which to live for the duration of the feast.

16 So the people went out and cut branches and used them to build huts on the roofs of their houses, or in their courtyards, or in the court of the Temple, or on the plaza beside the Water Gate, or at the Ephraim Gate Plaza. 17 They lived in these huts for the seven days of the feast, and everyone was filled with joy! (This procedure had not been carried out since the days of Joshua.) 18 Ezra read from the scroll on each of the seven days of the feast, and on the eighth day there was a solemn closing service as required by the laws of Moses.


  1. Nehemiah 8:7 the Levites went among the people, literally, “while the people remained in their places.”
Living Bible (TLB)

The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate.(A) They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses,(B) which the Lord had commanded for Israel.

So on the first day of the seventh month(C) Ezra the priest brought the Law(D) before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate(E) in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform(F) built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing(G) above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands(H) and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

The Levites(I)—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed(J) the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear[a] and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites(K) who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.”(L) For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing(M) prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy(N) of the Lord is your strength.”

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy,(O) because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. 14 They found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters(P) during the festival of the seventh month 15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters”—as it is written.[b]

16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate(Q) and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.(R) 17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them.(S) From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated(T) it like this. And their joy was very great.

18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read(U) from the Book of the Law(V) of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation,(W) there was an assembly.(X)


  1. Nehemiah 8:8 Or God, translating it
  2. Nehemiah 8:15 See Lev. 23:37-40.
New International Version (NIV)

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