Nehemiah 8: Tears, Joy & Feast, after Understanding the Words of the Law

all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Nehemiah 8:9

Ezra Reads God’s Law to the People: 8:1-18. In the fall of 444 B.C., shortly after completing the walls, Nehemiah calls the people together to hear Ezra and interpret the OT.

Ezra may have read a portion of the Hebrew text, and then waited as Levites he has trained explain that portion to the Aramaic speaking population gathered in smaller groups (7). Or it may be that the task of reading and interpreting was done in shifts by the Levites listed. Interpretation is necessary. Hebrew is no longer the common language. Aramaic, the old diplomatic language, is spoken by all and is the common tongue across Persia.

When the passage of the law that explains the Feast of Tabernacles (see Levites 23) is read, the people realize the festival is to be held that very month. Enthusiastically they prepare for it and keep the seven-day festival the 15th through the 22nd, and the Sabbath that follows it the 24th. Each day more of the Scriptures are read to the joyful people.

9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.

17 And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. 18 Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.