Nehemiah 8

Promulgation of the Law

Chapter 8

Ezra Reads the Law.[a] 1 Now when the seventh month came, and the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled together as a unit in the square in front of the Water Gate. Then they asked Ezra the scribe to bring forth the Book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. 2 Accordingly, on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women, as well as all those old enough to comprehend what was said.

3 Facing the square in front of the Water Gate, Ezra read from the book of the law from dawn until noon in the presence of the men and women as well as those who could understand what was being said. All the people listened attentively to the book of the law. 4 Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been constructed for the occasion, and beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left.

5 Then Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people—for he was standing above them. As soon as he opened it, all the people rose to their feet. 6 Next he blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people lifted up their hands as they answered, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the Lord with their face to the ground.

7 In addition, the Levites Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah helped the people to understand the law while the people remained in their places. 8 Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, making its meaning clear so that the people could understand what was being said.

9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest-scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: “This day is holy to the Lord, your God. Do not mourn, and do not weep.” For all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. 10 Then Nehemiah added: “You now may go. Eat rich food and drink what is sweet. Moreover, send some of these to those for whom nothing has been prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord. Furthermore, do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 The Levites, thereupon, calmed all the people, saying: “Be quiet, for this is a sacred day. There is no reason for you to be saddened.” 12 Then all the people went off to eat and drink, to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great rejoicing, since they had come to comprehend the meaning of what had been proclaimed to them.

13 The Feast of Booths. On the second day of the month, the family heads of all the people, together with the priests and the Levites, gathered around the scribe Ezra to study the words of the law. 14 And written in the law that the Lord had prescribed through Moses, they found that the Israelites were to live in booths[b] during the feast of the seventh month.

15 In addition, they were to issue this proclamation and circulate it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go forth into the hills and bring branches of olive and wild olive trees, and of myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as the law prescribes.” 16 Therefore the people went out and brought back branches to make shelters for themselves, each on his own roof, and in their courtyards and in the precincts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim.

17 Therefore the whole community of those who had returned from their captivity made booths and lived in them, something that the Israelites had not done from the days of Joshua, the son of Nun, until that day, and there was very great rejoicing. 18 Each day, from the first to the last day, Ezra read from the book of the law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, as prescribed, they held a solemn assembly.


  1. Nehemiah 8:1 Ezra was the religious leader of the Israelites and a commanding presence to them. Nehemiah was a devoted layman who wielded a strong political and social influence on the Jews.
  2. Nehemiah 8:14 Live in booths: after studying the law read by Ezra, the people heeded this instruction to remind themselves of God’s protection while they wandered in the wilderness.

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