Neh 8:1 all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.
Neh 8:2 So on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.
Neh 8:3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
Neh 8:4 Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform 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.
Neh 8:5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up.
Neh 8:6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
Neh 8:7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there.
Neh 8:8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
Neh 8:9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
Neh 8:10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Neh 8:11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.”
Donald Macleod identifies a number of salient features in this account:-
1. They enlisted the services of Ezra, a qualified scribe, v1. He did not volunteer, any more than Moses, Jeremiah or Amos were volunteers. We should not be surprised if our ministers are deficient in quality or quantity if we merely wait for volunteers.
2. They constructed a special platform from which Ezra spoke, v4. This ensured that he could be both seen and heard, and accorded his message due authority. Do we give the preaching of the word similar prominence?
3. The account stresses, not only hearing, but understanding Ezra’s message, v8. The law was not only read, but explained, v8. How much effort are we modern preachers prepared to take in opening up the scriptures?
4. Although at first the people wept as they listened to the message, they were told not to grieve, but to rejoice, v9. Do we find joy in hearing God’s word, in holiness, in witnessing? Is the joy of the Lord our strength (v10)?
Neh 8:12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
Neh 8:13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered round Ezra the scribe to give attention to the words of the Law.
Neh 8:14 They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month
Neh 8:15 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 booths”— as it is written.
Neh 8:16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves booths on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.
Neh 8:17 The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.
Neh 8:18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.