Nehemiah Chapter 8 to 9 : Easy-to-Read Version  | SearchSearch | Next Version | Previous Page | Next Page |

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Ezra Reads the Law

8 So all the people of Israel met together in the seventh month* of the year. They were together and in agreement just as if they were one man. They all met together in the open place in front of the Water Gate. All those people asked Ezra the teacher to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses. That is the Law that the Lord had given to the people of Israel. 2So Ezra the priest brought the Law before those people that had met together. This was on the first day of the month.* It was the seventh month of the year. At that meeting were men and women, and anyone old enough to listen and understand. 3Ezra read in a loud voice from the Book of the Law from early morning until noon. Ezra 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. 4Ezra stood on a high wooden stage. It had been built just for this special time. On Ezra’s right side stood Mattithiah, Shema, Ananiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah. And on Ezra’s left side stood Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5So Ezra opened the book. All the people could see Ezra because he was standing above them on the high stage. And as Ezra opened the Book of the Law, all the people stood up. 6Ezra 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. 7These men from the family group of Levi taught the people about the Law as they were all standing there. Those Levites were: Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah. 8Those Levites read the Book of the Law of God. They made it easy to understand, and explained what it meant. They did this so the people could understand what was being read. 9Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher, and the men from the Levites that 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. 10Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy the good food and sweet drinks. And give some food and drinks to those people that didn’t prepare any food. Today is a special day to the Lord. Don’t be sad! Why? Because the joy of the Lord will make you strong.” 11The men from the family group of Levi helped the people to calm down. They said, “Be quiet, calm down, this is a special day. Don’t be sad.” 12Then all the people went to eat the special meal. They shared their food and drinks. They were very happy and celebrated that special day. They finally understood the lessons from the Lord that the teachers had been trying to teach them. 13Then 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. 14–15They 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 people of Israel must {go to Jerusalem} to celebrate a special holiday. They must live in temporary shelters. And the people are supposed to go through all of their towns and Jerusalem and say these things: “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 those branches to make temporary shelters. Do what the Law says.” 16So the people went out and got those 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. 17The whole group of the people of Israel 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 people of Israel had not celebrated the Festival of Shelters like this. Everyone was very happy! 18Ezra read to them from the Book of the Law every day of the festival. Ezra read the Law to them from the first day of the festival to the last day. The people of Israel celebrated the festival for seven days. Then on the eighth day the people met together for a special meeting, like the Law says.

seventh month That is, September-October. first day of the month This was a special day of worship. The people met together and shared a fellowship meal. special day The first and second days of each month were special days of worship. The people met together and shared a fellowship meal. 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. seventh month That is, September-October. temple The special building in Jerusalem for Jewish worship.

The People of Israel Confess Their Sins

9 Then on the 24th day of that same month, the people of Israel gathered together for a day of fasting.* They wore clothes of sadness and put ashes on their heads {to show they were sad and upset}. 2Those people that were true Israelites separated themselves from foreigners. The Israelites stood {in the temple} and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors.* 3They stood there for about three hours, and the people read the Book of the Law of the Lord their God. Then for three more hours they confessed their sins and bowed down to worship the Lord their God. 4Then these Levites stood on the stairs: Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Kenani. They called out to the Lord their God with loud voices. 5Then these Levites spoke again: Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah. They said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God!” God has always lived! And God will live forever! People should praise your glorious name! May your name be lifted above all blessing and praise! 6You are God! Lord, only you are God! You made the sky! You made the highest heavens, and everything in them! You made the earth, and everything on it! You made the seas, and everything in them! You give life to everything! And all the heavenly angels bow down and worship you! 7You are the Lord God. You chose Abram. You led him from Ur in Babylonia. You changed his name to Abraham. 8You saw he was true and loyal to you. And you made an agreement with him. You promised to give him the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, the Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites. But you promised to give that land to Abraham’s descendants.* And you kept your promise! Why? Because you are good! 9You saw our ancestors* suffering in Egypt. And you heard them call for help by the Red Sea. 10You showed the miracles to Pharaoh. You did amazing things to his officials and his people. You knew that the Egyptians thought they were better than our ancestors. But you proved how great you are! And they remember that even today! 11You split the Red Sea in front of them. And they walked through on dry land! The Egyptian soldiers were chasing them. But you threw that enemy into the sea. And they sank like a rock into the sea. 12With the tall cloud, you led them by day. And at night you used the column of fire. That is the way you lit their path, and showed them where to go. 13Then you came down to Mount Sinai. You spoke to them from heaven. You gave them good laws. You gave them true teachings. You gave them laws and commands that were very good! 14You told them about your special day of rest—the Sabbath. You used your servant Moses to give them commands, laws, and teachings. 15They were hungry, so you gave them food from heaven. They were thirsty, so you gave them water from a rock. And you told them, ‘Come, take this land.’ You used your power, and took the land for them! 16But those people, our ancestors,* became proud. They became stubborn. They refused to obey your commands. 17They refused to listen. They forgot the amazing things you did with them! They became stubborn. They decided to return to Egypt and became slaves again! But you are a forgiving God! You are kind and full of mercy. You are patient and full of love. So you didn’t leave them! 18You didn’t leave them even when they made golden calves and said, ‘These are the gods that led us out of Egypt!’ 19You are very kind! So you didn’t leave them in the desert. You didn’t take the tall cloud away from them by day. You continued to lead them. You didn’t take the column of fire away from them at night. You continued to light their path and show them which way to go. 20You gave them your good Spirit to make them wise. You gave them manna for food. You gave them water for their thirst. 21You took care of them for 40 years! They had all they needed in the desert. Their clothes didn’t wear out. And their feet didn’t swell and hurt. 22Lord, you gave them kingdoms and nations. And you gave them faraway places where few people live. They got the land of Sihon, king of Heshbon. They got the land of Og, king of Bashan. 23You made their descendants* as many as the stars in the sky. You brought them to the land you promised to give their ancestors.* They went in and took that land. 24Those children took the land. They defeated the Canaanites living there. You let them defeat those people! You let them do whatever they wanted to those nations, people, and kings! 25They defeated powerful cities. They took the fertile land. They got houses filled with good things. They got wells that were already dug. They got vineyards, olive trees, and plenty of fruit trees! They ate until they were full and fat. They enjoyed all the wonderful things you gave them. 26And then they turned against you! They threw away your teachings! They killed your prophets. Those prophets warned the people. They tried to bring them back to you. But our ancestors* did terrible things against you! 27So you let their enemies have them. The enemy caused them much trouble. When trouble came, our ancestors called to you for help. And in heaven, you heard them. You are very kind. So you sent people to save them. And those people rescued them from their enemies. 28Then, as soon as our ancestors* were rested, they started doing terrible things again! So you let the enemy defeat them and punish them. They called to you for help, and in heaven you heard them and helped them. You are so kind! That happened so many times! 29You warned them. You told them to come back. But they were too proud. They refused to listen to your commands. If people obey your laws, then they will truly live! But our ancestors* broke your laws. They were stubborn. They turned their backs on you. They refused to listen. 30You were very patient with our ancestors. You let them mistreat you for many years. You warned them with your Spirit. You sent the prophets to warn them. But our ancestors* didn’t listen. So you gave them to people in other countries. 31But you are so kind! You didn’t destroy them completely. You didn’t leave them. You are such a kind and merciful God! 32Our God, you are the great God, the awesome, powerful soldier! And you are kind and loyal! You keep your agreement! We have had many troubles. And our troubles are important to you! Bad things happened to all our people, and to our kings and leaders, and to our priests and prophets. Those terrible things have happened from the days of the king of Assyria until today! 33But God, you were right about everything that happens to us. You were right. And we were wrong. 34Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey your law. They didn’t listen to your commands. They ignored your warnings. 35Our ancestors didn’t serve you even when they were living in their own kingdom, They didn’t stop doing evil things. They enjoyed all the wonderful things you gave them. They enjoyed the rich land and they had plenty of room, but they didn’t stop their evil ways. 36And now, we are slaves. We are slaves in this land, the land you gave our ancestors so they could enjoy its fruit and all the good things that grow here. 37The harvest is big in this land. But we sinned, so that harvest goes to the kings you put over us. Those kings control us and our cattle. They do anything they want. We are in a lot of trouble. 38Because of all of these things, we are making an agreement that can’t be changed. We are putting this agreement in writing. Our leaders, Levites, and priests are signing their names on this agreement and sealing it with a seal.*

fast(ing) To live without food for a special time of prayer and worship to God. ancestors Literally, “fathers,” meaning a person’s parents, grandparents, and all the people they are descended from.  descendants A person’s children and all of their future families. seal(s) Small stones or rings with special shapes that could be used like a rubber stamp. When pressed into wet clay or hot wax, they left a special mark that was like a signature.

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