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73 Now the religious leaders, the Levites, the gate-keepers, the singers, some of the people, the servants in the house of the Lord, and all Israel, lived in their cities.

When the seventh month had come, the sons of Israel were in their cities.

Ezra Reads the Law

Then all the people gathered as one man at the open space in front of the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the writer to bring the book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. And on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the religious leader brought the Law to the gathering of men, women, and all who were able to understand. He read from it in the open space by the Water Gate from early morning until noon. He read it in front of men and women and those who were able to understand and all the people listened to the book of the Law. Ezra the writer stood on a raised floor of wood which they had made for this reason. Beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right. And Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam stood on his left. All the people saw Ezra open the book, for he was standing above all of them. And all the people stood up when he opened it. Then Ezra gave honor and thanks to the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Let it be so!” while lifting up their hands. They bowed low with their faces to the ground and worshiped the Lord. Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people understand the Law, while the people stayed in their places. They read from the book of the Law of God, telling the meaning of it so that they understood what was read.

Then Nehemiah, who was the ruler, and Ezra the religious leader and writer, and the Levites who taught the people, said to all of them, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not cry or be filled with sorrow.” For all the people were crying when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Ezra said to them, “Go, eat and drink what you enjoy, and give some to him who has nothing ready. For this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be sad for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites made all the people quiet, saying, “Be quiet, for this is a holy day. Do not be sad.” 12 And all the people went away to eat and drink, to share what they had, and to show their joy. They understood the words which had been made known to them.

13 On the second day the heads of the family groups of all the people, the religious leaders, and the Levites were gathered to Ezra the writer, that they might better understand the words of the Law. 14 They found written in the Law how the Lord had said through Moses that the sons of Israel should live in tents during the special supper of the seventh month. 15 So they made it known in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other trees with leaves, to make tents, as it is written.” 16 So the people went out and brought them and made tents for themselves, each on his roof. And they made tents in their open spaces, in the open spaces of the house of God, in the place by the Water Gate, and in the place by the Gate of Ephraim. 17 All the people who had returned from Babylon made tents and lived in them. The sons of Israel had not done so since the days of Joshua the son of Nun. And there was much joy. 18 Every day Ezra read from the book of the Law of God, from the first day to the last day. They held the special supper seven days, and on the eighth day there was a special gathering, as it is written in the Law.

The People Tell Their Sins to God

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel gathered together, but they did not eat. They dressed in cloth made from hair, and put dirt on their heads. The children of Israel separated themselves from all those of other nations. They stood and told their sins and the sins of their fathers to God. While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the Law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day. And for another fourth they told their sins and worshiped the Lord their God. Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the Levites’ raised floor. And they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God.

Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and give honor and thanks to the Lord your God forever and ever! O may Your great name be praised!”

The Prayer—Telling of Their Sins

“You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their angels. You have made the earth and all that is on it, and the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them, and the angels of heaven bow down to You. You are the Lord God, Who chose Abram and brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees and gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful to You and made an agreement with him, to give his children and their children’s children the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And You have done what You promised, for You are right and good.

“You saw the trouble of our fathers in Egypt. You heard their cry by the Red Sea. 10 Then You made special things to see and did powerful works against Pharaoh, against all his servants and all the people of his land. For You knew that they were proud and made it hard for our fathers. And You made a name for Yourself, as it is this day. 11 You divided the sea in front of them, so they passed through the sea on dry ground. And You threw those who went after them into the deep sea, like a stone into troubled waters. 12 You led the people during the day with a cloud, and with a pillar of fire during the night to light the way they were to go. 13 Then You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven. You gave them Laws that are right and true and good. 14 You made known to them Your holy Day of Rest, and gave them Laws through Your servant Moses. 15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger. You brought them water from a rock for their thirst. And You told them to go in to take for their own the land You promised to give them.

16 “But they, our fathers, acted with pride. They became strong-willed and would not listen to Your Words. 17 They would not listen, and did not remember Your powerful works which You had done among them. So they became strong-willed and chose a leader to return to their hard work in Egypt. But You are a forgiving God. You are kind and loving, slow to anger, and full of loving-kindness. You did not leave them. 18 They even melted gold and made a calf, and said, ‘This is your God Who brought you up from Egypt.’ They spoke sinful words against You. 19 But You, in Your great loving-kindness, did not leave them in the desert. The pillar of cloud which led them on their way during the day did not leave them. And the pillar of fire which gave light to the way they were to go during the night did not leave them. 20 You gave Your good Spirit to teach them. You did not keep Your bread from heaven from their mouths. And You gave them water when they were thirsty. 21 For forty years You kept them alive in the desert and gave them everything they needed. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not become sore.