Journey Through The Scriptures


Lesson 5: The Reading of the Law

(Scripture to Read: Nehemiah 7:73b 10:39)

This portion of the book of Nehemiah is a very moving account of the people’s spiritual renewal, led by Ezra the scribe who had returned from exile in 458 BCE, fourteen years before Nehemiah came to rebuild the walls. With God’s holy city now restored, Nehemiah turned to the task of restoring God’s people. The people gathered in front of the Water Gate as Ezra and the Levites read from the Torah, the Law of Moses. Ezra read from morning until afternoon, and the people responded with both praise and humble worship. They bowed down in God’s holy presence, and began to weep as they realized their transgressions. But Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites instructed the people not to mourn, but to rejoice because this was a blessed and sacred day.

During the reading of the Law, the people that the seventh month, the very time of this event, was the month to celebrate Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. The assembly of Israel joyfully built their temporary shelters to commemorate their wanderings in the Exodus— celebrating in a way that had not been seen in Israel since the days of Joshua a millennium earlier! When the festival was completed, they reassembled for a time of repentance and renewal of God’s covenant with Israel. The Levites reviewed the covenant and Israel’s history in a long and powerful prayer, then put it into writing. The leaders and people ratified the covenant, affixing their seals to it in a binding promise to obey the provisions of God’s covenant.

Study Questions

  1. Why did the people begin to weep as Ezra read from the Law?
  2. Why did the people reassemble after Sukkot wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads?
  3. Who was the first person to sign the covenant that had been written (10:1)?
  4. Why did the people seal their promise to obey God?

Something to Think About

The Israelites’ worship gives us a pattern we can follow today. They rejoiced in the gift of God’s holy Word that taught them what He expects from His people, and they also approached Him with awe, reverence, and soul-searching. In other words, they acted upon what they heard.