The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Esdras or the Book of Nehemias
When the seventh month had come after the return of the Israelites to their cities, the whole people gathered, like one man, in the open space before the Water-gate; and there they would have the scribe Esdras go and fetch the book in which the law of Moses, the Lord’s prescription to Israel, was written down.
So there and then, on the first day of the seventh month, the priest Esdras fetched out the book, in the presence of a great throng of men and women, with such children as were old enough to understand it.
And there in the open space before the Water-gate he proclaimed the law, before men and women and such younger folk as could take it in, from daybreak to noon, and all listened attentively while the reading went on.
A wooden pulpit had been erected to carry the sound better, and at this the scribe Esdras stood; with him were Mathathias, Semeia, Ania, Uria, Helcia and Maasia on his right, Phadaia, Misael, Melchia, Hasum, Hasbadana, Zacharia and Mosollam on his left.
Esdras was plainly seen, as he opened the book, by all the people underneath. When he had opened it, all rose;
and when he blessed the name of the Lord, the great God, all lifted their hands and answered, Amen, amen; and with that they bowed down and worshipped with their faces close to the ground.
Then the Levites came forward, Josue, Bani, Serebia, Jamin, Accub, Sebthai, Odia, Maasia, Celita, Azarias, Jozabed, Hanan and Phalaia; these enjoined silence on the people, as they stood there in their places for the reading of the law.
And they read out the book of the law, clear and plain to give the sense of it, so that all could understand the reading.
And now the governor, Nehemias, with Esdras, priest and scribe, and these Levites who interpreted to the people what was read, must needs remind them that it was a feast-day set apart to the Lord; there must be no lamenting and weeping; already the whole multitude were in tears, as they listened to the words of the law.
Go home, said Nehemias, and regale yourselves with rich meat and honeyed wine, sharing your good things with those who have none. There must be no sadness on this day, the Lord’s feast-day. To rejoice in the Lord, there lies our strength.
The Levites, too, called for silence everywhere; Peace there, no lamenting, they said, this is a day of rejoicing.
So all the throng dispersed, to eat and drink and share their good things with glad hearts, the message of the law made plain to them.
Next day, all the clan chiefs and priests and Levites thronged about the scribe Esdras, to hear him interpret the law’s meaning.
And there they found it set down, as the Lord’s injunction through Moses, that the sons of Israel, at the feast of the seventh month, should make their dwelling in tents.
They were to proclaim it far and wide at Jerusalem and in all their cities, Go out to the mountain-side, and bring in boughs of olive, or of some favourite tree, branches of myrtle and palm, leafy boughs, to make arbours, as the law prescribes.
So the men of Juda went out, and brought green boughs home; arbours they made everywhere, in their own dwellings and fore-courts, in the courts of the Lord’s house, and in the open spaces before the Water-gate and the Gate of Ephraim.
Thus the whole body of those who had come back from exile made arbours and lodged in them; since the days of Josue son of Nun the rite had fallen into abeyance, and now there was great rejoicing.
Day after day while the feast continued Esdras read out the book of God’s law to them. So for seven days they kept high festival, and on the eighth there was a gathering of the whole people, held with due solemnity.
The Holy Bible