“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Even though the apostle Paul wrote those words to the Roman church (Rom. 10:17) hundreds of years later, it had been necessary for the Jews who had returned from exile to hear the word of God. The law that God had given to Moses during the wilderness wandering had been grossly neglected. Through God’s providence it had been preserved, but it had not been observed. With Jerusalem’s wall having been rebuilt, the people were in a joyous and receptive mood. About thirteen years earlier, Ezra had returned with about fifteen hundred men plus women and children and as priest had begun to restore their worship and government, but his work had not been completed.
As governor, Nehemiah was primarily responsible for civil law and Ezra, the priest was responsible for religious activities of the Jews. On the first day of the seventh month Ezra brought the Book of the Law of Moses and read to the people who were capable of understanding. He read from the book and various Levites explained it for several hours each day for seven days. If one fails to read and study the Bible today, he will be ignorant of God’s commands just at those Jews were during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Upon hearing God’s commands and realizing their failure to observe His decrees, the people began to weep. That was a natural reaction, but they were told to rejoice instead of weeping. It was a time of feasting and it was good that they were finally learning of their responsibilities to their God.
The Feast of Tabernacles, a remembrance of the type of dwellings the Israelites had lived in during the forty-year wilderness wanderings had been neglected since the days of Joshua, Moses’ successor. They built booths or tents using various types of leafy branches. Those booths were placed on housetops open courtyards and other open spaces available.