Nehemiah | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9:1-5 | 9:5-38 | 10 | 11-12 | 13:1-14 | 13:15-31 | PDF |

These free online Bible study guides of Nehemiah 8 contain cross-references, commentary, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth practical Bible studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Nehemiah 8 Bible Study Commentary – A Grand Celebration


I. Ezra reads the Word to all the people (8:1-8)
II. The people rejoice and celebrate (9-12)
III. The people apply what they learn by celebrating the Feast of Booths (13-18)

I. Ezra reads the Word to all the people (8:1-8)

Discussion Questions

  •  Who joined this gathering?
  •  What was their “spirit” or “attitude?”
  •  Why did they get together?
  •  What did they want to do when they got together?
  •  How long did Ezra read? What did he read about?
  •  What was the people’s attitude like?
  •  What did the people do when Ezra started reading?
  •  How did the people respond to the reading?
  •  What do we learn from verse 8? What was Ezra’s goal beyond just reading it?

Verse by Verse Commentary

Key theme – The people respect God’s Word. This is shown by them desiring to learn it and paying attention to it.

1. The people gathered as one – The work they had done unified them and they saw the tremendous result of what had happened when they worked together to rebuild the wall. Seeing what they could accomplish when working together in unity, encouraged them to continue working together. We learned at the beginning of chapter 7 that Nehemiah called the people together. His example had inspired them to the point that they all responded to his summons. Unity was important for the Jewish remnant. It is also important for us to be unified with other believers, to unite to work together and to unite to study God’s Word together, not allowing petty differences to distract us from the goal of building for God.

2. They asked Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses out – The people took initiative to ask Ezra to bring out the book of the law (Genesis to Deuteronomy). It shows real maturity that they wanted to learn about God’s Word. The focus of their get together was not partying. It was not drinking. It was not feasting. It was not having fun. It was not music. It was not chit-chat or catching up. The focus of their time together was God’s Word. Some of the other things came later, but God’s Word was the epicenter of everything else. God’s Word could help them grow. It could strengthen them. It could change their hearts and change their lives. God’s Word was their (and is ours) spiritual nourishment. (Verses on God’s Word: Hebrews 4:12, Matthew 24:35, Proverbs 4:20-22, Colossians 3:16, Isaiah 40:8, Psalm 119:103, Mark 13:31, 1 Peter 2:2). The Jews’ initiative to ask for the law to be read showed that they loved God’s Words. God’s Word was sweet to them like honeycomb.

Application: Do you desire God’s Word like this? If you have free time, will you choose to just open up and enjoy reading the Bible? Is God’s Word the center of your meetings with other believers?

3. Men and women and everyone who could understand joined – God’s Word is not just for some people. It is not just for men or women or old or young. It is for all. It can benefit everyone. Even children joined in.

Application: These days people are often in a hurry to send the children off. Some think children are a nuisance or a distraction. Others think that children cannot understand or are too young. Others may just let their children go and play because it is easier. We should not talk down to our children. We should teach them up. If you never teach your child something he doesn’t know he will never learn from you. We should help our children to improve their focus and improve their understanding by challenging them and stimulating them instead of taking the easy way out.

Illustration: I once was teaching a class for young children and mothers. During the class I asked the mothers to talk and communicate with their children and ask them questions. One mother said, “My kid doesn’t know how to talk.” Her reasoning was that since her child didn’t know how to talk she didn’t need to talk to him! In this case, how will any children learn something new!

4. Ezra read from early morning to midday – People were able to get up early to listen. The church I go to many of the people are late, often very late. It doesn’t even start until 10:00. There is no good excuse for this to happen week after week. If you desire God’s Word, get up early enough to be on time. You can also get up early to read it before going off to work.

People were able to listen (and pay attention) for a large chunk of the day – These days our attention span is shamefully short. If the speaker goes on for 40 minutes a lot of people in many churches will be sleeping, checking their watches, or messing with their smart phones. An hour and a half is considered an eternity. How many of us would enjoy joining a service that lasted most of the day? How many could focus and pay attention for that long? If you love God’s Word you need to exercise your mind by paying attention carefully and increasing your attention span. Do not be in a hurry to leave church or fellowship. Do not get bored and tired of listening to the Word easily. If you love the Word you will want more of it, not less.

5. Respecting the Word of God means preparing – The people prepared a wooden podium. This allowed everyone to see and hear Ezra. Building the podium and moving it into position was work, but it was work that was well spent. If we respect God’s Word we will want to find more ways to aid the spreading of it. What work can you do to aid the spread of God’s Word?

6. The people stood up to listen to the Word of God – Why? It showed their respect. They took it seriously. They realized it was direct revelation from God. It looks like they stayed standing for the entire time! This would have been exhausting. Try standing up in one place for an hour. It’s tiring. Doing that for hours and hours is very difficult. It requires a lot of energy. When you respect God’s Word you will make sacrifices for it. It will cost you energy. It will cost you time. It may inconvenience you. But it is worth it. We should take God’s Word seriously. We should make it a priority. If it is a priority, you will sacrifice for it. What can you sacrifice? Sleep, time, entertainment, etc.

7. The result of respecting God’s Word is praise – Spending time learning and studying God’s Word brings about changes in the life of the person who does so. God’s Word will not return void. It is living and active. The person who loves to read and study the Bible is a person who will love to praise and worship God. The two go hand in hand. In the Bible we learn about God’s greatness and our sinfulness. After we look at God and see His greatness we will respond by worshiping God. They expressed this worship verbally, but also physically by bowing. Later they would express their changed hearts by obeying what they learned.

8. They read from the law – Ezra was not the only one reading. Other Levites also read and instructed the people. It seems that the large group split into smaller groups. The smaller groups were led by Levites. These Levites read the law. Then they explained it making it clear and understandable to the people. The goal of their speaking was to make God’s Words clear.

9. Biblical preaching – This is the same goal of biblical preaching. When we preach or teach our goal should not be to share our own opinions. It should simply be to make clear what the Bible already says. We can use illustrations or examples or stories to make it clear. Our job is not to make it relevant. It is already relevant. Our job is not to ask what “does it mean to you?” Our job is to ask “what does it mean?” Our job is to encourage people to obey what they learn. Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

II. The people rejoice and celebrate (9-12)

Discussion Questions

  •  Why had the people been weeping? What does this show about the attitude of the people? Was this good or bad?
  •  Why did their leaders tell them not to weep?
  •  What should they do instead of weeping?
  •  What can we learn about fellowship?
  •  What can you learn from the phrase “the joy of the Lord is your strength?”
  •  What role did the Levites have in the teaching (they reinforced what the other leaders said?)
  •  Why were the people so happy in verse 12?


Matthew 5:3-4 – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

2 Corinthians 7:10 – Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[a] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. This day is holy to the Lord – We should make the Lord the priority in our lives every day. And yet some days we set aside as special days to focus completely on Him, His Word, and worshiping Him. One of the ten commandments was for the Israelites to dedicate the Sabbhath day to make it holy to the Lord. In addition, they were to regularly celebrate various feasts, the main purpose of which was to remember what God had done for them.

Application: We too must regularly set aside time as “holy to the Lord.” On those days or during those times we should rid ourselves of distractions and focus on God.

2. All the people were weeping – Why? From this we see their hearts. They had contrite hearts. When they heard the Law, they started weeping because they realized that they had been disobeying many commands. They realized how far short of God’s standards they fell. Is this good or bad? This is good. It shows that they understood who God was and they understood who they were. The people were unable to live up to God’s standards. Their failure was fresh in their minds. To their credit, they didn’t deny it. Others may have responded by being angry. Some may have responded by getting upset at the prophets or leaders. We know when Jeremiah gave the scroll to the king, the king burned it. Not everyone responds to God’s word the way that they should. In fact, most do not.

Application: When you listen to God’s Word and learn about the serious state of your sin, how do you respond? Do you ignore it? Do you try to push it away from your mind? Do you justify it or excuse it