Q&A: Not To Be, the Feast of Tabernacles - Ezra 3:4 and Nehemiah 8:17

Not To Be, the Feast of Tabernacles - Ezra 3:4 and Nehemiah 8:17

Question

How could the Feast of the Tabernacles be celebrated in Ezra 3:4 if it had not been celebrated since Joshua's time (Neh. 8:17)?

Answer

Ezra 3:4 (NIV) Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day.

Nehemiah 8:17 (KJV) And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.

Nehemiah 8:17 (NIV) The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.

The NIV text is clearer than the KJV. The meaning of the phrase "since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so" in the KJV means that the Feast of Tabernacles had not been celebrated in this fashion since the time of Joshua. The feast was commemorated by the whole congregation and with great gladness (Neh. 8:17), with the continued reading of the Scriptures for one week (Neh. 8:18; cf. 8:3, 8, 13-15), and as Moses commanded (Neh. 8:18; 12:1 ff). The feast celebrated in this fashion was unique as it had not been like this since the time of Joshua.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).