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Nehemiah 8 records a significant festival period in Judah's history. This occasion begins on the Feast of Trumpets during the rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall following the reestablishment of those Jews who chose to return from their Babylonian captivity. They had good cause for their emotional response to keeping this Feast of Trumpets in this particular location and time under the stresses they had already endured, all the while knowing that those stresses were not yet over. This was in all likelihood the first Feast of Trumpets observed in seventy years, and who knows how long the Jews had not observed it before they went into captivity?
Their joy continued, as verses 13-18 relate the first keeping of the Feast of Tabernacles in the land in a long time.
"Not since the days of Joshua the son of Nun had the children of Israel done so" probably means the Feast of Tabernacles had not been kept with the combination of all the elements in their right proportion to constitute a great Feast. They were obedient, in the right place, in the right attitude, with the right emphasis. The books of Kings and Chronicles provide records of the feasts being kept by Israelites during the period between Joshua and Ezra, but they did not always keep them consistently or correctly, especially in attitude and purpose.
However, we can see that Ezra understood the Feast of Tabernacles to be a spiritual bonanza whose fruit was rejoicing.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Amos 5 and the Feast of Tabernacles