Nehemiah 8:17—Was this feast not celebrated since Joshua’s time or was it celebrated later by Zerubbabel?

Problem: According to this passage, the Feast of Tabernacles had not been celebrated by Israel “since the days of Joshua the son of Nun.” Yet, Ezra 3:4 declares that Zerubbabel and the Israelites “kept the Feast of Tabernacles” after they returned from the Babylonian captivity.

Solution: The Nehemiah passage means there had been nothing like this celebration since Joshua’s day. It does not mean no one had ever celebrated this feast since Joshua’s day. Nehemiah’s celebration was unique in many ways. First, it was commemorated by “the whole congregation” (Neh. 8:17). Second, it was celebrated with “great gladness” (v. 17). Third, it was celebrated with a Biblethon, that is, with continual Bible reading for one week. Fourth, they celebrated it exactly as Moses had commanded, with a restored priesthood and temple (8:18; cf. 12:1ff). Nothing like this had occurred since Joshua’s day.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.