What Did Ezra Read?

Today, the mass reading comes from Nehemiah, which reports the event of the priest-scribe Ezra reading the law of God to the Jews who have returned from the exile to the land. Here’s the report:

And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. (Neh 8:3 ESV)

So the question is what exactly is he reading? Scholars have put in a lot of sweat equity trying to figure out what exactly the “Book of the Law” was–Deuteronomy? The P material? Some early form of the Pentateuch? But of course, being scholars, they resort to bookish ideas to try to solve this problem of the book. I thought I’d lend a hand by introducing modern technology. 🙂 (That would be a rather Catholic Bible Student kind of thing to do anyway.)

So…here’s where mp3 files come in. Back in the 60’s a mellifluous rabbi recorded himself reading the entire Tanak aloud and a very kind webmaster, has turned these recordings into mp3’s for all of us to enjoy for free. If we can grant Ezra about 6 hours from sun-up to noon to read, then how long would it take to read the Pentateuch in its present Hebrew form?

Using the Mechon-Mamre recordings as our baseline:

  • Genesis – 4:31:59 (4 hours, 31 minutes, 59 seconds)
  • Exodus – 3:14:39
  • Leviticus – 2:07:22
  • Numbers – 2:55:12
  • Deuteronomy – 2:43:28

So, if he read the whole Pentateuch, it would take 15 hours, 32 minutes and 40 seconds, with no breaks! So…he didn’t have time to read the whole Torah. But he could have read all of Deuteronomy and all of Numbers. Or he could have read all of Deuteronomy slowly with breaks and stops for moments of explanation. 

How much of the Pentateuch can you read from sunrise to noon?

4 thoughts on “What Did Ezra Read?

  1. E Laree Kreitlow

    Thank you, in teaching the children about Jewish worship this morning, this question came up. Not as long as I had thought but still much longer than the average child “who could understand” are being taught to listen attentively!

  2. Joseph Callahan

    This is a picture of what our high priest Yeshua and his priest will be teaching the people again during the millennium! 💕.
    Read the whole chapter and absorb what God is trying to make us understand… His Torah is alive and well :-). We also will be crying tears of joy because we also have not been taught these precious words For hundreds of years.

  3. Joseph Callahan

    This story is also a picture of our High Priest and His Kingdom of priest teaching the people and they understood it’s true meaning from a Hebrew perspective versus a Greco Roman mindset that has permeated the church for1800+ years.
    Read the whole chapter. It reveals the Feast of Tabernacle‘s that was not observed for decades. We also will be in tears of joy as were they, because they realized the bittersweet message that was missing in their lives……. hearing and doing God’s instructions. ❤️❤️❤️

  4. Jenni Asher

    I didn’t realize that Catholics globally read a portion of the Bible per week like Jews do. Am I reading into “the mass reading” correctly?

    Also super impressed you’re sharing recordings of the Bible being read in Hebrew. 😉

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