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'All the people wept when they heard the words of the law'

During the 18th year of his reign Josiah (641-610 B.C.) - one of the kingdom's few "godly kings" - work was begun to repair the temple. The temple had been spoiled of its treasures, either by the wicked kings of Judah or by Judah's enemies, particularly Nebuchadnezzar who laid siege to Jerusalem and carried the people into Babylonian captivity.

When the people returned after 70 years to Jerusalem under the direction of the famous priest and scribe Ezra, they began restoring the temple. Hilkiah, the high priest, found "the book of the law in the house of the Lord." (2 Kings 22:8.) The book is believed to have been either the book of Deuteronomy or the entire books of Moses - the first five books of the present Old Testament. Apparently the "book of the law" had been lost to Judah for quite some time; the loss of the book might explain one reason why Judah had lapsed into such wickedness.In a Church News interview in December 1993, Elder Ronald E. Poelman of the Seventy and a counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, commented on the significance of the discovery and reading of the book:

"The 8th chapter of Nehemiah tells about how `all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel.'

"We need to keep in mind that these people had not had this book available to them when they were in Babylon. We continue to read:

" `And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, . . .

" `And he read therein . . . and . . . all of the people were attentive unto the book of the law. . . .' (The Levites assisted in this process, to help the people understand the law.)

" `So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.' " (Neh. 8:2-3, 8.)

Elder Poelman said, "Now, pay close attention to the next verse, in which we're told Nehemiah and Ezra taught the people, saying: " `This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.' (v. 9.)

"This is where the feeling comes in. We see some of the emotion of those who had been deprived of having the book of the law. There was probably only one copy, and it probably had to be read to them.

"This has always been touching to me - when they heard the word they wept, and then they were comforted."

Elder Poelman said if he were going to call the attention of a teacher to one passage with regard to how to be successful in teaching he would refer to a statement regarding Ezra's teaching the law of God.

Elder Poelman said: "In Ezra 7:10, Nehemiah wrote:

" `For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.'

"Now it's interesting to me that Ezra didn't prepare his facts, and his logic, and his intellect. He prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord."