1The king and his officials and all the other people who had gathered in Jerusalem wanted to celebrate the Passover Festival. But they were not able to celebrate it at the usual time, because many of the priests had still not performed the rituals to purify themselves; therefore they were not allowed to do serve in the festival. Also, everyone had still not come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. So they decided to celebrate it one month later than usual.
4The king and all the other people who had gathered thought that was a good plan.
5So they decided to send messages to all the towns in Judah and in Israel, from Beersheba in the far south to Dan in the far north, including towns in the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, to invite people to come to the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Festival to honor Yahweh, the God whom the Israeli people worshiped/belonged to. Many of the people had not previously celebrated that festival, even though it had been written in the laws of Moses that they should do that.
6Obeying what the king commanded, messengers went throughout Judah and Israel, taking messages that had been written by the king and his officials. This is what they wrote: “You Israeli people, you who survived after being slaves of the kings of Assyria, return to Yahweh, the God whom our great ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshiped/belonged to, in order that he may return to you. Your fathers and brothers did not faithfully obey Yahweh, the God whom our ancestors worshiped.
7Do not act like they did, because what they did caused other people to become disgusted with them.
8Do not be stubborn as our ancestors were. Do what Yahweh desires. Come to Jerusalem to the temple, which he has set apart forever. Do what pleases Yahweh our God, in order that he will no longer be angry with you.
9If you return to Yahweh, the people who have captured our brothers and sisters and our children will be kind to them, and allow them to return to this land. Do not forget that Yahweh our God is kind and merciful. If you return to him, he will no longer reject you.”
10The messengers went to all the towns in the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far north as the tribe of Zebulun, and gave them this message, but most of the people there scorned them and ridiculed them.
11But some of the people of the tribes of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.
12Also in Judah God motivated the people to be united in wanting to do what Yahweh wanted them to do, which is what the king and his officials had told them to do in the message that they sent.
13So a huge crowd of people gathered in Jerusalem in May, to celebrate the Festival of Eating Unleavened Bread.
14They removed the altars of Baal in Jerusalem and took away the altars for burning incense to honor other gods, and burned them in Kidron Valley.
15They slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of that month. Some of the priests and the other descendants of Levi were ashamed because they had not performed the rituals to cause them to be acceptable to work for Yahweh. So they performed those rituals, and brought to the temple animals to be completely burned on the altar.
16Then they stood at the places where Moses had written in his laws that they should stand . Then the descendants of Levi gave to the priests bowls containing blood of the animals that were being sacrificed, and the priests sprinkled the altar with some of the blood.
17Many people in the crowd had not purified themselves, and therefore they were not able to kill the lambs and dedicate them to Yahweh. So it was necessary for the descendants of Levi to kill the lambs for them.
18Although most of the people who had come from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Issachar had not purified themselves, they ate the food of the Passover Festival anyway, ignoring the rules written by Moses. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying “Yahweh, you always do what is good; I pray that you will forgive everyone
19who sincerely wants to honor you, the God whom our ancestors worshiped, even if they have not purified themselves by obeying the sacred laws that you gave to us.”
20And Yahweh heard what Hezekiah prayed; he forgave the people, and did not punish them.
21The Israeli people who were there in Jerusalem celebrated the Festival of Eating Unleavened Bread for seven days. They rejoiced greatly as they celebrated, while the priests and other descendants of Levi sang to Yahweh every day, and played musical instruments to praise God.
22Hezekiah thanked all the descendants of Levi for doing this work for Yahweh, and for very skillfully leading the people who were worshiping. For those seven days the people ate the Passover food and brought offerings to maintain fellowship with Yahweh and praised Yahweh, the God whom their ancestors belonged to/had worshiped.
23Then the whole group decided to celebrate for seven more days, so they did: They celebrated joyfully for seven more days.
24King Hezekiah provided 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep to be slaughtered for the people to eat during the festival, and the officials also gave them 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep and goats. Many priests consecrated themselves.
25All the people of Judah rejoiced, including the priests and other descendants of Levi and all the people from Israel who had come, and including some from other countries who were living in Israel and some from other countries who were living in Judah.
26Everyone in Jerusalem was very joyful, because nothing like this had happened in Jerusalem since the time when David's son Solomon was the king of Israel.
27The priests and the other descendants of Levi stood up to bless the people, and God heard them in heaven, the holy place where he lives.