The Passover Celebration
1King Hezekiah sent messages to all the people of Israel and Judah, and he wrote letters to the people of Ephraim and Manasseh. Hezekiah invited all these people to come to the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover for the Lord, the God of Israel. 2King Hezekiah, his officers, and all the people in Jerusalem agreed to celebrate the Passover in the second month. 3They could not celebrate it at the normal time, because not enough priests had made themselves ready to serve the Lord, and the people had not yet gathered in Jerusalem. 4This plan satisfied King Hezekiah and all the people. 5So they made an announcement everywhere in Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, telling the people to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover for the Lord, the God of Israel. For a long time most of the people had not celebrated the Passover as the law commanded. 6At the king’s command, the messengers took letters from him and his officers all through Israel and Judah. This is what the letters said:
People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Then God will return to you who are still alive, who have escaped from the kings of Assyria. 7Don’t be like your ancestors or your relatives. They turned against the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so he caused other people to be disgusted with them. You know this is true. 8Don’t be stubborn as your ancestors were, but obey the Lord willingly. Come to the Temple, which he has made holy forever. Serve the Lord your God so he will not be angry with you. 9Come back to the Lord. Then the people who captured your relatives and children will be kind to them and will let them return to this land. The Lord your God is kind and merciful. He will not turn away from you if you return to him.
10The messengers went to every town in Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the way to Zebulun, but the people laughed at them and made fun of them. 11But some men from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun were sorry for what they had done and went to Jerusalem. 12And God united all the people of Judah in obeying King Hezekiah and his officers, because their command had come from the Lord.
13In the second month a large crowd came together in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 14The people removed the altars and incense altars to gods in Jerusalem and threw them into the Kidron Valley.
15They killed the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed, so they made themselves holy and brought burnt offerings into the Temple of the Lord. 16They took their regular places in the Temple as the Teachings of Moses, the man of God, commanded. The Levites gave the blood of the sacrifices to the priests, who sprinkled it on the altar. 17Since many people in the crowd had not made themselves holy, the Levites killed the Passover lambs for everyone who was not clean. The Levites made each lamb holy for the Lord. 18-19Although many people from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves for the feast, they ate the Passover even though it was against the law. So Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “Lord, you are good. You are the Lord, the God of our ancestors. Please forgive all those who try to obey you even if they did not make themselves clean as the rules of the Temple command.” 20The Lord listened to Hezekiah’s prayer, and he healed the people. 21The Israelites in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy to the Lord. The Levites and priests praised the Lord every day with loud music. 22Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who showed they understood well how to do their service for the Lord. The people ate the feast for seven days, offered fellowship offerings, and praised the Lord, the God of their ancestors.
23Then all the people agreed to stay seven more days, so they celebrated with joy for seven more days. 24Hezekiah king of Judah gave one thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep to the people. The officers gave one thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep to the people. Many priests made themselves holy. 25All the people of Judah, the priests, the Levites, those who came from Israel, the foreigners from Israel, and the foreigners living in Judah were very happy. 26There was much joy in Jerusalem, because there had not been a celebration like this since the time of Solomon son of David and king of Israel. 27The priests and Levites stood up and blessed the people, and God heard them because their prayer reached heaven, his holy home.