All Israel Invited to the Passover
1Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and to Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh to come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast to the Lord God of Israel. 2 For the king and his officials and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the [a]second month, 3 since they could not celebrate it at that time because a sufficient number of priests had not consecrated themselves, nor had the people assembled at Jerusalem. 4 Thus the [decision to set a] new time pleased the king and the entire assembly. 5 So they decided to circulate a proclamation throughout Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that the people were to come to celebrate the Passover to the Lord God of Israel, at Jerusalem. For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as it was prescribed [for a long time]. 6 So the runners went throughout Israel and Judah with the letters from the hand of the king and his officials, in accordance with the command of the king, saying, “O sons (descendants) of Israel, return to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob), so that He will return to those of you who escaped and are left from the hand (power) of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were unfaithful to the Lord God of their fathers, so that He made them a horror (lifeless, desolate), just as you see. 8 Now do not stiffen your neck [becoming obstinate] like your fathers, but yield to the Lord and come to His sanctuary which He has sanctified and set apart forever, and serve the Lord your God, so that His burning anger will turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the Lord, your brothers (relatives) and your children will find compassion in the presence of those who led them away captive and will return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and He will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.”
10 So the runners (couriers) passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun; but the people laughed at them with scorn and mocked them. 11 Yet some of the men of Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them one heart to do that which the king and the officials had commanded by the word of the Lord.
13 Now many people were gathered at Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month; it was a very large assembly. 14 They took action and removed the [pagan] altars which were in Jerusalem; they also removed all the incense altars and threw them into the Brook Kidron [the dumping place for the ashes of such repulsive things]. 15 Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the second month. And the priests and the Levites were ashamed of themselves, and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the house of the Lord. 16 They stood at their accustomed stations, in accordance with the Law of Moses, the man of God. The priests sprinkled the blood [which they received] from the hand of the Levites [on the altar]. 17 For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves [that is, become ceremonially clean and free from all sin]; so the Levites had to slaughter the Passover lambs for everyone who was not clean, in order to make them holy for the Lord. 18 For the majority of the people, many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, and yet they ate the Passover contrary to what had been prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord pardon 19 everyone who sets his heart to seek God—the Lord God of his fathers—even though it is not in accordance with the [ceremonial] purification [rules] of the sanctuary.” 20 So the Lord listened to Hezekiah and healed the people [of their uncleanness]. 21 The Israelites who were present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy. The Levites and priests praised the Lord day after day, singing to the Lord with loud instruments. 22 Hezekiah spoke [b]encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good understanding in the things of the Lord. So the people ate for the appointed seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the Lord God of their fathers.
23 Then the whole assembly decided to celebrate [the feast] for another seven days; and they celebrated it another seven days with joy. 24 For Hezekiah king of Judah gave to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep, and the officials gave the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep. And a large number of priests consecrated themselves [for service]. 25 All the assembly of Judah rejoiced, with the priests and the Levites and all the assembly that came from Israel, both the sojourners (resident aliens, foreigners) who came from the land of Israel and those living in Judah. 26 So there was great joy in Jerusalem, because there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel. 27 Then the priests and Levites stood and blessed the people; and their voice was heard and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place, to heaven.