81Many years later, when Artaxerxes was emperor of Persia, a man named Ezra came from Babylon. He traced his ancestry back to Aaron, the High Priest, as follows: Ezra was the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, 2son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron.
3-4Ezra was a scholar with a thorough knowledge of the Law which the God of Israel had given to Moses. The emperor had a high regard for him and approved all the requests he made. Ezra set out from Babylonia 5for Jerusalem with a group of Israelites which included priests, Levites, Temple musicians, Temple guards, and workmen. 6They left Babylonia on the first day of the first month in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes. God gave them a safe journey, and they arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month. 7Ezra had a thorough knowledge of the Law of the Lord and neglected none of its details. As a result he could teach all its laws and regulations to all the people of Israel.
8The following is a copy of the decree that Artaxerxes gave to Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law of the Lord:
9“From Artaxerxes the emperor to Ezra the priest, scholar of the Law of the Lord, greetings.
10“In my generosity I have decided to decree that throughout my empire any of the Jews who so desire, including priests and Levites, may go with you to Jerusalem. 11I and the seven counsellors who hold the title ‘Friends of the Emperor’ have decided that all who wish to do so may go with you. 12Let them investigate the conditions in Jerusalem and Judah to see how well the Law of the Lord is being obeyed. 13Let them also take with them to Jerusalem the gifts which I and my counsellors have vowed to give to the Lord of Israel, including all the silver and gold belonging to the Lord which may be found in Babylonia, 14and all that is given by the people of Israel for the temple of their Lord. The silver and gold are to be collected to buy bulls, rams, lambs, and everything else that is necessary, 15so that sacrifices may be offered on the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem.
16“You may use the silver and gold for whatever you and your fellow-Israelites desire, in accordance with the will of God. 17-18You may obtain from the royal treasury the sacred vessels of the Lord that are being entrusted to you for use in the Temple of your God in Jerusalem, as well as anything else you may need for the Temple service.
19“I command all the treasury officials in Greater Syria and Phoenicia to provide promptly for Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law of God Most High, everything he asks for, 20up to a limit of 3.4 tonnes of silver, ten tonnes of wheat, 2,000 litres of wine, and as much salt as may be needed. 21You must be careful to do everything that the Law requires in order to honour God Most High and so make sure that he is never angry with me or with those who reign after me. 22You are forbidden to collect any taxes from the priests, Levites, musicians, guards, workmen, or anyone else connected with this temple. No one has the right to impose any burden on them.
23“You, Ezra, using the wisdom that comes from God, shall appoint administrators and judges to govern all the people in Greater Syria and Phoenicia who live by the Law of your God. You must teach that Law to anyone who does not know it. 24If anyone disobeys the laws of your God or the laws of the empire, he is to be punished promptly: by death, by fine, by exile, or by some other punishment.”
25Ezra said, “Praise the Lord, the Lord alone! He has made the emperor willing to restore the glory of the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. 26By God's grace, I have won the respect of the emperor, his counsellors, all his Friends, and all his powerful officials. 27The Lord my God has given me courage, and I have been able to persuade many men to return with me.”
28This is the list of the leaders of the clans and families who had been in exile in Babylonia and returned with Ezra to Jerusalem when Artaxerxes was emperor:
29-40Gershom, of the clan of Phinehas
Gamael, of the clan of Ithamar
Hattush son of Shecaniah, of the clan of David
Zechariah of the clan of Parosh, with 150 men of his clan (there were records of their family line)
Eliehoenai son of Zechariah, of the clan of Pahath Moab, with 200 men
Shecaniah son of Jehaziel, of the clan of Zattu, with 300 men
Ebed son of Jonathan, of the clan of Adin, with 250 men
Jeshaiah son of Gotholiah, of the clan of Elam, with seventy men
Zeraiah son of Michael, of the clan of Shephatiah, with seventy men
Obadiah son of Jehiel, of the clan of Joab, with 212 men
Shelomith son of Josiphiah, of the clan of Bani, with 160 men
Zechariah son of Bebai, of the clan of Bebai, with 28 men
Johanan son of Hakkatan, of the clan of Azgad, with 110 men
Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, of the clan of Adonikam, with seventy men (they returned at a later date)
Uthai son of Istalcurus, of the clan of Bigvai, with seventy men.
41I assembled the entire group at the River Theras, and we camped there for three days. I inspected them 42and found that there were no priests or Levites in the group, 43-44so I sent a message to ten of the leaders who were competent men: Eliezer, Iduel, Maasmas, Elnathan, Shemaiah, Jarib, Nathan, Elnathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 45I told them to go to Iddo, the chief official at the treasury, 46and ask him, his associates, and the treasury officials to send us priests to serve in the Temple of our Lord. 47With God's help they sent us some able men: Sherebiah, a Levite from the clan of Mahli, with eighteen of his sons and relatives, 48and Hashabiah, Annunus, and his brother Jeshaiah of the clan of Hananiah, with twenty of their sons. 49There were also 220 Temple workmen whose ancestors had been designated by King David and his officials to assist the Levites. They were all listed in the register by name.
50There by the River Theras I made a vow that the young men should fast in the presence of our Lord and ask him for a safe journey for us, our children, and our animals. 51I would have been ashamed to ask the emperor for infantry and cavalry to accompany us and protect us from our enemies, 52because I had told him that our Lord by his strength blesses and protects those who trust him. 53So once again we prayed for our Lord to protect us, and he answered our prayers.
54From among the leading priests I chose Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten others. 55Then I weighed out the silver, the gold, and the sacred utensils which the emperor, his advisers and officials, and the people of Israel had given to be used in the Temple, and I gave it to the priests. 56-57This is what I gave them:
|silver utensils||3.4 tonnes|
|fine bronze bowls that looked like gold||12|
58I said to the priests, “You are sacred to the Lord, the Lord of our ancestors, and so are the utensils and the silver and gold brought to him in fulfilment of a vow. 59Guard them carefully until you reach the Temple. There in the priests' rooms, hand them over to the leaders of the priests and the Levites and to the leaders of the people of Israel in Jerusalem.” 60So the priests and the Levites took charge of the silver, the gold, and the utensils for Jerusalem and brought them to the Temple.
61It was on the twelfth day of the first month that we left the River Theras, and with the Lord's presence and protection we reached Jerusalem. He protected us from all our enemies on our journey, and we arrived safely. 62After we had been there three days, we went to the Temple, weighed the silver and gold and handed it all over to Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah. 63With him were Eleazar son of Phinehas and two Levites, Jozabad son of Jeshua and Moeth son of Sabannus. 64Everything was counted and weighed, and a complete record was made at the same time.
65All those who had returned from exile then offered sacrifices to the Lord, the God of Israel. They offered twelve bulls for all Israel, 96 rams, 66and 72 lambs; they also offered twelve goats as a fellowship offering. They sacrificed all these animals to the Lord. 67Then they took the decree the emperor had given them and gave it to the governors and officials of Greater Syria and Phoenicia, who then honoured the Jewish people and the Temple of the Lord.
68After all this had been done, some of the leaders of the people of Israel came and told me that 69the people, the leaders, the priests, and the Levites had not kept themselves separate from the people in the neighbouring countries of Edom, Moab, and Egypt, or from the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, and Jebusites. They were doing the same disgusting things that those people did. 70God's holy people had become contaminated because Jewish men were marrying foreign women. Even the leaders and the officials had taken part in this breaking of the Law from the very beginning. 71As soon as I heard this, I tore my clothes and my sacred robe in despair. I also tore my hair and my beard, and sat down crushed with anxiety and grief. 72I sat there grieving about this sin until it was time for the evening sacrifice to be offered, when people began to gather round me — all those who were disturbed by what the Lord of Israel had said.
73Then I got up from where I had been fasting, and still wearing my torn clothes, I knelt in prayer and stretched out my hands to the Lord. 74I said, “O Lord, I am ashamed and confused in your presence. 75Our sins tower over our heads; they reach as high as the heavens. 76This has been true from the days of our ancestors until now; we, your people, have sinned greatly. 77Because of our sins and the sins of our ancestors, we and our relatives, our kings, and our priests have fallen into the hands of foreign kings, and we have been slaughtered, robbed, and carried away as prisoners. We have been totally disgraced, as we still are today. 78Now, Lord, for a short time you have shown us great mercy. You have allowed just a few of us to survive in order to carry on the name of Israel here in your holy Temple. 79You have let the light of our nation shine again, after feeding us and taking care of us during the time of our slavery. 80Even when we were slaves you did not abandon us; you made the emperors of Persia favour us, so that they gave us food, 81restored the glory of your Temple, rebuilt the city of Jerusalem out of its ruins, and gave us a place of security here in Judah and Jerusalem.
82“But now, Lord, what can we say, after you have done all this for us? We have again disobeyed the commands that you gave us through your servants, the prophets. They told us that 83the land we were to occupy was an impure land because the heathen people who lived in it filled it with their disgusting deeds. 84
They told us that we should never intermarry with those people 85and never seek peaceful relations with them if we wanted to be strong and enjoy the land and pass it on to our descendants for ever. 86Even after everything that has happened to us in punishment for our sins, we know that you, Lord, have punished us less than we deserve 87and have allowed us to survive. But we have rebelled again, broken your Law, and intermarried with these wicked people. 88Yet you were not angry enough to destroy us completely and leave none of us alive, with no descendants and without our name. 89Lord of Israel, you are faithful; you have allowed us to survive. 90We confess our guilt to you; we have no right to come into your presence.”
91While Ezra was bowing in prayer in front of the Temple, weeping and confessing these sins, a large group of people from Jerusalem — men, women, and children — gathered round him, all of them weeping bitterly. 92Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, one of the Israelites, said to Ezra, “We have sinned against the Lord by marrying foreign women, but even so, there is still hope for Israel. 93Now we must make a solemn promise to the Lord that we will send all these foreign women and their children away. 94We will do what you and the others who obey the Law of the Lord advise us to do. 95It is your responsibility to act. We are behind you, so go ahead and get it done.”
96So Ezra began by making the leaders of the priests, of the Levites, and of the rest of the people take an oath that they would divorce their foreign wives.