71Many years later, when Artaxerxes was emperor of Persia, there was a man named Ezra. He traced his ancestors back to Aaron, the High Priest, as follows: Ezra was the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, 2son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, 3son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, 4son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, 5son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron.
6-7Ezra was a scholar with a thorough knowledge of the Law which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given to Moses. Because Ezra had the blessing of the LORD his God, the emperor gave him everything he asked for. In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes, Ezra set out from Babylonia for Jerusalem with a group of Israelites which included priests, Levites, temple musicians, temple guards, and workmen. 8-9They left Babylonia on the first day of the first month, and with God's help they arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month. 10Ezra had devoted his life to studying the Law of the LORD, to practising it, and to teaching all its laws and regulations to the people of Israel.
11Artaxerxes gave the following document to Ezra, the priest and scholar, who had a thorough knowledge of the laws and commands which the LORD had given to Israel:
12“From Artaxerxes7.12 Verses 12–26 are in Aramaic (see also 4.7). the emperor to Ezra the priest, scholar in the Law of the God of Heaven.7.12 Aramaic has an additional word, the meaning of which is unclear.
13“I command that throughout my empire all the Israelite people, priests, and Levites that so desire be permitted to go with you to Jerusalem. 14I, together with my seven counsellors, send you to investigate the conditions in Jerusalem and Judah in order to see how well the Law of your God, which has been entrusted to you, is being obeyed. 15You are to take with you the gold and silver offerings which I and my counsellors desire to give to the God of Israel, whose Temple is in Jerusalem. 16You are also to take all the silver and gold which you collect throughout the province of Babylon and the offerings which the Israelite people and their priests give for the Temple of their God in Jerusalem.
17“You are to spend this money carefully and buy bulls, rams, lambs, corn, and wine and offer them on the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem. 18You may use the silver and gold that is left over for whatever you and your people desire, in accordance with the will of your God. 19You are to present to God in Jerusalem all the utensils that have been given to you for use in the temple services. 20And anything else which you need for the Temple, you may get from the royal treasury.
21“I command all the treasury officials in the province of West Euphrates to provide promptly for Ezra, the priest and scholar in the Law of the God of Heaven, everything he asks you for, 22up to a limit of 3.4 tonnes of silver, ten tonnes of wheat, 2,000 litres of wine, 2,000 litres of olive oil, and as much salt as necessary. 23You must be careful to provide everything which the God of Heaven requires for his Temple, and so make sure that he is never angry with me or with those who reign after me. 24You are forbidden to collect any taxes from the priests, Levites, musicians, guards, workmen, or anyone else connected with this Temple.
25“You, Ezra, using the wisdom which your God has given you, are to appoint administrators and judges to govern all the people in West Euphrates who live by the Law of your God. You must teach that Law to anyone who does not know it. 26If anyone disobeys the laws of your God or the laws of the empire, he is to be punished promptly: by death or by exile or by confiscation of his property or by imprisonment.”
27Ezra said, “Praise the LORD, the God of our ancestors! He has made the emperor willing to honour in this way the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem. 28By God's grace I have won the favour of the emperor, of his counsellors, and of all his powerful officials; the LORD my God has given me courage, and I have been able to persuade many of the heads of the clans of Israel to return with me.”
81This is the list of the heads of the clans who had been in exile in Babylonia and who returned with Ezra to Jerusalem when Artaxerxes was emperor:
2-14Gershom, of the clan of Phinehas
Daniel, 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 ancestry)
Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, of the clan of Pahath Moab, with 200 men
Shecaniah son of Jahaziel, of the clan of Zattu,8.2–14 One ancient translation (see also 2.8) Zattu; Hebrew does not have this name. with 300 men
Ebed son of Jonathan, of the clan of Adin, with fifty men
Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, of the clan of Elam, with seventy men
Zebadiah son of Michael, of the clan of Shephatiah, with eighty men
Obadiah son of Jehiel, of the clan of Joab, with 218 men
Shelomith son of Josiphiah, of the clan of Bani,8.2–14 One ancient translation (see also 2.10) Bani; Hebrew does not have this name. 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 sixty men (they returned at a later date)
Uthai and Zaccur, of the clan of Bigvai, with seventy men.
15I assembled the entire group by the canal that runs to the town of Ahava, and we camped there three days. I found that there were priests in the group, but no Levites. 16I sent for nine of the leaders: Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, and for two teachers, Joiarib and Elnathan. 17I sent them to Iddo, head of the community at Casiphia, to ask him and his associates, the temple workmen, to send us people to serve God in the Temple. 18Through God's grace they sent us Sherebiah, an able man, a Levite from the clan of Mahli, and eighteen of his sons and brothers came with him. 19They also sent Hashabiah and Jeshaiah of the clan of Merari, with twenty of their relatives. 20In addition there were 220 temple workmen whose ancestors had been designated by King David and his officials to assist the Levites. They were all listed by name.
21There by the Ahava Canal I gave orders for us all to fast and humble ourselves before our God and to ask him to lead us on our journey and protect us and our children and all our possessions. 22I would have been ashamed to ask the emperor for a troop of cavalry to guard us from any enemies during our journey, because I had told him that our God blesses everyone who trusts him, but that he is displeased with and punishes anyone who turns away from him. 23So we fasted and prayed for God to protect us, and he answered our prayers.
24From among the leading priests I chose Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten others. 25Then I weighed out the silver, the gold, and the 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. 26-27This is what I gave them:
silver — 22 tonnes
100 silver utensils — seventy kilogrammes
gold — 3.4 tonnes
twenty gold bowls — 8.4 kilogrammes
two fine bronze bowls, equal in value to gold bowls.
28I said to them, “You are sacred to the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and so are all the silver and gold utensils brought to him as freewill offerings. 29Guard them carefully until you reach the Temple. There in the priests' room weigh them and hand them over to the leaders of the priests and of the Levites, and to the leaders of the people of Israel in Jerusalem.” 30So the priests and the Levites took charge of the silver, the gold, and the utensils, to take them to the Temple in Jerusalem.
31It was on the twelfth day of the first month that we left the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. Our God was with us and protected us from enemy attacks and from ambush as we travelled. 32When we reached Jerusalem, we rested for three days. 33Then on the fourth day we went to the Temple, weighed the silver, the gold, and the utensils, and handed them over to Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah. With him were Eleazar son of Phinehas and two Levites, Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui. 34Everything was counted and weighed, and a complete record was made at the same time.
35All those who had returned from exile then brought offerings to be burnt as sacrifices to the God of Israel. They offered twelve bulls for all Israel, 96 rams, and 77 lambs; they also offered twelve goats to purify themselves from sin. All these animals were burnt as sacrifices to the LORD. 36They also took the document the emperor had given them and gave it to the governors and officials of the province of West Euphrates, who then gave their support to the people and the temple worship.
91After all this had been done, some of the leaders of the people of Israel came and told me that the people, the priests, and the Levites had not kept themselves separate from the people in the neighbouring countries of Ammon, Moab, and Egypt or from the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Amorites. They were doing the same disgusting things that those people did. 2Jewish men were marrying foreign women, and so God's holy people had become contaminated. The leaders and officials were the chief offenders. 3When I heard this, I tore my clothes in despair, tore my hair and my beard, and sat down crushed with grief. 4I sat there grieving until the time for the evening sacrifice to be offered, and people began to gather round me — all those who were frightened because of what the God of Israel had said about the sins of those who had returned from exile.
5When the time came for the evening sacrifice, I got up from where I had been grieving, and still wearing my torn clothes, I knelt in prayer and stretched out my hands to the LORD my God. 6I said, “O God, I am too ashamed to raise my head in your presence. Our sins pile up, high above our heads; they reach as high as the heavens. 7From the days of our ancestors until now, we, your people, have sinned greatly. Because of our sins we, 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. 8Now for a short time, O LORD our God, you have been gracious to us and have let some of us escape from slavery and live in safety in this holy place. You have freed us from slavery and given us new life. 9We were slaves, but you did not leave us in slavery. You made the emperors of Persia favour us and permit us to go on living and to rebuild your Temple, which was in ruins, and to find safety here in Judah and Jerusalem.
10“But now, O God, what can we say after all that has happened? We have again disobeyed the commands 11that you gave us through your servants, the prophets. They told us that the land we were going to occupy was an impure land because the people who lived in it filled it from one end to the other with disgusting, filthy actions. 12
They told us that we were never to intermarry with those people and never to help them prosper or succeed if we wanted to enjoy the land and pass it on to our descendants for ever. 13Even after everything that has happened to us in punishment for our sins and wrongs, we know that you, our God, have punished us less than we deserve and have allowed us to survive. 14Then how can we ignore your commandments again and intermarry with these wicked people? If we do, you will be so angry that you will destroy us completely and let no one survive. 15LORD God of Israel, you are just, but you have let us survive. We confess our guilt to you; we have no right to come into your presence.”