7 After these events, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, Ezra—
Seraiah’s son, Azariah’s son,
Hilkiah’s son, 2 Shallum’s son,
Zadok’s son, Ahitub’s son,
3 Amariah’s son, Azariah’s son,
Meraioth’s son, 4 Zerahiah’s son,
Uzzi’s son, Bukki’s son,
5 Abishua’s son, Phinehas’s son,
Eleazar’s son, the chief priest Aaron’s son
6 —came up from Babylon. He was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he requested because the hand of the Lord his God was on him. 7 Some of the Israelites, priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and temple servants accompanied him to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.
8 Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, during the seventh year of the king. 9 He began the journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month and arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month since the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.
11 This is the text of the letter King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest and scribe, an expert in matters of the Lord’s commands and statutes for Israel:
12 Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, an expert in the law of the God of the heavens:
13 I issue a decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including their priests and Levites, who want to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. 14 You are sent by the king and his seven counselors to evaluate Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God, which is in your possession. 15 You are also to bring the silver and gold the king and his counselors have willingly given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 and all the silver and gold you receive throughout the province of Babylon, together with the freewill offerings given by the people and the priests to the house of their God in Jerusalem. 17 Then you are to be diligent to buy with this money bulls, rams, and lambs, along with their grain and drink offerings, and offer them on the altar at the house of your God in Jerusalem. 18 You may do whatever seems best to you and your brothers with the rest of the silver and gold, according to the will of your God. 19 Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles given to you for the service of the house of your God. 20 You may use the royal treasury to pay for anything else needed for the house of your God.
21 I, King Artaxerxes, issue a decree to all the treasurers in the region west of the Euphrates River:
Whatever Ezra the priest, an expert in the law of the God of the heavens, asks of you must be provided in full, 22 up to 7,500 pounds of silver, 500 bushels of wheat, 550 gallons of wine, 550 gallons of oil, and salt without limit. 23 Whatever is commanded by the God of the heavens must be done diligently for the house of the God of the heavens, so that wrath will not fall on the realm of the king and his sons. 24 Be advised that you do not have authority to impose tribute, duty, and land tax on any priests, Levites, singers, doorkeepers, temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.
25 And you, Ezra, according to God’s wisdom that you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to judge all the people in the region west of the Euphrates who know the laws of your God and to teach anyone who does not know them. 26 Anyone who does not keep the law of your God and the law of the king, let the appropriate judgment be executed against him, whether death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.
27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s mind to glorify the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, 28 and who has shown favor to me before the king, his counselors, and all his powerful officers. So I took courage because I was strengthened by the hand of the Lord my God, and I gathered Israelite leaders to return with me.
8 These are the family heads and the genealogical records of those who returned with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes:
2 Gershom, from Phinehas’s descendants;
Daniel, from Ithamar’s descendants;
Hattush, from David’s descendants,
3 who was of Shecaniah’s descendants;
Zechariah, from Parosh’s descendants,
and 150 men with him who were registered by genealogy;
4 Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah
from Pahath-moab’s descendants,
and 200 men with him;
5 Shecaniah son of Jahaziel
from Zattu’s descendants,
and 300 men with him;
6 Ebed son of Jonathan
from Adin’s descendants,
and 50 men with him;
7 Jeshaiah son of Athaliah
from Elam’s descendants,
and 70 men with him;
8 Zebadiah son of Michael
from Shephatiah’s descendants,
and 80 men with him;
9 Obadiah son of Jehiel
from Joab’s descendants,
and 218 men with him;
10 Shelomith son of Josiphiah
from Bani’s descendants,
and 160 men with him;
11 Zechariah son of Bebai
from Bebai’s descendants,
and 28 men with him;
12 Johanan son of Hakkatan
from Azgad’s descendants,
and 110 men with him;
13 these are the last ones, from Adonikam’s descendants,
and their names are
Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah,
and 60 men with them;
14 Uthai and Zaccur
from Bigvai’s descendants,
and 70 men with them.
15 I gathered them at the river that flows to Ahava, and we camped there for three days. I searched among the people and priests, but found no Levites there. 16 Then I summoned the leaders: Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, as well as the teachers Joiarib and Elnathan. 17 I sent them to Iddo, the leader at Casiphia, with a message for him and his brothers, the temple servants at Casiphia, that they should bring us ministers for the house of our God. 18 Since the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah—a man of insight from the descendants of Mahli, a descendant of Levi son of Israel—along with his sons and brothers, 18 men, 19 plus Hashabiah, along with Jeshaiah, from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and their sons, 20 men. 20 There were also 220 of the temple servants, who had been appointed by David and the leaders for the work of the Levites. All were identified by name.
21 I proclaimed a fast by the Ahava River, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us, our dependents, and all our possessions. 22 I did this because I was ashamed to ask the king for infantry and cavalry to protect us from enemies during the journey, since we had told him, “The hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his fierce anger is against all who abandon him.” 23 So we fasted and pleaded with our God about this, and he was receptive to our prayer.
24 I selected twelve of the leading priests, along with Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brothers. 25 I weighed out to them the silver, the gold, and the articles—the contribution for the house of our God that the king, his counselors, his leaders, and all the Israelites who were present had offered. 26 I weighed out to them 24 tons of silver, silver articles weighing 7,500 pounds, 7,500 pounds of gold, 27 twenty gold bowls worth a thousand gold coins, and two articles of fine gleaming bronze, as valuable as gold. 28 Then I said to them, “You are holy to the Lord, and the articles are holy. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the Lord God of your ancestors. 29 Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the Lord’s house before the leading priests, Levites, and heads of the Israelite families in Jerusalem.” 30 So the priests and Levites took charge of the silver, the gold, and the articles that had been weighed out, to bring them to the house of our God in Jerusalem.
31 We set out from the Ahava River on the twelfth day of the first month to go to Jerusalem. We were strengthened by our God, and he kept us from the grasp of the enemy and from ambush along the way. 32 So we arrived at Jerusalem and rested there for three days. 33 On the fourth day the silver, the gold, and the articles were weighed out in the house of our God into the care of the priest Meremoth son of Uriah. Eleazar son of Phinehas was with him. The Levites Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui were also with them. 34 Everything was verified by number and weight, and the total weight was recorded at that time.
35 The exiles who had returned from the captivity offered burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, and seventy-seven lambs, along with twelve male goats as a sin offering. All this was a burnt offering for the Lord. 36 They also delivered the king’s edicts to the royal satraps and governors of the region west of the Euphrates, so that they would support the people and the house of God.
9 After these things had been done, the leaders approached me and said, “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the surrounding peoples whose detestable practices are like those of the Canaanites, Hethites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. 2 Indeed, the Israelite men have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed has become mixed with the surrounding peoples. The leaders and officials have taken the lead in this unfaithfulness!” 3 When I heard this report, I tore my tunic and robe, pulled out some of the hair from my head and beard, and sat down devastated.
4 Everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me, because of the unfaithfulness of the exiles, while I sat devastated until the evening offering. 5 At the evening offering, I got up from my time of humiliation, with my tunic and robe torn. Then I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God. 6 And I said:
My God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face toward you, my God, because our iniquities are higher than our heads and our guilt is as high as the heavens. 7 Our guilt has been terrible from the days of our ancestors until the present. Because of our iniquities we have been handed over, along with our kings and priests, to the surrounding kings, and to the sword, captivity, plundering, and open shame, as it is today. 8 But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from the Lord our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in his holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us a little relief and light to our eyes. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us relief, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.
10 Now, our God, what can we say in light of this? For we have abandoned the commands 11 you gave through your servants the prophets, saying, “The land you are entering to possess is an impure land. The surrounding peoples have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness by their impurity and detestable practices. 12 So do not give your daughters to their sons in marriage or take their daughters for your sons. Never pursue their welfare or prosperity, so that you will be strong, eat the good things of the land, and leave it as an inheritance to your sons forever.” 13 After all that has happened to us because of our evil deeds and terrible guilt—though you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserve and have allowed us to survive— 14 should we break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit these detestable practices? Wouldn’t you become so angry with us that you would destroy us, leaving neither remnant nor survivor? 15 Lord God of Israel, you are righteous, for we survive as a remnant today. Here we are before you with our guilt, though no one can stand in your presence because of this.
10 While Ezra prayed and confessed, weeping and falling facedown before the house of God, an extremely large assembly of Israelite men, women, and children gathered around him. The people also wept bitterly. 2 Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, an Elamite, responded to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the surrounding peoples, but there is still hope for Israel in spite of this. 3 Therefore, let’s make a covenant before our God to send away all the foreign wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the command of our God. Let it be done according to the law. 4 Get up, for this matter is your responsibility, and we support you. Be strong and take action!”
5 Then Ezra got up and made the leading priests, Levites, and all Israel take an oath to do what had been said; so they took the oath. 6 Ezra then went from the house of God and walked to the chamber of Jehohanan son of Eliashib, where he spent the night. He did not eat food or drink water, because he was mourning over the unfaithfulness of the exiles.
7 They circulated a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem that all the exiles should gather at Jerusalem. 8 Whoever did not come within three days would forfeit all his possessions, according to the decision of the leaders and elders, and would be excluded from the assembly of the exiles.
9 So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered in Jerusalem within the three days. On the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people sat in the square at the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain. 10 Then the priest Ezra stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful by marrying foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. 11 Therefore, make a confession to the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the surrounding peoples and your foreign wives.”
12 Then all the assembly responded loudly, “Yes, we will do as you say! 13 But there are many people, and it is the rainy season. We don’t have the stamina to stay out in the open. This isn’t something that can be done in a day or two, for we have rebelled terribly in this matter. 14 Let our leaders represent the entire assembly. Then let all those in our towns who have married foreign women come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of each town, in order to avert the fierce anger of our God concerning this matter.” 15 Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah opposed this, with Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supporting them.
16 The exiles did what had been proposed. The priest Ezra selected men who were family heads, all identified by name, to represent their ancestral families. They convened on the first day of the tenth month to investigate the matter, 17 and by the first day of the first month they had dealt with all the men who had married foreign women.
18 The following were found to have married foreign women from the descendants of the priests:
from the descendants of Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah. 19 They pledged to send their wives away, and being guilty, they offered a ram from the flock for their guilt;
20 Hanani and Zebadiah from Immer’s descendants;
21 Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah from Harim’s descendants;
22 Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah from Pashhur’s descendants.
23 The Levites:
Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
24 The singers:
Shallum, Telem, and Uri.
25 The Israelites:
Parosh’s descendants: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malchijah, and Benaiah;
26 Elam’s descendants: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah;
27 Zattu’s descendants: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza;
28 Bebai’s descendants: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai;
29 Bani’s descendants: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth;
30 Pahath-moab’s descendants: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh;
31 Harim’s descendants: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32 Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah;
33 Hashum’s descendants: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei;
34 Bani’s descendants: Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, 36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasu, 38 Bani, Binnui, Shimei, 39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40 Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42 Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph;
43 Nebo’s descendants: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah.
44 All of these had married foreign women, and some of the wives had given birth to children.
Look at the beginning of chapter 9 again. Ezra was devastated when he found out God’s people had been unfaithful. He tore his tunic and pulled out hair from his head and beard. Being faithful to God is serious business. And we should be grieved when we see the unfaithfulness of his people. Here is the good news in the middle of this story…God is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to him. Let’s not take that for granted. Let’s not cheapen grace by living unfaithful lives knowing he will still love us.