1At that time the Book of Moses was read out loud. All the people heard it. It was written there that no Ammonite or Moabite could ever become a member of God’s community. 2That’s because they hadn’t given the people of Israel food and water. Instead, they had hired Balaam to put a curse on them. But our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3When that law was read, the people of Judah obeyed it. They sent out of Israel everyone who was from another nation.
4Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms in the house of our God. He had worked closely with Tobiah. 5He had also provided a large room for Tobiah. It had been used to store the grain offerings. The incense and the objects for the temple had been put there. And a tenth of the grain, olive oil and fresh wine had been kept there. That’s what the Law required for the Levites. That’s also what it required for the musicians and the men who guarded the temple gates. The gifts for the priests had been kept there too.
6But I wasn’t in Jerusalem while all of that was going on. I had returned to the Persian King Artaxerxes, the king of Babylon. I went to him in the 32nd year of his rule. Some time later I asked him to let me return to Jerusalem. 7When I got back, I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done. He had provided a room for Tobiah. It was in the courtyards of God’s house. 8So I was very unhappy. I threw all of Tobiah’s things out of the room. 9I gave orders to make the rooms pure and “clean” again. Then I put the supplies from God’s house back into them. That included the grain offerings and the incense.
10I also learned that the shares the Levites were supposed to receive hadn’t been given to them. So all the Levites and musicians had to leave their regular temple duties. They had to go back and farm their own fields. 11I gave a warning to the officials. I asked them, “Why aren’t you taking care of God’s house?” Then I brought the Levites and musicians together. I stationed them in their proper places. I put them back to work.
12All the people of Judah brought a tenth of the grain, olive oil and fresh wine. They took it to the storerooms. 13I put some men in charge of the storerooms. They were Shelemiah, Zadok and Pedaiah. Shelemiah was a priest. Zadok was a teacher of the law. And Pedaiah was a Levite. I made Hanan their assistant. He was the son of Zakkur. Zakkur was the son of Mattaniah. I knew that these men could be trusted. They were put in charge of handing out the supplies to the other Levites.
14You are my God. Remember me because of what I’ve done. I’ve worked faithfully for your temple and its services. So please don’t forget the good things I’ve done.
15In those days I saw some people of Judah stomping on grapes in winepresses. They were doing it on the Sabbath day. Other people were bringing in grain. They were loading it on donkeys. Still other people were loading up wine, grapes, figs and other kinds of things. They were bringing all of it into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. So I warned them not to sell food on that day. 16People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish. In fact, they were bringing in all kinds of goods. They were selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. The people of Judah were buying them. 17I gave a warning to the nobles of Judah. I said, “Why are you doing such an evil thing? You are misusing the Sabbath day! 18Your people of long ago did the very same things. That’s why our God has brought all this trouble on us. That’s why he’s making this city suffer so much. Now you are making him even angrier against Israel. You are misusing the Sabbath day.”
19Evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath day started. So I ordered the gates to be shut. They had to remain closed until the Sabbath day was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates. I told them not to let anything be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20Once or twice some traders and sellers spent the night outside Jerusalem. They were hoping to sell all kinds of goods. 21But I gave them a warning. I said, “Why are you spending the night by the wall? If you do this again, I’ll arrest you.” So from that time on they didn’t come on the Sabbath day anymore. 22I commanded the Levites to make themselves pure. Then I told them to go and guard the gates. I wanted the Sabbath day to be kept holy.
You are my God. Remember me because of the good things I’ve done. Be kind to me according to your great love.
23In those days I also saw that some men of Judah had married women from Ashdod. Others had married women from Ammon or Moab. 24Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod. Or they spoke the language of one of the other nations. They didn’t even know how to speak the language of Judah. 25So I gave them a warning. I cursed them. I beat up some of them. I pulled their hair out. I had them make a promise in God’s name. I said, “You must promise not to give your daughters to be married to their sons. You must promise not to let their daughters marry your sons. And you must not marry their daughters either. 26That’s how Solomon, the king of Israel, sinned. He married women from other nations. There wasn’t a king like him anywhere. His God loved him. In fact, God made him king over the whole nation of Israel. But even he was led into sin by women from other lands. 27Now I hear that you too are doing all of the same terrible and evil things. You aren’t being faithful to our God. You are marrying women from other lands.”
28One of the sons of Joiada was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Joiada, the son of Eliashib, was the high priest. I drove Joiada’s son away from me.
29You are my God. Remember what those priests have done. They have brought shame to their own work. They have also brought shame to the covenant that God made with the priests and Levites long ago.
30So I made the priests and Levites pure. I made them pure from every practice that had come from other countries and had made them impure. I gave them their duties. Each one had his own job to do. 31I also made plans for gifts of wood to be brought at certain appointed times. And I made plans for the first share of the crops to be brought.
You are my God. Please remember me with kindness.
Nehemiah’s Final Reforms
1On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, 2because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) 3When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent.
4Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, 5and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil prescribed for the Levites, musicians and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests.
6But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission 7and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. 8I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. 9I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense.
10I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. 11So I rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?” Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts.
12All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil into the storerooms. 13I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zakkur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because they were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their fellow Levites.
14Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.
15In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. 16People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. 17I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? 18Didn’t your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”
19When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. 21But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. 22Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.
Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.
23Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. 24Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. 25I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves. 26Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. 27Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?”
28One of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest was son-in-law to Sanballat the Horonite. And I drove him away from me.
29Remember them, my God, because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites.
30So I purified the priests and the Levites of everything foreign, and assigned them duties, each to his own task. 31I also made provision for contributions of wood at designated times, and for the firstfruits.
Remember me with favor, my God.