1On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses so that the people could hear [its words], and in it was found written that [a]no Ammonite or Moabite could ever enter the assembly of God, 2 because they did not meet the Israelites with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. Yet our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 When the Jews heard the law, they separated from Israel all who were of foreign descent.
Tobiah Expelled and the Temple Cleansed
4 Now prior to this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and was [b]related to Tobiah [our adversary], 5 had prepared for Tobiah a large room (chamber) where previously they had put the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils, and the tithes of grain, new wine, and [olive] oil which were given by commandment for the Levites, the singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. 6 But during all this time I was not at Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes [Persian] king of Babylon I went to the king. Then after some time I asked for a leave [of absence] from the king, 7 and I came to Jerusalem. Then I discovered the evil [thing] that Eliashib had done for Tobiah by preparing a room for him in the courtyards of the house of God. 8 It was very displeasing to me, so I threw all of Tobiah’s household furnishings out of the room. 9 Then I gave an order, and they cleaned the rooms; and I put back there the utensils of the house of God with the grain offerings and the frankincense.
10 I also discovered that the portions due the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers who did the work had gone away, each one back to his own field. 11 Then I reprimanded the officials and said, “Why is the house of God neglected?” So I gathered the Levites and singers together and restored them at their posts. 12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, the new wine, and the oil to the storehouses. 13 I appointed [as treasurers] over the storehouses: Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah of the Levites; assisting them was Hanan son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were considered faithful and reliable, and their task was to distribute [supplies] to their brothers (fellow Levites). 14 O my God, remember me concerning this and do not wipe out my loyal deeds and kindnesses which I have done for the house of my God and for its services.
15 In those days I saw some in Judah who were treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves or sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. So I protested and warned them on the day they sold the produce. 16 Also men of Tyre were living there who brought fish and all kinds of merchandise, and they were selling them to the people of Judah on the Sabbath, even in Jerusalem. 17 Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah, and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing—profaning the Sabbath day? 18 Did your fathers (ancestors) not do the same, and did our God not bring all this trouble on us and on this city? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”
19 Now when it began to get dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath [began], I commanded that the doors be shut and not be opened until after the Sabbath. Then I stationed some of my servants at the gates so that no load [of merchandise] would enter [Jerusalem] on the Sabbath day. 20 So once or twice the merchants and sellers of every kind of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem. 21 But I warned them, saying, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do so again, I will [c]use force against you.” From that time on, they did not come on the Sabbath. 22 And I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and come and guard the gates to keep the Sabbath day holy. O my God, remember me concerning this also and have compassion on me according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness.
Mixed Marriages Forbidden
23 In those days I also saw Jews who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 As for their children, half spoke in the language of Ashdod, and none of them knew how to speak [Hebrew] the language of Judah, but only the language of his own people. 25 So I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters [in marriage] to their sons, nor take [any of] their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin [greatly against God] regarding these things? Yet among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless the foreign women caused even him to sin [by turning to other gods and so, judged by God, he lost his kingdom]. 27 Do we then hear about you that you have done all this great evil, acting unfaithfully against our God by marrying foreign (pagan) women?” 28 One of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite, so I chased him away from me. 29 O my God, remember them, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.
30 Thus I cleansed and purified them from everything foreign (pagan), and I defined the duties of the priests and Levites, each one in his task; 31 and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times and for the first fruits. O my God, [please] remember me for good [and imprint me on Your heart].