Bible Society of South Africa

Bible Reading Plan – Day 253

Bible text(s)

Ezra Leads the People in Fasting and Prayer

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.

The Gifts for the Temple

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.

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.

The Return to 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.

Ezra Learns of Intermarriages with Non-Jews

1After 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. 12They 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.”

The Plan for Ending Mixed Marriages

1While Ezra was bowing in prayer in front of the Temple, weeping and confessing these sins, a large group of Israelites — men, women, and children — gathered round him, weeping bitterly. 2Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, of the clan of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have broken faith with God by marrying foreign women, but even so there is still hope for Israel. 3Now we must make a solemn promise to our God that we will send these women and their children away. We will do what you and the others who honour God's commands advise us to do. We will do what God's Law demands. 4It is your responsibility to act. We are behind you, so go ahead and get it done.”

5So 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 do what Shecaniah had proposed. 6Then he went from in front of the Temple into the living quarters of Jehohanan son of Eliashib, and spent the night there grieving over the unfaithfulness of the exiles. He did not eat or drink anything.

7A message was sent throughout Jerusalem and Judah that all those who had returned from exile were to meet in Jerusalem 8by order of the leaders of the people. If anyone failed to come within three days, all his property would be confiscated, and he would lose his right to be a member of the community. 9Within the three days, on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the men living in the territory of Judah and Benjamin came to Jerusalem and assembled in the temple square. It was raining hard, and because of the weather and the importance of the meeting everyone was trembling.

10Ezra the priest stood up and spoke to them. He said, “You have been faithless and have brought guilt on Israel by marrying foreign women. 11Now then, confess your sins to the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and do what pleases him. Separate yourselves from the foreigners living in our land and get rid of your foreign wives.”

12The people shouted in answer, “We will do whatever you say.” 13But they added, “The crowd is too big, and it's raining hard. We can't stand here in the open like this. This isn't something that can be done in one or two days, because so many of us are involved in this sin. 14Let our officials stay in Jerusalem and take charge of the matter. Then let anyone who has a foreign wife come at a set time, together with the leaders and the judges of his city. In this way God's anger over this situation will be turned away.” 15No one was opposed to the plan except Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, who had the support of Meshullam and of Shabbethai, a Levite.

16The returned exiles accepted the plan, so Ezra the priest appointed men from among the heads of the clans and recorded their names. On the first day of the tenth month they began their investigation, 17and within the next three months they investigated all the cases of men with foreign wives.

The Men who had Foreign Wives

18This is the list of the men who had foreign wives:

Priests, listed by clans:
    Clan of Joshua and his brothers, sons of Jehozadak: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah. 19They promised to divorce their wives, and they offered a ram as a sacrifice for their sins.
    20Clan of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah
    21Clan of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah
    22Clan of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
23Levites:
    Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (also called Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
24Musicians:
    Eliashib.
Temple guards:
    Shallum, Telem, and Uri.
25Others:
    Clan of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malchijah, and Benaiah
    26Clan of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah
    27Clan of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza
    28Clan of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai
    29Clan of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth
    30Clan of Pahath Moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh
    33Clan of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei
    43Clan of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah.

44All these men had foreign wives. They divorced them and sent them and their children away.

Ezra 8:21-10:44GNBOpen in Bible reader
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