Ezra wept, prostrate in front of The Temple of God. As he prayed and confessed, a huge number of the men, women, and children of Israel gathered around him. All the people were now weeping as if their hearts would break.
Shecaniah son of Jehiel of the family of Elam, acting as spokesman, said to Ezra: "We betrayed our God by marrying foreign wives from the people around here. But all is not lost; there is still hope for Israel.
Let's make a covenant right now with our God, agreeing to get rid of all these wives and their children, just as my master and those who honor God's commandment are saying. It's what The Revelation says, so let's do it.
"Now get up, Ezra. Take charge - we're behind you. Don't back down."
So Ezra stood up and had the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel solemnly swear to do what Shecaniah proposed. And they did it.
Then Ezra left the plaza in front of The Temple of God and went to the home of Jehohanan son of Eliashib where he stayed, still fasting from food and drink, continuing his mourning over the betrayal by the exiles.
A notice was then sent throughout Judah and Jerusalem ordering all the exiles to meet in Jerusalem.
Anyone who failed to show up in three days, in compliance with the ruling of the leaders and elders, would have all his possessions confiscated and be thrown out of the congregation of the returned exiles.
All the men of Judah and Benjamin met in Jerusalem within the three days. It was the twentieth day of the ninth month. They all sat down in the plaza in front of The Temple of God. Because of the business before them, and aggravated by the buckets of rain coming down on them, they were restless, uneasy, and anxious.
Ezra the priest stood up and spoke: "You've broken trust. You've married foreign wives. You've piled guilt on Israel.
Now make your confession to God, the God of your ancestors, and do what he wants you to do: Separate yourselves from the people of the land and from your foreign wives."
The whole congregation responded with a shout, "Yes, we'll do it - just the way you said it!"
They also said, "But look, do you see how many people there are out here? And it's the rainy season; you can't expect us to stand out here soaking wet until this is done - why, it will take days! A lot of us are deeply involved in this transgression.
Let our leaders act on behalf of the whole congregation. Have everybody who lives in cities and who has married a foreign wife come at an appointed time, accompanied by the elders and judges of each city. We'll keep at this until the hot anger of our God over this thing is turned away."
Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, supported by Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite, opposed this.
So the exiles went ahead with the plan. Ezra the priest picked men who were family heads, each one by name. They sat down together on the first day of the tenth month to pursue the matter.
By the first day of the first month they had finished dealing with every man who had married a foreign wife.
Among the families of priests, the following were found to have married foreign wives:
They all promised to divorce their wives and sealed it with a handshake. For their guilt they brought a ram from the flock as a Compensation-Offering.
The family of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah.
The family of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah.
The family of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
From the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah - that is, Kelita - Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
From the singers: Eliashib. From the temple security guards: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.
And from the other Israelites: The family of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malkijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malkijah, and Benaiah.
The family of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah.
The family of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza.
The family of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.
The family of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth.
The family of Pahath-Moab: Adna, Kelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh.
The family of Harim: Eliezer, Ishijah, Malkijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,
Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah.
The family of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei.
The family of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel,
Benaiah, Bedeiah, Keluhi,
Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,
Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu.
The family of Binnui: Shimei,
Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah,
Macnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,
Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah,
Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph.
The family of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah.
All these had married foreign wives and some had also had children by them.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)