After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, "Ezra, the Israelites, including the priests and Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the people around us. Those neighbors do evil things, as the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites did.
The Israelite men and their sons have married these women. They have mixed the people who belong to God with the people around them. The leaders and officers of Israel have led the rest of the Israelites to do this unfaithful thing."
When I heard this, I angrily tore my robe and coat, pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat down in shock.
Everyone who trembled in fear at the word of the God of Israel gathered around me because of the unfaithfulness of the captives who had returned. I sat there in shock until the evening sacrifice.
At the evening sacrifice I got up from where I had shown my shame. My robe and coat were torn, and I fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God.
I prayed, "My God, I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are so many. They are higher than our heads. Our guilt even reaches up to the sky.
From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we, our kings, and our priests have been punished by the sword and captivity. Foreign kings have taken away our things and shamed us, even as it is today.
"But now, for a short time, the Lord our God has been kind to us. He has let some of us come back from captivity and has let us live in safety in his holy place. And so our God gives us hope and a little relief from our slavery.
Even though we are slaves, our God has not left us. He caused the kings of Persia to be kind to us and has given us new life. We can rebuild the Temple and repair its ruins. And he has given us a wall to protect us in Judah and Jerusalem.
"But now, our God, what can we say after you have done all this? We have disobeyed your commands
that you gave through your servants the prophets. You said, 'The land you are entering to own is ruined; the people living there have spoiled it by the evil they do. Their evil filled the land with uncleanness from one end to the other.
So do not let your daughters marry their sons, and do not let their daughters marry your sons. Do not wish for their peace or success. Then you will be strong and eat the good things of the land. Then you can leave this land to your descendants forever.'
"What has happened to us is our own fault. We have done evil things, and our guilt is great. But you, our God, have punished us less than we deserve; you have left a few of us alive.
We should not again break your commands by allowing marriages with these wicked people. If we did, you would get angry enough to destroy us, and none of us would be left alive.
Lord, God of Israel, by your goodness a few of us are left alive today. We admit that we are guilty and none of us should be allowed to stand before you."
As Ezra was praying and confessing and cry- ing and throwing himself down in front of the Temple, a large group of Israelite men, women, and children gathered around him who were also crying loudly.
Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel the Elamite said to Ezra, "We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying women from the peoples around us. But even so, there is still hope for Israel.
Now let us make an agreement before our God. We will send away all these women and their children as you and those who respect the commands of our God advise. Let it be done to obey God's Teachings.
Get up, Ezra. You are in charge, and we will support you. Have courage and do it."
So Ezra got up and made the priests, Levites, and all the people of Israel promise to do what was suggested; and they promised.
Then Ezra left the Temple and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While Ezra was there, he did not eat or drink, because he was still sad about the unfaithfulness of the captives who had returned.
They sent an order in Judah and Jerusalem for all the captives who had returned to meet together in Jerusalem.
Whoever did not come to Jerusalem within three days would lose his property and would no longer be a member of the community of the returned captives. That was the decision of the officers and older leaders.
So within three days all the people of Judah and Benjamin gathered in Jerusalem. It was the twentieth day of the ninth month. All the people were sitting in the open place in front of the Temple and were upset because of the meeting and because it was raining.
Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have been unfaithful and have married non-Jewish women. You have made Israel more guilty.
Now, confess it to the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Do his will and separate yourselves from the people living around you and from your non-Jewish wives."
Then the whole group answered Ezra with a loud voice, "Ezra, you're right! We must do what you say.
But there are many people here, and it's the rainy season. We can't stand outside, and this problem can't be solved in a day or two, because we have sinned badly.
Let our officers make a decision for the whole group. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a non-Jewish woman meet with the older leaders and judges of each town at a planned time, until the hot anger of our God turns away from us."
Only Jonathan son of Asahel, Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, Meshullam, and Shabbethai the Levite were against the plan.
So the returned captives did what was suggested. Ezra the priest chose men who were leaders of the family groups and named one from each family division. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to study each case.
By the first day of the first month, they had finished with all the men who had married non-Jewish women.
These are the descendants of the priests who had married foreign women: From the descendants of Jeshua son of Jozadak and Jeshua's brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah.
(They all promised to divorce their wives, and each one brought a male sheep from the flock as a penalty offering.)
From the descendants of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah.
From the descendants of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah.
From the descendants of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
Among the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (also called Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
Among the singers: Eliashib. Among the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.
And among the other Israelites, these married non-Jewish women: From the descendants of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malkijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malkijah, and Benaiah.
From the descendants of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah.
From the descendants of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza.
From the descendants of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.
From the descendants of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth.
From the descendants of Pahath-Moab: Adna, Kelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh.
From the descendants of Harim: Eliezer, Ishijah, Malkijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,
Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah.
From the descendants of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei.
From the descendants of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel,
Benaiah, Bedeiah, Keluhi,
Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,
Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu.
From the descendants of Binnui: Shimei,
Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah,
Macnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,
Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah,
Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph.
From the descendants of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah.
All these men had married non-Jewish women, and some of them had children by these wives.
To Theophilus. The first book I wrote was about everything Jesus began to do and teach
until the day he was taken up into heaven. Before this, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Jesus told the apostles he had chosen what they should do.
After his death, he showed himself to them and proved in many ways that he was alive. The apostles saw Jesus during the forty days after he was raised from the dead, and he spoke to them about the kingdom of God.
Once when he was eating with them, he told them not to leave Jerusalem. He said, "Wait here to receive the promise from the Father which I told you about.
John baptized people with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
When the apostles were all together, they asked Jesus, "Lord, are you now going to give the kingdom back to Israel?"
Jesus said to them, "The Father is the only One who has the authority to decide dates and times. These things are not for you to know.
But when the Holy Spirit comes to you, you will receive power. You will be my witnesses -- in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world."
After he said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
As he was going, they were looking into the sky. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them.
They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go."
Then they went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. (This mountain is about half a mile from Jerusalem.)
When they entered the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon (known as the Zealot), and Judas son of James were there.
They all continued praying together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus' brothers.
During this time there was a meeting of the believers (about one hundred twenty of them). Peter stood up and said,
"Brothers and sisters, in the Scriptures the Holy Spirit said through David something that must happen involving Judas. He was one of our own group and served together with us. He led those who arrested Jesus."
(Judas bought a field with the money he got for his evil act. But he fell to his death, his body burst open, and all his intestines poured out.
Everyone in Jerusalem learned about this so they named this place Akeldama. In their language Akeldama means "Field of Blood.")
"In the Book of Psalms," Peter said, "this is written: 'May his place be empty; leave no one to live in it.'
And it is also written: 'Let another man replace him as leader.'
"So now a man must become a witness with us of Jesus' being raised from the dead. He must be one of the men who were part of our group during all the time the Lord Jesus was among us -- from the time John was baptizing people until the day Jesus was taken up from us to heaven."
They put the names of two men before the group. One was Joseph Barsabbas, who was also called Justus. The other was Matthias.
The apostles prayed, "Lord, you know the thoughts of everyone. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to do this work. Show us who should be an apostle in place of Judas, who turned away and went where he belongs."
Then they used lots to choose between them, and the lots showed that Matthias was the one. So he became an apostle with the other eleven.