Sometime later, during Artaxerxes' rule as the king of the Persians, Ezra arrived. He was the son of Seraiah son of Azariah son of Hilkiah son of Shallum
son of Zadok son of Ahitub son of Amariah son of Uzzi son of Bukki son of Abishua son of Phinehas son of Eleazar son of the high priest Aaron.
Ezra came up from Babylon as a legal expert well trained in the Law from Moses, a gift from the God of Israel.
The king showed him honor because he found favor with the king in all of his requests.
Going up to Jerusalem with him were some of the Israelites and some of the priests, Levites, temple singers, gatekeepers, and temple servants, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes' rule, in the fifth month.
They left Babylon on the new moon of the first month and arrived in Jerusalem on the new moon of the fifth month, since the Lord gave them a safe journey.
Ezra had such a great understanding that he left out nothing from the Law that came from the Lord or the commandments, but he taught Israel all the regulations and decisions.
The following is a copy of the written decree from King Artaxerxes that he gave to Ezra the priest and reader of the Law from the Lord:
King Artaxerxes to Ezra the priest and reader of the Law from the Lord. Greetings.
In accordance with my humane policies, I have given orders that those who are mindful of the Judean people and of the priests, Levites, and others in our kingdom, those who wish to do so, may accompany you to Jerusalem.
Therefore, let all who wish to do so join with you, just as I and my seven advisors have agreed,
so that they might take an interest in matters in Judea and in Jerusalem, according to the Law from the Lord.
They might bring to Jerusalem the gifts for the Lord of Israel that I and my advisors have solemnly promised. They might acquire for the Lord in Jerusalem all the gold and silver that may be found in the country of Babylonia, together with what the nation gives them for the Lord's temple in Jerusalem.
Gold and silver for bulls, rams, lambs, and what goes with them should be collected
so that sacrifices may be offered on their Lord's altar in Jerusalem.
Whatever you and your people wish to do with the gold and silver, do it according to God's will.
Deliver the Lord's holy equipment that is given to you for use in your God's temple in Jerusalem.
Whatever else you think of that is needed in your God's temple, pay for it out of the royal treasury.
I, King Artaxerxes, have commanded the treasurers of Syria and Phoenicia so that whatever Ezra the priest and reader of the Law of the Most High God sends for, they should give to him completely, up to one hundred talents of silver,
up to one hundred kors of wheat, one hundred baths of wine, and a lot of salt.
Let everything be carried out for the Most High God strictly according to God's Law, so that God's wrath may not come on the king's empire and his family.
Also no foreign tax or any other fine should be placed on any of the priests, Levites, temple singers, gatekeepers, temple servants, or people working on this temple. No one has authority to impose anything on them.
You, Ezra, according to God's wisdom, should appoint judges and justices to have jurisdiction over all those who know the Law from your God, throughout all Syria and Phoenicia. You should teach it to those who don't know it.
All who disobey the Law from your God or the royal law will be strictly punished, whether by death or some other punishment, either fine or arrest.
Bless the Lord alone, who put this into the king's heart, to glorify his house in Jerusalem,
and who honored me before the king, the counselors, all of his political advisors, and officials.
I was encouraged by my God's help, and I gathered people from Israel to go up with me.
These are the leaders, according to their families and their divisions, who went up with me from Babylon, in King Artaxerxes' rule:
From the family of Phinehas, Gershom. From the family of Ithamar, Gamael. From the family of David, Hattush, Shecaniah's son.
From the family of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him 150 men registered.
From the family of Pahath-moab, Eliehoenai, Zerahiah's son and with him 200 men.
From the family of Zattu, Shecaniah, Jahaziel's son and with him 300 men. From the family of Adin, Obed, Jonathan's son and with him 250 men.
From the family of Elam, Jeshaiah, Gotholiah's son and with him 70 men.
From the family of Shephatiah, Zeraiah, Michael's son and with him 70 men.
From the family of Joab, Obadiah, Jehiel's son and with him 212 men.
From the family of Bani, Shelomith, Josiphiah's son and with him 160 men.
From the family of Bebai, Zechariah, Bebai's son and with him 28 men.
From the family of Azgad, Johanan, Hakkatan's son and with him 110 men.
From the family of Adonikam, the last ones, their names were Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them 70 men.
From the family of Bigvai, Uthai, Istalcurus' son and with him 70 men.
I assembled them at the Theras River, where I inspected them. We camped at that place for three days.
When I found no families from the priests or the Levites there,
I sent word to Eleazar, Iduel, Maasmas, Elnathan, Shemaiah, Jarib, Nathan, Elnathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, who were the leaders and persons of great learning.
I told them to go to Iddo, who was the official in charge at the residence of the treasury,
and ordered them to ask Iddo and his relatives and the treasurers at that place to send us some persons to serve as priests in the Lord's house.
By the Lord's direction, they brought us knowledgeable persons from the family of Mahli, Levi's son, and grandson of Israel, namely Sherebiah with eighteen members of his family;
also Hashabiah, Annunus, and a brother Jeshaiah, from the family of Hananiah, and their family, twenty persons in all.
Of the temple servants, whom David and the leaders had given for the service of the Levites, they brought us two hundred twenty temple servants. All their names were listed in the register.
Then I announced a fast for the young people before our Lord,
to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, for those with us, our children and our farm animals.
I was ashamed to ask the king for infantry, cavalry, and an escort for safety from our enemies,
because we told the king, "The Lord's guidance will be with those who diligently seek after him, until everything is put right again."
So we prayed to our Lord about these things, and we obtained mercy.
I chose twelve of the leaders of the priestly families, Sherebiah and Hashabiah, and ten of their companions.
I weighed out for them the silver, the gold, and the holy equipment from the Lord's house, which the king himself, his advisors, the officials, and all Israel had contributed.
I presented to them six hundred fifty talents of silver, silver equipment worth one hundred talents, one hundred talents of gold, twenty gold bowls, and twelve bronze objects of such fine quality that it glittered like gold.
I told them, "You are holy to the Lord, and the equipment is holy, and the silver and the gold are solemnly committed to the Lord, the Lord of our ancestors.
Be alert and careful until you hand them over to the leaders of the priestly families, to the Levites, and to the heads of the family houses of Israel, in Jerusalem, in the inner rooms of the Lord's house."
So the priests and the Levites carried the silver, the gold, and the equipment, which was in Jerusalem, and brought them to the Lord's temple.
On the twelfth day of the first month, we left the Theras River and arrived in Jerusalem by the Lord's guidance. The Lord rescued us from every enemy on the way, and we arrived in Jerusalem.
After being there for three days, the silver and gold were weighed and handed over to the Lord's house, to the priest Meremoth, Uriah's son.
With him was Eleazar, Phinehas' son, and with them were the Levites Jozabad, Jeshua's son, and Moeth, Binnui's son. The whole collection was counted and weighed, and the total weight was recorded at that very moment.
All those who had returned from exile offered sacrifices to the Lord God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-two lambs, and twelve male goats as a well-being offering—all as a sacrifice to the Lord.
They delivered the king's orders to the royal managers and to the commanders of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia. These officials honored the people and the Lord's temple.
After these things happened, the leaders came to me and said,
"The people of Israel, the rulers, the priests, and the Levites haven't separated themselves from the impurities in the foreign neighboring peoples: the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Edomites.
They and their families have intermarried with their daughters, and the holy nation has been intermixed with the land's foreigners. The leaders and the officials have been sharing in this unlawful practice right from the start."
As soon as I heard about these things, I tore my clothes and my priest's robe. I pulled out hair from my head and beard, and I sat down depressed and very sad.
Everyone who was moved by the word of the Lord of Israel gathered around me as I mourned over this unlawful deed, and I sat there depressed until the evening sacrifice.
After rising from my fast, with my clothes and priest's robe still torn, I knelt down, stretching out my hands to the Lord, and spoke:
Lord, I'm ashamed and disgraced before you.
Our sins are greater than what we imagined. Our ignorant deeds have reached heaven.
From the times of our ancestors, we exist in great sin to this very day.
Because of our sin and our ancestors' sin, we were handed over—with our brothers, sisters, kings, and priests—to the kings of the earth for death, exile, and plunder. We continue to bear the shame until today.
But you, Lord, have shown to us a measure of mercy, to leave for us a descendant and honor in your holy place,
to uncover a light for us in the Lord's house, and to give us nourishment in the time of our slavery.
Even in our servitude we weren't forgotten, but the Lord showed us favor among the kings of the Persians
so that they've given us provisions, honored the Lord's temple, and rebuilt the ruins of Zion, to give us a solid place in Judea and Jerusalem.
Now that we have these things, what will we say, Lord? We have violated your commandments, which you gave by your servants the prophets:
"The land that you are about to possess is a land polluted with the foreigners of the land. The foreigners have filled it with their impurity.
So don't give your daughters in marriage to their sons, and don't take their daughters for your sons.
Don't seek at any time to make a peace treaty with them, so that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and pass it on as an inheritance to your children forever."
All that has happened to us has resulted from our evil deeds and our great sins.
For you, Lord, removed our sins, and you gave us such a root as this. Yet we again turned away to disobey your Law by intermixing with the impure of the neighboring peoples.
Weren't you angry enough with us to destroy us without leaving a root or a descendant or our honor?
Lord of Israel, you are true. We are left as a root this very day.
Look! We are now before you in our immorality. We can't stand in your presence anymore because of these things.
While Ezra was praying and offering up his confession, weeping in the dust before the temple, a very large crowd of men, women, and youth from Jerusalem gathered around him. There was great weeping among the people.
Then Shecaniah, Jehiel's son, one of the men of Israel, shouted to Ezra, "We have sinned against the Lord, and we have married foreign women from the neighboring peoples. Yet there is hope for Israel.
Let's swear a pledge to the Lord about this matter, to divorce all of our foreign wives, with their children, as it seems just to you and to as many who follow the Lord's Law.
Stand up and take part, for it is your duty, and we are with you to act with resolve."
Then Ezra stood up and made the leaders of the priests and Levites of all Israel swear to do as was said, and they swore that they would.