Nehemiah 13 The Voice (VOICE)
13 Later that day, when the book of Moses was being read to the people, we discovered a passage that said no Ammonite or Moabite should be allowed to enter the sacred gatherings of God’s people.[a]
2 This prohibition went back to the time when our ancestors wandered in the desert—when the Ammonites and the Moabites refused to welcome the Israelites with food and drink. In fact, they hired Balaam to curse them. But it didn’t work. God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 As soon as people heard what God’s law said, they excluded anyone with any non-Israelite descent from Israel.
4-5 Before that happened, the priest named Eliashib took a large storeroom in the temple of God and gave it to Tobiah the Ammonite for his use. Eliashib was in charge of the storerooms, and Tobiah was a relative of his. Before he gave it to Tobiah, it had been used to store many different things for use in the temple: the grain offerings, the incense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil for the Levites, the singers, and the gatekeepers—also the offerings for the priests. 6 I was not in Jerusalem when Eliashib did this. It was the 32nd year of the reign of Artaxerxes, king of Persia,[b] and I had returned to make a report to him. Later on I asked his permission to return 7 to Jerusalem. When I arrived, I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done by giving Tobiah a room in the courts of the temple of the True God, a place he wasn’t even allowed to enter because of his heritage. 8 I was livid. In my anger, I threw all of Tobiah’s property out of the room. 9 Then I had them purify the rooms and restore what was supposed to be there—the sacred vessels, the grain offerings, and the incense.
10 I also learned that the portion of the offering that belonged to the Levites had not been given to them. As a result, the Levites and singers who were responsible for leading God’s people in worship returned to work on their farms instead. 11 I went straight to the leaders responsible for this and confronted them, asking, “Why are you neglecting God’s temple?” I reassembled the leaders who had returned home and placed them back at their posts. 12 This allowed the people of Judah to bring their tithes of grain, wine, and olive oil into the storehouses again. 13 I placed trustworthy men in charge of the storerooms: Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah. I brought Hanan (Zaccur’s son and Mattaniah’s grandson) on as their assistant. It was their responsibility to make sure the daily rations were distributed to their relatives.
Nehemiah: 14 O God—my God—remember this good thing I have done. Do not forget the way I have served Your temple and its servants.
15 At that same time, I looked around Judah and saw men working the winepresses on the Sabbath. Others I found bringing large loads of grain to be loaded on donkeys. Wine, grapes, figs—they brought every kind of load into Jerusalem on the Sabbath no matter the season. I warned them about selling food on the Sabbath, just as they were doing it. 16 There were men from Tyre living in Jerusalem. They also brought fish and all kinds of merchandise into Jerusalem and sold it to the people of Judah on the Sabbath, even in Jerusalem. 17 I confronted the leaders of Judah, whom I held responsible for the public’s actions.
Nehemiah: Why are you doing what you know is wicked? You are desecrating the Sabbath! 18 Tell me how this is different from what we just confessed about our ancestors and their sin. This is the thing that provoked God’s judgment and the destruction of this very city. You are fueling the fire of judgment for Israel by desecrating the Sabbath!
19 As the sun was setting before the Sabbath and darkness fell over Jerusalem’s gates, I ordered the doors to be closed. I required them to remain closed until the Sabbath ended. I placed some of my own guards by the gates to ensure no load of merchandise could be brought into the city during the Sabbath, but Jerusalem’s citizens could still come and go. 20 On a couple of different occasions, some traders and merchants of a great variety of goods slept by the gates outside the wall. 21 They also received a warning from me.
Nehemiah: What are you up to, sleeping here outside the wall? If I find you here again, you will be removed by force!
They never came back on the Sabbath again. 22 I ordered the Levites to go through the purifying rituals and then to come back and guard the gates so that the Sabbath would be kept holy.
Nehemiah: O God—my God—remember my actions. Because of Your great love, show me mercy.
23 During that same time, I witnessed men from Judah marrying women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah or understand our laws but only the languages of their peoples. 25 I rebuked and cursed them. Some of them I beat, and I tore out their hair. I made them take an oath in the name of God.
Nehemiah: You will not let your daughters marry their sons, nor will you accept their daughters as wives for yourselves or your sons! 26 This is the very thing that caused King Solomon’s downfall. In all the world, there was no king like him. God loved him dearly and made him king over all Israel. Yet these foreign wives led Solomon into sin. 27 Now we discover that you have embraced the same wicked ways, betraying our God by marrying these foreign women.
28 Even the family of High Priest Eliashib was guilty. One of his grandsons, a son of Joiada, married one of the daughters of Sanballat the Horonite. I drove him away from me.
Nehemiah: 29 O God—my God—remember how these men polluted the priesthood and the sacred vows of the priests and Levites.
30 Once more we went through the rituals of purification, removing every foreign object. I reassigned the priests and the Levites to their tasks; everyone had a specific job to do. 31 I made sure the altar was supplied with the offering of wood and the offerings of firstfruits, too—each at the right time.
Nehemiah: O God—my God—remember me with favor.
Nehemiah 13 New International Version (NIV)
Nehemiah’s Final Reforms
13 On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, 2 because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) 3 When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent.
4 Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, 5 and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil prescribed for the Levites, musicians and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests.
6 But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission 7 and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. 8 I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. 9 I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense.
10 I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. 11 So I rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?” Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts.
12 All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil into the storerooms. 13 I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zakkur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because they were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their fellow Levites.
14 Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.
15 In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. 16 People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. 17 I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? 18 Didn’t your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”
19 When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. 21 But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.
Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.
23 Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. 25 I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. 27 Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?”
28 One of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest was son-in-law to Sanballat the Horonite. And I drove him away from me.
29 Remember them, my God, because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites.
30 So I purified the priests and the Levites of everything foreign, and assigned them duties, each to his own task. 31 I also made provision for contributions of wood at designated times, and for the firstfruits.
Remember me with favor, my God.