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The Families Who Came Back with Ezra

Artaxerxes was king of Persia when I[a] led the following chiefs of the family groups from Babylonia to Jerusalem:

2-14 Gershom of the Phinehas family;
Daniel of the Ithamar family;
Hattush son of Shecaniah of the David family;
Zechariah and 150 other men of the Parosh family, who had family records;
Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah with 200 men of the Pahath Moab family;
Shecaniah son of Jahaziel with 300 men of the Zattu family;[b]
Ebed son of Jonathan with 50 men of the Adin family;
Jeshaiah son of Athaliah with 70 men of the Elam family;
Zebadiah son of Michael with 80 men of the Shephatiah family;
Obadiah son of Jehiel with 218 men of the Joab family;
Shelomith son of Josiphiah with 160 men of the Bani family;[c]
Zechariah son of Bebai with 28 men of the Bebai family;
Johanan son of Hakkatan with 110 men of the Azgad family;
Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah who returned sometime later with 60 men of the Adonikam family;
Uthai and Zaccur with 70 men of the Bigvai family.

Ezra Finds Levites for the Temple

15 I[d] brought everyone together by the river[e] that flows to the town of Ahava[f] where we camped for three days. Not one Levite could be found among the people and priests. 16 So I sent for the leaders Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam. I also sent for Joiarib and Elnathan, who were very wise. 17 Then I sent them to Iddo, the leader at Casiphia,[g] and I told them to ask him and his temple workers to send people to serve in God’s temple.

18 God was kind to us and had them send a skillful man named Sherebiah, who was a Levite from the family of Mahli. Eighteen of his relatives came with him. 19 We were also sent Hashabiah and Jeshaiah from the family of Merari along with twenty of their relatives. 20 In addition, 220 others came to help the Levites in the temple. The ancestors of these workers had been chosen years ago by King David[h] and his officials, and they were all listed by name.

Ezra Asks the People To Go without Eating and To Pray

21 Beside the Ahava River,[i] I[j] asked the people to go without eating[k] and to pray. We humbled ourselves and asked God to bring us and our children safely to Jerusalem with all of our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king to send soldiers and cavalry to protect us against enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king that our God takes care of everyone who truly worships him, but that he gets very angry and punishes anyone who refuses to obey. 23 So we went without food and asked God himself to protect us, and he answered our prayers.

The Gifts for the Temple

24 I[l] chose twelve of the leading priests—Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their relatives. 25-27 Then I weighed the gifts that had been given for God’s temple, and I divided them among the twelve priests I had chosen. There were gifts of silver and gold, as well as the articles that the king, his advisors and officials, and the people of Israel had contributed. In all there were: 25 tons of silver; 100 silver articles weighing 150 pounds; 7,500 pounds of gold; 20 gold bowls weighing 270 ounces; and 2 polished bronze articles as valuable as gold.

28 I said to the priests:

You belong to the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and these things also belong to him. The silver and gold were willingly given as gifts to the Lord. 29 Be sure to guard them and keep them safe until you reach Jerusalem. Then weigh them inside God’s temple in the presence of the chief priests, the Levites, and the heads of the Israelite families.

30 The priests and Levites then took charge of the gifts that had been weighed, so they could take them to the temple of our God in Jerusalem.

The Return to Jerusalem

31 On the twelfth day of the first month,[m] we left the Ahava River[n] and started for Jerusalem. Our God watched over us, and as we traveled along, he kept our enemies from ambushing us.

32 After arriving in Jerusalem, we rested for three days. 33 Then on the fourth day we went to God’s temple, where the silver, the gold, and the other things were weighed and given to the priest Meremoth son of Uriah. With him were Eleazar son of Phinehas and the two Levites, Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui. 34 Everything was counted, weighed, and recorded.

35 Those who had returned from exile offered sacrifices on the altar to the God of Israel. Twelve bulls were offered for all Israel. Ninety-six rams and seventy-seven[o] lambs were offered on the altar. And twelve goats were sacrificed for the sins of the people. 36 Some of those who had returned took the king’s orders to the governors and officials in Western Province. Then the officials did what they could for the people and for the temple of God.

Ezra Condemns Mixed Marriages

Later the Jewish leaders came to me[p] and said:

Many Israelites, including priests and Levites, are living just like the people around them. They are even guilty of some of the horrible sins of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.

Some Israelite men have married foreign women and have let their sons do the same thing. Our own officials and leaders were the first to commit this disgusting sin, and now God’s holy people are mixed with foreigners.

This news made me so angry that I ripped my clothes and tore hair from my head and beard. Then I just sat in shock until time for the evening sacrifice. Many of our people were greatly concerned and gathered around me, because the God of Israel had warned us to stay away from foreigners.

Ezra’s Prayer

At the time of the evening sacrifice, I was still sitting there in sorrow with my clothes all torn. So I got down on my knees, then lifted my arms, and prayed:

I am much too ashamed to face you, Lord God. Our sins and our guilt have swept over us like a flood that reaches up to the heavens. Since the time of our ancestors, all of us have sinned. That’s why we, our kings, and our priests have often been defeated by other kings. They have killed some of us and made slaves of others; they have taken our possessions and made us ashamed, just as we are today.

But for now, Lord God, you have shown great kindness to us. You made us truly happy by letting some of us settle in this sacred place and by helping us in our time of slavery. We are slaves, but you have never turned your back on us. You love us, and because of you, the kings of Persia have helped us. It’s as though you have given us new life! You let us rebuild your temple and live safely in Judah and Jerusalem.

10 Our God, what can we say now? Even after all this, we have disobeyed the commands 11 that were given to us by your servants the prophets. They said the land you are giving us is full of sinful and wicked people, who never stop doing disgusting things.[q] 12 And we were warned not to let our daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters.

Your prophets also told us never to help those foreigners or even let them live in peace. You wanted us to become strong and to enjoy the good things in the land, then someday to leave it to our children forever.

13 You punished us because of our terrible sins. But you did not punish us nearly as much as we deserve, and you have brought some of us back home. 14 Why should we disobey your commands again by letting our sons and daughters marry these foreigners who do such disgusting things? That would make you angry enough to destroy us all! 15 Lord God of Israel, you have been more than fair by letting a few of us survive. But once again, our sins have made us ashamed to face you.

The Plan for Ending Mixed Marriages

10 While Ezra was down on his knees in front of God’s temple, praying with tears in his eyes, and confessing the sins of the people of Israel, a large number of men, women, and children gathered around him and cried bitterly.

Shecaniah son of Jehiel from the family of Elam said:

Ezra, we have disobeyed God by marrying these foreign women. But there is still hope for the people of Israel, if we follow your advice and the advice of others who truly respect the laws of God. We must promise God that we will divorce our foreign wives and send them away, together with their children.

Ezra, it’s up to you to do something! We will support whatever you do. So be brave!

Ezra stood up and made the chief priests, the Levites, and everyone else in Israel swear that they would follow the advice of Shecaniah. Then Ezra left God’s temple and went to spend the night in the living quarters of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. He felt sorry for what the people had done, and he did not eat or drink a thing.

7-8 The officials and leaders sent a message to all who had returned from Babylonia and were now living in Jerusalem and Judah. It told them to meet in Jerusalem within three days, or else they would lose everything they owned and would no longer be considered part of the people that had returned from Babylonia.

Three days later, on the twentieth day of the ninth month,[r] everyone from Judah and Benjamin came to Jerusalem and sat in the temple courtyard. It was a serious meeting, and they sat there, trembling in the rain.

10 Ezra the priest stood up and said:

You have broken God’s Law by marrying foreign women, and you have made the whole nation guilty! 11 Now you must confess your sins to the Lord God of your ancestors and obey him. Divorce your foreign wives and don’t have anything to do with the rest of the foreigners who live around here.

12 Everyone in the crowd shouted:

You’re right! We will do what you say. 13 But there are so many of us, and we can’t just stay out here in this downpour. A lot of us have sinned by marrying foreign women, and the matter can’t be settled in only a day or two.

14 Why can’t our officials stay on in Jerusalem and take care of this for us? Let everyone who has sinned in this way meet here at a certain time with leaders and judges from their own towns. If we take care of this problem, God will surely stop being so terribly angry with us.

15 Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah were the only ones who objected, except for the two Levites, Meshullam and Shabbethai.

16 Everyone else who had returned from exile agreed with the plan. So Ezra the priest chose men[s] who were heads of the families, and he listed their names. They started looking into the matter on the first day of the tenth month,[t] 17 and they did not finish until the first day of the first month[u] of the next year.

The Men Who Had Foreign Wives

18-19 Here is a list of the priests who had agreed to divorce their foreign wives and to sacrifice a ram as a sin offering:

Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah from the family of Joshua son of Jozadak and his brothers; 20 Hanani and Zebadiah from the family of Immer; 21 Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah from the family of Harim; 22 Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah from the family of Pashhur.

23 Those Levites who had foreign wives were: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (also known as Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.

24 Eliashib, the musician, had a foreign wife.

These temple guards had foreign wives:

Shallum, Telem, and Uri.

25 Here is a list of the others from Israel who had foreign wives:

Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Hashabiah,[v] and Benaiah from the family of Parosh;

26 Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah from the family of Elam;

27 Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza from the family of Zattu;

28 Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai from the family of Bebai;

29 Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth from the family of Bani;

30 Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh from the family of Pahath Moab;

31-32 Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah from the family of Harim;

33 Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei from the family of Hashum;

34-37 Maadai, Amram, Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu from the family of Bani;

38-42 Shimei, Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph from the family of Binnui;[w]

43 Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah from the family of Nebo.

44 These men divorced their foreign wives, then sent them and their children away.[x]


  1. 8.1 I: Ezra.
  2. 8.2-14 of the Zattu family: One ancient translation; these words are not in the Hebrew text, but see 2.2-20, where Zattu is mentioned.
  3. 8.2-14 of the Bani family: One ancient translation; these words are not in the Hebrew text, but see 2.2-20.
  4. 8.15 I: See the note at 8.1.
  5. 8.15 river: Or “canal.”
  6. 8.15 town of Ahava: A town (or place) in Babylonia, but the exact location is unknown.
  7. 8.17 Casiphia: The location is not known.
  8. 8.20 King David: See the note at 3.10.
  9. 8.21 River: See the note at 8.15.
  10. 8.21 I: See the note at 8.1.
  11. 8.21 to go without eating: The Jews often went without eating as a way of worshiping God. This is sometimes called “fasting.”
  12. 8.24 I: See the note at 8.1.
  13. 8.31 first month: See the note at 6.19.
  14. 8.31 River: See the note at 8.15.
  15. 8.35 seventy-seven: Or “seventy-two.”
  16. 9.1 me: Ezra.
  17. 9.11 doing disgusting things: Probably worshiping idols.
  18. 10.9 ninth month: Chislev, the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar, from about mid-November to mid-December.
  19. 10.16 So. . . men: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  20. 10.16 tenth month: Tebeth, the tenth month of the Hebrew calendar, from about mid-December to mid-January.
  21. 10.17 first month: See the note at 6.19.
  22. 10.25 Hashabiah: One ancient translation; Hebrew “Malchijah.”
  23. 10.38-42 from the family of Binnui: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  24. 10.44 away: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 44.