Contemporary English Version
A List of Priests and Levites
12 Many priests and Levites had returned from Babylonia with Zerubbabel[a] and Joshua as their leaders. Those priests were Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3 Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4 Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, 5 Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, 6 Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and another Jedaiah. These were the leading priests and their assistants during the time of Joshua.[b]
8 The Levites who returned were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah. They and their assistants were responsible for the songs of praise, 9 while Bakbukiah and Unno, together with their assistants, were responsible for the choral responses.
Descendants of Joshua the High Priest
10 Joshua was the father of Joiakim, the grandfather of Eliashib, and the great-grandfather of Joiada. 11 Joiada was the father of Jonathan and the grandfather of Jaddua.
Leaders of the Priestly Clans
12 When Joiakim was high priest, the following priests were leaders of their clans: Meraiah of the Seraiah clan, Hananiah of Jeremiah, 13 Meshullam of Ezra, Jehohanan of Amariah, 14 Jonathan of Malluchi, Joseph of Shebaniah, 15 Adna of Harim, Helkai of Meraioth, 16 Zechariah of Iddo, Meshullam of Ginnethon, 17 Zichri of Abijah,[c] Piltai of Moadiah, 18 Shammua of Bilgah, Jehonathan of Shemaiah, 19 Mattenai of Joiarib, Uzzi of Jedaiah, 20 Kallai of Sallai, Eber of Amok, 21 Hashabiah of Hilkiah, and Nethanel of Jedaiah.
The Priestly and Levite Families
22 During the time of the high priests Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, and including the time that Darius was king of Persia, a record was kept of the heads of the Levite and priestly families. 23 However, no official record was kept of the heads of the Levite clans after the death of Johanan,[d] the grandson of Eliashib.
24 Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel,[e] and their assistants organized two choirs of Levites to offer praises to God, just as King David, the man of God, had commanded.
25 Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were responsible for guarding the storerooms near the temple gates.
26 All of these men lived during the time of Joiakim[f] and during the time that I was governor and Ezra, a teacher of the Law of Moses, was priest.
Nehemiah Dedicates the City Wall
27 When the city wall was dedicated, Levites from everywhere in Judah were invited to join in the celebration with songs of praise and with the music of cymbals, small harps, and other stringed instruments. 28-29 The Levite singers lived in villages around Jerusalem, and so they came from there, as well as from the villages around Netophah, Beth-Gilgal, Geba, and Azmaveth. 30 The priests and Levites held special ceremonies to make themselves holy, and then they did the same for the rest of the people and for the gates and walls of the city.
31 I brought the leaders of Judah to the top of the city wall and put them in charge of the two groups that were to march around on top of the wall, singing praises to God. One group marched to the right in the direction of Garbage Gate. 32 Hoshaiah and half of the leaders followed them. 33 Then came the priests Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, 35 all of them blowing trumpets. Next, there was Zechariah of the Asaph clan[g] 36 and his relatives, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani. They played musical instruments like those that had been played by David, the man of God. And they marched behind Ezra, the teacher of the Law. 37 When they reached Fountain Gate, they climbed the steps to David’s City and went past his palace, before stopping at the Water Gate near the eastern wall of the city.
38 The second group of singers marched along the wall in the opposite direction, and I followed them, together with the other half of the leaders of Judah. We went past Oven Tower, Broad Wall, 39 Ephraim Gate, Old Gate, Fish Gate, Hananel Tower, Hundred Tower, and on to Sheep Gate. Finally, we stopped at Gate of the Guard, 40 where we stood in front of the temple with the other group, praising God. In the group with me were half of the leaders, 41 as well as the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, who were blowing trumpets. 42 Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer also stood there, as Jezrahiah led the singers. 43 God had made the people very happy, and so on that day they celebrated and offered many sacrifices. The women and children joined in the festivities, and joyful shouts could be heard far from the city of Jerusalem.
Preparation for Worship
44 On that same day, some leaders were appointed to be responsible for the safekeeping of gifts for the temple and to be in charge of receiving the first part of the harvest and the ten percent of the crops and livestock that was offered to God. These same leaders also collected the part of crops that the Law of Moses taught was to be given to the Levites.
Everyone was pleased with the work of the priests and Levites, 45 when they performed the ceremonies to make people acceptable to worship God. And the singers and the temple guards did their jobs according to the instructions given by David and his son Solomon. 46 In fact, ever since the days of David and Asaph, there had been song leaders and songs of praise and worship. 47 During the time that Zerubbabel and I were in charge, everyone in Israel gave what they were supposed to give for the daily needs of the singers and temple guards from the Levi tribe. Then the Levites would give the priests their share from what they had received.
Foreigners Are Sent Away
13 On that day when the Law of Moses was read aloud to everyone, it was discovered that Ammonites and Moabites were forbidden to belong to the people of God. 2 This was because they had refused to give food and water to Israel and had hired Balaam[h] to call down a curse on them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 Following the reading of the Law of Moses, the people of Israel started sending away anyone who had any foreign ancestors.
Nehemiah Makes Other Changes
4 The priest Eliashib was a relative of Tobiah and had earlier been put in charge of the temple storerooms. 5 So he let Tobiah live in one of these rooms, where all kinds of things had been stored—the grain offerings, incense, utensils for the temple, as well as the tenth of the grain, wine, and olive oil that had been given for the use of the Levites, singers, and temple guards, and the gifts for the priests.
6 This happened in the thirty-second year that Artaxerxes[i] ruled Babylonia. I was away from Jerusalem at the time, because I was visiting him. Later I received permission from the king 7 to return to Jerusalem. Only then did I find out that Eliashib had done this terrible thing of letting Tobiah have a room in the temple. 8 It upset me so much that I threw out every bit of Tobiah’s furniture. 9 Then I ordered the room to be cleaned and the temple utensils, the grain offerings, and the incense to be brought back into the room.
10 I also found out that the temple singers and several other Levites had returned to work on their farms, because they had not been given their share of the harvest. 11 I called the leaders together and angrily asked them, “Why is the temple neglected?” Then I told them to start doing their jobs. 12 After this, everyone in Judah brought a tenth of their grain, wine, and olive oil to the temple storeroom. 13 Finally, I appointed three men with good reputations to be in charge of what was brought there and to distribute it to the others. They were Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the teacher of the Law, and Pedaiah the Levite. Their assistant was Hanan, the son of Zaccur and the grandson of Mattaniah.
14 I pray that my God will remember these good things that I have done for his temple and for those who worship there.
15 I also noticed what the people of Judah were doing on the Sabbath. Not only were they trampling grapes to make wine, but they were harvesting their grain, grapes, figs, and other crops, and then loading these on donkeys to sell in Jerusalem. So I warned them not to sell food on the Sabbath. 16 People who had moved to Jerusalem from the city of Tyre were bringing in fish and other things to sell there on the Sabbath. 17 I got angry and said to the leaders of Judah, “This evil you are doing is an insult to the Sabbath! 18 Didn’t God punish us and this city because our ancestors did these very same things? And here you are, about to make God furious again by disgracing the Sabbath!”
19 I ordered the gates of Jerusalem to be closed on the eve of the Sabbath[j] and not to be opened until after the Sabbath had ended. Then I put some of my own men in charge of the gates to make certain that nothing was brought in on the Sabbath. 20 Once or twice some merchants spent the night outside Jerusalem with their goods. 21 But I warned them, “If you do this again, I’ll have you arrested.” From then on, they did not come on the Sabbath. 22 I ordered the Levites to make themselves holy and to guard the gates on the Sabbath, so that it would be kept holy.
God is truly merciful, and I pray that he will treat me with kindness and bless me for doing this.
23 I discovered that some Jewish men had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 About half of their children could not speak Hebrew—they spoke only the language of Ashdod or some other foreign language. 25 So in my anger, I called down curses on those men. I had them beaten and even pulled out the hair of some of them. Then I made them promise:
In the name of God we solemnly promise not to let our sons and daughters marry foreigners. 26 God dearly loved King Solomon of Israel and made him the greatest king on earth, but Solomon’s foreign wives led him into sin. 27 So we will obey you and not rebel against our God by marrying foreign women.
28 Jehoiada, the son of the high priest Eliashib, had a son who had married a daughter of Sanballat from Horon,[k] and I forced his son to leave.
29 I pray that God will punish them for breaking their priestly vows and disgracing the Levi tribe.
30 Then I made sure that the people were free from every foreign influence, and I assigned duties for the priests and Levites. 31 I also arranged for the people to bring firewood to the altar each day and for them to bring the first part of their harvest to the temple.
I pray that God will bless me for the good I have done.
- 12.1 Zerubbabel: Hebrew “Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel.”
- 12.7 Joshua: Joshua the high priest and friend of Zerubbabel (see verse 1 and Haggai 1.1; 2.2).
- 12.17 of Abijah: The Hebrew text adds “. . . of Miniamin.”
- 12.23 death of Johanan: Probably between 408 and 405 B.C., when Darius II died.
- 12.24 son of Kadmiel: Or possibly “Binnui, Kadmiel” (see 10.9; 12.8).
- 12.26 Joiakim: Hebrew “Joiakim son of Joshua son of Jozadak.”
- 12.35 Zechariah of the Asaph clan: Hebrew “Zechariah son of Jonathan son of Shemaiah son of Mattaniah son of Micaiah son of Zaccur son of Asaph.”
- 13.2 Balaam: See Numbers 22.1-6.
- 13.6 Artaxerxes: See the note at 1.1.
- 13.19 eve of the Sabbath: The Jewish day began at sunset.
- 13.28 Horon: See the note at 2.10.