Ezra 8:21-9:15Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Ezra Asks the People To Go without Eating and To Pray
21 Beside the Ahava River,[a] I[b] asked the people to go without eating[c] 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[d] 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
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[g] 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
9 Later the Jewish leaders came to me[h] 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.
2 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.
3 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 4 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.
5 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, 6 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. 7 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.
8 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. 9 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.[i] 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.
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