After these things, when Artaxerxes the king of the Persians was reigning, Ezra came, 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 Phineas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest. This Ezra came up from Babylon as a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which was given by the God of Israel; and the king showed him honor, for he found favor before the king in all his requests. There came up with him to Jerusalem some of the people of Israel and some of the priests and Levites and temple singers and gatekeepers and temple servants, in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes, in the fifth month (this was the king's seventh year); for they left Babylon on the new moon of the first month and arrived in Jerusalem on the new moon of the fifth month, by the prosperous journey which the Lord gave them. For Ezra possessed great knowledge, so that he omitted nothing from the law of the Lord or the commandments, but taught all Israel all the ordinances and judgments.
The following is a copy of the written commission from Artaxerxes the king which was delivered to Ezra the priest and reader of the law of the Lord:
"King Artaxerxes to Ezra the priest and reader of the law of the Lord, greeting. In accordance with my gracious decision, I have given orders that those of the Jewish nation and of the priests and Levites and others in our realm, who freely choose to do so, may go with you to Jerusalem. Let as many as are so disposed, therefore, depart with you as I and the seven friends who are my counselors have decided, in order to look into matters in Judea and Jerusalem, in accordance with what is in the law of the Lord, and to carry to Jerusalem the gifts for the Lord of Israel which I and my friends have vowed, and to collect for the Lord in Jerusalem all the gold and silver that may be found in the country of Babylonia, together with what is given by the nation for the temple of their Lord which is in Jerusalem, both gold and silver for bulls and rams and lambs and what goes with them, so as to offer sacrifices upon the altar of their Lord which is in Jerusalem. And whatever you and your brethren are minded to do with the gold and silver, perform it in accordance with the will of your God; and deliver the holy vessels of the Lord which are given you for the use of the temple of your God which is in Jerusalem. And whatever else occurs to you as necessary for the temple of your God, you may provide out of the royal treasury.
"And I, Artaxerxes the king, have commanded the treasurers of Syria and Phoenicia that whatever Ezra the priest and reader of the law of the Most High God sends for, they shall take care to give him, up to a hundred talents of silver, and likewise up to a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, and salt in abundance. Let all things prescribed in the law of God be scrupulously fulfilled for the Most High God, so that wrath may not come upon the kingdom of the king and his sons. You are also informed that no tribute or any other tax is to be laid on any of the priests or Levites or temple singers or gatekeepers or temple servants or persons employed in this temple, and that no one has authority to impose any tax upon them.
"And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of God, appoint judges and justices to judge all those who know the law of your God, throughout all Syria and Phoenicia; and those who do not know it you shall teach. And all who transgress the law of your God or the law of the kingdom shall be strictly punished, whether by death or some other punishment, either fine or imprisonment."
Blessed be the Lord alone, who put this into the heart of the king, to glorify his house which is in Jerusalem, and who honored me in the sight of the king and his counselors and all his friends and nobles. I was encouraged by the help of the Lord my God, and I gathered men from Israel to go up with me.
These are the principal men, according to their fathers' houses and their groups, who went up with me from Babylon, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king: Of the sons of Phineas, Gershom. Of the sons of Ithamar, Gamael. Of the sons of David, Hattush the son of Shecaniah. Of the sons of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him a hundred and fifty men enrolled. Of the sons of Pahathmoab, Eliehoenai the son of Zerahiah, and with him two hundred men. Of the sons of Zattu, Shecaniah the son of Jahaziel, and with him three hundred men. Of the sons of Adin, Obed the son of onathan, and with him two hundred and fifty men. Of the sons of Elam, Jeshaiah the son of Gotholiah, and with him seventy men. Of the sons of Shephatiah, Zeraiah the son of Michael, and with him seventy men, Of the sons of Joab, Obadiah the son of Jehiel, and with him two hundred and twelve men. Of the sons of Bani, Shelomith the son of Josiphiah, and with him a hundred and sixty men. Of the sons of Bebai, Zechariah the son of Bebai, and with him twenty-eight men. Of the sons of Azgad, Johanan the son of Hakkatan, and with him a hundred and ten men. Of the sons of Adonikam, the last ones, their names being Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah, and with them seventy men. Of the sons of Bigvai, Uthai the son of Istalcurus, and with him seventy men.
I assembled them at the river called Theras, and we encamped there three days, and I inspected them. When I found there none of the sons of the priests or of the Levites, I sent word to Eliezar, Iduel, Maasmas, Elnathan, Shemaiah, Jarib, Nathan, Elnathan, Zechariah, and Meshullam, who were leaders and men of understanding; and I told them to go to Iddo, who was the leading man at the place of the treasury, and ordered them to tell Iddo and his brethren and the treasurers at that place to send us men to serve as priests in the house of our Lord. And by the mighty hand of our Lord they brought us competent men of the sons of Mahli the son of Levi, son of Israel, namely Sherebiah with his sons and kinsmen, eighteen; also Hashabiah and Annunus and Jeshaiah his brother, of the sons of Hananiah, and their sons, twenty men; and of the temple servants, whom David and the leaders had given for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty temple servants; the list of all their names was reported.
There I proclaimed a fast for the young men before our Lord, to seek from him a prosperous journey for ourselves and for our children and the cattle that were with us. For I was ashamed to ask the king for foot soldiers and horsemen and an escort to keep us safe from our adversaries; for we had said to the king, "The power of our Lord will be with those who seek him, and will support them in every way." And again we prayed to our Lord about these things, and we found him very merciful.
Then I set apart twelve of the leaders of the priests, Sherebiah and Hashabiah, and ten of their kinsmen with them; and I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the holy vessels of the house of our Lord, which the king himself and his counselors and the nobles and all Israel had given. I weighed and gave to them six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels worth a hundred talents, and a hundred talents of gold, and twenty golden bowls, and twelve bronze vessels of fine bronze that glittered like gold. And I said to them, "You are holy to the Lord, and the vessels are holy, and the silver and the gold are vowed to the Lord, the Lord of our fathers. Be watchful and on guard until you deliver them to the leaders of the priests and the Levites, and to the heads of the fathers' houses of Israel, in Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of our Lord." So the priests and the Levites who took the silver and the gold and the vessels which had been in Jerusalem carried them to the temple of the Lord.
We departed from the river Theras on the twelfth day of the first month; and we arrived in Jerusalem by the mighty hand of our Lord which was upon us; he delivered us from every enemy on the way, and so we came to Jerusalem. When we had been there three days, the silver and the gold were weighed and delivered in the house of our Lord to Meremoth the priest, son of Uriah; and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas, and with them were Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Moeth the son of Binnui, the Levites. The whole was counted and weighed, and the weight of everything was recorded at that very time. And those who had come back from captivity offered sacrifices to the Lord, the God of Israel, twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-two lambs, and as a thank offering twelve he-goats - all as a sacrifice to the Lord. And they delivered the king's orders to the royal stewards and to the governors of Coelesyria and Phoenicia; and these officials honored the people and the temple of the Lord.
After these things had been done, the principal men came to me and said, "The people of Israel and the leaders and the priests and the Levites have not put away from themselves the alien peoples of the land and their pollutions, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Edomites. For they and their sons have married the daughters of these people, and the holy race has been mixed with the alien peoples of the land; and from the beginning of this matter the leaders and the nobles have been sharing in this iniquity."
As soon as I heard these things I rent my garments and my holy mantle, and pulled out hair from my head and beard, and sat down in anxiety and grief. And all who were ever moved at the word of the Lord of Israel gathered round me, as I mourned over this iniquity, and I sat grief-stricken until the evening sacrifice. Then I rose from my fast, with my garments and my holy mantle rent, and kneeling down and stretching forth my hands to the Lord I said,
"And now, O Lord, what shall we say, when we have these things? For we have transgressed thy commandments, which thou didst give by thy servants the prophets, saying, `The land which you are entering to take possession of it is a land polluted with the pollution of the aliens of the land, and they have filled it with their uncleanness. Therefore do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons, and do not take their daughters for your sons; and do not seek ever to have peace with them, in order that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.' And all that has happened to us has come about because of our evil deeds and our great sins. For thou, O Lord, didst lift the burden of our sins and give us such a root as this; but we turned back again to transgress thy law by mixing with the uncleanness of the peoples of the land. Wast thou not angry enough with us to destroy us without leaving a root or seed or name? O Lord of Israel, thou art true; for we are left as a root to this day. Behold, we are now before thee in our iniquities; for we can no longer stand in thy presence because of these things."
While Ezra was praying and making his confession, weeping and lying upon the ground before the temple, there gathered about him a very great throng from Jerusalem, men and women and youths; for there was great weeping among the multitude. Then Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the men of Israel, called out, and said to Ezra, "We have sinned against the Lord, and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; but even now there is hope for Israel. Let us take an oath to the Lord about this, that we will put away all our foreign wives, with their children, as seems good to you and to all who obey the law of the Lord. Arise and take action, for it is your task, and we are with you to take strong measures." Then Ezra arose and had the leaders of the priests and Levites of all Israel take oath that they would do this. And they took the oath.
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