God’s People Build God’s Temple Again


About this book

Ezra and Nehemiah are books in the older part of the Bible. They are the last two books in the story of the Jews. Their people had lived as prisoners in Babylon city during 70 years. The books tell us how the people of Israel (Jews or Israelites) returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had taken them to Babylon as prisoners. But Persia won a fight with Babylon. Then the king of Persia decided to send Nebuchadnezzar’s prisoners back to their own countries. Cyrus, the king, asked the Jews to build God’s temple in Jerusalem.

Ezra was a priest who knew God’s book. And he knew the rules that it contained. He taught the people how to give pleasure to God. Then God would give a good life to them in their own country.

Chapter 1

Cyrus helps the Jews to return to Jerusalem from Babylon

1 Cyrus, king of Persia had just begun to rule Babylon. He decided to make a new law. Men wrote it down. And he sent out men with the news. He sent them to all the people that he ruled. God had caused him to do this. God had said to Jeremiah years before that he would send the Israelites home (Jeremiah 29:10).

2 This is what Cyrus, the king of Persia said:

‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me power over all the kingdoms on the earth. He has said that I must build a temple for him at Jerusalem. That is the biggest city in Judah. 3 Any of Israel’s people who live in my land can return to Jerusalem. They must build a temple there for the Lord, the God of Israel. He is the God of Jerusalem. I hope that he will be with those people. 4 Many Israelites are living here now. The people who live near to them must give silver and gold to them. And they must give animals and other things to the Israelites for offerings to their God. They will take these gifts to him in Jerusalem’s temple.’

5 Then the leaders of Judah and Benjamin’s families and the priests and the Levites prepared to go to Jerusalem. God had said that they must build the Lord’s house there. And he had caused them to want to do this. 6 All the people who lived near them gave them animals, gold, silver and other things for offerings. They also gave them many valuable gifts. 7 Then King Cyrus remembered the things that Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from the temple in Jerusalem (Daniel 1:1-2). Nebuchadnezzar had put them in his god’s house. 8 Mithredath kept Cyrus’s valuable things safe. So Cyrus asked him to fetch the things that belonged to Jerusalem’s temple. Then Mithredath gave them to Sheshbazzar, an important leader from Judah.

9 They counted the things and they made a list.

            30 gold plates

            1000 silver plates

            29 silver pots

10      30 gold deep dishes

            410 silver deep dishes, all the same as each other

            1000 other things.

11 All the things made from gold and silver were 5400 things. Sheshbazzar took them all with him when he came back with the Israelites to Jerusalem.

Chapter 2

The list of the people who returned

1 These are the people who returned to Jerusalem and Judah. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon had brought them to live as slaves in Babylon. Each person returned to his own town. 2 They went together with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah. This is the list of the men among Israel’s people:

3        2172 descendants of Parosh.

4        372 of Shephatiah.

5        775 of Arah.

6        2812 of Pahath Moab (descendant of Jeshua and Joab).

7        1254 of Elam.

8        945 of Zattu.

9        760 of Zaccai.

10      642 of Bani.

11      623 of Bebai.

12      1222 of Azgad.

13      666 of Adonikam.

14      2056 of Bigvai.

15      454 of Adin.

16      98 of Ater (descendant of Hezekiah).

17      323 of Bezai.

18      112 of Jorah.

19      223 of Hashum.

20      95 of Gibbar.

21      123 men from Bethlehem.

22      56 of Netophah.

23 128 of Anathoth.

24      42 of Azmaveth.

25      743 of Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah and Beeroth.

26      621 of Ramah and Geba.

27      122 of Michmash.

28      223 of Bethel and Ai.

29      52 of Nebo.

30      156 of Magbish.

31      1254 of the other Elam.

32      320 of Harim.

33      725 of Lod, Hadid and Ono.

34      345 of Jericho.

35      3630 of Senaah.

36 The priests,

            973 descendants of Jedaiah (by Jeshua’s family).

37      1052 of Immer.

38      1247 of Pashhur.

39      1017 of Harim.

40 The Levites,

            74 descendants of Jeshua and Kadmiel (by Hodaviah’s family).

41 The singers,

            128 descendants of Asaph.

42 The men who watch the temple gates,

            139 descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita and Shobai.

43 The temple servants,

the descendants of Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,

44 Keros, Siaha, Padon,

45 Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub,

46 Hagab, Shalmai, Hanan,

47 Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah,

48 Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam,

49 Uzza, Paseah, Besai,

50 Asnah, Meunim, Nephussim,

51 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,

52 Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,

53 Barkos, Sisera, Temah,

54 Neziah and Hatipha.

55 The descendants of Solomon’s servants,

the descendants of Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,

56 Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,

57 Shephatiah, Hattil, Pokereth-Hazzebaim and Ami.

58 392 temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants.

59 Some families came from other towns. The towns were Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addon and Immer. But these families could not show that they were really Israelites. They may not have been descendants of Israel (Jacob).

60 They included 652 descendants of Delaiah, Tobiah and Nekoda.

61 And they included families of the priests. These were descendants of Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai.

This Barzillai had married one of Barzillai’s daughters and he took Barzillai’s name. These daughters had lived in Gilead.

62 All these looked to see if their names were written as priests. But they did not find anything. So the leaders did not let them work as priests. 63 They were not clean enough to eat the priests’ special food. They must wait until the most important priest could decide. He could use the Urim and Thummim to decide the right thing to do.

64 All together, 42 360 people returned to Jerusalem. 65 And they took with them 7337 men and women servants and 200 men and women singers.

66 They had 736 horses, 245 mules (animals), 67 435 camels (animals) and 6720 donkeys (animals).

Nobody knows what the Urim and Thummim were. We think that the priest used them. He used them to find out what God wanted. We do not know how the priest used them to do that.

Horses, mules, camels and donkeys are all big animals that can carry people and heavy bags on their backs.

68 The most important men in some families came to the Lord’s house in Jerusalem. Some of them gave gifts to build it where it had been before. 69 They gave money to build the temple. Rich men gave more and poor men gave less. Together they gave about 500 kilos (half a ton) of gold and nearly 3000 kilos (3 tons) of silver. And they gave 100 special sets of clothes for the priests.

70 The priests, Levites, and some people went to live in or near Jerusalem. The singers, temple servants and workers lived in towns near them. The other Israelites went to live where their ancestors had lived.

Chapter 3

Worship in the Temple begins again

1 When all the people were living in their towns, they met together in Jerusalem. It was the 7th month. 2 The priests began to build the altar of the God of Israel. They were priests that included Jeshua, Jozadak’s son and Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son. They were building it to burn sacrifices. This is what Moses, the man of God, wrote in his law. 3 They were afraid of the other people who lived round them. But they built the altar on a flat foundation of stones. On it they burnt sacrifices to the Lord. They did this in the morning and in the evening. 4 Then they had the feast called the ‘Feast of Tabernacles’ to thank God. He had kept them safe when they left Egypt. And he kept them safe while they crossed the dry land. Nobody lived in that dry land. They lived in huts made out of leaves. And they made sacrifices. Moses had told them how to do this in the law. 5 They burnt sacrifices every day and at the New Moon and at all the times written in the law. Some people brought gifts to offer and to thank the Lord. They wanted to thank him for all the good things that he had done for them. 6 They began to offer burnt sacrifices on the first day of the 7th month. That was before they had started to build the temple.

God’s people build the temple again

7 The leaders gave money to men who could work with stone and wood. They sent food and drink and oil to the people in Tyre and Sidon. This was to pay for beams of wood from a tree called cedar. They would bring the wood on the sea. It would come from Lebanon’s country to Joppa. Cyrus, king of Persia, had asked Lebanon’s people to do this.

8 The Israelites began the work two years after they returned from Babylon, in the 2nd month. Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and Jeshua, Jozadak’s son began the work. After this, all the priests and the Levites who worked with them in Jerusalem joined them. Levites who were 20 years old, or older, told the people how to build the Lord’s house. 9 These are their names:

Jeshua and his sons and brothers.

Kadmiel and his sons. (They were descendants of Hodaviah.)

Henadad’s sons and their sons and brothers.

All of them were Levites.

10 The men who were building the temple finished the foundations. Then the priests put on their special clothes and they made a noise with their trumpets. The Levites (sons of Asaph) took cymbals and they stood to praise the Lord. Israel’s king, David had told them how to do this many years before. 11 They thanked and praised the Lord. They sang, ‘He is good. His love for Israel will be for all time.’

And all the people shouted. ‘Praise the Lord’, they said, ‘because we have finished building the first part of the Lord’s house!’

Cymbals are two pieces of metal that people hit together to make a loud noise. A trumpet is a metal pipe with a wide end. Somebody blows through this metal thing to make loud music.

12 But many of the older priests and Levites and leaders wept. They were sad because they had seen the earlier temple. And they remembered it. Many other people shouted because they were happy. 13 The shouts and the noise of people who were weeping were very loud. So nobody knew if they were laughing or crying. People far away could hear the noise.

Chapter 4

Enemies do not want the work to continue

1 The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the Jews had begun to build. They were building the temple for the Lord, the God of Israel. 2 Then the enemies went to speak to Zerubbabel and to the family leaders. ‘Let us help you to build’, they said. ‘We want to worship your God. We have lived in this country since Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, brought us here. All this time we have made sacrifices to your God.’

3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and Israel’s family heads said, ‘No. You cannot help us to build the temple to our God. We alone must build it. That is what Cyrus, king of Persia, asked us to do.’

4 Then the people round them tried to make the Israelites afraid. They did not want Judah’s people to continue building. 5 They paid men to work against them and to say bad things about the building. They did this all the time that Cyrus was king of Persia. They went on until Darius became king.

6 They wrote to Xerxes when he became king. They said that the people of Judah and Jerusalem were doing a wrong thing.

7 Later, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and their friends wrote a letter to Artaxerxes, king of Persia. They wrote in the Aramaic language. 8 Rehum, the most important officer and Shimshai wrote this letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes. This is what it said.

9 Rehum, your officer and Shimshai, his helper and many other men are writing to you. They are judges and officers with authority over Tripolis, Persia, Erech and Babylon. We are sending this letter also to those who have authority over the people in Susa. (Those people are called Elamites.) 10 We include other people who live in or near the cities in Samaria. The great King Ashurbanipal had sent those people there. Some came from the other side of the River Euphrates.

The kings of Assyria moved prisoners that they had taken a long way from their homes. Foreign people had come to live in Samaria, part of Israel’s country. They did not want the Israelites to take back their land.

11 This is the letter that they sent to Artaxerxes:

To King Artaxerxes,

from your servants in the land across the Euphrates.

12 The king should know what the Jews here are doing. You sent them here. They are building Jerusalem’s city again. It was a bad city whose people did not obey its rulers. They are building the walls and they are beginning to start other buildings.

13 And you should know this. If they build this city and its walls, they will not pay any more money to you. They will take away some of your people’s money. 14 We are your servants. We do not want you to lose honour. So we have sent this letter to you. 15 If you look in letters to kings before you, you will find much about this city. Jerusalem’s people always did what they chose. And the letters will show you that. For many years Jerusalem’s people did not obey those with authority. They did not listen to the kings or their officers. That is why the soldiers from Babylon destroyed the city. 16 We are telling the king that nobody should let these people build up this city and its walls. If they do, you will have no authority on this side of the Euphrates.

17 This is the king’s reply:

‘To Rehum my officer, Shimshai his helper and all their friends in Samaria and across the River Euphrates.

I thank you for your news.

18 They have translated the letter that you sent into my language. Then they read it to me. 19 I caused them to look in the old letters and they told us about Jerusalem’s people. They have always caused trouble to their rulers. They never obeyed their rulers. 20 In past days the kings of Jerusalem were powerful. They ruled all the land on their side of the Euphrates. The people there gave money and other things to them because their kings had authority. 21 Now you must cause them to stop their work. They must not build the city again until I let them. 22 You must be careful to do this. We cannot let them make my authority smaller.’

23 Rehum, Shimshai and their friends took the king’s letter to the Jews in Jerusalem. They went as fast as they could. They caused the Jews to stop their work. They would do bad things to them if they did not stop.

24 So the people did no work on God’s house in Jerusalem. The work stopped until Darius, Persia’s king, had ruled over them for more than one year.

Chapter 5

Tattenai writes to Darius

1 Haggai and Zechariah, Iddo’s descendant, gave us messages from God. They obeyed the God of Israel. They were prophets. They told God’s message to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. 2 Then Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and Jeshua, Jozadak’s son, started again to build the temple in Jerusalem. And the prophets worked with them, to help them.

3 At that time Tattenai was the king’s ruler of all the land across the River Euphrates. He and Shethar-Bozenai and their friends went to ask them what they were doing. They said, ‘Who gave you the authority to start building this temple again?’ 4 And they asked, ‘What are the names of the men who are building this place?’ 5 But God was watching over the Jews’ leaders, and nobody stopped them building then. They waited until they could send a letter to King Darius. They waited for him to reply.

6 The ruler Tattenai, Shethar-Bozenai and their friends wrote to King Darius. 7 This is what they said:

We hope that you, King Darius, are well and happy.

8 We went to Judah to visit the temple of the great God. The king should know that the people are building it. They are using big stones and beams of wood to build the walls. They are working hard and the temple is growing fast. Their leaders showed them how to build it.

9 We spoke to them and we asked, ‘Who gave authority to you to do this and to build up this temple again?’ 10 We also asked them their names. Then we could give the names of their leaders to you.

11 This is the answer that they gave to us:

‘We are servants of the God of heaven and earth. A great king of Israel built this temple and finished it many years ago. We are building it again. 12 But our ancestors made the God of heaven angry. So he let Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon’s king, fight with them. And Nebuchadnezzar destroyed this temple. Then he took many of our people to Babylon.

13 But Cyrus, king of Babylon said that we must build the house of our God again. He said this in the first year that he was king. 14 And he even gave us the gold and silver things from the Jerusalem temple. Nebuchadnezzar had taken them out of Jerusalem’s temple and he put them in the temple in Babylon.

Then King Cyrus gave the valuable things to Sheshbazzar. He had given authority to this man over Jerusalem and the places round it. 15 He said to Sheshbazzar, “Take these things and put them in the temple in Jerusalem. And build again the house of God where it used to be.” 16 So this Sheshbazzar came and he built the foundations of God’s house in Jerusalem. Since then we have continued to build it, but we have not finished it yet.’

17 If the king should choose, he may look in the letters in his store. It is there in Babylon. King Cyrus did say that we must build up God’s temple in Jerusalem. And you will see that in the letters. After this, the king will decide what is right. That is what we hope. We must know whether the king will let us finish this work.

Chapter 6

Darius asks the Jews to go on building the temple

1 King Darius asked his servants to look in his Babylon store. That was where he kept all his valuable things. 2 They found a scroll in a strong building in Ecbatana. This was in Media, a part of Babylon. The words on the scroll were about the temple of God in Jerusalem. This is a copy of those words.


3 King Cyrus told the Jews how to build their temple in Jerusalem. It was the first year that he ruled in Babylon. He said:

“They must build their temple as a place to sacrifice to their God. They must make it 30 metres (90 feet) wide and 30 metres high. They must build it on a foundation. 4 On this they must build a wall from big stones, 3 stones high. On this they must build a wall made out of wood. Money from my store will pay for it. 5 And we will give their silver and gold things back to them. Nebuchadnezzar had taken them from the old temple in Jerusalem. And he brought them to Babylon. They must return them to their places. They must put them in the new temple in Jerusalem. They must put them in their God’s house.”

6 So you, Tattenai, ruler of the land across the Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and your officers must stay away from them. 7 You must not stop them from building God’s temple. The leaders and those Jews with authority must continue to build this house of God. They must build it in its proper place.

8 Now I will tell you what you must do for these leaders. You must pay for everything that they need with the king’s money. This money is from the people who live across the Euphrates. Then the work will not stop. 9 Be sure to give each day to the priests the things that they need for sacrifices to the God of heaven. Give them young male cows and young and old male sheep. Give them grain, salt, wine and oil when the priests ask for them. 10 Then their sacrifices will give pleasure to the God of heaven. They can then pray for good things for the king and his sons.

11 Nobody can change any of these rules that I have given to you. If anyone does not obey, men must pull a beam out of his house. They must lift him and push the beam through his body. They must destroy his house because he has not obeyed me. 12 God, has caused his name to live in his temple. He will cause enemies to kill any king or people who change my words. He will be very much against any king or people who try to destroy this temple in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have made this law. You must be sure to obey it.’

They finish the temple

13 Tattenai, ruler of the land across the Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai and their friends heard this law. Then they were all very careful to obey King Darius. 14 So the leaders of the Jews continued to build the temple. They listened to what Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, Iddo’s descendant were teaching them. They finished building the temple. They built it as the God of Israel had told them. They obeyed the rules of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, the kings of Persia. 15 They finished building it on the 3rd day of the month Adar. King Darius had then been king for 6 years.

16 Then the Israelites had a feast. That included the priests, Levites and the other people. Everyone who had come from Babylon dedicated the temple to God. They were very happy. 17 At this time they offered 100 male cows, 200 male sheep and 400 young male sheep to the Lord. Then they sacrificed 12 male goats because of the sin of all Israel. Each of the 12 large families of Israel gave a goat. 18 They caused the groups of priests and Levites to do their work in the proper way. They did it for God in Jerusalem. Moses had written in his book how to do this.

The Passover

19 On the 14th day of the first month, the people had another party. This was the Passover feast. 20 The priests and Levites made themselves clean for their special work. The Levites killed the Passover lambs (young sheep) for the people, the priests and for themselves. 21 So all the people who had returned from Babylon ate the feast. Other Israelites there had stopped doing the bad things that nations round them did. They made themselves clean. That was because they wanted to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. So they ate the feast. 22 And they all remembered the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This feast was 7 days long. The Lord had made them very happy because the king of Assyria had changed his ideas. Now he was helping them to build their God’s house.

The Passover feast was to help the Israelites. They needed to remember God. He had saved them from being slaves in Egypt. God had sent an angel to kill all the oldest sons of the people in Egypt. But he told the Israelites to put the blood of a young sheep round their doors. They had to stay inside their houses. The angel passed over the blood and did not kill their sons. Then the people in Egypt sent the Israelites out of Egypt. (See Numbers 28:16-25; Exodus 12:14-20.)

The Feast of Unleavened Bread began the day after the Passover Feast. Unleavened bread is special bread that people make in a special way.

Chapter 7

Ezra comes to Jerusalem

1 After these things, Ezra came up from Babylon while Artaxerxes was king of Persia. This is the list of Ezra’s ancestors. He was the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah. 2 Hilkiah was the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub. 3 Ahitub was the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth. 4 Meraioth was the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki. 5 Bukki was the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar. And Eleazar was a son of Aaron, the most important priest. 6 This Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher who knew the law of Moses. The Lord, the God of Israel had given that law to Moses. The king had given to Ezra everything that he asked for. That happened because the Lord God had caused the king to do this. 7 Some other Israelites also came up to Jerusalem. They came in the 7th year that Artaxerxes was king. They included priests, Levites, singers, temple servants and men who watched the gates.

8 Ezra came to Jerusalem in the 5th month of Artaxerxes’ 7th year. 9 He left Babylon on the first day of the first month. And he came to Jerusalem on the first day of the 5th month. God had made his journey easy. 10 He did this because Ezra had studied God’s law carefully. Ezra always obeyed its rules and he taught them to the Israelites.

Artaxerxes’ letter to Ezra

11 This is a copy of the letter that Artaxerxes had given to Ezra, the priest and teacher. Ezra knew well all the Lord’s rules and laws for Israel.

12 From Artaxerxes, king of kings,

to Ezra the priest, a teacher of the God of heaven’s law. I hope that you are well.

13 Many Israelites live in my kingdom. Some may want to go with you to Jerusalem. I have decided that they can go. That rule includes priests and Levites with any who want to go. 14 The king and his 7 important officers are sending you there. You must ask whether the people in Judah and Jerusalem are obeying their God’s law. You have this law in your hands. 15 And I and my officers have given gold and silver as a free gift to you. You must take them with you. They are for the God of Israel, whose house is in Jerusalem. 16 And take the gold and silver that other people in Babylon give to you. And take too, the gifts that the people and priests have given for their God’s temple in Jerusalem. 17 You must buy male cows and old and young male sheep with this money. Also buy drink and grain to offer to your God. Sacrifice them on the altar of Jerusalem’s temple.

18 You and all the other Jews can then use the rest of the silver and gold as you want to. You can do anything that your God wants you to do. 19 You must take all the things that you use for worship with you. Give them to Jerusalem’s God. 20 Perhaps you may need other things for worship in your God’s temple. You can take these from my rich stores.

21 This is what I, King Artaxerxes, will do. I will speak to the rulers of the countries across the River Euphrates. They must help you. Their men keep my money. They must give Ezra anything that he asks for. He is a priest who teaches the law of the God of heaven. They must do that very carefully. 22 You should not give more than this to him:

3400 kilos (3.3 tons) of silver

22 000 litres (5800 US gallons) of grain

2200 litres (580 US gallons) of wine

2200 litres of oil

all the salt that he wants.

23 Be careful to give to Ezra everything that the God of heaven wants for his temple. I do not want the God of heaven to be angry with me or with my sons. 24 You must not take money for any purpose from men who work in this house of God. You have no authority to do this. These men include priests, Levites, singers, servants and those who watch the gate.

25 Your God has helped you to understand things, Ezra. He will show to you which men to choose. They will judge the people. You must choose men to judge small problems in the land across the Euphrates. And other men must judge the bigger problems. All the people must obey the laws of your God. If the people do not know these laws, you must teach them. 26 You must punish the people who do not obey the laws of your God and the king’s laws. You may send them away or you may kill them. You may send them out of the country or put them in a prison. Or you may take away some of their things. 27 This is how the king wants to give honour to the Lord’s house in Jerusalem. The Lord, the God of our people, has caused him to think like this. We praise God’s name! 28 And God has been kind to me in front of the king and his powerful friends and officers. The Lord held me so strongly that I became brave. I could ask the leaders of Israel to go up with me.

Chapter 8

The family leaders who went back with Ezra to Jerusalem

1 These are the leaders and other men in their families who came with me from Babylon. We came during the time that Artaxerxes was king.

2 Gershom, Phinehas’s descendant.

Daniel, Ithamar’s descendant.

3 Hattush, Shecaniah’s son, David’s descendant.

Zechariah, Parosh’s descendant and 150 men.

4 Elihoenai, Zerahiah’s son, and 200 men, Pahath-Moab’s descendants.

5 Shecaniah, Jahaziel’s son, with 300 men, Zattu’s descendants.

6 Ebed, Jonathan’s son with 50 men, Adin’s descendants.

7 Jeshaiah, Athaliah’s son, with 70 men, Elam’s descendants.

8 Zebadiah, Michael’s son, with 80 men, Shephatiah’s descendants.

9 Obadiah, Jehiel’s son, with 218 men, Joab’s descendants.

10 Shelomith, Josiphiah’s son with 160 men, Bani’s descendants.

11 Zechariah, Bebai’s son, with 28 men, Bebai’s descendants.

12 Johanan, Hakkatan’s son, with 110 men, Azgad’s descendants.

13 Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, Adonikam’s descendants with 60 men who came later.

14 Uthai and Zaccur with 70 men, Bigvai’s descendants.

The return to Jerusalem

15 I caused all the people to come together at the river that goes to Ahava. We stayed there during 3 days. I looked at the people and priests, but I did not see any Levites. 16 So I asked them to send Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah and Elnathan. And I asked for Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam. They were all leaders. I also asked for Joiarib and Elnathan. They were men who had learnt much. 17 And I sent them all to Iddo, the leader in Casiphia. Iddo and his family were servants in the temple. But they were living there in Casiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo. They must ask him to bring people to work in the house of our God. 18 This was what God wanted. So they brought Sherebiah to us. He was a man who could do the work well. He was from Mahli’s family. Levi was a son of Israel, and Mahli was Levi’s son. Sherebiah came with his sons and brothers. Together they were 18 men. 19 Hashabiah came and Jeshaiah, a descendant of Merari came too, with his brothers and the brothers’ sons. They were 20 men together. 20 They also brought 220 temple servants. These were people that David had said should help the Levites. We had made a list of their names.

21 We were all by the River Ahava. I said that the people should not eat any food. This was to show God that we needed his help. Then we asked him to keep us safe on the journey with our children and all our things. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers who walked. And I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers who rode on horses. They could have kept us safe from our enemies. But we had spoken to the king. We had said, ‘Our God is good. He keeps safe those who obey him. But he is very angry with those who turn away from him. And he works against them.’ 23 So we ate no food and we prayed to our God about this. And he listened to us.

24 I chose 12 of the most important priests. I put them with Sherebiah, Hashabiah and 10 of their brothers. 25 I weighed in front of them many valuable things. These things included the silver and gold offerings and other things that people had given to us. The king, his friends and officers and all the Israelites had given us these. They gave them for the house of our God. 26 I weighed about 20 000 kilos (20 tons) of silver and about 3500 kilos (3.5 tons) of things made from silver. And I weighed 3500 kilos of gold and 27 20 deep dishes of gold that weighed about 8.5 kilos (19 pounds). I also I gave to them 2 beautiful things that someone had made from metal. But those things were as valuable as gold.

28 Then I spoke to them. I said, ‘You people and these things all belong to the Lord. The silver and gold are offerings to the Lord, the God of your fathers. 29 You must be careful to keep them safe until you reach Jerusalem. There in the rooms in the Lord’s house you must weigh them. You must do this in front of the leaders of the priests, Levites and other Israelite families.’ 30 Then they gave the silver, gold and valuable things to the priests and Levites. They would take them to the temple in Jerusalem.

31 We left the River Ahava on the 12th day of the first month. We left to go to Jerusalem. Our God kept us safe on the journey. No enemies robbed us or hurt us. 32 So we arrived in Jerusalem. And we rested there during 3 days.

33 We went into God’s house on the 4th day. Then we weighed out the silver, gold and holy things there. We gave them to Meremoth, Uriah the priest’s son. Phinehas’s son, Eleazar was with him. The Levites Jozabad, Jeshua’s son and Noadiah, Binnui’s son, were also there. 34 They weighed and counted everything. They wrote it all in a list.

35 All the people who had returned from Babylon offered sacrifices to the God of Israel. They burnt 12 male cows for all Israel, 96 male sheep and 77 lambs (young male sheep). Then they sacrificed 12 male goats for a sin offering. They burnt all these animals as an offering to the Lord. 36 They also gave the king’s letters to his officers. And they gave them to those who ruled the land across the Euphrates. Then those in authority helped the people and they gave things to the house of God.

Chapter 9

Ezra prays about Israelites who have married foreign women

1 When we had done all these things, the leaders came to see me. They said, ‘The Israelites have done many wrong things that the people in other countries do. They are like the people called Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. Even some priests and Levites have done these things. They have not kept themselves separate. 2 They and their sons have married some of the foreign men’s daughters. They have mixed their blood with that of other peoples. The leaders of our holy nation were the first to do this. They have not been faithful to the Lord.’

3 I tore my shirt and coat when I heard this. I pulled out hair from my head and my beard. I sat down and I was angry and ashamed. 4 Then everyone who was afraid because of the words of the God of Israel came round me. They were afraid because the Israelites from Babylon had not been faithful to their God. And I sat there, very angry, until the time of the evening sacrifice.

5 Then I stood up with my torn shirt and coat. I went on my knees at the evening sacrifice. I was still angry. I held out my hands and I prayed to the Lord, my God. 6 I said,

‘My God, I am too ashamed to look up at you. Our sins are very great. They could not be greater. 7 We have done wrong things from the first days of our ancestors. You have punished us, our kings and our priests, because of our sins. Foreign kings have killed our people. And they have taken our things and they have made us prisoners. And they have caused us to be poor people. So today we are poor and we have no honour.

8 But now the Lord our God has begun to be good to us again. A few of us are here. We are safe in his holy place. He has made us happier and he has made our lives easier. 9 We are still slaves, but our God has not left us alone. He has caused the kings of Persia to be kind to us. They have let us live and they have let us build up the house of our God. We have mended it. And now he keeps us safe in Judah and Jerusalem.

10 We can say nothing to you, our God because we have not obeyed your rules. 11 You gave them to us by your servants, the prophets. You said, “You are going into a country that is not clean. The people there have done very bad things and they have made it not clean. It is full of bad things from one end to the other. 12 You must not let your daughters marry their sons. And you must not let your sons marry their daughters. Do not ever make a strong promise to be their friends. Then you will be strong and you will have good food to eat. Your children will live in the same country after you. It will always belong to your families.”

13 You have punished us because we did these wrong things. But your punishment, our God, was not as great as our sins. You have brought some of us back to Judah. 14 We do not want to marry people who do those very bad things. We must obey you, or you will be angry with us. You might kill all of us, and none of us would still be here. 15 You do only what is good, Lord God of Israel. Only a few of us are still here.

We come to you. We are sorry and ashamed of the wrong things that we have done. Not one person among us is clean enough to stand in front of you.’

Verse 11 Clean means clean inside a person. A clean person does only things that are good. And that person thinks only good thoughts.

Chapter 10

The people tell God that they are sorry

1 A big crowd of Israelite men, women and children came round Ezra. He was praying and crying. And he was saying ‘Sorry’ to God. He threw himself down in front of the house of God. And the people were crying very much. 2 Then Shecaniah spoke to him. He was Jehiel’s son, a descendant of Elam. Shecaniah said, ‘We have not been faithful to our God. We have married foreign women from the countries round us. But we want to make things right with God. 3 We will make a promise to him. We will send away these women and their children. This is what you, Ezra, are telling us to do. And the people who want to obey God’s law want it, too. We must obey the law. 4 Get up! Now you must help us to do what is right. We will help you, so you must not be afraid.’

5 So Ezra got up. He caused the leaders of the priests, Levites and all Israel to promise to do as they had said. And they made their strong promise to God. 6 And Ezra went from the front of God’s house to Jehohanan’s room. Jehohanan was Eliashib’s son. Ezra was still very sad because the people had not been faithful to the Lord. So he did not eat any food while he was there. And he did not drink any water while he was there.

7 They wrote a message and they sent it to all the people in Judah and Jerusalem. It said that they must all come to Jerusalem. 8 If they did not arrive in 3 days, they would lose everything. The leaders and officers had decided to say this. And they would push out anyone who did not obey the message. They would send them out of Israel.

9 All the men from Judah and Benjamin reached Jerusalem in 3 days. All the people sat in front of God’s house on the 20th day of the 9th month. They were very sad because they had made God angry. And the rain was bad. 10 Then Ezra the priest stood up. He said, ‘You have not been faithful to your God. You have married foreign wives. You have done this and so many other sins. 11 Now you must tell the Lord that you are sorry. He is the God of your fathers and grandfathers. You must do the things that he wants. You must make yourselves separate from the people who live in the countries round you. You must make yourselves separate from your foreign wives.’

12 All the people spoke with a loud voice. ‘You are right’, they said. ‘We must do as you say. 13 But we are many people and we cannot stand in the rain. And we shall need more than two days to do this thing. Many of us have sinned like that. 14 Our officers should do this for us. In every town they must make a special time for men to visit the leaders and the judges. Then everyone who has a foreign wife can go to them. God was very angry, but then he will not be angry any longer.’ 15 Only 4 men did not agree with this. They were Jonathan, Asahel’s son, Jahzeiah, Tikvah’s son, with Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite.

16 So the Jews from Babylon did as the people had said. Ezra the priest chose family leaders for each big family. He wrote down their names. They sat down to decide which men had to send away their wives. They started on the first day of the 10th month. 17 And they finished on the first day of the first month.

A list of the men with foreign wives

18 They found that these people had married foreign women:

From the descendants of the priests,

Jeshua, Jozadak’s son and his brothers:





19 (They all promised to send away their wives. Each of them gave a male sheep as a sacrifice for their sin.)

20 The descendants of Immer:



21 The descendants of Harim:






22 The descendants of Pashhur:







23 The descendants of the Levites:



Kelaiah (that is Kelita),




24 From the singers, Eliashib.

From the men who kept the gate, Shallum, Telem and Uri.

25 And among the other Israelites,

the descendants of Parosh:








26 The descendants of Elam:







27 The descendants of Zattu:







28 The descendants of Bebai:





29 The descendants of Bani:







30 The descendants of Pahath-Moab:









31 The descendants of Harim:






32 Benjamin,



33 The descendants of Hashum:








34 The descendants of Bani:




35 Benaiah,



36 Vaniah,



37 Mattaniah,



38 Bani,



39 Shelemiah,



40 Macnadebai,



41 Azarel,



42 Shallum,



43 The descendants of Nebo:








44 All these men had married foreign women, and some had children by these wives.

Word List

table of stone or metal on which they burned gifts to God (sacrifices).
people years ago that your parents came from.
servant from God that brings his messages.
two pieces of metal that people hit together to make a loud noise.
to do good things and to think good thoughts; when something is right to use because God is happy about it.
to put on one side for one person to use in a special way.
a child, grandchild, and so on; a person in your family who was born after you.
not to move from a person or thing that you believe to be true.
a time to eat and to drink good things.
the strong part of a building’s wall that is in the ground.
seed of a grass plant that you can eat; or you can make it into bread.
God’s home.
all good with nothing bad in it; separate from sin.
when you say that somebody is great and good.
Jacob’s descendants; people from the great family of Israel.
another name for an Israelite.
person with authority to decide what is good or bad.
a country that a king rules.
the rules that God or rulers make.
descendant of Levi, one of Jacob’s sons. They had to do special work in the temple but they were not all priests.
a master who rules; a special name that the Jews used for God. God is Lord of everybody.
people who live together in the same country.
to give something to someone, usually God.
a gift to please God.
Passover feast
a holy meal to remember how God saved the Jews from Egypt where they were slaves.
to say how good and great someone is; or the words that we use when we tell someone that.
a special Levite who is a servant of God in his temple; a descendant of Aaron.
a person that the enemy has caught and kept in a prison.
a person who hears God’s words, and tells them to other people.
to hurt someone because they have done wrong things.
what you do to punish someone.
to give something valuable to God; or something valuable that people gave to God.
a very long piece of leather skin to write on.
valuable metal, like gold.
when we do not obey God’s rules.
building where people meet to worship their god.
a metal pipe with a wide end; somebody blows through this metal thing to make loud music.
Urim and Thummim
two Hebrew words. Nobody knows what the Urim and Thummim were. We think that the priest used them. He used them to find out what God wanted. We do not know how the priest used them to do that.
a drink that contains alcohol.
to give thanks to God; to show God that we love him very much; to tell God that he is very great; to praise God more than we praise anyone else.

Book List

Derek Kidner ~ ‘Ezra and Nehemiah’ ~ Tyndale OT Commentaries

L. E. Browne ~ Ezra and Nehemiah ~ Peake’s Commentary

Notes in NIV Study Bible


© Wycliffe Associates (UK), 1997-2007

This version published April 2007

The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.