1At that time the Book of Moses was read out loud. All the people heard it. It was written there that no Ammonite or Moabite could ever become a member of God’s community. 2That’s because they hadn’t given the people of Israel food and water. Instead, they had hired Balaam to put a curse on them. But our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3When that law was read, the people of Judah obeyed it. They sent out of Israel everyone who was from another nation.
4Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms in the house of our God. He had worked closely with Tobiah. 5He had also provided a large room for Tobiah. It had been used to store the grain offerings. The incense and the objects for the temple had been put there. And a tenth of the grain, olive oil and fresh wine had been kept there. That’s what the Law required for the Levites. That’s also what it required for the musicians and the men who guarded the temple gates. The gifts for the priests had been kept there too.
6But I wasn’t in Jerusalem while all of that was going on. I had returned to the Persian King Artaxerxes, the king of Babylon. I went to him in the 32nd year of his rule. Some time later I asked him to let me return to Jerusalem. 7When I got back, I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done. He had provided a room for Tobiah. It was in the courtyards of God’s house. 8So I was very unhappy. I threw all of Tobiah’s things out of the room. 9I gave orders to make the rooms pure and “clean” again. Then I put the supplies from God’s house back into them. That included the grain offerings and the incense.
10I also learned that the shares the Levites were supposed to receive hadn’t been given to them. So all the Levites and musicians had to leave their regular temple duties. They had to go back and farm their own fields. 11I gave a warning to the officials. I asked them, “Why aren’t you taking care of God’s house?” Then I brought the Levites and musicians together. I stationed them in their proper places. I put them back to work.
12All the people of Judah brought a tenth of the grain, olive oil and fresh wine. They took it to the storerooms. 13I put some men in charge of the storerooms. They were Shelemiah, Zadok and Pedaiah. Shelemiah was a priest. Zadok was a teacher of the law. And Pedaiah was a Levite. I made Hanan their assistant. He was the son of Zakkur. Zakkur was the son of Mattaniah. I knew that these men could be trusted. They were put in charge of handing out the supplies to the other Levites.
14You are my God. Remember me because of what I’ve done. I’ve worked faithfully for your temple and its services. So please don’t forget the good things I’ve done.
15In those days I saw some people of Judah stomping on grapes in winepresses. They were doing it on the Sabbath day. Other people were bringing in grain. They were loading it on donkeys. Still other people were loading up wine, grapes, figs and other kinds of things. They were bringing all of it into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. So I warned them not to sell food on that day. 16People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish. In fact, they were bringing in all kinds of goods. They were selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. The people of Judah were buying them. 17I gave a warning to the nobles of Judah. I said, “Why are you doing such an evil thing? You are misusing the Sabbath day! 18Your people of long ago did the very same things. That’s why our God has brought all this trouble on us. That’s why he’s making this city suffer so much. Now you are making him even angrier against Israel. You are misusing the Sabbath day.”
19Evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath day started. So I ordered the gates to be shut. They had to remain closed until the Sabbath day was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates. I told them not to let anything be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20Once or twice some traders and sellers spent the night outside Jerusalem. They were hoping to sell all kinds of goods. 21But I gave them a warning. I said, “Why are you spending the night by the wall? If you do this again, I’ll arrest you.” So from that time on they didn’t come on the Sabbath day anymore. 22I commanded the Levites to make themselves pure. Then I told them to go and guard the gates. I wanted the Sabbath day to be kept holy.
You are my God. Remember me because of the good things I’ve done. Be kind to me according to your great love.
23In those days I also saw that some men of Judah had married women from Ashdod. Others had married women from Ammon or Moab. 24Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod. Or they spoke the language of one of the other nations. They didn’t even know how to speak the language of Judah. 25So I gave them a warning. I cursed them. I beat up some of them. I pulled their hair out. I had them make a promise in God’s name. I said, “You must promise not to give your daughters to be married to their sons. You must promise not to let their daughters marry your sons. And you must not marry their daughters either. 26That’s how Solomon, the king of Israel, sinned. He married women from other nations. There wasn’t a king like him anywhere. His God loved him. In fact, God made him king over the whole nation of Israel. But even he was led into sin by women from other lands. 27Now I hear that you too are doing all of the same terrible and evil things. You aren’t being faithful to our God. You are marrying women from other lands.”
28One of the sons of Joiada was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Joiada, the son of Eliashib, was the high priest. I drove Joiada’s son away from me.
29You are my God. Remember what those priests have done. They have brought shame to their own work. They have also brought shame to the covenant that God made with the priests and Levites long ago.
30So I made the priests and Levites pure. I made them pure from every practice that had come from other countries and had made them impure. I gave them their duties. Each one had his own job to do. 31I also made plans for gifts of wood to be brought at certain appointed times. And I made plans for the first share of the crops to be brought.
You are my God. Please remember me with kindness.