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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 8

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1 IT was after these events, when Artaxerxes was king of Persia, that Ezra came. He was the son of Saraeas son of Ezerias, son of Chelkias, son of Salemus, 2son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amarias, son of Ezias, son of Mareroth, son of Zaraeas, son of Savia a 8:2 son of Mareroth … Savia: some MSS omit. , son of Bocca, son of Abishua, son of Phineas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest. 3Ezra had come up from Babylon. He was a scribe expert in the law of Moses that had been given by the God of Israel. 4The king held him in high regard and looked with favour on all the requests he made.

5He was accompanied to Jerusalem by a number of Israelites, priests, Levites, temple singers, door-keepers, and temple servitors 6in the fifth month of the seventh year of Artaxerxes' reign. They left Babylon at the new moon in the first month and reached Jerusalem at the new moon in the fifth month, for the Lord gave them a good journey. 7Ezra's knowledge of the law of the Lord and the commandments was full and exact, so that he was able to instruct all Israel in all the ordinances and judgements.

8The following is a copy of the mandate from King Artaxerxes to Ezra the priest, doctor of the law of the Lord:

9King Artaxerxes to Ezra the priest, doctor of the law of the Lord.

Greeting.

10I have graciously decided, and now command, that throughout our kingdom any of the Jewish nation and of the priests and Levites who so desire, may go with you to Jerusalem. 11I and my council of seven Friends have decreed that all who so choose may accompany you. 12They are to consider the situation in Judaea and Jerusalem with regard to the law of the Lord. 13They shall convey to Jerusalem for Israel's Lord the gifts which I and my Friends have vowed, together with all the gold and silver in Babylonia that may be found to belong to the Lord, 14and the gifts provided by the nation for the temple of their Lord at Jerusalem. Let the gold and silver be expended on the purchase of bulls, rams, lambs, and the like, 15so that sacrifices may be offered on the altar of their Lord in Jerusalem. 16In whatever ways you and your colleagues may wish to use the gold and silver, let it be done in accordance with the will of your God. 17You are to deliver the sacred vessels of the Lord which have been handed over for the service of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.

18Any other expenses you may incur for the needs of the temple of your God you shall defray from the royal treasury.

19I, Artaxerxes the king, hereby direct the treasurers of Syria and Phoenicia to supply exactly to Ezra the priest, doctor of the law of the Most High God, whatever he may request 20up to one hundred talents of silver, and similarly up to one hundred sacks of wheat and one hundred casks of wine, and salt without limit. 21Let all the requirements of God's law be diligently fulfilled in honour of the Most High God; otherwise wrath may befall the realm of the king and his sons. 22You are also informed that no tribute or other impost is to be exacted from the priests, the Levites, the temple singers, the door-keepers, the temple servitors, or the lay officers of this temple; no one is authorized to impose any levy on them.

23Under the wise guidance of God you, Ezra, are to appoint judges and magistrates throughout Syria and Phoenicia to administer justice for all who acknowledge the law of your God; you must instruct those who do not know it. 24Whoever transgresses the law of your God or the law of the king shall be duly punished, whether he be put to death or sentenced to a fine or imprisonment.

25Then Ezra the scribe said, ‘Blessed is the Lord and he alone! He put this into the king's mind, to glorify his house in Jerusalem, 26and has singled me out for honour in the eyes of the king and his counsellors, all his Friends and courtiers.

27‘Encouraged by the help of the Lord my God, I gathered men of Israel to go up with me. 28These are the leaders according to families and divisions who went up with me from Babylon in the reign of King Artaxerxes: 29from the line of Phineas, Gershom; from the line of Ithamar, Gamael; from the line of David, Attus son of Sechenias; 30from the line of Phoros, Zacharias and with him a hundred and fifty men according to the register; 31from the line of Phaath-moab, Eliaonias son of Zaraeas and with him two hundred men; 32from the line of Zathoe, Sechenias son of Jezelus and with him three hundred men; from the line of Adin, Obeth son of Jonathan and with him two hundred and fifty men; 33from the line of Elam, Jessias son of Gotholias and with him seventy men; 34from the line of Saphatias, Zaraeas son of Michael and with him seventy men; 35from the line of Joab, Abadias son of Jezelus and with him two hundred and twelve men; 36from the line of Banias, Salimoth son of Josaphias and with him a hundred and sixty men; 37from the line of Babi, Zacharias son of Bebae and with him twenty-eight men; 38from the line of Astath, Joannes son of Hacatan and with him a hundred and ten men; 39last came those from the line of Adonikam, by name Eliphalatus, Jeuel, and Samaeas, and with them seventy men; 40from the line of Bago, Uthi son of Istalcurus and with him seventy men.

41‘I assembled them by the river Theras, and we encamped there for three days. I checked them, 42and finding no one there who was a priest or a Levite, 43I sent to Eleazar, Iduelus, Maasmas, 44Elnathan, Samaeas, Joribus, Nathan, Ennatas, Zacharias, and Mosollamus, who were prominent and discerning men, 45and instructed them to go to Addaeus, the head of the treasury in the district. 46I told them to speak with Addaeus and his colleagues and fellow-treasurers, asking that men should be sent to us to officiate in the house of our Lord. 47Under the providence of our Lord they sent us discerning men from the line of Mooli son of Levi, son of Israel, Asebebias and his sons and brothers, eighteen men in all, 48and Asebias and Annunus and his brother Hosaeas. Those of the line of Chanunaeus and their sons amounted to twenty men; 49and those of the temple servitors whom David and the leading men appointed for the service of the Levites amounted to two hundred and twenty. A register of all those names was compiled.

50‘I made a vow there that the young men should fast before our Lord and ask from him a prosperous journey for ourselves, our children who accompanied us, and our pack-animals. 51I was ashamed to apply to the king for an escort of infantry and cavalry to protect us against our enemies, 52for we had told him that the might of our Lord would ensure a successful outcome for those who looked to him. 53So once more we laid all these things before our Lord in prayer and found him gracious.

54‘Then I set apart twelve men from among the chiefs of the priestly families, Sarabias and Asamias and with them ten of their kinsmen. 55I weighed out for them the silver and gold, and the sacred vessels for the house of our Lord which had been presented by the king, by his counsellors and courtiers, and by all Israel. 56After weighing it, I handed over to them six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels weighing a hundred talents, a hundred talents of gold, 57and twenty gold dishes, and twelve vessels made of bronze so fine that it gleamed like gold. 58I said, “Just as you are consecrated to the Lord, so too are the vessels; the silver and the gold are vowed to the Lord, the Lord of our fathers. 59Guard them with all vigilance until you hand them over at Jerusalem, in the priests' rooms in the house of our Lord, to the chiefs of the priestly and levitical families and to the leaders of the clans of Israel.” 60The priests and the Levites who had custody of the silver, the gold, and the vessels which had been in Jerusalem brought them to the temple of the Lord.

61‘On the twelfth day of the first month we struck camp at the river Theras and, under the powerful protection afforded by our Lord, who saved us from every enemy attack on the way, we reached Jerusalem. 62On our fourth day there, the silver and gold were weighed and handed over in the house of our Lord to the priest Marmathi son of Uri, 63with whom was Eleazar son of Phineas; present with them were the Levites Josabdus son of Jeshua and Moeth son of Sabannus. Everything was counted and weighed, 64and every weight recorded then and there.

65‘Those who had returned from captivity offered sacrifices to the Lord, the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, with ninety-six rams 66and seventy-two lambs, and also twelve goats for a shared-offering, the whole as a sacrifice to the Lord. 67They delivered the king's orders to the royal treasurers and the governors of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, thereby adding lustre to the nation and the temple of the Lord.

68‘ONCE this business was concluded, the leaders came to me and said: 69‘The people of Israel, including even the rulers, priests, and Levites, have not kept themselves apart from the alien population of the land with all their unclean practices, that is to say the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Edomites. 70Both they and their sons have intermarried with the women of these peoples, so that the holy race has become mixed with the alien population of the land. From the very beginning, the leaders and principal men have shared in this violation of the law.”

71‘At this news I rent my clothes and sacred vestment, I tore my hair and beard and sat appalled and grieving. 72All who were moved by the word of the Lord of Israel gathered round me, and I sat grief-stricken over this failure to observe the law; and I sat in grief until the evening sacrifice. 73Then with my clothes and sacred vestment torn I rose from my fast and, kneeling down, held out my hands in supplication to the Lord. 74“O Lord,” I said, “I am covered with shame and confusion in your presence. 75Our sins tower above us and our offences have reached high heaven 76ever since the time of our forefathers; and today we are as deep in sin as ever. 77Because of our sins and the sins of our forefathers, we, together with our brothers, our kings, and our priests, have been given into the power of the earthly rulers to be killed, taken captive, pillaged, and humiliated, down to this very day. 78Yet even now, Lord, how great is your mercy! For we still have a root and a name in this your holy place. 79Our light has been rekindled in the house of our Lord, and we have been given sustenance in the time of our enslavement. 80Even when we were slaves we were not forsaken by our Lord, but he secured for us the favour of the kings of Persia: they have provided our sustenance 81and added lustre to the temple of our Lord and restored the ruins of Zion, establishing us securely in Judaea and Jerusalem.

82‘“Now, Lord, in the face of this, what are we to say? For we have broken your commandments given through your servants the prophets. You said: 83‘The land which you are going to occupy is a land defiled with the pollution of its heathen population; they have filled it with their impure ways. 84Now therefore do not marry your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons; 85nor must you ever seek to be at peace with them. Only thus will you be strong and enjoy the good things of the land, and hand it on as an everlasting possession to your descendants.’ 86It is our evil deeds and great sins which have brought all our misfortunes on us. Although you, Lord, have lightened the burden of our sins 87and given us firm roots in the land, yet we have fallen away again and broken your law by sharing in the impurity of the peoples of this land. 88But you were not so angry with us as to destroy us, root, stock, and name. 89O Lord of Israel, you are just; for we today are a root that is left. 90In all our sin we are here before you; because of it we can no longer stand in your presence.”’

91While Ezra was praying and making confession, prostrate in tears before the temple, there gathered round him a vast throng from Jerusalem, men, women, and children, and there was widespread lamentation among the crowd. 92One of the Israelites, Jechonias son of Jehiel, spoke up and said to Ezra: ‘We have sinned against the Lord in taking foreign wives from the peoples of the land; yet there is still hope for Israel. 93In this matter let us promise on oath to the Lord to get rid of our wives of foreign race together with their children, 94in keeping with your judgement and the judgement of all who are obedient to the law of the Lord. 95Get up and see to it; the matter is in your hands. Take strong action and we are with you!’ 96Ezra stood up and put the chiefs of the priestly and levitical families of all Israel on oath to act in this way.

Notes:

a 8:2 son of Mareroth … Savia: some MSS omit.

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