The people turn away from their sins
1 Ezra continued to pray, in front of God's temple. He was asking God to forgive his people's sins. He was weeping, and he was bending down low to the ground. While he was doing that, a big crowd of Israelite people came around him. There were men, women and children. They were also weeping loudly. 2 Then Shecaniah spoke to Ezra. Shecaniah 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 nations who live near us. But Israel may still hope that God will forgive us. 3 We will make an agreement with our God. We will agree to send away these foreign women and their children. As our leader, you have told us we must do this. The people who respect our God's commands say the same thing. Now we want to do what God's law says is right. 4 Get up now! You must do something about this. We will help you, so you must be brave!’
5 So Ezra got up. He told the leaders of the priests, the Levites and all Israel's people to make a strong promise. They all promised God that they would do what they had said. 6 Then Ezra went away from the front of God's temple. He went to the room of Eliashib's son, Jehohanan. While Ezra stayed there, he did not eat any food or drink any water. He was still very sad because the people had not been faithful to God.
7 They wrote a message and they sent it to all the people in Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah. It said that all the Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon must come to Jerusalem. 8 If they did not arrive in three days, they would lose everything that belonged to them. They would no longer be part of the Israelite people. That is what the leaders and officers had decided should happen.
9 All the men from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin reached Jerusalem in three days. It was the 20th day of the ninth month. All the people sat in the yard in front of God's temple. Their bodies were shaking because they were afraid. It was also raining.
10:9Judah and Benjamin were the two tribes that belonged to the kingdom of Judah. They were the two Israelite tribes who had been taken as prisoners to Babylon. Now God had brought them back to their homes in Judah.
10 Then Ezra the priest stood up. He said to the people, ‘You have not been faithful to your God. You have married foreign wives. You have caused the whole nation of Israel to be guilty. 11 Now you must agree to obey the Lord, the God that your ancestors worshipped. Turn away from your sins and do the things that please him. Make yourselves separate from the foreign people who live near you. Send away your foreign wives.’
12 All the people spoke with a loud voice. They said, ‘You are right. We will do as you say. 13 But we are many people and we cannot continue to stand here in the heavy rain. We will need more than one or two days to do what we must do. There are many of us who have done this bad sin. 14 So please let our officers decide what to do on behalf of us all. People who have married foreign wives should come here on certain days. People from each town should come on the right day, together with the leaders and judges from that town. In this way, we can make things right. Then our God will not be angry with us any longer.’
15 Only four men did not agree with this. They were Asahel's son, Jonathan, Tikvah's son, Jahzeiah, as well as Meshullam and Shabbethai, the Levite.
16 So the Jews who had returned from Babylon did what they had agreed to do. Ezra the priest chose family leaders for each clan. He wrote down their names. The leaders met together to decide what to do. They started on the first day of the tenth month. 17 They finished on the first day of the first month of the new year.