Ezra 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 people. 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 was still very upset. I went on my knees at the time of the evening sacrifice. 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.”

9:11Clean means clean inside a person. A clean person does only things that are good. And that person thinks only good thoughts.

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.’