Nehemiah 13

Nehemiah makes people obey the Law

1 On that day, we read the book of Moses to the people. The people listened to what Moses had written in the book. One of the laws said that no descendant of Ammon or Moab should be among the people of God. 2 This was because they had not given the Jews food and water. But they had paid Balaam to ask God to do bad things to the Jews. But God did good things for the Jews instead. 3 When the Jews heard this law, they made all the foreign people leave.

4 Before this happened, I had given to Eliashib the priest authority over the store-rooms. They used these rooms to keep the offerings. These rooms were in the house of God. Eliashib was a friend of Tobiah. 5 He let Tobiah use a large room in the house of God. The purpose of the room was to store the temple's grain offerings and incense. They also kept there tithes of grain, wine and oil. These were for the Levites, singers and gatekeepers and for the priests.

6 But when this happened, I (Nehemiah) was not in Jerusalem. In the 32nd year of Artaxerxes, King of Babylon, I had returned to the king. After some time had passed, I asked the king 7 to let me return to Jerusalem. There I heard about the bad thing that Eliashib had done. He had given Tobiah, who was not a Jew, a large room in the house of God. 8 I was very angry. I threw Tobiah's things out of the room. 9 I told people that they must purify the rooms. Then I put God's things back into the room. I put back the things that they used in God's house and the grain offerings and incense.

10 People told me that the Levites did not have any food. The people had not given them anything. So all the Levites and singers had returned to their fields. They were not doing their work in God's temple. 11 I was angry with the officers. I said, ‘I am angry because you have forgotten the house of God.’ Then I called them all back. I told them that they should stand in their special places in the temple.

12 All the people in Judah brought tithes of grain and wine and oil. They put them into the store-rooms. 13 I gave Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the writer and Pedaiah a Levite, authority. They watched over the things that they kept in these special rooms. Hanan son of Zaccur, Mattaniah's son, helped them. People knew that these men were good. They gave out the grain, oil and wine. They gave it to the people who worked on God's behalf. 14 ‘Remember what I have done, my God. Do not forget what I have done on behalf of the house of God and its work. I have been faithful.’

15 In those days, I saw men in Judah working on the Sabbath day. They were making wine and they were putting wine, grapes and other fruit on their donkeys. And they brought them into Jerusalem. I told them that they should not work on the Sabbath day. And I told them that they should not sell things on the Sabbath day.

13:15God had told Moses that the Jews must not work on the Sabbath day. The Jews must keep that day to rest and worship God (Exodus 20:8-11). A donkey is an animal that can carry things and people.

16 Men from Tyre, who lived in Jerusalem, sold fish and other things on the Sabbath day. The Jews then bought things from them. 17 I was angry with the leaders of Judah. I said, ‘You are doing a thing that is wrong. It is the Sabbath day. 18 Your ancestors did the same thing. God brought trouble on Jerusalem city because of this. You are making God angry with the Jews by doing wrong things on the Sabbath day.’

19 I said to the gatekeepers, ‘You must close the city's gates in the evening before the Sabbath begins.’ I did not let them open until the Sabbath was finished. I told my men that they should stand at the gates. They did not let anyone bring things into Jerusalem until after the end of the Sabbath. 20 Once or twice some people who wanted to sell things stayed outside Jerusalem all night. 21 I said to them, ‘You should not stay outside the wall all night. If you do this again, I will hurt you.’ After this, they did not come to Jerusalem on the Sabbath. 22 Then I told the Levites that they must purify themselves. I told them that they must stand at the gates. This went on during the whole of the Sabbath day. They kept the day holy on God's behalf. ‘Remember this, oh my God. Because of your love, be kind to me.’

23 Also at that time, men from Judah had married foreign women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of another country. They did not know how to speak the language of Judah. 25 I was angry and I said angry words to them. I hit some of them. I pulled out the hair of some of these men. I made them make a promise in God's name. I said, ‘You must not let your daughters marry the sons of foreign people. You must not let your sons marry the daughters of foreign people.

26 Solomon, king of Israel sinned against God because he married foreign women. There was no greater king in any other country. God loved him and made him king over all Israel. But foreign women made even Solomon sin.

27 Now we hear that you are doing this bad thing. You are marrying foreign women. You are not faithful to God.’

28 Joiada was the son of Eliashib, the leader of the priests. One of Joiada's sons married a daughter of Sanballat, who came from Horonaim. I sent him away.

29 Remember them, my God. They were priests, but they sinned. They did not do what you told them to do. They took away people's respect for the priest's work. 30 So I purified the priests and Levites. I made them clean from anything foreign. I told them what they should do. I gave to each man a special job. 31 I also made sure that people brought wood for the altar. I made them bring their first fruits. Remember me, my God. And please be good to me.

13:31God is not against foreign people. But he does not want his people to worship other gods. He tells them that they must not mix with foreign people. That is because they worshipped other gods.