Nehemiah tells people to obey God's Law
1 On that day, we read the book of Moses aloud to the people. One of the laws said that no descendant of Ammon or Moab should ever join with God's people when they met together. 2 This was because they had not given the Israelites food and water. Instead, they had paid Balaam to curse the Israelites. But God did not agree to curse them. He blessed them instead.
13:2This was at the time when the Israelites had left Egypt. They were travelling to the land that God had promised to give them. See Deuteronomy 23:3-5; Numbers 22:1-6.
3 When the Israelite people heard this law, they sent way all the foreign people who had foreign ancestors.
4 Before this happened, I had given Eliashib the priest authority over the temple rooms where they stored special things. Eliashib was a friend of Tobiah. 5 Eliashib let Tobiah use one of these rooms in the temple. It was a large room where they had stored the grain offerings, the incense and the special plates and tools that they used in the temple. They also stored the tithes of grain, wine and olive oil in that room. These gifts were for the Levites, the temple singers and guards, and also for the priests.
13:4a friend or a relative
6 But when this happened, I was not in Jerusalem. In the 32nd year that King Artaxerxes ruled in Babylon, I had returned to visit him. After I had been there for some time, I asked the king to let me return to Jerusalem. 7 When I arrived back in Jerusalem, I heard about the evil thing that Eliashib had done. He had given Tobiah a large room in the yards of God's temple. 8 I was very angry, so I threw all Tobiah's things out of the room. 9 I gave a command that they must make the rooms clean again. Then I put back the special plates and tools that they used in the temple. I also put back the grain offerings and the incense.
13:7Because Tobiah was a foreigner and not a Jew, it was a very bad thing that Eliashib had done.
10 I also discovered that there was no food that should have been there for the Levites. As a result, the Levites and the singers had returned to work in their fields. They were not doing their work in God's temple. 11 I warned the officers. I told them, ‘You have stopped taking care of God's temple!’ Then I told the Levites and the other workers to return to their jobs in the temple.
12 After that, all the people in Judah brought their tithes of grain and wine and olive oil to store in the temple rooms. 13 I gave Shelemiah the priest, Zadok, the student of God's Law, and Pedaiah, a Levite, authority to take care of the rooms. Hanan, son of Zaccur and Mattaniah's grandson, helped them. People knew that these men were faithful workers. They had authority to give out the offerings to the other workers who served God.
14 Please remember what I have done, my God. I have been faithful to take care of the temple of my God, so that people can worship you there.
15 In those days, I saw people in Judah who were working on Sabbath days. They were making wine. They were bringing their grain from the fields. They were making their donkeys carry the grain, as well as wine, grapes, figs and other things. They were bringing all those things into Jerusalem when it was a Sabbath day. I warned them that they must not sell things on any Sabbath day.
13:15God had told Moses that the Israelites must not work on the Sabbath day. They must make it a special day to worship God. See Exodus 20:8-11.
16 People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem sold fish and other things when it was a Sabbath day. They even brought those things into Jerusalem and sold them to the people of Judah. 17 I was angry with the leaders of Judah. I said to them, ‘You are doing an evil thing. You are not making the Sabbath a special day. 18 Your ancestors did the same thing. That is why God punished them and he brought trouble on this city. Now you will make God even more angry with us, Israel's people. You are insulting God's Sabbath day.’
19 So I gave a command to the guards at the city's gates. I told them, ‘You must close the gates in the evening before each Sabbath day begins. Do not open the gates again until the Sabbath day has finished.’ I told some of my own men to stand at the gates. They would watch carefully so that no traders would bring things into Jerusalem on any Sabbath day.
20 A few times, some traders stayed outside Jerusalem all night, with the things that they wanted to sell. 21 I warned them, ‘Do not stay beside the city's wall all night. If you do this again, I will take hold of you.’ After I said that, they did not come again to Jerusalem on a Sabbath day. 22 Then I told the Levites that they must make themselves ready to serve God. I told them to go and stand at the gates as guards. They must keep the Sabbath day as a special day for God.
My God, please remember this good thing that I have done. Because of your faithful love, please be kind to me.
23 Also at that time, I discovered that men from Judah had married foreign women. They were women who came from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, or a language of the other foreign nations. They did not know how to speak the language of Judah.
13:23God wants his people to worship only him. If the Israelites marry foreign wives, they may also start to worship foreign gods.
25 I was angry with them. I asked God to curse them. I hit some of the men. I pulled out the hair of some of them. I told them to make a promise in God's name. I said to them, ‘You must not let your daughters marry the sons of those foreign people. You must not let their daughters marry your sons. You yourselves must not marry foreign women either. 26 Solomon, king of Israel, did a bad thing when he married foreign women. There was no other king as great as him in any other nation. God loved him. God chose him to be king over all Israel. But Solomon's foreign wives caused him to do bad things, even though he was so great.
27 We can never agree to all the evil things that you have done. If we all married foreign women, we would not be faithful to our God.’
28 Joiada was the son of Eliashib, the leader of the priests. One of Joiada's sons had married a daughter of Sanballat, who came from Horon. I sent Joiada's son away from Jerusalem.
29 My God, remember what these people have done. They have not been faithful to you as your priests. They have spoiled the covenant that you made with the priests and the other descendants of Levi.
30 After that, I made the priests and the Levites clean to serve God. I made them become separate from any foreign thing. I told each of them which job they should do. 31 I also made sure that people brought wood to the temple for sacrifices on the altar. I made them bring the first crops and fruits from their fields for the offerings.
My God, please remember to bless me.