1One day when the Book of Moses was being read to the people, the section was found where it was written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be allowed into the assembly of God,
2because they hadn't brought food and water when they met the Israelites, but instead they had hired Balaam to put a curse on them—though our God turned that curse into a blessing!
3When the people heard about this law, they separated out from Israel everyone who had foreign ancestry.
4Before all this, Eliashib the priest, who was related to Tobiah, had been put in charge of the storerooms of the Temple of our God.
5He had provided Tobiah with a large room which had previously been used to store the grain offerings, incense, and Temple items, as well as the tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil allocated to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, in addition to the offerings for the priests.
6When all this happened I was not in Jerusalem because I had returned to King Artaxerxes of Babylon in the thirty-second year of his reign. Some time later I requested permission from the king to go back.
7When I arrived back in Jerusalem I discovered the dreadful thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courtyard of God's Temple.
8I was extremely upset, and I went and threw out everything that was in Tobiah's room.
9I ordered the rooms purified, and put back the Temple items, the grain offerings, and the incense.
10I also found out that the food allowances for the Levites were not being provided, so the Levites had gone back to take care of their fields, along with the singers who led the worship services.
11I went and confronted the leaders, asking, “Why is God's Temple being neglected?” I called the Levites back and made sure they were carrying out their responsibilities.
12Everyone in Judah then brought the tithes of grain, new wine, and olive oil into the storerooms.
13I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah, one of the Levites, in charge of the storerooms with Hanan, son of Zakkur, son of Mattaniah, to assist them, because they were considered honest people. Their responsibility was to distribute the allowances to their fellow Levites.
14My God, please remember me over this. Please don't forget my good deeds I have done for the Temple of my God and its services.
15Around that time I noticed people treading the winepress on Sabbath. I saw others collecting grain and loading it up on donkeys, along with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, and bringing it all into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day.
16I told them off for selling their produce on that day.
17Some people from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of things and they were selling them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah in Jerusalem.
18I confronted the Jewish leaders, asking them, “Why are you are doing such an evil thing? You are violating the Sabbath day! Wasn't this what your forefathers did, bringing our God down on us, causing us and this city such disasters? Now you're bringing even more trouble on us by violating the Sabbath!”
19So I ordered Jerusalem's gates to be shut at sunset on the day before the Sabbath, and that were not to be opened until after the Sabbath had ended. I assigned some of my men to guard the gates to make sure no goods would be brought in on the Sabbath day.
20A couple of times merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside of Jerusalem.
21I warned them, saying, “Why are you spending the night by the wall? If you do that again I'll have you arrested!” After that they didn't come on the Sabbath.
22Then I told the Levites to purify themselves and to come and guard the gates to keep the Sabbath day holy. My God, please also remember me for doing this, and be merciful to me because of your trustworthy love.
23Around the same time I realized some Jews had married women from Ashdod, Moab, and Ammon.
24Half their children could only speak the language of Ashdod or that of another people, and didn't know how to speak the language of Judah.
25So I confronted them and told them they were cursed. I beat some of them and pulled out their hair. Then I made them take an oath before God, saying, “You must not allow your daughters to marry their sons, or allow your sons—or yourselves— to marry their daughters.
26Wasn't it marriages like these that made King Solomon of Israel sin? There wasn't a king in any nation like him. God loved him, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was made to sin by foreign women.
27So do we have to hear about you committing this dreadful sin, how you are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?”
28Even one of the sons of Jehoiada, son of Eliashib the high priest, had become a son-in-law to Sanballat the Horonite. So I expelled him.
29My God, remember them and what they did, violating the priesthood and the solemn agreement of the priests and Levites.
30I purified them from everything foreign, and I made sure the priests and Levites were carrying out their assigned responsibilities.
31I also arranged for wood to be supplied for the altar at the specified times, and for the first part of the produce to be donated. My God, remember me favorably.