The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The First Book of Esdras
When all this was done, a complaint was brought to me by the chieftains, against priest and Levite and common folk alike. They had not kept themselves apart from the old inhabitants of the land, Chanaanite, Hethite, Pherezite, Jebusite, Ammonite, Moabite, Egyptian and Amorrhite, or from their detestable practices;
foreign wives and daughters-in-law had contaminated the sacred stock of Israel, and the chief blame for this lay with the rulers and magistrates themselves.
At this news I tore cloak and tunic both, plucked hair from head and beard, and sat there lamenting.
Such as feared God’s warnings, defied by these restored exiles, rallied to my side; and still I sat lamenting until the time came for the evening sacrifice.
Then, at the time of the evening sacrifice, I rose up from my posture of grief; cloak and tunic still torn about me, I fell on my knees and stretched out my hands to the Lord my God.
And thus I prayed: O my God, I am all confusion, I am ashamed to lift my eyes towards thee; so deep, head-deep, are we sunk in the flood of our wrong-doing, so high, heaven-high, mounts the tale of our transgressions.
Sinful fathers begot us, sinners are we to this day; in vain have we fallen a prey, we and our kings and our priests, to the power of Gentile kings, to massacre, exile, rapine, and the humiliation that is with us now.
For a brief moment it seemed as if the Lord our God had listened to our prayers; he would leave a remnant of our race surviving, leave us a foot-hold✻ on this holy ground; some gleam of hope our God would afford us, some breath of life in our bondage.
Slaves we were, but in our slavery the Lord did not abandon us; he deigned to win us the favour of the Persian king; we were to live still, the house of our God was to rise anew, restored from its ruins, Juda and Jerusalem should have a wall to defend them.
And now, O Lord our God, after all this, what plea can we offer? Thy will stands defied.
That will of thine, through thy servants the prophets, thou hast made fully known to us. They warned us, The land in whose conquest you are engaged is a heathen land, like heathen lands everywhere, unclean; detestable rites have filled it to the brim with defilement.
Never a daughter of yours for their sons, never a daughter of theirs for yours; never peace or good will between them and you, while time lasts! So you shall rise to greatness, so you shall enjoy all the blessings this land of yours can give, and bequeath them evermore to your sons for their inheritance.
And now, after so much wrong-doing, such punishment for lives ill lived, such pardon for our sins, and the deliverance that is with us this day,
should we turn back? Should we defy thy commandments, by mating with these, the abominable? Oh, then indeed thy patience is at an end; no remnant of us is to be left surviving!
Lord God of Israel, the fault is not with thee; that we are alive to-day is proof of it. Ours is the fault; we stand before thee guilty, and without excuse.
The Holy Bible