The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Esdras or the Book of Nehemias
And now a new discovery came to light, while the law of Moses was being read out to the people. It was found set down there, that no Ammonite or Moabite might be admitted to the Lord’s assembly. And this was a disability they had incurred for all time,
by refusing to provide food and drink, when Israel came by; it was they, too, that hired Balaam to curse Israel, only our God transformed that curse into a blessing.
No sooner was this injunction made known, than the Israelites began to rid themselves of all contact with alien folk.
Till now, it had been otherwise; here was the high priest Eliasib, that had the treasury of our God’s temple in his keeping, a close friend of Tobias;✻
and so Tobias had one of the great store-rooms put at his disposal. (It was the room where at one time they used to store up the bloodless offerings, and the incense, and certain ornaments, and the tithe or corn, wine and oil, given to Levite, singer and door-keeper, and the first-fruits that belonged to the priests.)
All this had happened while I was away from Jerusalem. During the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes’ reign I went to court, and it was only at the end of the year that I had leave to return.
When I was back at Jerusalem, and learned what harm had come of Eliasib’s love for Tobias, that he would give him a store-house in the very temple of God,
I cried shame on him; out went all Tobias’ furniture from the treasury,
and I gave orders besides that the treasure-rooms should be cleansed, and put back the furniture of God’s house there, the offerings, too, and the incense.
And now I learned that the Levites were not having their portions granted them; Levite and singer and all the ministrants had gone back to their homes in the country-side.
So I attacked the rulers, asking them whether the house of God was to be left deserted; and I brought the Levites back, and reinstalled them;
from all over Juda, tithe of corn and wine and oil flowed into their store-houses once more;
and we gave the charge of these store-houses to men whose honour we could trust, the priest Selemias, the scribe Sadoc, the Levite Phadaia, and Hanan, son of Zachur, son of Mathanias.
My God, let not this go unremembered; do not blot out the record of the service I have done to thy temple, my God, and to thy ceremonies.
Even now I found Jewish folk treading out their wine-presses and carrying burdens on the sabbath day. On the sabbath day they would load their asses with wine-skins, or grapes, or figs, or some other freight, and bring them to Jerusalem for sale. These I warned that they must find some other day for selling their wares;
but there were still traders from Tyre in the city itself, importing fish and all manner of goods, who sold them to their Jewish neighbours on the sabbath, there in Jerusalem.
So I took my complaint to the Jewish rulers; Here are fine doings of yours, I said, that profane the sabbath day!
All these late afflictions that God brought on us and on our city were a punishment for such disobedience as this; would you crown Israel’s guilt by breaking the sabbath?
When the sabbath came, and the traffic of the market-place had died away, and the gates were shut, I gave orders that they should not be opened till the sabbath was over; I set a guard there, too, of my own men, to make sure that no load came in that day.
That week and the next, the merchants waited beyond Jerusalem walls and did all their trading there;
but that would not serve; I warned them not to loiter about the walls, and threatened to use force if they did the like again; so there was no more trafficking on the sabbath.
Meanwhile, I bade the Levites rid themselves of defilement and keep watch over the gates, for the better hallowing of the sabbath day. For this too, O my God, let me not go unremembered; as thou art rich in mercy, grant me pardon still.
Even now I found men of Juda that had married wives from Azotus, or Ammon, or Moab,
with children that spoke half in the Philistine dialect, not like true Jews; they would use the speech first of one race and then of another.✻
I remonstrated with such men, and called down a curse on them; with some I came to blows, and plucked the hair from their heads. Then I made them take an oath in God’s name; there should be no more alien sons-in-law, or daughters-in-law, or wives. Why, I said,
was not this king Solomon’s undoing? Here was a man that had not his like on earth, the favourite of his God, that gave him all Israel for his kingdom; yet such a man alien women could bend to sinful ways.
Here is heinous rebellion, and great despite done to our God, if we take wives of another race, as Solomon did.
Eliasib himself, the high priest, had a grandson, one of the sons of Joiada, that had married a daughter of Sanaballat the Horonite; of his company I soon rid myself.
Not unremembered, O Lord my God, be their profanation of the priesthood, unworthy sons of Aaron and of Levi both.
Thus it was mine to rid Israel of the alien-born, to marshal priests and Levites for their due service,
to plan the offering of wood at appointed times, and of the first-fruits. Not unremembered, my God, be all this, not unrewarded.
The Holy Bible