1* a At that time, when the book of Moses was being read in the hearing of the people, it was found written there: “No Ammonite or Moabite may ever be admitted into the assembly of God; 2b for they did not meet the Israelites with food and water, but they hired Balaam to curse them, though our God turned the curse into a blessing.” 3c When they had heard the law, they separated all those of mixed descent from Israel.
Reform in the Temple. 4* Before this, the priest Eliashib, who had been placed in charge of the chambers of the house of our God and who was an associate of Tobiah, 5d had set aside for the latter’s use a large chamber in which had previously been stored the grain offerings, incense and vessels, the tithes in grain, wine, and oil allotted to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the offerings due the priests. 6During all this time I had not been in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes,* king of Babylon, I had gone back to the king. After a suitable period of time, however, I asked leave of the king 7and returned to Jerusalem, where I discovered the evil thing that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in setting aside for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8This displeased me very much, so I had all of Tobiah’s household goods thrown outside the chamber. 9Then I gave orders to purify the chambers, and I brought back the vessels of the house of God, the grain offerings, and the incense.
10I learned, too, that the portions due the Levites were no longer being given, so that the Levites and the singers who should have been carrying out the services had deserted to their own fields. 11I reprimanded the magistrates, demanding, “Why is the house of God neglected?” Then I brought the Levites together and had them resume their stations. 12e All Judah once more brought in the tithes of grain, wine, and oil to the storerooms. 13In charge of the storerooms I appointed Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah, one of the Levites, together with Hanan, son of Zaccur, son of Mattaniah, as their assistant; for they were considered trustworthy. It was their duty to make the distribution to their kinsmen. 14Remember this to my credit, my God! Do not forget the good deeds I have done for the house of my God and its services!
Sabbath Observance. 15f In those days I perceived that people in Judah were treading the wine presses on the sabbath; that they were bringing in sheaves of grain, loading them on their donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs, and every other kind of load, and bringing them to Jerusalem on the sabbath day. I warned them to sell none of these provisions. 16In Jerusalem itself the Tyrians residing there were importing fish and every other kind of merchandise and selling it to the Judahites on the sabbath. 17I reprimanded the nobles of Judah, demanding: “What is this evil thing you are doing, profaning the sabbath day? 18Did not your ancestors act in this same way, with the result that our God has brought all this evil upon us and upon this city? Would you add to the wrath against Israel by once more profaning the sabbath?”
19When the shadows were falling on the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I ordered the doors to be closed and prohibited their reopening until after the sabbath. I posted some of my own people at the gates so that no load might enter on the sabbath day. 20The merchants and sellers of various kinds of merchandise spent the night once or twice outside Jerusalem, 21but then I warned them: “Why do you spend the night alongside the wall? If you keep this up, I will beat you!” From that time on, they did not return on the sabbath. 22Then I ordered the Levites to purify themselves and to watch the gates, so that the sabbath day might be kept holy. This, too, remember in my favor, my God, and have mercy on me in accordance with your great mercy!
Mixed Marriages. 23g Also in those days I saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, or Moab. 24Of their children, half spoke the language of Ashdod,* or of one of the other peoples, and none of them knew how to speak the language of Judah. 25So I reprimanded and cursed them; I beat some of their men and pulled out their hair; and I adjured them by God: “You shall not marry your daughters to their sons nor accept any of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves! 26h Did not Solomon, the king of Israel, sin because of them? Though among the many nations there was no king like him, and though he was beloved of his God and God had made him king over all Israel, yet even he was led into sin by foreign women. 27Must it also be heard of you that you have done this same terrible evil, betraying our God by marrying foreign women?”
28i One of the sons of Joiada, son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite! I drove him from my presence. 29Remember against them, my God, how they defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites!
30So I cleansed them of all foreign contamination. I established the various functions for the priests and Levites, so that each had an appointed task. 31j I also provided for the procurement of wood at stated times and for the first fruits. Remember this in my favor, my God!
* [13:1–3] These verses serve as an introduction to the reforms Nehemiah instituted during his second mission in Jerusalem (vv. 4–31). The part of the Book of Moses read to the people is freely quoted here from Dt 23:3–6.
* [13:6] In the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes: Artaxerxes I, therefore 433 B.C. After…time: it is not known when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem or how long his second period of activity there lasted.
* [13:24] Language of Ashdod: more likely an Aramaic rather than a Philistine dialect. The language of Judah: probably Hebrew.