Foreigners were excluded
1 On that day, when someone read to the people parts of the laws that God gave to Moses, they read where it was written that no one from the Ammon people-group or the Moab people-group was ever to be allowed to be with God's people while they were gathered together to worship. 2 The reason for that was that the people of Ammon and the people of Moab did not give/sell any food or water to the Israelis while the Israelis were going through their areas after they left Egypt. Instead, the people of Ammon and Moab paid money to Balaam in order that he would curse the Israelis. But God commanded Balaam to bless the people, not to curse them. 3 So when the people heard these laws being read to them, they sent away all the people whose ancestors had come from other countries.
Purifying the storerooms
4 Previously, Eliashib the priest had been appointed to be in charge of the storerooms in the temple. He was a relative of our enemy Tobiah. 5 He allowed Tobiah to use a large room in which they had previously stored the grain offerings and the incense, the equipment that is used in the temple, the offerings that the people had brought for the priests, and the tithes of grain and wine and olive oil that God had commanded the people to bring to the other descendants of Levi, and to the temple musicians, and to the temple guards.
6 While Tobias was using that room, I was not in Jerusalem, because in the 32nd year that Artaxerxes was the king of Babylonia, I went back there to report to him. After a while I requested the king to allow me to return to Jerusalem, and he allowed me to go. 7 When I arrived in Jerusalem, I found out that Eliashib had done an evil thing by allowing Tobiah to use a room in God's temple. 8 I became very angry, and I threw out of that room everything that belonged to Tobiah. 9 Then I commanded that they perform a ritual to make the rooms ◄pure/acceptable to God► again. And I also ordered that all the equipment used in the temple and all the grain offerings and incense should be put in that room again.
10 I also found out that the temple musicians and other descendants of Levi had left Jerusalem and returned to their fields/farms, because the Israeli people had not been bringing to them the food that they needed. 11 So I rebuked the officials, saying to them, “◄Why have you not taken care of the work in the temple?/It is disgraceful that you have not taken care of the work in the temple.►” [RHQ] So I brought the descendants of Levi and the musicians back to the temple, and told them to do their work there again.
12 Then all the people of Judah again started to bring to the temple storerooms their tithes of grain, wine, and olive oil. 13 I appointed these men to be in charge of the storerooms: Shelemiah, who was a priest; Zadok, who knew the Jewish laws very well; and Pedaiah, a descendant of Levi. I appointed Hanan, who is the son of Zaccur and grandson of Mattaniah, to assist them. I knew that I could trust these men while they distributed those offerings to their fellow workers.
14 My God, do not forget all these good things that I have faithfully done for your temple and for the work that is done there!
Other reforms instituted by Nehemiah
15 During that time, I saw some people in Judea who were working on the Sabbath day. Some were pressing grapes to make wine. Others were putting grain, bags of wine, baskets of grapes, figs, and many [HYP] other things, on their donkeys and taking them into Jerusalem. I warned them that they should not sell things to the people of Judea on Sabbath days. 16 I also saw some people from Tyre city who were living there in Jerusalem who were bringing fish and other things into Jerusalem to sell to the people of Judea on the Sabbath day. 17 So I rebuked the Jewish leaders and told them, “This is [RHQ] a very evil thing that you are doing! You are causing the Sabbath days to be unholy. 18 Your ancestors did [RHQ] things like that, so God punished them, and as a result, this city was destroyed! And now by causing the Sabbath day to be unholy, you are going to cause God to be angry with us Israeli people and punish us more!”
19 So I ordered that at ◄the beginning of every Sabbath day/every Friday evening► they should shut the gates of the city before it became dark. I also ordered that they should not open the gates until ◄the Sabbath day was ended the next day/Saturday evening►. Then each Sabbath day I put some of my men at the gates, so they would make sure that nothing to sell was brought into the city on that day. 20 One or two times merchants [DOU] stayed outside of the city on ◄Friday night/ the night before the Sabbath day►. 21 I warned them, “It is useless [RHQ] for you to stay here outside the walls on Friday night! If you do this again, I will tell my men to arrest you!” So after that, they did not come on Sabbath days. 22 I also commanded the descendants of Levi to perform the ritual to purify themselves and to guard the city gates, to make sure that the Sabbath was kept holy by not allowing merchants to enter it on Sabbath days.
My God, do not forget this also that I have done for you! And because of your faithfully loving me, allow me to continue to live many more years!
23 During that time, I also found out that many of the Jewish men had married women from Ashdod city, and from the Ammon and Moab people-groups. 24 The result was that half of their children spoke the language that people in Ashdod speak or some other language, and they didn't know how to speak our language. 25 So I rebuked those men, and I asked God to curse them, and I beat them and pulled out some of their hair. Then I forced them to solemnly promise, knowing that God [MTY] was listening, that they would never again marry foreigners, and never allow their children to marry foreigners. 26 I said to them, “Solomon, the king of Israel, sinned [RHQ] as a result of marrying foreign women. He was greater than any of the kings of other nations. God loved him, and caused him to become the king of all the Israeli people, but his foreign wives caused even him to sin. 27 Do you think that we should do what you have done, and disobey our God by marrying foreign women who worship idols? [RHQ]”
28 One of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the Supreme Priest, had married the daughter of our enemy Sanballat, from Beth-Horon town. So I forced Jehoiada's son to leave Jerusalem.
29 My God, do not forget that those people who have married foreign women have caused it to be a shame/disgrace to be a priest, and have caused people to despise the agreement that you made with the priests and with the other descendants of Levi who help the priests►!
30 I did all that to make sure that there were no more foreign people among the Israeli people who would encourage them to worship idols. I also established regulations for the priests and other descendants of Levi, in order that they would know what work they should do. 31 I also arranged for people to bring the firewood that was needed to burn on the altar, as Moses had declared that we should do. I also arranged for the people to bring the first part of what they harvested each year.
My God, do not forget that I have done all these things, and bless me for doing them!