Nehemiah’s Last Commands
1 On that day the Book of Moses was read out loud, so that all the people could hear. They found this law written there: No Ammonite and no Moabite would be permitted to join in the meetings with God. 2 That law was written because those people didn’t give the Israelites food and water. And they had paid Balaam to say a curse against the Israelites. But our God changed that curse and made it a blessing for us. 3 So when the Israelites heard that law, they obeyed it. They separated themselves from the people who were descendants of foreigners.
4-5 But, before that happened, Eliashib had given a room in the Temple to Tobiah. Eliashib was the priest in charge of the storerooms in our God’s Temple. And he was a close friend of Tobiah. That room had been used for storing the grain offerings, incense, and the Temple dishes and things. They also kept the tenth of grain, new wine, and oil for the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers in that room. And they also kept the gifts for the priests in that room. But Eliashib gave that room to Tobiah.
6 I was not in Jerusalem while all of this was happening. I had gone back to the king of Babylon. I went back to Babylon in the 32nd year that Artaxerxes was king of Babylon.* the 32nd year … Babylon That is, 432 B.C. Later, I asked the king for permission to go back to Jerusalem. 7 So I came back to Jerusalem. There I heard about the sad thing that Eliashib had done. He had given Tobiah a room in the Temple of God! 8 I was very angry about what Eliashib had done, so I threw all of Tobiah’s things out of the room. 9 I gave commands for the rooms to be made pure and clean. Then I put the Temple dishes and things, the grain offerings, and the incense back into the rooms.
10 I also heard that the people had not given the Levites their share. So the Levites and singers had gone back to work in their own fields. 11 So I told the officials that they were wrong. I asked them, “Why didn’t you take care of God’s Temple?” Then I called all Levites together and told them to go back to their places and duties in the Temple. 12 Then everyone in Judah brought their tenth of grain, new wine, and oil to the Temple. These things were put into the storerooms.
13 I put these men in charge of the storerooms: Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the teacher, and a Levite named Pedaiah. And I made Hanan son of Zaccur, son of Mattaniah, their helper. I knew I could trust these men. They were responsible for giving the supplies to their relatives.
14 My God, please remember me for these things I have done. Don’t forget all I have faithfully done for the Temple of my God and for its services.
15 In those days in Judah, I saw people working on the Sabbath day. I saw people pressing grapes to make wine. I saw people bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys. I saw people carrying grapes, figs, and all kinds of things in the city. They were bringing all these things into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, so I warned them about this. I told them they must not sell food on the Sabbath day.
16 There were some men from the city of Tyre living in Jerusalem. They were bringing fish and all kinds of things into Jerusalem and selling them on the Sabbath day. And the Jews were buying them. 17 I told the important people of Judah that they were wrong. I said, “You are doing a very bad thing. You are ruining the Sabbath day. 18 You know that your ancestors did the same things. That is why our God brought all the troubles and disaster to us and to this city. Now you people are making it so that more of these bad things will happen to Israel. They are doing this because you are breaking the Sabbath by treating it just as if it were any other day.”
19 So this is what I did: Every Friday evening, just before dark, I commanded the gatekeepers to shut and lock the gates to Jerusalem. They were not to be opened until the Sabbath day was over. I put some of my own men at the gates. They were commanded to make sure that no load was brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day.
20 One or two times, traders and merchants had to stay the night outside Jerusalem. 21 But I warned them, “Don’t stay the night in front of the wall. If you do that again, I will arrest you.” So from that time on they didn’t come on the Sabbath day to sell their things.
22 Then I commanded the Levites to make themselves pure. After they did that, they were to go and guard the gates. This was done to make sure the Sabbath day was kept a holy day.
My God, please remember me for doing this. Be kind to me and show me your great love!
23 In those days I also noticed that some Jewish men had married women from the countries of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of the children from those marriages didn’t know how to speak the Jewish language. They spoke the language of Ashdod, Ammon, or Moab. 25 So I told the men that they were wrong. I said bad things to them. I hit some of them, and I pulled out their hair. I forced them to make a promise in God’s name. I said to them, “You must not marry the daughters of these foreigners. Don’t let their daughters marry your sons, and don’t let your daughters marry the sons of these foreigners. 26 You know that marriages like this caused Solomon to sin. In all the many nations, there was not a king as great as Solomon. God loved him and made him king over the whole nation of Israel. But even Solomon was made to sin because of foreign women. 27 And now, we hear that you also are doing this terrible sin. You are not being true to our God. You are marrying foreign women.”
28 Joiada was the son of Eliashib the high priest. One of Joiada’s sons was a son-in-law of Sanballat from Horon. I forced him to leave this place. I forced him to run away.
29 My God, punish these people. They made the priesthood unclean. They treated it as if it was not important. They did not obey the agreement that you made with the priests and Levites. 30 So I made the priests and Levites clean and pure. I took away all the foreigners and the strange things they taught. And I gave the Levites and priests their own duties and responsibilities. 31 And I made sure that people will bring gifts of wood and the first part of their harvest at the right times.
My God, remember me for doing these good things.
*13:6 the 32nd year … Babylon That is, 432 B.C.