The Bible – Old Testament
1 On the twenty-fourth day of this month, the Israelites gathered together fasting and in sackcloth, their heads covered with dust.
Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all who were of foreign extraction, then stood forward and confessed their sins and the guilty deeds of their fathers.
When they had taken their places, they read from the book of the law of the LORD their God, for a fourth part of the day, and during another fourth part they made their confession and prostrated themselves before the LORD their God.
Standing on the platform of the Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, who cried out to the LORD their God, with a loud voice.
The Levites Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah said, “Arise, bless the LORD, your God, from eternity to eternity!” The Israelites answered with the blessing, “Blessed is your glorious name, and exalted above all blessing and praise.”
2 Then Ezra said: “It is you, O LORD, you are the only one; you made the heavens, the highest heavens and all their host, the earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the heavenly hosts bow down before you.
“You, O LORD, are the God who chose Abram, who brought him out from Ur of the Chaldees, and named him Abraham.
When you had found his heart faithful in your sight, you made the covenant with him to give to him and his posterity the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Girgashites. These promises of yours you fulfilled, for you are just.
“You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, you heard their cry by the Red Sea;
You worked signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his servants and the people of his land, Because you knew of their insolence toward them; thus you made for yourself a name even to this day.
The sea you divided before them, on dry ground they passed through the midst of the sea; Their pursuers you hurled into the depths, like a stone into the mighty waters.
With a column of cloud you led them by day, and by night with a column of fire, To light the way of their journey, the way in which they must travel.
On Mount Sinai you came down, you spoke with them from heaven; You gave them just ordinances, firm laws, good statutes, and commandments;
Your holy sabbath you made known to them, commandments, statutes, and law you prescribed for them, by the hand of Moses your servant.
Food from heaven you gave them in their hunger, water from a rock you sent them in their thirst. You bade them enter and occupy the land which you had sworn with upraised hand to give them.
“But they, our fathers, proved to be insolent; they held their necks stiff and would not obey your commandments.
They refused to obey and no longer remembered the miracles you had worked for them. They stiffened their necks and turned their heads to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God of pardons, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in mercy; you did not forsake them.
Though they made for themselves a molten calf, and proclaimed, ‘Here is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and were guilty of great effronteries,
yet in your great mercy you did not forsake them in the desert. The column of cloud did not cease to lead them by day on their journey, nor did the column of fire by night cease to light for them the way by which they were to travel.
“Your good spirit you bestowed on them, to give them understanding; your manna you did not withhold from their mouths, and you gave them water in their thirst.
Forty years in the desert you sustained them: they did not want; their garments did not become worn, and their feet did not become swollen.
You gave them kingdoms and peoples, which you divided up among them as border lands. They possessed the land of Sihon, king of Heshbon, and the land of Og, king of Bashan.
“You made their children as numerous as the stars of the heavens, and you brought them into the land which you had commanded their fathers to enter and possess.
The sons went in to take possession of the land, and you humbled before them the Canaanite inhabitants of the land and delivered them over into their power, their kings as well as the peoples of the land, to do with them as they would.
They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all good things, cisterns already dug, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. They could eat and have their fill, fatten and feast themselves on your immense good gifts.
“But they were contemptuous and rebellious: they cast your law behind their backs, they slew your prophets who bore witness against them in order to bring them back to you, and they were guilty of great effronteries.
Therefore you delivered them into the power of their enemies, who oppressed them. But in the time of their oppression they would cry out to you, and you would hear them from heaven, and according to your great mercy give them saviors to deliver them from the power of their enemies.
“As soon as they had relief, they would go back to doing evil in your sight. Then again you abandoned them to the power of their enemies, who crushed them. Then they cried out to you, and you heard them from heaven and delivered them according to your mercy, many times over.
You bore witness against them, in order to bring them back to your law. But they were insolent and would not obey your commandments; they sinned against your ordinances, from which men draw life when they practice them. They turned stubborn backs, stiffened their necks, and would not obey.
You were patient with them for many years, bearing witness against them through your spirit, by means of your prophets; still they would not listen. Thus you delivered them over into the power of the peoples of the lands.
Yet in your great mercy you did not completely destroy them and you did not forsake them, for you are a kind and merciful God.
“Now, therefore, O our God, great, mighty, and awesome God, you who in your mercy preserve the covenant, take into account all the disasters that have befallen us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and your entire people, from the time of the kings of Assyria until this day!
In all that has come upon us you have been just, for you kept faith while we have done evil.
Yes, our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law; they paid no attention to your commandments and the obligations of which you reminded them.
While they were yet in their kingdom, in the midst of the many good things that you had given them and in the wide and fertile land that you had spread out before them, they did not serve you nor did they turn away from their evil deeds.
But, see, we today are slaves; and as for the land which you gave our fathers that they might eat its fruits and good things – see, we have become slaves upon it!
Its rich produce goes to the kings whom you set over us because of our sins, who rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress!”
1 [1-5] This is a continuation of the account concerning the problem of mixed marriages at the time of Ezra; it should be read immediately after ⇒ Ezra 10:44.