After all this had been done, some of the leaders of the people of Israel came and told me that the people, the priests, and the Levites had not kept themselves separate from the people in the neighboring countries of Ammon, Moab, and Egypt or from the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Amorites. They were doing the same disgusting things which these people did.
Jewish men were marrying foreign women, and so God's holy people had become contaminated. The leaders and officials were the chief offenders.
When I heard this, I tore my clothes in despair, tore my hair and my beard, and sat down crushed with grief.
I sat there grieving until the time for the evening sacrifice to be offered, and people began to gather around me---all those who were frightened because of what the God of Israel had said about the sins of those who had returned from exile.
When the time came for the evening sacrifice, I got up from where I had been grieving, and still wearing my torn clothes, I knelt in prayer and stretched out my hands to the LORD my God.
I said, "O God, I am too ashamed to raise my head in your presence. Our sins pile up higher than our heads; they reach as high as the heavens.
From the days of our ancestors until now, we, your people, have sinned greatly. Because of our sins we, our kings, and our priests have fallen into the hands of foreign kings, and we have been slaughtered, robbed, and carried away as prisoners. We have been totally disgraced, as we still are today.
Now for a short time, O LORD our God, you have been gracious to us and have let some of us escape from slavery and live in safety in this holy place. You have let us escape from slavery and have given us new life.
We were slaves, but you did not leave us in slavery. You made the emperors of Persia favor us and permit us to go on living and to rebuild your Temple, which was in ruins, and to find safety here in Judah and Jerusalem.
"But now, O God, what can we say after all that has happened? We have again disobeyed the commands
that you gave us through your servants, the prophets. They told us that the land we were going to occupy was an impure land because the people who lived in it filled it from one end to the other with disgusting, filthy actions.
They told us that we were never to intermarry with those people and never to help them prosper or succeed if we wanted to enjoy the land and pass it on to our descendants forever.
Even after everything that has happened to us in punishment for our sins and wrongs, we know that you, our God, have punished us less than we deserve and have allowed us to survive.
Then how can we ignore your commandments again and intermarry with these wicked people? If we do, you will be so angry that you will destroy us completely and let no one survive.
LORD God of Israel, you are just, but you have let us survive. We confess our guilt to you; we have no right to come into your presence."
While Ezra was bowing in prayer in front of the Temple, weeping and confessing these sins, a large group of Israelites---men, women, and children---gathered around him, weeping bitterly.
Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, of the clan of Elam, said to Ezra, "We have broken faith with God by marrying foreign women, but even so there is still hope for Israel.
Now we must make a solemn promise to our God that we will send these women and their children away. We will do what you and the others who honor God's commands advise us to do. We will do what God's Law demands.
It is your responsibility to act. We are behind you, so go ahead and get it done."
So Ezra began by making the leaders of the priests, of the Levites, and of the rest of the people take an oath that they would do what Shecaniah had proposed.
Then he went from in front of the Temple into the living quarters of Jehohanan son of Eliashib, and spent the night there grieving over the unfaithfulness of the exiles. He did not eat or drink anything.
A message was sent throughout Jerusalem and Judah that all those who had returned from exile were to meet in Jerusalem
by order of the leaders of the people. If any failed to come within three days, all their property would be confiscated, and they would lose their right to be members of the community.
Within the three days, on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the men living in the territory of Judah and Benjamin came to Jerusalem and assembled in the Temple square. It was raining hard, and because of the weather and the importance of the meeting everyone was trembling.
Ezra the priest stood up and spoke to them. He said, "You have been faithless and have brought guilt on Israel by marrying foreign women.
Now then, confess your sins to the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and do what pleases him. Separate yourselves from the foreigners living in our land and get rid of your foreign wives."
The people shouted in answer, "We will do whatever you say."
But they added, "The crowd is too big, and it's raining hard. We can't stand here in the open like this. This isn't something that can be done in one or two days, because so many of us are involved in this sin.
Let our officials stay in Jerusalem and take charge of the matter. Then let anyone who has a foreign wife come at a set time, together with the leaders and the judges of his city. In this way God's anger over this situation will be turned away."
No one was opposed to the plan except Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, who had the support of Meshullam and of Shabbethai, a Levite.
The returned exiles accepted the plan, so Ezra the priest appointed men from among the heads of the clans and recorded their names. On the first day of the tenth month they began their investigation,
and within the next three months they investigated all the cases of men with foreign wives.
This is the list of the men who had foreign wives: Priests, listed by clans: Clan of Joshua and his brothers, sons of Jehozadak: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah.
They promised to divorce their wives, and they offered a ram as a sacrifice for their sins.
Clan of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah
Clan of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah
Clan of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah
Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (also called Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer
Musicians: Eliashib Temple guards: Shallum, Telem, and Uri
Others: Clan of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malchijah, and Benaiah
Clan of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah
Clan of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza
Clan of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai
Clan of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth
Clan of Pahath Moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh
Clan of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah
Clan of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei
Clan of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu
Clan of Binnui: Shimei, Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph
Clan of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah
All these men had foreign wives. They divorced them and sent them and their children away.
Jesus looked around and saw rich people dropping their gifts in the Temple treasury,
and he also saw a very poor widow dropping in two little copper coins.
He said, "I tell you that this poor widow put in more than all the others.
For the others offered their gifts from what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, gave all she had to live on."
Some of the disciples were talking about the Temple, how beautiful it looked with its fine stones and the gifts offered to God. Jesus said,
"All this you see---the time will come when not a single stone here will be left in its place; every one will be thrown down."
"Teacher," they asked, "when will this be? And what will happen in order to show that the time has come for it to take place?"
Jesus said, "Watch out; don't be fooled. Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time has come!' But don't follow them.
Don't be afraid when you hear of wars and revolutions; such things must happen first, but they do not mean that the end is near."
He went on to say, "Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another.
There will be terrible earthquakes, famines, and plagues everywhere; there will be strange and terrifying things coming from the sky.
Before all these things take place, however, you will be arrested and persecuted; you will be handed over to be tried in synagogues and be put in prison; you will be brought before kings and rulers for my sake.
This will be your chance to tell the Good News.
Make up your minds ahead of time not to worry about how you will defend yourselves,
because I will give you such words and wisdom that none of your enemies will be able to refute or contradict what you say.
You will be handed over by your parents, your brothers, your relatives, and your friends; and some of you will be put to death.
Everyone will hate you because of me.
But not a single hair from your heads will be lost.
Stand firm, and you will save yourselves.
"When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that it will soon be destroyed.
Then those who are in Judea must run away to the hills; those who are in the city must leave, and those who are out in the country must not go into the city.
For those will be 'The Days of Punishment,' to make come true all that the Scriptures say.
How terrible it will be in those days for women who are pregnant and for mothers with little babies! Terrible distress will come upon this land, and God's punishment will fall on this people.
Some will be killed by the sword, and others will be taken as prisoners to all countries; and the heathen will trample over Jerusalem until their time is up.
"There will be strange things happening to the sun, the moon, and the stars. On earth whole countries will be in despair, afraid of the roar of the sea and the raging tides.
People will faint from fear as they wait for what is coming over the whole earth, for the powers in space will be driven from their courses.
Then the Son of Man will appear, coming in a cloud with great power and glory.
When these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your salvation is near."
Then Jesus told them this parable: "Think of the fig tree and all the other trees.
When you see their leaves beginning to appear, you know that summer is near.
In the same way, when you see these things happening, you will know that the Kingdom of God is about to come.
"Remember that all these things will take place before the people now living have all died.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
"Be careful not to let yourselves become occupied with too much feasting and drinking and with the worries of this life, or that Day may suddenly catch you
like a trap. For it will come upon all people everywhere on earth.
Be on watch and pray always that you will have the strength to go safely through all those things that will happen and to stand before the Son of Man."
Jesus spent those days teaching in the Temple, and when evening came, he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives.
Early each morning all the people went to the Temple to listen to him.