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A Prayer of Ezra

Now when these things had been completed, the leaders approached me and said, “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the local residents[a] who practice detestable things similar to those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. Indeed, they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race[b] has become intermingled with the local residents. Worse still, the leaders and the officials have been at the forefront of all this unfaithfulness!”

When I heard this report, I tore my tunic and my robe and ripped out some of the hair from my head and beard. Then I sat down, quite devastated. Everyone who held the words of the God of Israel in awe[c] gathered around me because of the unfaithful acts of the people of the exile.[d] Devastated, I continued to sit there until the evening offering.

At the time of the evening offering I got up from my self-abasement,[e] with my tunic and robe torn, and then dropped to my knees and spread my hands to the Lord my God. I prayed:[f]

“O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you, my God! For our iniquities have climbed higher than our heads, and our guilt extends to the heavens. From the days of our fathers until this very day our guilt has been great. Because of our iniquities we, along with our kings and[g] priests, have been delivered over by the local kings[h] to sword, captivity, plunder, and embarrassment—right up to the present time.

“But now briefly[i] we have received mercy from the Lord our God, in that he has left us a remnant and has given us a secure position[j] in his holy place. Thus our God has enlightened our eyes[k] and has given us a little relief in our time of servitude. Although we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our servitude. He has extended kindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, in that he has revived us[l] to restore the temple of our God and to raise up[m] its ruins and to give us a protective wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

10 “And now what are we able to say after this, our God? For we have forsaken your commandments 11 which you commanded us through your servants the prophets with these words:[n] ‘The land that you are entering to possess is a land defiled by the impurities of the local residents![o] With their abominations they have filled it from one end to the other with their filthiness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons, and do not take their daughters in marriage for your sons. Do not ever seek their peace or welfare, so that you may be strong and may eat the good of the land and may leave it as an inheritance for your children[p] forever.’

13 “Everything that has happened to us has come about because of our wicked actions and our great guilt. Even so, our God, you have exercised restraint[q] toward our iniquities and have given us a remnant such as this. 14 Shall we once again break your commandments and intermarry with these abominable peoples? Would you not be so angered by us that you would wipe us out, with no survivor or remnant? 15 O Lord God of Israel, you are righteous, for we are left as a remnant this day. Indeed, we stand before you in our guilt. However, because of this guilt[r] no one can really stand before you.”


  1. Ezra 9:1 tn Heb “the peoples of the lands.” So also in v. 2.
  2. Ezra 9:2 tn Heb “the holy seed,” referring to the Israelites as God’s holy people.
  3. Ezra 9:4 tn Heb “who trembled at the words of the God of Israel.”
  4. Ezra 9:4 tn Heb “the exile”; the words “the people” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied in the translation for clarity.
  5. Ezra 9:5 tn The Hebrew word used here is a hapax legomenon. It refers to the self-abasement that accompanies religious sorrow and fasting.
  6. Ezra 9:6 tn Heb “I said.”
  7. Ezra 9:7 tc The MT lacks “and” here, but see the LXX and Vulgate.
  8. Ezra 9:7 tn Heb “the kings of the lands.”
  9. Ezra 9:8 tn Heb “according to a little moment.”
  10. Ezra 9:8 tn Heb “a peg” or “tent peg.” The imagery behind this word is drawn from the experience of nomads who put down pegs as they pitched their tents and made camp after times of travel.
  11. Ezra 9:8 tn Heb “to cause our eyes to shine.” The expression is a figure of speech for “to revive.” See DCH 1:160 s.v. אור Hi.7.
  12. Ezra 9:9 tn Heb “has granted us reviving.”
  13. Ezra 9:9 tn Heb “to cause to stand.”
  14. Ezra 9:11 tn Heb “through your servants the prophets, saying.”
  15. Ezra 9:11 tn Heb “the peoples of the lands.”
  16. Ezra 9:12 tn Heb “sons”; cf. KJV, NAB, NIV, NLT “children”; NCV, TEV “descendants.”
  17. Ezra 9:13 tn Heb “held back downwards from”; KJV “hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve” (NIV, NRSV, NLT all similar).
  18. Ezra 9:15 tn Heb “this”; the referent (the guilt mentioned previously) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

Ezra’s Prayer About Intermarriage

After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate(A) from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites,(B) Ammonites,(C) Moabites,(D) Egyptians and Amorites.(E) They have taken some of their daughters(F) as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled(G) the holy race(H) with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”(I)

When I heard this, I tore(J) my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled.(K) Then everyone who trembled(L) at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled(M) until the evening sacrifice.

Then, at the evening sacrifice,(N) I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands(O) spread out to the Lord my God and prayed:

“I am too ashamed(P) and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.(Q) From the days of our ancestors(R) until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword(S) and captivity,(T) to pillage and humiliation(U) at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.

“But now, for a brief moment, the Lord our God has been gracious(V) in leaving us a remnant(W) and giving us a firm place[a](X) in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes(Y) and a little relief in our bondage. Though we are slaves,(Z) our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness(AA) in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins,(AB) and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.

10 “But now, our God, what can we say after this? For we have forsaken the commands(AC) 11 you gave through your servants the prophets when you said: ‘The land you are entering(AD) to possess is a land polluted(AE) by the corruption of its peoples. By their detestable practices(AF) they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other. 12 Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them(AG) at any time, that you may be strong(AH) and eat the good things(AI) of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance.’(AJ)

13 “What has happened to us is a result of our evil(AK) deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved(AL) and have given us a remnant like this. 14 Shall we then break your commands again and intermarry(AM) with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us,(AN) leaving us no remnant(AO) or survivor? 15 Lord, the God of Israel, you are righteous!(AP) We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand(AQ) in your presence.(AR)


  1. Ezra 9:8 Or a foothold

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