Facing a communal problem

When these tasks were finished, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites haven’t kept themselves separate from the peoples of the neighboring lands with their detestable practices; namely, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. They’ve taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and the holy descendants have become mixed with the neighboring peoples.[a] Moreover, the officials and leaders have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”

When I heard this, I tore my clothes and cloak, pulled out hair from my head and beard, and sat down in shock. Then all those who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me on account of the transgression of the returned exiles while I remained sitting in shock until the evening sacrifice.

Ezra prays

At the time of the evening sacrifice, I ended my penitential acts. While still wearing[b] my torn clothes and cloak, I fell upon my knees, spread out my hands to the Lord my God, and said,
“My God, I’m too ashamed to lift up my face to you. Our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown to the heavens.

“From the days of our ancestors to this day, we’ve been deep in guilt. On account of our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as is now the case.

“But now, for a brief while the Lord our God has shown favor in leaving us survivors and in giving us a stake in his holy place. Our God cheered us[c] and revived us for a little while in our slavery. Even though we are slaves, our God hasn’t abandoned us in our slavery. Instead, he’s shown us his graciousness before Persia’s kings by reviving us to set up our God’s house, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.

10 “And now, our God, what will we say after this? We have abandoned your commandments, 11 which you commanded through your servants the prophets, saying: ‘The land which you are about to enter to possess is a land polluted by the impurity of the neighboring peoples.[d] Their detestable practices have filled it with uncleanness from end to end. 12 So now, do not give your daughters to their sons in marriage, do not take their sons for your daughters to marry, and never seek their peace or prosperity. This is so you may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’

13 “After all that has happened to us because of our evil deeds and our great guilt—although you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserve and have allowed us to survive as we do— 14 will we once again break your commandments and intermarry with the peoples who practice these detestable things? Would you not be so angry with us that you leave us without remnant or survivor? 15 Lord, God of Israel, you are righteous, for we have survived and a few remain until now. Here we are before you in our guilt, though no one can face you because of this guilt.”[e]


  1. Ezra 9:2 Or peoples of the lands
  2. Ezra 9:5 Heb uncertain
  3. Ezra 9:8 Or brightened our eyes
  4. Ezra 9:11 Or peoples of the lands
  5. Ezra 9:15 Heb lacks guilt.