Read the Bible | June 20th
Priests and Levites
 These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,  Amariah, Malluch, Hattush,  Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth,  Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah,  Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah,  Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah,  Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the chiefs of the priests and of their brothers in the days of Jeshua.
 And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving.  And Bakbukiah and Unni and their brothers stood opposite them in the service.  And Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada,  Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.
 And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers' houses: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah;  of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan;  of Malluchi, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph;  of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai;  of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam;  of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai;  of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan;  of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi;  of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber;  of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel.
 In the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, the Levites were recorded as heads of fathers' houses; so too were the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian.  As for the sons of Levi, their heads of fathers' houses were written in the Book of the Chronicles until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib.  And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch.  Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates.  These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra, the priest and scribe.
Dedication of the Wall
 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.  And the sons of the singers gathered together from the district surrounding Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites;  also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem.  And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.
 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. One went to the south on the wall to the Dung Gate.  And after them went Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah,  and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam,  Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah,  and certain of the priests' sons with trumpets: Zechariah the son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, son of Asaph;  and his relatives, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them.  At the Fountain Gate they went up straight before them by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east.
 The other choir of those who gave thanks went to the north, and I followed them with half of the people, on the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall,  and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Gate of Yeshanah, and by the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate; and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard.  So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half of the officials with me;  and the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets;  and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader.  And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
Service at the Temple
 On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered.  And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon.  For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.  And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron. (ESV)
Nehemiah's Final Reforms
 On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people. And in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God,  for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing.  As soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent.
 Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah,  prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests.  While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king  and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God.  And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber.  Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.
 I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field.  So I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations.  Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.  And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouses Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah of the Levites, and as their assistant Hanan the son of Zaccur, son of Mattaniah, for they were considered reliable, and their duty was to distribute to their brothers.  Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for his service.
 In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food.  Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself!  Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day?  Did not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”
 As soon as it began to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day.  Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice.  But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath.  Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.
 In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab.  And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people.  And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.  Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin.  Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?”
 And one of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me.  Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.
 Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work;  and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits.
Remember me, O my God, for good. (ESV)
The King's Banquets
 Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces,  in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel,  in the third year of his reign he gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him,  while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days.  And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king's palace.  There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones.  Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king.  And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired.  Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus.
Queen Vashti's Refusal
 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus,  to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at.  But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him.
 Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for this was the king's procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment,  the men next to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king's face, and sat first in the kingdom):  “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?”  Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus.  For the queen's behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’  This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen's behavior will say the same to all the king's officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty.  If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she.  So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.”  This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed.  He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people. (ESV)
Esther Chosen Queen
 After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her.  Then the king's young men who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king.  And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel, under custody of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them.  And let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did so.
 Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite,  who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away.  He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.  So when the king's order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king's palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women.  And the young woman pleased him and won his favor. And he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king's palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem.  Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known.  And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.
 Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women— when the young woman went in to the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king's palace.  In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.
 When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king's eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her.  And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign,  the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.  Then the king gave a great feast for all his officials and servants; it was Esther's feast. He also granted a remission of taxes to the provinces and gave gifts with royal generosity.
Mordecai Discovers a Plot
 Now when the virgins were gathered together the second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate.  Esther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had commanded her, for Esther obeyed Mordecai just as when she was brought up by him.  In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.  And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai.  When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king. (ESV)
Haman Plots Against the Jews
 After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him.  And all the king's servants who were at the king's gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage.  Then the king's servants who were at the king's gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king's command?”  And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai's words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew.  And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury.  But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.
 In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, they cast lots) before Haman day after day; and they cast it month after month till the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.  Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king's laws, so that it is not to the king's profit to tolerate them.  If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king's business, that they may put it into the king's treasuries.”  So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews.  And the king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you.”
 Then the king's scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king's satraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, to every province in its own script and every people in its own language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king's signet ring.  Letters were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.  A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day.  The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. And the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion. (ESV)
Esther Agrees to Help the Jews
 When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry.  He went up to the entrance of the king's gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king's gate clothed in sackcloth.  And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.
 When Esther's young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them.  Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was.  Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate,  and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries for the destruction of the Jews.  Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people.  And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said.  Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say,  “All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”
 And they told Mordecai what Esther had said.  Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai,  “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”  Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. (ESV)
Ananias and Sapphira
 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,  and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet.  But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”  When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.  The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.”  But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”  Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Many Signs and Wonders Done
 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico.  None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.  And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,  so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.  The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
The Apostles Arrested and Freed
 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy  they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.  But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said,  “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”  And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.  But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported,  “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.”  Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to.  And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.”  Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them,  saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.”  But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (ESV)