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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 9

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


B. The Restoration of the People chs. 9-10

The rest of the Book of Ezra relates Ezra’s ministry in Judah following his relocation to Jerusalem.

1. The problem of mixed marriages ch. 9

Ezra soon discovered that some of the Jews who had been living in Judah for some time had begun to intermarry with Gentiles. This practice had led the Israelites into idolatry in the past. God had sent their forefathers into exile for their idolatry. This is the reason the mixed marriages disturbed Ezra. The underlying issue was purity of religion: complete obedience to the revealed will of God.

Verses 1-4

The news of apostasy 9:1-4

The Mosaic Law strictly forbade intermarriage with the native Canaanites (Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-5). Furthermore, intermarriage with other non-Israelites had resulted in tragic consequences in Israel’s earlier history (cf. 1 Kings 11:1-8).

"Thus the action in Ezra 10 is not directed against inter-Israelite marriages between the returnees and the ’peoples of the land’ but specifically against Israel’s old wilderness and early conquest enemies, namely, the Canaanite, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Amorites, Egyptians and Moabites (Ezra 9:1). It is upon this note of the ’conquest re-established’ that the Book of Ezra ends." [Note: Dumbrell, p. 69.]

"Under these circumstances the spirit of the law demanded an application broader than its original application. Hence Ezra was justified in applying a law limited to Canaanites to all pagan foreigners, even the Egyptians who were originally explicitly excluded." [Note: Joe M. Sprinkle, "Old Testament Perspectives on Divorce and Remarriage," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40:4 (December 1997):537.]

Pulling out one’s hair (Ezra 9:3) was and is an expression of extreme grief, violent wrath, or intense moral indignation (cf. Isaiah 50:6). Ezra was not alone in his distress (Ezra 9:4). Ezra pulled out his own hair, but Nehemiah later pulled out the hair of his enemies (Nehemiah 13:25).

"A man’s attitude toward God’s Word is one of the ultimate criteria of his spirituality." [Note: Whitcomb, p. 431.]

Verses 5-15

Ezra’s prayer 9:5-15

The priests presented the evening offering (Ezra 9:5) between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. in Jesus’ day. [Note: Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Service, p. 144.] This was the traditional time for this offering. Ezra’s prayer contains four primary characteristics: solidarity, confession, readiness to change, and faith in God’s mercy. [Note: McConville, pp. 63-65.] In his sermonic prayer, Ezra identified with the body of believers, even though he had not personally participated in their sin (cf. Daniel 9:4-19).

"In a time like today in which individuality is emphasized, people cannot always understand this attitude. For the Israelites, and later for the Jews, the Lord contracted a covenant with all the people and not only with individuals. All the people were responsible for the acts of every individual or group (cf. also Judges 19-21)." [Note: Fensham, The Books . . ., pp. 123-24.]

We enter into the blessing and discipline of others simply because we are part of the group to which we belong.

Ezra’s posture (Ezra 9:5) reflected his attitude of humility and submission to God. Israel had departed from God’s revealed will. Ezra confessed this as sin (Ezra 9:6-7; Ezra 9:10). He also thanked God for His grace to the immigrants (Ezra 9:8-9). The "peg" (Ezra 9:8) in view could refer to both the temple [Note: Whitcomb, p. 431.] and the returned exiles. [Note: The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 543.] These were the first small beginnings of a larger establishment in the land that would follow, as the pounding in of a tent peg is the first step in erecting a tent. It was "a foothold."

"This is language from nomadic life, and it refers to a place reached after a long journey where a tent may be pitched." [Note: Fensham, The Books . . ., p. 129.]

"A little grace had been granted by God to his people; a small remnant had found its weary way back to its home and driven a single peg into its soil; a solitary ray of light was shining; a faint breath of freedom lightened their slavery." [Note: Slotki, p. 166.]

Ezra summarized the teaching of former prophets in Ezra 9:11-12. Then he reflected on the destiny of the Israelites (Ezra 9:13-15). He contrasted Israel’s sin and guilt with God’s holiness and righteousness. He made no request or promise. He just confessed the sin of the people and reflected on its significance. This is one of the great prayers God recorded in the Old Testament (cf. 2 Chronicles 6; Nehemiah 9; Daniel 9). It illustrates how a faithful individual should respond to the sins of the people among whom he or she lives.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ezra 9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/ezra-9.html. 2012.
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