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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 9

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-4

Ezra - Chapter 9

Mixed Marriages, Verses 1-4

Almost immediately Ezra was presented a very serious problem. The princes brought him very disturbing news. Many of the people were guilty of intermarriage with the people who had moved into the land following its depopulation by Nebuchadnezzar. Not only had the people generally fallen into this condition so roundly proscribed by the law of Moses, but even the priests, Levites were guilty. Their wives came from the various tribes of Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and even the Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites from more remote lands. This was a major reason for Israel’s previous captivity, and Moses’ strict warning against it was already being ignored again.

Israelite daughters had been wedded to pagan men, and pagan daughters had been taken for Israelite sons. Ezra told that the princes and rulers had been among the chief offenders in the matter. It was very upsetting to the pious Ezra, who observed every outward sign of distress. He tore his garment and the mantle which covered his head; he pulled out the hair of his head and his beard. He was astonished to find such a condition among those who had taken the initiative to re-inhabit the land when given the opportunity. Their present negligence and carelessness was very much in contrast with their humility and reverence demonstrated in the early days of their return under Zerubbabel and Jeshua. However, that generation had passed from the scene, and a new one arisen who felt more confident in the land.

There were those in the land who were concerned with this matter of the intermarriage, whose hearts are said to have trembled within them. This means that they feared the judgment of God for this trespass of His law. These people heard of Ezra’s reaction and resorted to him to show themselves on his side in the matter. Ezra sat astonished until the evening sacrifice, seemingly in dumb silence. God’s people are warned not to take lightly infractions of His laws (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1 ff).

Verses 5-15

Ezra Prays, Verses 5-15

Ezra arose from his mourning and deep depression at the time of the evening sacrifice in the temple. His actions had aroused the concerned people of Jerusalem, and they had joined him. He took this occasion of the hour to approach the Lord in prayer. This seems to have been a customary time of prayer already, as it certainly was by New Testament times (Acts 3:1). His prayer at this time is one of the outstanding petitions of the Bible, and reminds the student of Daniel’s prayer near the end of the seventy years captivity (Daniel 9:3-19).

The prayer had a natural progression. First, Ezra lays before the Lord the condition to which the remnant Jews have come. He was ashamed to lift up his face to the Lord for Israel’s repetitive bent to sin, which has reoccurred in spite of former chastisement and a return of the Lord’s great blessing. He felt that Israel was overwhelmed and drowning in sin, which had been accumulating since the days of the fathers, and for which the people, their kings, and their priests had been made to serve pagan kings and nations. For this the land suffered contempt, shame, spoilation to that very time.

Second, Ezra proceeded to admit the unworthiness of the blessing Israel was even then enjoying. God’s grace had spared the Jews a remnant, to allow them his grace in letting some return to the land, reviving them from their foreign bondage. The remnant was like a nail fixed in place and secure, it seemed, that they might restore the desolations caused to their city and land by the conquering kings.

Now what could Ezra say after all this? He had besought the Lord and He had granted him favor to return to the land, and this is the condition in the land, where he has come to further restore the worship of the Lord. Consequently, his next act is to confess that Israel has again forsaken the Lord’s commandments. God had warned Joshua and Israel that it was a foul and filthy land of pagan worship when they entered it, and they should not let themselves be contaminated by it. To prevent this they were admonished not to take daughters of the heathen for their sons nor give their daughters to the sons of the heathen. Their blessing and physical welfare depended on their adherence to the Lord’s precepts, and they had failed.

Ezra admitted that the Lord’s chastisement was less than Israel had deserved. God had given them this deliverance though they had remained most of them content to dwell among the heathen. And those who had seemed more devoted to the Lord, who had made the sacrifices to leave their foreign lands, had brought up in the succeeding generations, children who went back on all that for which they had been judged and again were intermarrying with the idolatrous people of the land. Ezra feared that the Lord would be so angry with them after this as to utterly consume them.

Finally, Ezra confessed the righteousness of the Lord, though the sinning remnant remained in the land, escaped from bondage. He places them in the Lord’s hands, with their trespasses, for they have no standing, or answer. There is no excuse. Is it not so with many professing Christians today? Is God any better pleased with these than He was with the Jewish remnant? (cf. Psalms 130:3-5).

Some lessons which may be learned: 1) Satan quickly finds ways to dampen the zeal of the godly; 2) when one repents, or grieves for sin, others may join him; 3) the godly should have a time of prayer and meditation with the Lord; 4) God’s grace grants His righteousness to those undeserving; 5) in all things there is nothing better than to leave all in the hands of a merciful God.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezra 9". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/ezra-9.html. 1985.
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