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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 10

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Introduction

Ezra Chapter 10

Ezra 10:1 "Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore."

The people saw the grief of Ezra, and heard his prayer to God to forgive them. Now, many of the people had realized the seriousness of what they had done, and they, too, began to weep. It seemed this was not just the men who were disturbed by this, but all of the people.

Ezra 10:2 "And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, [one] of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing."

It appears, that Shechaniah believed there was hope for the LORD to forgive them, because they had repentant hearts.

Ezra 10:3 "Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law."

This would be a drastic move on their part, since some of these people had children by the heathen wives, or husbands, they had. They were willing to make a covenant with God, that they would divorce the wives that were not Hebrews, and even give up their children that were born of them.

Ezra 10:4 "Arise; for [this] matter [belongeth] unto thee: we also [will be] with thee: be of good courage, and do [it]."

Ezra had already said to let judgement come upon those who would not obey God’s law. This would be an effort to make things right. Ezra believed this might be enough repentance of what they had done, to keep the LORD from killing them.

Ezra 10:5 "Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware."

The only way this would work, would be if everyone participated. Everyone, including the priests, Levites, and the people had to swear they would all do this, to get back in right standing with God.

Ezra 10:6 "Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and [when] he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away."

This fast was of a personal nature. He was not eating, because he was still grieving. Johanan was grandson of the high priest and would assign a chamber to Ezra. This was a total fast.

Ezra 10:7 "And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;"

The divorcement of the heathen wives, husbands, and children had to be done throughout the land, so proclamation was sent for the people to gather in Jerusalem.

Ezra 10:8 "And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away."

This left them no choice, but to come. The furthest settlements from Jerusalem were no more than 40 miles, so it would be fairly easy for them to come within the three days allowed. The consequences were so great if they did not come, that all came.

Ezra 10:9 "Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It [was] the ninth month, on the twentieth [day] of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of [this] matter, and for the great rain."

This would have been about December the 12th on our calendar. The month would have been Chisleu on their calendar. This is the rainy season in Judah. Perhaps, that is what is meant by the great rain.

Ezra 10:10 "And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel."

Ezra had been put in a place of great authority by the Persian king. He, now, used that authority to speak to the people about what they must do. He was speaking to them as a spiritual leader, when he informed them of their transgressions.

Ezra 10:11 "Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives."

It would be of no use to rid themselves of their heathen wives, if they did not realize in their hearts that they must do this, because they had sinned. The first step to being forgiven is to confess the sin.

Ezra 10:12 "Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do."

Once they were made aware of their sins, they agreed to make it right. They would be divorced from the heathen.

Ezra 10:13 "But the people [are] many, and [it is] a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither [is this] a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing."

It appears, that a large percentage of the population had committed this sin. It was the rainy season, and hard to move this many people. They were explaining it would take some time to implement this.

Ezra 10:14 "Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us."

It appears, there was some sort of ceremony that took place to release the people from this marriage. It was a reverse wedding, I suppose.

Ezra 10:15 "Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this [matter]: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them."

The dissolving of the marriages was handled by Jonathan and Jahaziah. Meshullam and Shabbethai were their helpers. This could mean they issued them bills of divorcements.

Ezra 10:16 "And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, [with] certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by [their] names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter."

This took until January on our calendar, there were so many of them. On the twelfth of January, Ezra and the chiefs of the fathers checked to make sure they had completed the work.

Ezra 10:17 "And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month."

We see that it was not until April 1st on our calendar, that they finally had finished issuing the divorces.

Ezra 10:18 "And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: [namely], of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah."

Ezra 10:19 "And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and [being] guilty, [they offered] a ram of the flock for their trespass."

It appears, that 4 of the high priest’s sons had taken these heathen wives. The "giving of their hands" meant they made solemn pledges accompanied by handshakes. This meant they agreed they would do this, and gave their word on it. The sacrifices were for them, and for others, who had committed this same sin.

Ezra 10:20 "And of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah."

Ezra 10:21 "And of the sons of Harim; Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah."

Ezra 10:22 "And of the sons of Pashur; Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jozabad, and Elasah."

The above names are lists of the families of the priests who took the strange women to wife.

Ezra 10:23 "Also of the Levites; Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah, (the same [is] Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer."

These are Levites, who were not priests.

Ezra 10:24 "Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri."

These were, also, in the service of the LORD in the temple, but were singers and porters. They were Levites with specified service.

Ezra 10:25 "Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah."

Ezra 10:26 "And of the sons of Elam; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah."

Ezra 10:27 "And of the sons of Zattu; Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza."

Ezra 10:28 "Of the sons also of Bebai; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, [and] Athlai."

Ezra 10:29 "And of the sons of Bani; Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth."

Ezra 10:30 "And of the sons of Pahath-moab; Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh."

Ezra 10:31 "And [of] the sons of Harim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,"

Ezra 10:32 "Benjamin, Malluch, [and] Shemariah."

Ezra 10:33 "Of the sons of Hashum; Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, [and] Shimei."

Ezra 10:34 "Of the sons of Bani; Maadai, Amram, and Uel,"

Ezra 10:35 "Benaiah, Bedeiah, Chelluh,"

Ezra 10:36 "Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,"

Ezra 10:37 "Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau,"

Ezra 10:38 "And Bani, and Binnui, Shimei,"

Ezra 10:39 " And Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah,"

Ezra 10:40 "Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,"

Ezra 10:41 "Azareel, and Shelemiah, Shemariah," Ezra 10:42 "Shallum, Amariah, [and] Joseph."

Ezra 10:43 "Of the sons of Nebo; Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, Benaiah."

This was a very long list of just ordinary people, who had taken heathen wives. We can see the widespread sin that was in the land.

Ezra 10:44 "All these had taken strange wives: and [some] of them had wives by whom they had children." This would make the divorces more difficult, when there were children born to them, by their heathen wives.

Ezra 10 Questions

1. What had Ezra done to show his shame for their sins?

2. Who joined him in the grief?

3. Who is the father of Shechaniah?

4. What hope did he express?

5. What did he suggest that they do?

6. What was the covenant they would make with God?

7. What would they do with their children by their heathen wives?

8. How did Ezra feel about this suggestion?

9. Who did Ezra make swear to the covenant agreement?

10. How was the only way this could work?

11. Who did Ezra go to see at the temple?

12. What did Ezra do at the temple?

13. Was this just a problem in Jerusalem?

14. How did they get word to those in Judah?

15. How long did they have to comply?

16. What time of year did this notice go out?

17. This was the ________ season.

18. Who had given Ezra great authority?

19. What must they do, besides get rid of their heathen wives?

20. Why would it take some time to implement this?

21. Who was issuing the divorces?

22. Who examined to see, if they were carrying this out?

23. When were all of the divorces finished?

24. What were some of the classes of people, who had committed this sin?

25. What made the divorces more difficult?

Verses 1-4

Ezr 10:1-4

Ezra 10:1-4

ISRAEL’S PUTTING AWAY OF THEIR FOREIGN WIVES AND CHILDREN;

THEY ACCEPT SHECHANIAH’S PROPOSAL

"Now while Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and bowing himself down before the house of God, there was gathered together unto him out of Israel a very great assembly of men and women and children, for the people wept very sore. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have married foreign women of the peoples of the land: yet now there is hope for Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise; for the matter belongeth unto thee, and we are with thee: be of good courage, and do it."

Two things in this paragraph are disputed: (1) Shechaniah is identified by Hamrick as the son of the violator (Jehiel) mentioned in Ezra 10:26, but Williamson denied the certainty of that identification, writing that, "Jehiel is a common enough name to preclude certainty of identity, even with a single extended family." Keil wrote that, "This Shechaniah is a different person from the descendant of Zattu (Ezra 8:5), nor is Jehiel identical with the individual of that name mentioned in Ezra 10:26."

(2) "Let us make a covenant ... according to the counsel of my lord" (Ezra 10:3). The words `my lord’ are given in the ASV margin as `my Lord’. Some scholars consider them as a reference to Ezra; others view them as a reference to God. Williamson’s comment is that, "Shechaniah here refers to `the advice of my lord,’ Ezra"; and, based upon this, there is a postulation that Ezra had already discussed the matter previously with Shechaniah. However, there is absolutely nothing in the text which supports a proposition like that. We believe that the Douay Version properly translates this verse, "Let us make a covenant ... according to the will of the Lord, and of them that fear the commandment of the Lord our God." Keil also agreed that in this passage the Hebrew text has, "According to the counsel of the Lord," and that "there is no critical authority for changing it." It appears that translators have been too much influenced by the LXX.

"And let it be done according to the law" (Ezra 10:3). This was part of Shechaniah’s proposal to put away the foreign wives and their children. Deuteronomy 24:1 gave instructions for the divorcing of a wife; but, "According to the teaching of the Rabbis, divorce was allowed for every cause (Matthew 19:3)." Thus, there would have been no legal impediment to the adoption of Shechaniah’s proposal, a proposal which on that occasion was received by the vast majority of the people present. Some phases of the implementation of this drastic remedy are not mentioned in the text.

Ezra, however, very wisely moved at once to require all the people to swear that they would accept and execute this requirement to put away their foreign wives and their children.

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 10:1. Ezra confessed which justifies my remarks in the preceding chapter, that his questions were really the same as admissions. His prayer and other demonstrations affected many of the people. A large number of them gathered around him and joined in the general lamentation. Their confidence in Ezra must have been great. They were sure that such a good man would not have given way to expressions of grief and anxiety as he had without a just cause.

Ezra 10:2. The audience about Ezra found a spokesman by the name of Shechaniah. He did not try to deny nor even excuse the evils of which Ezra had charged them; instead, he acknowledged all that had been brought against them. Strange wives means wives "outside" the nation of Israel, that being the meaning of "strange." In spite of the confessed sins, however, he did not despair of some relief. He evidently had faith in the mercy of God, for he expressed a hope concerning Israel. But we shall see that he did not think they could realize that hope without doing something to discharge their own obligations regarding the matter.

Ezra 10:3. True to his acknowledgement of their wrongs, Shechaniah exhorted the people to correct the evil by putting away their unlawful wives. There was nothing morally wrong in the marriage with the foreign women. The sin was in disobeying the express demand of the law, that they confine their marriages to the people of their own nation. God wanted to keep a "strain" of blood pure from Abraham down to Christ, hence frowned upon taking in the people from another class. Besides, at that period of the world’s history, idolatry was very prevalent, and the marriages among the heathen worshipers was sure to lead in the wrong direction. Make a covenant means to make a solemn promise to God. My Lord refers to Ezra, and our God, of course, means the God of heaven. Since Ezra was working in harmony with God, it was necessary to obey each at the same time. To tremble at the commandment of God means to have such respect for it that one would be afraid to disregard it.

Ezra 10:4. In this verse Shechaniah addressed himself directly to Ezra. He advised him that he had the matter in his own hands of taking the lead in the work of adjustment. That was true since he was the lord over them and had the authority to act. He encouraged him with assurance that he would have the cooperation of the people.

Verses 5-6

Ezr 10:5-6

Ezra 10:5-6

THE OATH OF THE PEOPLE AND EZRA’S FAST

"Then arose Ezra, and made the chiefs of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they would do according to this word. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water; for he mourned because of the trespasses of them in the captivity."

"By making the people to swear to follow the suggested course of action while feelings were still running high, Ezra ensured that there could be no turning back at a later stage."

In Ezra 10:6, "The reference to Johanan the son of Eliashib has featured prominently in discussions of the date of Ezra." However, Williamson in his award-winning commentary, after several pages of discussions regarding the bearing this passage is alleged to have regarding the date of Ezra, concluded that, "The issue is too uncertain to be admitted as evidence for the dating of Ezra." In his conclusion Williamson affirmed his preference for the early date of Ezra.

Bowman identified the arguments from this passage that are alleged as excuses for dating Ezra after Nehemiah as, "One of the strongest arguments for doing so"; and in the weakness of this argument we are assured that the traditional date of Ezra prior to Nehemiah is correct. Also, the Jewish conviction on this is paramount. They were the divinely appointed custodians of the Scriptures, not the current crop of critics.

Ezra’s fast, which was secretly observed in one of the rooms of the temple, assures us of his sincerity. Furthermore, his prayer was not a mere pretense ostentatiously exhibited, "To produce an effect on the audience rather than upon God, like many other public prayers," as some critics have alleged.

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 10:5. The first act of Ezra was to call upon the whole assembly to take an oath to comply with the covenant that Shechaniah suggested. In his address to the audience he recognized 3 classes; chief priests, the Levites and all Israel. The first were the leading men who were the descendants of Aaron; the second was the tribe in general, and the third a listing of the congregation as a whole. The groups thus addressed by Ezra responded favorably and agreed to take the oath.

Ezra 10:6. After securing the promise of the groups to correct the iniquity among them, Ezra "took time out" for a season of rest. He entered the room of one of the leading men, named Johanan. But it was not for the purpose of entertainment, for he was still mourning over the condition of the congregation. He even refused to partake of the necessities of life, he was so humiliated over the situation.

Verses 7-9

Ezr 10:7-9

Ezra 10:7-9

ALL ISRAEL SUMMONED TO ASSEMBLY IN JERUSALEM

"And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem; and that whosoever came not within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the assembly of the captivity. Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within the three days (it was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month); and all the people sat in the broad place before the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain."

"All his substance should be forfeited" (Ezra 10:7). This was indeed a great penalty, and, besides that, those refusing to appear within the three days would also lose their status among God’s people. "The forfeiture of substance here was not its destruction, as described in Deuteronomy 13:13-17 (for a city fallen into idolatry), but the appropriation of the offender’s substance to the benefit of the temple, as described in Leviticus 27:28)."

"All the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themsieves together unto Jerusalem" (Ezra 10:9). This apparently means all Israelites living in those areas and does not exclude members of other tribes who might have been among them. Yet, the number of the Ten Tribes who returned might have been so insignificant that the whole nation of returnees might well have been known merely as the "men of Judah and Benjamin."

"(It was the ninth month, the twentieth day of the month)" (Ezra 10:9). "This was the month Kislew, corresponding to our months of November-December." Whitcomb identified this date as Dec. 8,457 B.C.[14] It was the rainy season in Jerusalem, and the weather at that time could be very cold.

"All the people sat in the broad place before the house of God" (Ezra 10:9). "This was a stone-walled enclosure, about 500 feet long and 150 feet wide, which might have afforded sitting room for 20,000 men. Deducting the aged, the infirm, the sick, and those under twelve years of age, and all the women, the whole total of men returning from captivity would scarcely have reached that number." "This broad place was an open area in front of the watergate at the southeastern corner of the temple court." The first order of business was an address by Ezra, which happily, due to the severe conditions, was rather brief.

"Trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain" (Ezra 10:9). The addition of this detail assures us that this is an account by an eye-witness. The urgency in which Ezra and the princes and elders viewed the matter of Israel’s intermarriage with foreigners is emphasized by their calling such a general meeting at that unfavorable time of the year.

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 10:7. The first reaction to Ezra’s demonstration of grief (Ezra 10:1) was the gathering to him of a great congregation out of Israel. After the decision to enter the covenant between God and all the people concerned, it was thought necessary to have a more complete representation of the nation. For that purpose a proclamation was made that all the children of the captivity should come to Jerusalem.

Ezra 10:8. This is another instance showing that a law must have a penalty in order to be effective. It would require some time for the people to reach the city if they lived in the outer regions of Palestine; because of that, a period of 3 days was allowed. The penalty for defaulting was the loss of property, and being expelled from the congregation of those who had been victims of the captivity.

Ezra 10:9. Two tribes only are mentioned by name, but that is not because that none of the other tribes were among them. We have abundant evidence (too much to cite now), to the effect that all of the tribes survived the captivity and returned to their home country. But Judah and Benjamin had been last in charge of Jerusalem, and it was natural that they would be especially in evidence at a time like this. It was in the 9th month, which made it 4 months since Ezra and his company arrived in Jerusalem (Ch. 7:9). It was a time of rain, yet the great assemblage from all over Israel sat down in the street before the temple. They were in a state of uneasiness over the awful proclamation that had been given them by the couriers sent out by Ezra.

Verses 10-14

Ezr 10:10-14

Ezra 10:10-14

EZRA’S ADDRESS BEFORE THE PEOPLE

"And Ezra the priest stood up and said unto them, Ye have trespassed, and married foreign women, to increase the guilt of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto Jehovah, the God of your fathers, and do his pleasure; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the foreign women. Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said concerning us, so must we do. But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without: neither is this a work of one day or two; for we have greatly transgressed in this matter. Let now our princes be appointed for all the assembly, and let all them that are in our cities that have married foreign women, come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God be turned from us, until this matter be despatched."

"The crowd readily agreed to Ezra’s decision; but the implementation of it was far too complex and complicated a thing to be accomplished immediately while they were standing there shivering in the cold from the wintry rain."

A commission was appointed, as the people suggested; and the people were called before it in small groups, accompanied by their fellow-citizens, thus giving time and opportunity to work out the problems one by one.

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 10:10. Ezra the priest. The reader has doubtless noticed that Ezra has been generally referred to in the third person. That might raise the question whether he could be the author of this book. That would not affect the question in the least. Moses is almost always referred to in the first five books of the Bible in the third person, even in the place where he is said to have been meeker than all other men in the earth (Numbers 12:3), yet we know he was the author of that writing. An inspired author would be writing of himself in the same sense that he would use if writing about another. We can therefore be sure that Ezra was the author of the book that bears his name. When he was ready to speak to the greater group that had come in answer to the proclamation, he informed them of the evil of which they were guilty. In marrying strange (outside) wives, they had increased the trespass of Israel. That showed that their marriage irregularities were not the only evils they had done.

Ezra 10:11. Ezra demanded a confession of wrong from the people. But confession of sins only will not be sufficient. All wrongs that one commits must be corrected as far as possible, in order to obtain the forgiveness of God. Accordingly, Ezra called upon the guilty to separate themselves from the foreign people of the land.

Ezra 10:12. A positive and unanimous response was made to Ezra’s demand; all agreed to do as he had asked.

Ezra 10:13. The request for more time is often an indication of indifference, or a means of evading an unpleasant task. I am sure the opposite was the case with these people. The magnitude of the work necessary to be done, and its importance in the light of the law violated, justified the request for plenty of time. Another thing, the inclemency of the weather was mentioned. That was not just because of the unpleasantness of the situation, for they had shown already that such would not keep them from doing what they believed to be their duty. They had come from the far borders of the country and sat in the street while the rain was coming down upon them, showing something of their courage. But the activities connected with sorting out the foreign wives, making sure that no lawful ones were imposed upon, yet being careful to get all of the others--- all this would require time and would be hindered by the weather.

Ezra 10:14. It showed wisdom to suggest some systematic method for handling the great work. And it is noteworthy that they did not expect the officers to "run down" the offenders to force them to comply with their duty. They proposed to have the chief officers of the congregation remain in the capital while the people came to them for the transaction. Since there were so many people concerned, it was suggested that appointed times be understood for the several cities. When each one’s time came he was to appear before these rulers, accompanied by the proper officials of his city, and then perform whatever ceremonies would be required by those having charge. By having the elders and judges present they would be sure of attending to the matter in a lawful manner; also would have witnesses for it. The motive for this revolutionary movement was to turn away the fierce wrath of God.

Verse 15

Ezr 10:15

Ezra 10:15

OPPOSITION TO EZRA’S SOLUTION OF THE PROBLEM

"Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah stood up against this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them."

This verse indicates that there was some oppostion, of course, to such a drastic course of action; and the fact of there being some opposed to it is not nearly so remarkable as the insignificant number of the opponents - only four people out of some 20,000 men, or more!

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 10:15. Two priests, Jonathan and Jahaziah, were appointed to have charge of the work. Two other men of the tribe of Levi were given to them as helpers; they were Meshullam and Shabbethai.

Verses 16-17

Ezr 10:16-17

Ezra 10:16-17

AND THE CHILDREN OF THE CAPTIVITY DID SO

"And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain heads of fathers’ houses, after their fathers’ houses, and all of them by their names, were set apart; and they sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter. And they made an end with all the men that had married foreign women by the first day of the first month."

The opposition did not delay the repudiation of the foreign wives. Only about a week elapsed between the decision to do so and the first session of the commission appointed to execute it. "The case of each city (or village) was taken separately. The male inhabitants of full age attended, and the `elders and judges’ heard each case separately. The neighbors of each person investigated were available for questioning; and when a mixed marriage was proved, the wife was repudiated. In 112 cases, the commission decided that the foreign wives and the children born to them were to be sent away." An emendation in the RSV results in the number being reduced to 111.

In any case, the number is surprisingly small. Out of at least 20,000 men, only a few more than a hundred were guilty of having violated God’s law in this matter. However, the importance of it was greatly intensified and augmented by the high social position and importance of the violators. If these had remained unpunished, or if their unlawful marriages had been allowed to stand, there is no way that Israel could have continued to maintain their distinction as a separate nation. Ezra’s listing the violators as to their distinction as priests, Levites, etc., doubtless had this very fact in focus. The whole project was completed in three months’ time, which allowed the better part of a whole day for the investigation of each one convicted.

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 10:16. Children of the captivity were the ones who had been exiles, but had come back to Palestine in the days of Cyrus. They were the ones who had taken the unlawful wives after coming from Babylon. They had agreed to correct the situation by putting away the strange wives. The priests mentioned in Ezra 10:15 took active charge of the ceremonies, but the transaction needed to be "checked" by other and superior men. For this work Ezra took some chief fathers and sat down to the task of reviewing the work that had been done. They began their work the 1st day of the 10th month. It had been started about the 20th of the 9th month (Ezra 10:9), which means that Jonathan and his helpers got a 10-day start ahead of Ezra’s review work.

Ezra 10:17. First day of the first month means, of the next year following the arrival in Jerusalem; so that we see the work of Ezra in examining the work of Jonathan required two months. All of this shows that care was taken in this serious business, so that the national personnel would again be pure.

Verses 18-44

Ezr 10:18-44

Ezra 10:18-44

THESE ARE THE NAMES OF THOSE WITH FOREIGN WIVES

"And among the sons of the priests there were found that had married foreign women: namely, of the sons of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and his brethren, Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah. And they gave their hand that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their guilt. And of the sons of lmmer: Hanani and Zebadiah. And of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah. And of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nathanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.

"And of the Levites: Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah (the same is Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. And of the singers: Eliashib. And of the porters, Shallum, and Telem, and Uri.

"And of Israel: of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, and Izziah, and Malchijah, and Benaiah. And of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jerimoth, and Elijah. And of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jerimoth, and Zabad, and Aziza. And of the sons of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. And of the sons of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, Jeremoth. And of the sons of Pahath-moab: Adna, and Cheial, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, and Bennui, and Manasseh. And of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch, Shemariah. Of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, Shimei. Of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, and Uel. Benaiah, and Bedaiah, Cheluhi, Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu, and Bani, and Binnui, Shimei, and Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah, Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azarel, and Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah, Joseph. Of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Matithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Iddo, and Joel, Benaiah. All these had taken foreign wives; and some of them had wives by whom they had children."

Whitcomb’s count of all these violators found, "Seventeen priests, ten Levites, and eighty-six others; and each of these put away his foreign wife and offered a ram as a guilt-offering.’ Some of the versions support this count of 113 in all.

Drastic as this solution of the problem assuredly was, "A comparison of Nehemiah 10:30 (12 years later) and of Nehemiah 13:23 (30 years later) shows that the evil was not permanently eliminated. Long association with heathen neighbors made such a separation difficult."

One thing that modern readers will wonder about is what provision, if any, was made for those wives and children which were expelled from the Jewish community. Jamieson has this: "Doubtless an adequate provision was made for the repudiated wives and children, according to the means and circumstances of the husbands." Abraham had also made provision for Hagar when he put her and Ishmael away.

We conclude this study of Ezra with the following relevant comment of Williamson:

"Israel’s mission could make headway only if she maintained the servant identity that separated her from the nations to which she was commissioned to reveal God’s will. In exactly the same way, Christians individually, and as the Church, are called to be `light’ and `salt,’ elements that function effectively precisely because of their difference from the setting in which they are placed. `But if the salt has lost its savor ...?’ (Matthew 5:13-16)."

E.M. Zerr:

Ezra 10:18. As a rule, what is wrong for one man is wrong for another. A thing may be a greater wrong in one man, though, than in another, from the standpoint of his influence. For instance, a priest was more prominent in his position with the congregation, hence a wrong committed by him would be more outstanding. This is the reason this verse names certain men in the priestly group who had taken strange wives. The priests were expected to teach the people the law (Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 17:9; Malachi 2:7), therefore their sin was the less excusable.

Ezra 10:19. The priests gave their hands which is a phrase that means they made a solemn promise to correct their wrongs. That was done first by putting away their strange wives; but that did not clear them before God. The law of Moses made provision that certain sacrifices should be offered to atone for sins called trespass. (Leviticus 6:6.) This service was performed by these men because they were guilty.

Ezra 10:20-22. This paragraph is a continuation of the thoughts in Ezra 10:19. The same remarks would apply to these priests that were made at the preceding verse. But after having named a few of the priests and describing their actions regarding the strange wives, the inspired writer considered that to be a precedent for other like cases, hence the list making up this paragraph with nothing specified but their names.

Ezra 10:23. All priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests. The preceding paragraphs listed the names of some Levites who were priests. The men named in this were Levites but not priests. It would be taken for granted they would follow the example of other Levites in the disposal of their wives, and in other duties.

Ezra 10:24. David had formulated a group of Israelites whose special part of the services was the singing. In 1 Chronicles 6:31 a reference is made to certain men whom he had set over the service of song in the house of the Lord. Their exercises were accompanied with instrumental music generally. Among the units connected with this service were the sons of Asaph (1 Chronicles 25:1), and the classification of singers finally became very distinct. The fact accounts for their being specifically mentioned in the list of men we are now considering. The porters composed another special group of servants about the buildings of the Lord. Their work was equivalent to gatekeepers or janitors. They were somewhat prominent and thus became entitled to special mention in the account of the irregular marriages.

Ezra 10:25-43. This long list of names has been grouped into one paragraph because nothing peculiar to any one of them is said. The list starts with the words of Israel. That means that after the mention of the special classes included in the preceding verses, all the rest to be named as being guilty were Israelites in general.

Ezra 10:44. One statement was made that was common to all of this long list; they had taken strange wives. The specification for some of them was that they had children by these wives. That, in fact, was one of the main objections to these unlawful marriages. God had promised to Abraham that he should have a numerous race of descendants, through whom a seed would be given to the world for a universal blessing. Also, these descendants were to compose a nation that was to possess the land to which he was being led. In order to accomplish the two promises to the patriarch, it was necessary to keep the blood line pure, unmixed with that of outside races. That is the special reason it was forbidden to beget children by wives of an alien nation.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Ezra 10". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/ezra-10.html.
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