Ezra 9-10

Interesting phrases from Ezra 9

  • The holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands (v. 2)
  • I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God (v. 6)
  • Give us a nail in his holy place (v. 8)
  • God has punished us less than our iniquities deserve (v. 13)

Ezra 9:2 the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands

“From the time of their bondage with their fellow Israelites in Egypt a thousand years before, one sin had been paramount in Israel’s history: idolatry. They had intermarried with the people of Canaan and joined them in the worship of Baal and other false gods; for centuries they denied, dishonored, persecuted, rebelled against, and even killed the prophets. But the Babylonian captivity shocked Judah into the realization that God would not tolerate idolatry, that they must become a righteous people serving the true God.

“They received a further reminder of this fact when the famous priest and scribe Ezra led a second migration from Babylon to Jerusalem fifty-seven years after the temple was completed. To his dismay, Ezra found that the people had again begun to intermarry with the Canaanites and others, once again ‘doing according to their abominations.’ (Ezra 8:1.)

“Ezra recorded: ‘And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied’—amazed that backsliding could possibly have occurred during the ‘little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, … and give us a little reviving in our bondage.’ (Ezra 9:3, 8)

“At that point, a ‘very great congregation of men and women and children’ gathered around him and likewise ‘wept very sore’ (Ezra 10:1), and afterward made a covenant to put away the wives they had married of the people of the land, lest the temptation of idolatry come upon them again.

“Ezra then brought out the book containing the Law of Moses and read it before the congregation. When they had understood the Law, they ‘assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them’ (Neh. 9:1) and made a covenant to obey the Lord and again organized themselves under the priestly order (see Neh. 8–12).

“In these acts of repentance, Judah rejected the worship of graven images and false gods and for a time became very zealous for God and his word.” (Richard D. Draper, “Judah between the Testaments,” Ensign, Oct. 1982, 37)

Ezra 9:11-12 thou hast commanded… give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons

“The scriptural prohibition against intermarriage that Ezra quotes at Ezra 9:11-12 is not found in our Old Testament. It was evidently once part of the scriptures and has since been lost. Intermarriage with seven specific Canaanite peoples is prohibited in Deuteronomy 7:1-4, and the Pentateuch generally discourages marriage with foreigners (see Gen. 26:34-35; 27:46-28:2; see also JST 1 Kgs. 3:1). There are some notable exceptions, however, such as Joseph (Gen. 41:45), Moses (Num. 12:1), and Boaz (Ruth 4:13). It is possible that the passage that Ezra quoted was given to a prophet some time after the ministry of Moses to clarify that the Lord did not want the Israelites to marry any foreigners.

“The primary reason given in the Old Testament for discouraging intermarriage is that it would turn the Israelites away from the Lord to the worship of the false heathen gods of their spouses (Ex. 34:16; Deut. 7:4; 1 Kgs. 11:1-4). Ezra was no doubt aware of this, although it appears that his main concern was to avoid the Lord's retribution for breaking a commandment rather than the consequences of religious contamination (Ezra 9:10-15).

“Ezra's strictness was in keeping with other post-Exilic instances of extreme concern for maintaining the separateness of the house of Israel (see Neh. 9:2). After the return of the Jews in 538 B.C., priests who could not prove their lineage were excluded from serving in the priesthood (Ezra 2:61-63), and the Samaritans, whose lineage was part Israelite and part foreign, were also excluded from association with the Jews (Ezra 4:1-3). Malachi also condemned the Jews for marrying outside of Israel (Mal. 2:11). These practices may seem extreme, but they need to be viewed in light of the near-destruction of Judah as a people and their need to follow the Lord's commandments strictly in order to avoid his further punishment and to obtain some measure of spiritual and temporal prosperity.

“The people were apparently convinced of their wrongdoing, and they agreed to take the extraordinary step of divorcing all of their foreign wives (Ezra 10:1-5, Ezra 10:9-12). Even if the people were against this decision, there was little they could do, because Ezra had royal authority to enforce his interpretation of the Law of Moses (Ezra 7:25-26). This decision was reached four months after Ezra's arrival (Ezra 10:9), and a list of the priests who had married foreign wives was recorded (Ezra 10:18-44).”  (Kent P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 376-377)

Ezra 10:8 whosoever would not come within three days [would be] separated from the congregation

Failure to attend this special conference meant excommunication.  Ezra was serious and many were in danger of being cut off from the congregation.  Since the numbers of exiles were small at this point, the danger of dissent was particularly pressing and rash measures were required.

Ezra 10:13 it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without

Ezra’s pioneers had been there four months, but Zerubbabel’s group arrived some 75 years earlier.  They had built the temple but they did not have a Tabernacle or an Assembly Hall or a Conference Center where everyone could meet and stay out of the rain.  Ezra had called them together, but there was a terrible storm at the appointed hour.  He didn’t wait until the storm blew over because the issue was too important.  So the people suffered in the rain. After hearing the issue, they respond, in effect, “Can we NOT have a 3-hour meeting to discuss this?!  Our clothes are soaked through to the bone.  We are freezing.  This rain is pelting us.  How about you appoint and empower somebody to resolve this issue so we can end this meeting and get out of the rain?”