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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 10

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5

Ezra - Chapter 10

Shechanlah’s Proposal, Verses 1-5

Ezra’s frustration over the intermarriages of Jews and heathen must have become the most published news of the day. His confession must have been heard by many of the people, they saw and heard his bitter weeping, and saw him prostrating himself before the Lord in the temple. No one before had seemed to be so concerned about the problem, and his extreme grief aroused the guilty to realize the serious nature of their transgression. A great congregation of men, women and children came to the temple where he was.

One of the men who was guilty of the infraction took the initiative to approach Ezra on the subject. He was Shechaniah of the family of Elam, one of the chief families of those who had returned from the captivity. The descendants of Elam numbered twelve hundred and fifty-­four in the original repatriates who returned with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:7), and there were seventy more who returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:7). It was found that six members of this family had taken alien wives (verse 26).

Shechaniah confessed that they had done this transgression. Yet he believed there was still hope for them to escape the wrath of God. He suggested that the guilty ones should make a covenant to send away their pagan wives with their children, as Ezra directed them to do and as those others who feared the wrath of God desired. It should be done according to the provision of the law of Moses.

Shechaniah put the burden of accomplishment on Ezra, "for this matter belongeth unto thee," but he promised that they would stand by him in it. Ezra had felt the hand of the Lord in leading him back to the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. But he probably never suspected that the Lord was bringing him to the homeland to cope with such a problem as he had found so shortly after his arrival. He was challenged to arise from his prostration before the Lord, to be of good courage, and go about the needful business at hand.

The challenge to Ezra reminds the Bible students of precedents even before his time. The feeling must have been much like that of Mordecai, when he issued his challenge to Esther, "Who knoweth whether thou art come to Ahe kingdom for such a time as this?" (Ezra 4:14). He is also challenged with the Lord’s challenge to Joshua (Joshua 1:9). So Ezra arose and starting with the priests and Levites had all Israel to swear to abide by his word, and they did so, putting away their strange, God-forbidden wives.

It is hard for the modern mind to justify what was to be done. These men were to send away their wives and the children they had borne to them, and to have nothing more to do with them. This seems heartless and cruel to people of today. It was necessary in that day, however, to preserve the nation through whom the Christ was to come. Had the devil been able to contaminate the nation of Israel and turn it to paganism he would have frustrated God’s plan to send His Son as the Savior of the world. No doubt any of these heathen spouses converted to the Jewish law would have found refuge in Israel and not have been forced out. Ruth is an outstanding example of this fact (see Book of Ruth). God demanded of Israel strict separation from the world.

Verses 6-17

Instruction, Verses 6-17

Ezra did not cease his fasting and mourning over the transgression of the Jews. But he did begin at once to act on the proposal of Shechaniah. He went into the living quarters of one of the chief priests, Johanan, the son of the high priest, Eliashib (Nehemiah 3:1). There he joined with the priests to make proclamation that all those guilty of this transgression should gather to Jerusalem within three days. The inhabitants of the land are referred to as the children of the captivity, referring to the descendants of those who had been carried from Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar and who had returned to Jerusalem by the decree of Cyrus. It also included their children who had been born since the return from Babylon.

Sentence was decreed against those who refused to come. They would lose their privileges and rights as Jews. Their substance would be forfeited, for they would have no further rights to their land and houses which were granted to the Jews who had returned. He would be no longer counted as part of the congregation of the repatriates from captivity.

In obedience to this proclamation the Scriptures say "all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days" (verse 9). This may have involved several thousand, and the account says the street around the temple was filled with them. The date was the twentieth of the ninth month, which would be about December 13th, in the present calendar. It was the rainy season of the year in that climate, and the people shivered in the cold rain and for the thing being required of them by the Lord.

Ezra addressed the assembly, first bringing accusation of their transgression in taking the heathen wives. He said they had added thus to the transgression of which they were already guilty. This he followed with exhortation to them to confess their guilt before the Lord, then to do His will by separating themselves from their pagan wives and from association with the alien inhabitants of the land.

The people agreed to abide by the decree of the priests, but they gave three reasons why the work should not be attempted in one day. These were 1) there were a great many guilty patties; 2) the rain was cold, and they were unable to stand outside exposed to it; 3) the work would require planning and several days in order to accomplish it. They advised that Ezra and those joined with him in working out the problem appoint different days for the men of each city who were guilty, and let them come on those days to be judged until they had finally appeased the “fierce wrath" of God.

With Ezra in passing judgment in the cases were two men named Jonathan and Jahaziah. They had helpers in the person of two Levites, Meshullam and Shabbethai. These men seemed to be those who passed judgment on advice of Ezra "with certain chief of the fathers." It is not said why judgment was necessary if one was married to a pagan spouse. It would seem that would have settled the person’s guilt. But it seems probable there may have been those who had been converted to the true God, in which case it might not have been necessary to compel separation. The whole work was completed by new year’s day, or in about two and a half months.

Verses 18-44

The Repentant, Verses 18-44

Among those Jews who had transgressed by marrying the foreign wives were twenty-one priests, who are enumerated first among the guilty. This large number of the priests shows how lightly the people were taking the laws about intermarriage and how even the spiritual leaders were setting a bad example. People cannot be expected to rise higher than their leadership (Hosea 4:9). Even four sons of the notable and pious high priest Jeshua, who returned with the original remnant under Zerubbabel, are the very first offenders named. These swore to put away their wives and to confess their sins by offering the ram for the trespass offering.

Among the Levites there was one of the singers and three of the porters who had intermarried. Of all the other Israelites of the returned captivity there was a total of eighty-six men who had to come for judgment concerning their marriage. All of these are enumerated by families according to the fathers who returned from the captivity with Zerubbabel and Jeshua. The family of Parosh had seven offenders; of Elam six; of Zattu six; of Bebai four; of Pahath-moab eight; of Harim eight; of Hashum seven; of Bani (another) twenty-seven, of Nebo seven.

The last verse records that these had all taken unlawful wives and that some had children by them. The implication here is, perhaps, that the number of children involved was minor. What disposition was made of the children is not specifically stated. However, according to the proposal of Shechaniah (verse 3) the men agreed to "make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them." Once again the severity of the law is emphasized, stressing once more the desirability of mercy and grace. God always responded in mercy when His people called on Him, and had these turned to Him and confessed Him as their God, He would surely have tendered His mercy to them.

Lessons to emphasize: 1) sometimes the Lord has tasks for His children they did not suspect; 2) the guilty should recognize their wrongdoing and seek God’s mercy; 3) the law is strict and rigid, condemning men without mercy; 4) concern for sin should manifest itself by seeking to rectify the situation; 5) to serve the Lord aright requires the putting away of the lusts of the flesh.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Ezra 10". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/ezra-10.html. 1985.
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