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Ezr 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.
Ver. 1. Now when Ezra had prayed ] Had presented himself as a suppliant (Hithpallel), and opened his cause to God the Judge, appealing to him, that he might determine.
And when he had confessed ] And begged pardon; deprecating the Divine displeasure, as the word signifieth.
Weeping ] Of this we read not in the former chapter, but of other effects of his passion, as rending his garments, tearing off the hair of his head and beard, &c. His sorrow at first might be above tears, which afterwards came gushing out amain, as the blood doth out of a wound, but not till it hath first run back to the heart, to bear the news to it, as I may so say. It is said of Athanasius, that, by his tears, as by the bleeding of a chaste vine, he cured the leprosy of that tainted age. May we not say the same of this good man?
And casting himself down before the house of God ] Where all might see him, that their eyes might affect their hearts, and contribute some tears of compunction and compassion towards the filling of God’s bottle, as they had done sins toward the filling of his bag.
Of men, women, and children ] Anashim, Venashim, &c. A woman is a man, cut short by the head, 1 Corinthians 11:3 . Here was a general meeting of all sexes and sizes joined together, to cut sin’s cart ropes.
For the people wept very sore ] They could not wash their hands in innocency, they, therefore, washed them in tears; they knew that as the sins of the old world, so of this little world, needeth a deluge. Their sins, therefore, are as so many Hazaels to them; their hearts as so many Hadadrimmons, the place they made to become a very Bochim; they wept with a great weeping, and so vented their sins at their eyes, as sick people do their ill-humours at the pores of their bodies.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 2. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel ] Egregie cordatus homo A prudent and a pious man, one that had feeding lips, and a healing tongue, one that knew how to time a word, and to set it upon the wheels, Isaiah 50:4 Proverbs 25:11 .
Answered and said unto Ezra ] Such words as were uttered more from the bowels than the brain, and thereby proved so effectual.
We have trespassed against our God ] His father Jehiel had taken a strange wife, Ezra 10:18 ; Ezra 10:26 , so perhaps had he himself; or if not, yet he might fear wrath, because of the same body politic with those sinners against their own souls. God, he knew, might well draw blood of the arm for the cure of the head; as Theodoret saith he did when he slew Pharaoh’s first-born.
Yet now there is hope in Israel, &c. ] Hope that the people will repent, and hope that God will have mercy, upon their repentance. Superest sperare salutem, He survives to hope for health. If it were not for hope the heart would break. God, having opened a door of hope, let us go boldly to the throne of grace; what should hinder?
“ Qui nil sperare potest, desperet nihil. ”
Who is able to hope for nothing, gives up hope for nothing. Cast not away your confidence, which hath so great recompence of reward; but cast anchor within the veil, and wait for day, as Paul did in the shipwreck. See Isaiah 50:10 .
Ezr 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.
Ver. 3. Now therefore let us make a covenant ] And so tie ourselves thereby to the better abearance; that we slip not collar, that we detract not the yoke of God’s obedience, Deuteronomy 10:20 . Cleaving to God with full purpose of heart will require swearing. Broken bones must have strong bands to close them. Tottering houses must be cramped with iron bars, or they will soon fall down. If the vows of God be upon us, if we are covenanters, it will help against the fickleness of our false hearts; which cannot but know that if God shall be all-sufficient to us, we must be altogether his, Song of Solomon 2:16 . His is a covenant of mercy, even the sure mercies of David; ours is a covenant of obedience to him, in every part and point of duty.
To put away all the wives ] This Jews might do in this, and some other cases. So did Romans also with this only bill of divorce, Res tuas tibi habeto, Take what is thine own, and be packing. But Christians may not do thus because of difference in religion, 1 Corinthians 7:12 , whatever some late upstarts have printed and practised to the contrary.
And such as are born of them ] The children of those strange wives, persisting in their Paganism. These children, though disinherited, yet were not to be altogether deserted; but nourished and nurtured also in the fear and admonition of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4 . Proving if, peradventure, God will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, &c., 2 Timothy 2:25 .
According to the counsel of my lord ] Terms full of hearty respect and humble submission. He calls Ezra My lord, as Hannah did Eli, with an eye to his dignity, and authority, both as a priest and as a commissioner from the king of Persia. At Venice every ordinary mechanic is called Magnifico. At Vicenza, in Italy, the common title to a common gentleman is Signor Conte, as much as my lord earl. But Ezra was every way honourable and deserving; titles of honour were not worthy of him.
And of those that tremble at the commandment of our God ] A periphrasis of a truly pious person, sc. such a one as feareth God and keepeth his commandments. And this is the man alone that is fit to judge the cases of conscience, and to comfort the feeble-minded. Now, although the comfort given by God’s ministers, such as Ezra was, be ordinarily most effectual (as is the blessing of parents, who are in God’s room), yet others also, that are conscientious and experienced persons, that tremble at the commandment of God, as here, may give excellent counsel and comfort in such a case. But how like the motion of a puppet, the language of a parrot, is the best discourse, in this subject of conscience, of the uninterested man.
And let it be done accordiny to the law ] Which, though it take no direct and express order in this case, yet by due deduction and just inference it was determined both here and in Nehemiah 9:2 , that those strange wives should be put away.
Ezr 10:4 Arise; for [this] matter [belongeth] unto thee: we also [will be] with thee: be of good courage, and do [it].
Ver. 4. Arise ] Surge, age, Summe Pater, Arise, act, most high father, said Mantuan to the pope, exciting him to take arms against the Turk: to the same sense Shechaniah here to Ezra; or rather as Jehovah to Joshua, Joshua 7:10 , Get thee up: why liest thou here on thy face?
For this matter belongeth unto thee ] Who hast both a heart to do it, as appears by thine humiliation, and also power in thine hand, as witnesseth thy commission.
We also will be with thee ] Every man must show himself forward to further the work of reformation, moving regularly within his own sphere, and trading every talent for that end and purpose.
Be of good courage, and do it ] These were verba non inflantia, sed inflammantia. Not words, spoken but inflammed. And thus may one, by his hearty good counsel, become an angel, nay, a god, to another. Senarclaeus, in an epistle to Bucer, telling how John Diazius, the martyr, discoursed unto him the night before he was butchered by the appointment of his own brother Alphonsus, hath this notable expression, Ego vero illius oratione sic incendebar, &c., I was so inflamed with his words, as if I had heard the Holy Ghost himself speaking unto me.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 5. Then arose Ezra ] According to the counsel of Shechaniah, Ezra 10:4 . "How forcible are right words!" Job 6:25 . One seasonable speech, falling upon a prepared heart, hath oft a strong and sweet operation; as that similitude used by Peter Martyr, reading upon the First to the Corinthians, had upon Galeacius Caracciolus, that noble Italian convert; and as some speeches of Staupicius had upon Luther, who was likewise much confirmed and cheered up by conference with an old priest at Erfurt, who largely discoursed about justification by faith, and explained the articles of the Creed to him (Life of Luther, by Mr Clark).
And made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel ] Oρκος, ερκος . An oath is a fence; and, added to a vow or covenant, it doth notably conduce (as a holy exorcism) to conjure down our rebellious wills, and, as cords or chains, to hamper our treacherous hearts, that they backslide not, like backsliding heifers. Moist bodies, as water, must be put into close vessels; so must man’s heart be bound together by strongest helps and resolutions. Neither cast we any new snare hereby upon ourselves, 1 Corinthians 7:35 , but rather a new provocation to the payment of an old debt we owe to God. Such was that of Jacob, Genesis 28:20 ; Genesis 31:13 ; of David Psalms 119:106 ; of the Nazarites, Num 6:2-3 Rechabites, Jeremiah 35:6 . This shows a very earnest desire to obey; it sharpeneth also our prayers, and disheartens the devil; who, seeing us thus peremptory and resolute, will despair, and depart.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 6. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God ] Where God had promised to hear prayers for Christ’s sake, whereof that house was a type. See Ezra 10:1 .
And went into the chamber of Johanan ] As a fit meeting place, where they might consider, consult, and give counsel. Over the council chamber at Venice is written, Let nothing be done here against the public welfare. A professor of the Turks’ law proclaimeth before they advise or attempt aught, That nothing be done against religion. Over the townhall in Zant are set these two verses in letters of gold:
“ Hic locus odit, amat, punit, conservat, honorat,
Nequitiam, pacem, crimina, iura, bonos. ”
Think the same we must needs of this holy conclave or council chamber, where the Sanhedrim was present, and Ezra president.
He did eat no bread, nor drink water ] Though fasting and faint with much mourning, yet no food would down with him till he had gone thorough stitch with the work. It was his food and drink to do the will of his heavenly Father. So it was good Job’s, Job 23:12 , and our Saviour’s, Matthew 21:17 ; Matthew 21:23 . It was then, when disappointed of a breakfast at the barren fig tree, and coming hungry into the city, he went not into an eating house nor into a friend’s house to refresh himself; but into God’s house, where he continued teaching the people all that day.
For he mourned because of the transgression ] It was not then a natural abstinence, arising from sickness, nor a civil, for health’s sake, or for some other worldly respect; but a religious fast, which is usually to be held out a whole day, usque dum stellae in caelo appareant (as an old canon hath it), till the stars appear in the sky; yet so as that nature be chastised, not disabled for duty.
Ezr 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;
Ver. 7. And they made proclamation ] Heb. They caused a voice to pass, viz. by a herald or crier.
That they should gather themselves together ] And so the guilty might be brought to their answer, in that general assembly.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 8. And that whosoever would not come, &c. ] Laws, if they be not penal and compulsory, will soon be slighted by lawless, aweless persons. Howbeit, flies must not be killed upon men’s brows with beetles; peccadillos must not be punished as heinous crimes. Draco made it a capital offence to be idle, to steal pot herbs, &c. Of his laws Aristotle saith that they were not worthy of remembrance, but only for their too great severity; Ezra’s laws were more mild.
All his substance shall be forfeited ] This, to men of their metal, was a forcible motive. When some have a loss in their riches, it is, as it were, raked out of their bellies; a piece of their very heart goes with it, Job 20:15 , and they are filled with unmedicinable sorrows, Ecclesiastes 5:12 .
And himself separated from the congregation ] Banished the land, or at least cast out of the Church. Woe be to those that separate themselves, Judges 1:19 , Cainites you may call them, Genesis 4:16 ; our church forsakers, worship scorners, that last brood of Beelzebub.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 9. Within three days ] They durst not outstand their time, because their estates were at stake. Why is there not the like care taken and speed used to make peace with God, since for aught we know it is now or never, today or not at all? Is it nothing to lose an immortal soul? why, then, cry we, Cras, Domine? Tomorrow, Lord? why stand we trifling and baffling from day to day, till it be all too late? Remember the foolish virgins, and be wiser.
It was the ninth month ] Which was the month of May, saith Diodati; counting September for the first, after the manner of the Persians, Esther 2:16 ; and this great rain, being out of the accustomed season, was somewhat prodigious, and seemed to portend God’s wrath, as 1 Samuel 12:17 . Others make it to be in December, the deep of winter; which, though it be an ordinary time of rain (whence in Greek also it hath its name χειμα , and in Latin hyems ), yet these showers were extraordinary, more like spouts than showers; and thence the people’s fear much increased by their guilt; for as no body is without its shadow, so is no sin without its fear, quia nec sine conscientia sui, because it cannot shake off conscience (Tertul.).
Ezr 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.
Ver. 10. We have transgressed ] We have disloyally, or rather sacrilegiously, trespassed, by transgressing the covenant. Other men’s sins are rebellious against God, but the saints’ sins are treacheries. Let the Philistines bind Samson, it wilt be nothing so grievous to him as that his brethren should do it. Men’s offences are much increased by their obligations.
To increase the trespass of Israel ] To add to the heap which thereby is grown as high as heaven, Ezra 9:6 , and calls hard for fire from thence, Psalms 11:6 , to revenge the quarrel of the covenant. Draw water, therefore, before the Lord, as those did, 1 Samuel 7:6 . Yea, pour out your hearts before him. God is a refuge for us, Psalms 62:7 .
Ezr 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.
Ver. 11. Now therefore make confession ] This is the soul’s vomit, Vomitus sordium animae (Naz.) which is the hardest kind of medicine, but most healthy. This the devil knows, viz. that there is no way to purge the sick soul but upwards, by casting out the vicious humour wherewith it is clogged; and, therefore, he holds the lips close, that the heart may not disburden itself by so wholesome evacuation. Confession must follow upon conviction, as here; and be followed by reformation.
And do his pleasure: and separate, &c.] For they that confess and forsake not their sins are only dog sick. When they have disgorged their stomachs, and got a little ease, they will be as bad as before. Wicked people make account of confession as drunkards do of vomiting; that they may add drunkenness to thirst. But the man that shall have mercy must both confess and forsake, Proverbs 28:13 . Open a vein, and let out his bad blood.
Ezr 10:12 Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.
Ver. 12. Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice ] But not with a true heart, Hebrews 10:22 . For within a few years they returned to their vomit again.
As thou hast said, so must we do ] These were good words, and not unlike those of Laelius, in Lucan, spoken to Caesar:
Iussa sequi tam velle mihi, quam posse, necesse est.
But many of these fair promisers turned back, and dealt unfaithfully, like their fathers; they were turned aside like a deceitful bow, Psalms 78:57 . Look how a rotten bow, though otherwise fair, when an arrow is drawn to the head, and both eye and arrow is levelled to the mark, yet it miscarrieth; so do the desires, purposes, and promises that unsound hearts conceive in their afflictions, and under just convictions.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 13. Neither is this work of one day or two ] No more is repentance, that first and continual work of every Christian. This made Tertullian say, that he was born for nothing else but for repentance, Nulli rei natus nisi poenitentiae. Surely, as in a ship there is continual pumping; and as in a beggar’s coat continual piecing; so in the best soul there wants not matter of daily repenting: this house must be every day swept; this candlestick every day scoured. Besides, some sins are past in time that are not past in deed, if we dwell not in the undoing and reversing of them. The best of these hereafter mentioned were to begin anew their repentance, because they had not considered their marrying strange wives.
For we are many that have transgressed ] Heb. We have multiplied to transgress. The comfort is, that God will in like sort multiply to pardon, if we return unto him; that is the expression, Isaiah 55:7 .
Ezr 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.
Ver. 14. Let now our rulers of all the congregation ] Our sanhedrim or seventy seniors, see Deuteronomy 17:9 . Let there be a matrimonial consistory erected, and matters in question orderly heard and determined.
Until the fierce wrath of God ] We must not think that he will cease pursuing us till the traitor’s head be thrown over the wall, till there be a thorough reformation. One Abimelech, left alive, may be the death of Gideon’s 70 sons; so may one sin favoured be thine utter undoing.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 15. Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah ] These two priests only, of all the company, had kept themselves unspotted, and so were fit to be employed in the work in hand. Diaconos paucitas honorabiles fecit, saith Jerome, of his times. The paucity of good deacons hath rendered them honourable. And I do not think, saith Chrysostom, that among the clergy there are many that shall be saved. Clerus Britannicus stupor mahdi (Dr Hall); and yet there never wanted among us those dehonestamenta Cleri, that might give some occasion to black-mouthed Campian to tell the world, Ministris eorum nihil vilius, Many of their ministers are most base.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 16. And the children of the captivity did so ] Appointed such a course should be taken. And so it was a plain Plebiscitum, resolution of the people, and accordingly executed.
Ezr 10:17 And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.
Ver. 17. By the first day of the first month ] So that it was not the work of one day or two, as Ezra 10:13 , but of full three months; and yet they were not slothful in that business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. In the work of repentance take time enough, dig deep enough by thorough humiliation; lest the fall of the house be great. The English are not sick soon enough, saith one, and they are well too soon; this is true of their minds, as well as of their bodies.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 18. And among the sons of the priests, &c. ] What a shame was this, and a stain to their cloth! These men’s white ephods covered foul sins; whereas they should have been careful to have kept all clean; as that Eleazar was of whom it is told, that he would not do anything that might seem to be sinful, because he would not spot his white head.
Of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak ] This good high priest had sons none of the best. White halcyons hatch black young ones. Caligula fuit optimi viri Germanici filius. Caligula will be the son of the best man, Germanicus. Eli’s sons were sons of Belial. Samuel’s were little better; and yet it is not likely that he was faulty in that indulgence for which his own mouth had denounced God’s judgments against Eli. When Caesar Borgia, duke of Valence, invited his nobility to a feast, and after dinner cut off their heads, Pope Alexander (who was his father) hearing of it, smiled and said, his son had served them a Spanish trick. When Petro Alingi Farnesis had committed an unspeakable violence on the person of Cosmus Cherius, bishop of Fanum, and then poisoned him, he received no other chastisement of his father, Pope Paul III, than Haec vitia me non commonstratore didicit, he never learned these faults of his father. Good Jeshua had better bred his children than thus to break out into an open violation of that law, which they could not but know, and should have observed. But God will show, that grace is by gift, not inheritance; and men will show that though nurture may somewhat amend nature, yet it is grace alone that can keep us within the bounds of obedience.
Ezr 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.
Ver. 19. And they gave their hands ] i.e. They plighted their troth, and assured the assent of their hearts, 2 Kings 10:15 .
That they would put away their wives ] Though as dear to them, haply, as was George Carpenter’s (martyr), burnt at Munchen, in Bavaria; My wife and children, said he, are so dear unto me, that they cannot be bought from me for all the riches and possessions of the duke of Bavaria: but for the love of my Lord God I will willingly forsake them. Let us do so by our dilecta delicta, our dearest and most delicious sins.
They offered a ram of the flock ] This shows that they sinned against knowledge; for a sin of ignorance the oblation was not a ram, but a goat.
Ezr 10:44 All these had taken strange wives: and [some] of them had wives by whom they had children.
Ver. 44. And some of them had wives by whom they had children ] Who yet for all that were put away together with their children, Ezra 10:3 . The Hebrew hath it thus, and there were of them women, and they had put forth sons, or exposed their sons to do as they might, or to be disposed of by the judges; as that good woman who told Bonner, that if he burnt her, she hoped he would keep Faith, Hope, and Charity (those were the names of her three daughters). No, by my truth will not I, quoth the bishop; I will meddle with none of them (Acts and Mon.).
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ezra 10". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26