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Ezr 9:1 Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, [doing] according to their abominations, [even] of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
Ver. 1. Now when these things were done ] Here are post maxima gaudia luctus, Heaven’s joys are without measure or mixture; but this present life is overspread with sins and miseries, as with a filthy morphew. Of good Ezra, we may say as Pliny doth of Metellus, Metellus infelix dici non debet, felix non potest, Unhappy we may not call him, happy we cannot; witness the doleful discourse of this chapter.
The princes came to me ] The better sort of them, that were sensible of the abuses, crept in, and desired a reformation. For some of the princes also and rulers had their hands elbow deep in the wickedness complained of, Ezra 9:2 .
The people of Israel ] The many, the common sort, that shallow-brained but many headed beast, that loves to follow the herd and do as the most do, though thereby they be utterly undone for ever.
And the priests, and the Levites ] This was much; for these knew the law, and made their boast of it, Romans 2:18 ; Romans 2:23 . They could not be ignorant of the unlawfulness of this mixing themselves in marriage with heathens not proselyted. Now sins against knowledge and conscience are of a double dye, of a crimson colour; and make a great breach, a deep gash in a man’s spirit, Isaiah 59:11-12 . What was it that brought such roarings and troubles on them, and that when salvation was looked for? Our iniquities testify to our faces, and we know them.
Have not separated themselves ] The separation of the saints from the wicked is a wonderful separation, Exodus 33:16 , such as was that of light from darkness in the creation. God hath brought them out of darkness into his marvellous light, 1 Peter 2:9 . Why then should they be unequally yoked together with unbelievers? what communion hath light with darkness? &c., 2 Corinthians 6:14 .
Doing according to their abominations ] How should they choose but do so when so matched and married? What is the reason the pope will not dispense in Spain or Italy, if a Papist marry a Protestant? yet here they will, but in hope thereby to draw more to them. The brown bread in the oven will be sure to fleece from the white; not that from it. So in married couples: seldom is the worse bettered by the good, but the contrary. See Nehemiah 13:26 .
Ezr 9:2 For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of [those] lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.
Ver. 2. For they have taken of their daughters ] Taken them for wives: which was flatly forbidden, Deuteronomy 7:3 , and a reason given, Ezra 9:4 , from the evil effect of such unblest marriages. This abuse Malachi complaineth of, Malachi 2:11 ; Malachi 2:13 , whom some make to be the same man with Ezra.
For themselves, and for their sons ] Whom they herein helped to a cold armful (as Lycephron calleth a bad wife, ψυχρον παραγκαλισμα ), or rather to an unnatural heat, worse than that of a quartan ague, as said Simonides; as bad as that of an evil spirit, said another heathen.
So that the holy seed ] i.e. The children of Israel, who were all federally holy at least, Deuteronomy 7:6 , as are also all the children of Christian parents, 1 Corinthians 7:14 .
Hath been chief in this trespass ] Which they think audaciously to bear out with their big looks, to obtrude and justify to the world this most malapert misdemeanour, because it is facinus maioris abollae, the fact of a great one (Juvenal).
Ezr 9:3 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.
Ver. 3. I rent my garment and my mantle ] In token of his deep and downright humiliation, indignation, detestation of their dealing therein.
And plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard ] To show how passionately grieved and offended he was. The raging Turk did the like at the last assault of Scodra; being extremely vexed at the dishonour and loss he had received there. But what followed? In his choler and frantic rage he most horribly blasphemed God; whereas holy Ezra, though he sat astonied till the evening sacrifice, yet then he poureth forth his soul in a heavenly prayer, Ezra 9:5-6 .
And sat down astonied ] As one that hath neither life nor soul (as we say), that can neither say nor do for himself, being wonderfully amazed, astonished, or desolate, as David had been, Psalms 143:4 . The true zealot, as his love is fervent, his desires eager, his delights ravishing, his hopes longing; so his hatred is deadly, his anger fierce, his grief deep, his fear terrible, &c. Zeal is an extreme heat of all the affections, Romans 12:11 , boiling hot, hissing hot, as the Greek importeth ( ζεοντες ).
Ezr 9:4 Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.
Ver. 4. Then were assembled unto me ] It was soon noised and noticed among the godly party how exceedingly Ezra was troubled; they therefore trouble themselves, as our Saviour is said to have done, John 11:33 , and as Paul felt twinges when others were hurt. "Who is offended," saith he, "and I burn not?" 2 Corinthians 11:29 . Sheep, when frighted, will get together; swine, when lugged, will grunt together. What should saints do (in case of national sins or judgments) but assemble and tremble together, as here; but vow and perform reformation to the Lord their God, as in the next chapter.
Every one that trembled at the words ] At the judgments of God whilst they yet hang in the threatenings. To such looketh the Lord with special intimations of his love, Isaiah 66:2 . When as those that tremble not in hearing shall be crushed to pieces in feeling, said Mr Bradford the martyr.
That had been carried away ] But had not learned by the things that they had suffered, were as bad as before, if not worse, having lost the fruit of their afflictions, παθηματα μαθηματα . This is fearful; a bad sign of an incorrigible castaway, Jeremiah 6:30 .
Until the evening sacrifice ] This time of the day good people usually took to pray at; that, together with the sacrifice, their prayers might come up for a memorial before God in those pillars of smoke, Son 3:6 Acts 10:4 . See Luk 1:10 Acts 3:11 .
Ezr 9:5 And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God,
Ver. 5. I arose up from my heaviness ] In affliction, sc. of spirit, wherewith his heart was leavened and soured, as David’s was, Psalms 73:21 ; embittered, as Peter’s, Matthew 26:75 ; poured out upon him, as Job’s, Job 30:16 . He did really afflict himself with voluntary sorrows for the transgressions of his people.
And having rent, &c. ] See Ezra 9:3 .
I fell upon my knees ] This gesture did both evidence and increase the ardency of his affection.
And spread out my hands ] With the palms open toward heaven, in a having, craving way, as beggars. This was the Jewish manner of praying, and it was very becoming.
Ezr 9:6 And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over [our] head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
Ver. 6. And said, O my God ] This was a prayer of faith, and founded upon the covenant, that beehive of heavenly honey, as one well calleth it.
I am ashamed and blush ] Sin is a blushful thing, and hales shame at the heels of it, Revelation 3:17 . Therefore when a man hath committed a sin, he blusheth; the blood, as it were, would cover the sin. But he is past grace that is past shame, and can blush no more than a sackbut, Illum ego periisse dico cui periit pudor (Sallust).
For our iniquities ] He maketh himself a party, because he was one of the same community with them that had done that evil. He also knew himself to have a hand, if not upon the great cart ropes, set upon the lesser cords that might draw down divine vengeance upon the land. Hence he includeth himself after the example of Daniel, Daniel 9:5 .
Are increased over our head ] As an overwhelming flood, Psalms 38:4 . That threateneth to go over our souls too, Psalms 124:4 , and to sink them in the bottomless lake, that lower most part of hell imported by that ה locale (as Hebricians note), Psalms 9:17 . Hebrew Text Note
And our trespass is grown up unto the heavens ] So great is our guilt, that it is gotten as high as heaven, that is, as high as may be. For beyond the moveable heavens, Aristotle (nature’s best secretary) saith there is neither body, nor time, nor place, nor vacuum. See Revelation 18:5 . See Trapp on " Rev 18:5 " Man’s sin defileth even the very visible heavens; which must therefore be purged with the fire of the last day. Yea, it pierceth into the heaven of heavens, and maketh a loud outcry in God’s ears for vengeance, Genesis 4:10 ; Genesis 18:20 .
Ezr 9:7 Since the days of our fathers [have] we [been] in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, [and] our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as [it is] this day.
Ver. 7. Since the days of our fathers ] Confession with aggravation is that happy spunge that wipeth out all the blots and blurs of our lives; for, if we confess our sins, and therein lay load enough upon ourselves, as Ezra here, and Daniel doth, Daniel 9:5 (mark how full in the mouth these good men are, out of the abundant hatred of sin in their hearts), "God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins," &c., 1 John 1:9 . But in confession we must not extenuate or excuse; every sin must swell as a toad in our eyes, and we must spit it out of our mouths with utmost indignation; showing the Lord the iniquity of our sin, the filthiness of our lewdness, the abomination of our provocations, Romans 7:13 . Thus if we weigh our sins in a true balance, and put in so many weights as to bring to a just humiliation, to a godly sorrow; then it will prove a right apology, the same that the apostle maketh a fruit and sign of sound repentance, 2 Corinthians 7:11 , quae magis deprecatione constat, quam depulsione criminum, such an apology as consisteth rather in deprecating than defending (Chemnit. Exam.).
Have we been in a great trespass unto this day ] And so there hath been a concatenation, a continued series of our sins from one generation to another. We are a race of rebels, a seed of serpents, &c.
And for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests ] Our national sins have produced national plagues; which yet we have not improved to a public or personal reformation. Many hands have drawn the cable with greatest violence; the leprosy hath overrun the whole body; there is (as physicians say of some diseases) corruptio totius substantiae, a general defection, a conjuncture of all persons, in all sins and miseries, which, like clouds, cluster together, and no clearing up by repentance.
And to confusion of face ] So that we are a scorn to our enemies and a terror to ourselves; in a low and lamentable condition.
Ezr 9:8 And now for a little space grace hath been [shewed] from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.
Ver. 8. And now for a little space ] Heb. point, or moment of time. God let loose his hand for a while, and gave them some little liberty, to make them instances of his mercy who had been objects of his wrath; but nothing would mend them and make them better.
And to give us a nail ] That is, some settlement, some subject of hope, and support of faith. He seemeth to allude to such nails as wherewith they fastened their tents to the ground (Jael drove one of those tent nails through Sisera’s temples, and laid him safe enough), or else to those nails that, driven into pales, do fasten them to their rails.
That our God may lighten our eyes ] i.e. cheer up our hearts, and so clear up our eyesight; which, when the spirit is dejected, grows dim, for want of spirits. Profecto oculis animus inhabitat, saith Pliny (lib. ii. cap. 32); truly so it is, that the heart dwelleth in the eye; there it sitteth and showeth itself pleased or displeased with whatsoever occurrences. And as a looking-glass is the eye of art; so is the eye the looking-glass of nature.
And give us a little reviving in our bondage ] Not light only, but heat also, by the beams of his pleased countenance, which is better than life. The life of some kind of creatures is merely in the sun; in winter they lie for dead; in summer they revive. So it is with the saints; all their comfort consists in God’s grace and favour. They look unto him and are lightened, Psalms 34:5 ; he hideth his face, and they are troubled; their breath is taken away, they die and return to their dust, Psalms 104:29 . These captives in Babylon lay for that time as dead and buried, Isaiah 26:19 . God opened their graves, and caused them to come up out of their graves, and brought them to the land of Israel, Ezekiel 37:13 . For his favour is no empty favour; it is not like the winter sun, that casts a goodly countenance when it shineth, but gives little comfort and heat. He is the Father of lights, and the God of all grace and consolation, &c., he gives all things needful to life and godliness, so that to have sinned against so good a God, to kick against such tender bowels, was a further aggravation of their sin; and so it is here used and urged.
Ezr 9:9 For we [were] bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.
Ver. 9. For we were bondmen ] Heb. servants; and so wholly and only at the pleasure of another; for a servant is not αυτοματος , saith Aristotle, one that moveth absolutely of himself; but he is the master’s underling and instrument, και ολως εκεινου , wholly at his disposal. The saints may say all as much, We were bondmen, slaves to sin, drudges to the devil, driven about by him at his pleasure, having as many lords as lusts, Titus 3:3 , and thereby exposed to a thousand mischiefs and miseries; the heathens’ Pistrinum, the Turk’s galleys, Bajazet’s iron cage, the Indian mines, are nothing to it. This we should frequently recognize; and remembering that our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but brought us from darkness to light, "and from the power of Satan unto God, that we might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified," Acts 26:18 ; we should blush and bleed in the sense of our unthankfulness, saying, as Ezra 9:14 , Should we again break thy commandments, &c.
Yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage ] As he may seem to do his prisoners of hope, when he leaves them in the enemy’s hand, or under some pressing affliction, and seems to forget them, that they may the better remember themselves. But God had remembered these returned captives "in their low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever." And had "redeemed them from their enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever," Psalms 136:23-24 . Their sin therefore was the greater, since against so much mercy; and God might justly have said unto them, as Ezekiel 22:20 , "I will gather you in my anger and in my fury, and will leave you there." A grievous judgment indeed! for woe be unto you when I forsake you, Hosea 9:12 . Lord, leave us not, Jeremiah 17:17 . Forsake us not utterly, Psalms 119:8 .
To give us a reviving ] See Ezra 9:8 .
To set up the house of our God, and to repair, &c. ] He reciteth and celebrateth God’s favours to that people, not in the lump only and by wholesale, as we say; but entereth into particulars, and reckoneth them up one by one. So doth Moses, Exodus 18:8 . So doth David, Psa 136:1-26 So must we, that we may shame and shent ourselves, as here, for our unthankfulness: and be inrited and incited thereby to better obedience. God, for this cause, crumbleth his mercies unto us (saith one): we have his blessings by retail, that we may make our utmost of them.
And to give us a wall ] Protection and safeguard, as the walls of Sparta was their militia, and the walls of England is our navy. They had the fence of the king of Persia’s favour. They had also God’s providence, as a hedge or wall of fire round about them, Zechariah 2:5 . See Trapp on " Zec 2:5 "
Ezr 9:10 And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments,
Ver. 10. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? ] q.d. We have nothing to say for ourselves, wherever thou shouldst not presently pronounce against us, and execute upon us the sentence of utter rejection. We are even speechless, excuseless, and must needs conclude, It is the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed, that we are at all on this side of hell it is because his compassions fail not, Lamentations 3:32 .
For we have forsaken thy commandments ] Better than this Ezra could not have said for himself and his people, whilst he thus confesseth sin, and putteth himself into the hands of justice, in hope of mercy. In the courts of men it is safest to say, Non feci, I did it not (saith Quintilian). But in our addresses unto God it is best to say, Ego feci, miserere, I did it, Oh be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me. Per miserere mei, tollitur ira Dei.
Ezr 9:11 Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness.
Ver. 11. Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets ] Whose office it was to expound the law to us, and to apply it to our consciences. This, although they have done daily and duly, yet we have not been kept within the bounds of obedience, but have flown against the lights (as bats use to do), and sinned presumptuously. Thus he aggravateth their sin by every circumstance. And this is right confession, such as the schoolmen have set forth in this tetrastic.
Sit simplex, humilis confessio, pura, fidelis,
Atque frequens, nuda et discreta, lubens, verecunda,
Integra, cordata, et lachrymabilis, accelerata,
Fortis et accusans, et se punire parata.
Is an unclean land ] Because inhabited by an unclean people, who are acted and agitated by an unclean spirit, and do miserably moil themselves in the filthiness of lewdness, which defileth a man worse than any leprosy, than any out-house, Mark 7:23 . Mr Aseham (schoolmaster to Queen Elizabeth) did thank God that he was but nine days in Italy, wherein he saw, in that one city of Venice, more uncleanness and licentiousness than in London he ever heard of in nine years.
With the filthiness of the people of the lands ] Those Canaanites were very Borborites, shameless sinners before the Lord; who therefore rooted them out, and caused their land, when it could bear them no longer, to spue them out. Sin is filthiness ( ρυπαρια ) in the abstract. St James calleth it the stinking filth of a pestilent ulcer, and the superfluity or garbage of naughtiness, James 1:21 . It is no better than the devil’s excrement; it sets his limbs in us, and draws his picture upon us; for malice is the devil’s eye, oppression is his hand, hypocrisy is his cloven foot, &c. Great sins do greatly pollute.
Which have filled it from one end to another ] Hath overspread it as a deluge, overrun it, as the Jerusalem artichoke doth the ground wherein it is planted; turned it into the same nature with itself, as copperas, which will turn milk into ink; or leaven, which turneth a very passover into pollution. See Micah 1:5 , See Trapp on " Mic 1:5 "
Ezr 9:12 Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave [it] for an inheritance to your children for ever.
Ver. 12. Now therefore give not your daughters ] Unless ye have a mind to pitch them into the mouth of hell. See Ezra 9:2 . See Trapp on " Ezr 9:2 "
Nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever ] For they were devoted by God to utter destruction; and therefore Israel might have no intercourse with them. The Jews at this day count and call us Canaanites, Edomites, &c., and hold it an almsdeed to knock us on the head. The best among the Gentiles, say they, is worthy cui caput conteratur tanquam serpenti, to be killed up as a serpent. Tacitus long since observed of them, that as they were very kind to their own, so to all others they bare a deadly hatred. Thrice a day in their prayers they curse us Christians, and in Polony (where they have a toleration) they print base and blasphemous things against Christ and religion (Buxtorf. Synag. Jud. cap. 5).
That ye may be strong ] viz. By my presence amongst you and providence over you; for cui adhaereo, praeest, as Queen Elizabeth could write; how much more may God Almighty, he whom I favour is sure to prevail.
And eat the good of the land ] The best of the best, the finest wheat, the choicest fruit, and those a pledge and foretaste of the happiness of heaven, where there is nec fames, nec fastidium (as one saith), neither lack nor loathing, neither measure nor mixture, but sweetest varieties, felicities, eternities.
And leave it for an inheritance ] Personal goodness is profitable to posterity: the righteous shall leave inheritance to his children’s children, Proverbs 13:22 . God never casteth out his good tenants, nor leaveth his servants unprovided for. See Psalms 103:17 ; Psalms 112:1-2 .
Ezr 9:13 And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities [deserve], and hast given us [such] deliverance as this;
Ver. 13. And after all that is come upon us ] Affliction, like foul weather, cometh before it is sent for; yet not but of God’s sending; and then it is ever either probational, as Job’s; or cautional, as Paul’s prick in the flesh; or penal, for chastisement of some way of wickedness, as here.
For our evil deeds ] These he thanketh (as well be might) for all their sufferings: sin is the mother of misery, and hales hell at the heels of it.
Seeing that thou our God ] Our God still, and this is the sixth time that he hath so styled him in this holy prayer, besides three times My God. These are speeches of faith, and refer to the covenant, that pabulum fidei, food of faith. When ye stand and pray, believe; when ye humble and tremble before God, keep up your faith still. Nihil retinet qui fidem amisit, lose that and lose all (Seneca). Take away the iniquity of thy servants, saith David, 2 Samuel 24:10 . It is as if he should say, I am thy servant, Lord, still, though an unworthy one. And to prove himself so, he addeth, for I have done very foolishly. I confess it, Lord, that thou mayest cover it. Homo agnoscit, Deus ignoscit. This he believes, and speeds: when Judas confessing (but in addition despairing) misses of mercy.
Hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve ] Heb. Hast withheld beneath our iniquities. The just hire of the least sin is death in the largest sense, Romans 6:23 . What then might God do to us for our many and mighty sins, or rather, what might he not do, and that most justly! How great is his mercy which maketh him say, Jerusalem hath received at God’s hand double for all her sins, Isaiah 40:1-2 . Too much, saith God there; too little, saith Ezra here; and yet how sweetly and beautifully doth this kind of contradiction become both!
And hast given us such deliverance as this ] A fruit of free mercy, and calls hard for duty. God’s blessings are binders; and every new deliverance calls for new obedience, Servati sumus ut serviamus. We have been served so that we may serve.
Ezr 9:14 Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed [us], so that [there should be] no remnant nor escaping?
Ver. 14. Should we again break thy commandments ] There is so much unthankfulness and disingenuity in such an entertainment of mercy, that holy Ezra here thinks that heaven and earth would be ashamed of it.
And join in affinity with the people of these abominations? ] Especially when we may hear God himself screeching out as it were those words of his, Oh, do not this abominable thing! Save yourselves from this untoward generation, &c.
Wouldest thou not be angry with us? ] i.e. Chide us, smite us, and so set it on, as no creature should be able to take it off? Sin may move God, when we ask bread and fish to feed us, to answer us with a stone to bruise us or a serpent to bite us. Shun it therefore as a serpent in your way, or as poison in your meats. "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way," Psalms 2:12 .
So that there should be no remnant ] So that our late preservation should prove but a reservation to further mischief; as was Sodom’s, Sennacberib’s, Pharaoh’s.
Ezr 9:15 O LORD God of Israel, thou [art] righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as [it is] this day: behold, we [are] before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this.
Ver. 15. O Lord God of Israel ] So called, because he is their portion, they his, Deuteronomy 32:9 . He had avouched them for his; and they him interchangeably, Deuteronomy 26:17-18 . Seneca could say that the basest people (meaning the Jews) gave laws unto all the world; that is, had the true God, creator of all, for their God.
Thou art righteous ] In all thy judgments inflicted upon us; or, thou art faithful and true in thy promises: but we have forfeited thy favour, and deserved destruction.
Behold, we are before thee in our trespasses ] Or guiltiness, which is that iniquity of sin (as David calleth it, Psa 32:5 ) whereby the sinner is bound over to condign punishment.
For we cannot stand before thee ] But must needs causa cadere, drop our case, being self-condemned; and such as must needs subscribe to thy perfect justice in our own utter destruction.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ezra 9". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension