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Shecaniah Confesses To Ezra The Guilt Of Those Who Have Taken Idolatrous Foreign Wives And Confirms Their Agreement To The Plan Put Forward By Ezra And Those Who Tremble At God’s Word (Ezra 10:1-5 ).
A great assembly of men, women and children gathered to hear Ezra’s prayer, and at the sight of his grief, and the solemnity of his prayer, they too wept bitterly. And the consequence of this was that Shecaniah , the son of Jahiel, an Elamite, spoke to Ezra on behalf of those who had transgressed, admitting their guilt, but expressing hope that there might be a way out by their carrying out the plan formulated by Ezra and those who trembled at God’s word. This was to make a sacred covenant to put away all their idolatrous foreign wives in accordance with God’s Law. And he calls on Ezra to rise because the matter was in his hands, and carry out the plan, as they were with him on it. Ezra then arose and made them all swear that they would do what had been suggested.
The narrative now changes to the third person. There are good reasons for this:
· Firstly because the writer began this section with the third person in Ezra 7:1-10, making the statement statesmanlike in preparation for the instructions of Artaxerxes which follow, before altering to the first person, and therefore wants to finish in the same mode in reverse. One purpose of this section is in order to indicate how faithfully he has carried out his commission.
· Secondly because the writer (in this case therefore Ezra) wishes to distinguish Ezra’s very personal commitment and response revealed in chapter 9 (which, however, underlines the fact that the commandments of God have been broken - Ezra 10:10-11) with his statesmanlike behaviour, and the response of the people, in chapter 10. In chapter 9 he is emptying his heart out before the people and before God, and demonstrating his own deep concern. In chapter 10 he wants it to be clear that he is carrying out the commission given to him by the king to ensure the fulfilment of the Law of God in full (compareEzra 7:14; Ezra 7:14), making use of the judges that he has appointed in accordance with the king’s command (Ezra 10:14, compare Ezra 7:25), and that what happened was carried along by the people. Note ‘the commandment of our God’ and ‘according to the Law’ in Ezra 10:3, and the emphasis on the fact that they have trespassed against God (Ezra 10:2; Ezra 10:6). It is typical of a report that he gives the names in detail of those involved (Ezra 10:18-44).
Yet that the two chapters are a unity comes out 1). in that Ezra 10:1-2 only make sense in the light of chapter 9, and 2). in the continuity of expression such as ‘those who tremble at the words of God’ (Ezra 9:4; Ezra 10:3), and ‘trespass’ (Ezra 9:2; Ezra 9:4; Ezra 10:2; Ezra 10:6 (ma‘al).
‘Now while Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there was gathered together to him out of Israel a very great assembly of men and women and children, for the people wept very bitterly.’
It is easy to read passages like this without entering into the wonder of them. Here was the beginning of a great spiritual revival, a work of the Spirit, that was to sweep through Judah, and cause them to put away the idolatrous women from among them, thus saving them from the curses of Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 28:0. It must not be underestimated. Those who suggest that Ezra somehow failed because over twenty years later others had taken idolatrous foreign wives and had to be dealt with by Nehemiah overlook the importance of what Ezra achieved, a purifying of the people from culpable wrongdoing in the eyes of God. It was inevitable, given the nature of man, that others would later transgress in a similar way. First enthusiasm always dies down
And as he prayed and confessed the sins of Israel, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a great crowd of people came together, made up of men, women and children, and they too wept bitterly. God was moving among the hearts of His people. This great effect on the people is only explicable in terms of Ezra 9:3-15.
The mention of women and children is poignant (and unusual in this kind of context). We can be sure that they did not include the women and children who would be sent away (Ezra 10:44). Thus the chapter opens with a depiction of the godly women and children who are faithful to God’s Law, and closes with a depiction of the idolatrous women and children who are contrary to God’s Law, who do not involve themselves in the interests of the new Israel.
It will be noted that this parallels Ezra 9:3-5. In Ezra 9:5 he spread out his hands to YHWH his God, and here he casts himself down before the house of God. In Ezra 9:4 those who were faithful among the people gathered around him as he prayed, which emphasises that he is in a public place, i.e. the Temple courts, and here a great congregation gather around him in the Temple courts. In Ezra 9:5 ‘at the evening oblation’ suggests that he is present as it is being carried out, and thus in the courts of the Temple.
‘And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said to 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.”
So moving was the situation that one of the chief men, Shecaniah the son of Jehiel of the sons of Elam, came to Ezra admitting Israel’s guilt (he is not named among the offenders), and recognising how many of the people had sinned against YHWH in marrying idolatrous foreign wives. He clearly came as a spokesman for the people. It was a crucial moment. Had this not been stopped Israel would soon have lapsed back into idolatry, needing thereby to be again purified through exile. The remnant would have been ripped apart. And yet having heard Ezra’s seemingly hopeless confession of guilt, he was confident that there was yet hope for Israel in this respect. This expression of ‘hope’ requires the background of Ezra’s confession of total guilt and recognition that they deserve nothing from God. Indeed ‘concerning this thing’ is exactly the same phrase as ‘because of this’ in Ezra 9:15.
‘Son of Jehiel.’ In Ezra 10:26 a Jehiel is named as an Elamite who had contracted a mixed marriage. But Jehiel was a common name and there is no way in which we can know whether it was the same Jehiel
‘Married.’ The word is only used of mixed marriages, and means literally ‘caused to dwell’, indicating that by marrying the woman has changed her domicile. It occurs only in this chapter and in Nehemiah 13:0. Some have suggested that it contains within it the idea that it is not really a full marriage. However, we should note that they are called ‘wives’ (nashim).
“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 who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the law.”
The proposal, which had been advised by Ezra and those who tremble at the commandment of God (obey it from the heart because of their fear of God), was that they make a covenant in the presence of God, to put away all their idolatrous foreign wives along with their children, restoring the position required by the Law of not being married to such. The reference to ‘my lord’ may indicate the status of Ezra as the king’s official representative. Note the emphasis on it being ‘in accordance with the Law’. He wanted the king to know that he was getting Israel right with God so that their prayers for him would be heard.
The verb ‘put away’ is not the usual one for divorce. This may tie in with the idea that they were not seen as legally married (Ezra 10:2).
“Arise, for the matter belongs to you, and we are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.”
Shecaniah points out that the authority to act is in Ezra’s hands as the king’s representative, and because as an intercessory priest Ezra has made it his own personal concern by his deep concern and prayers, and Shecaniah promises that he and the people are with him. Ezra must therefore act with courage and fulfil his responsibility.
‘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. So they swore.’
At his words Ezra arose and made the chief of the priests, the Levites and all Israel (a description which follows the previous pattern - Ezra 2:70; Ezra 3:9; Ezra 7:7; Ezra 9:1) swear that they would do what Shecaniah had said. And swear they did. This immediately makes clear Shecaniah’s role as mediator. They had all been awaiting his reply. For ‘all Israel’ compare Ezra 2:70; Ezra 6:17; Ezra 8:25.
This is but a short sentence but it was a moment of crucial importance for the whole future of Israel. Had it not happened that future would have been in doubt. It made clear once and for all that Israel was to be kept free from idolatry, and that the chiefs of the priests, the Levites and all the people accepted that fact. It decided the future of Israel. Some might go astray in the future (Nehemiah 13:23-24), but none could doubt then that it was a gross sin against God and Israel. Note that it says ‘chiefs of the priests’. The idea is not to exclude the ordinary priests, but to emphasise the fact that the very highest religious authorities in the new Israel had confirmed their agreement with Ezra’s stance.
Ezra Deals With The Problem Of Returnees Who Have Been Led Astray Into Idolatry Having Taken Foreign Wives (Ezra 9:1 to Ezra 10:44 ).
It is important here to recognise that what was in question was not the taking of foreign wives who willingly turned away from all false gods and became worshippers of YHWH, but the problem of taking foreign wives who introduced their false gods and ideas into the worship of Israel. This is specifically brought out in Ezra 9:1-2; Ezra 9:11-12. It was as a consequence of such false worship that God’s judgment had come on Judah and Jerusalem previously, and there was a grave danger that it could occur again. It was this recognition, and not racism, that made Ezra act as he did. We note here that Ezra’s reference to himself in the first person continues. We are still within the sphere of his own memoirs. His decision here was vital to Israel’s future.
It is understandable why some of the returnees should seek wives among the local population because the numbers given in Ezra 2:0 suggested that many of them were unmarried. But what they should have ensured was that those wives abjured idolatry and became true Yahwists. It was the failure to observe this rule, by taking wives still involved in idolatry, that led to the problem
What is now described in Ezra 9:1 to Ezra 10:6 all took place in the Temple on the same day, and Ezra 10:7 onwards then explains the steps that were taken afterwards to deal with the situation. It may be summarised as follows:
· The princes report to Ezra in the Temple area on the taking of foreign wives involved in idolatry by the aristocracy and the people, thus introducing pollution among God’s people (Ezra 9:1-2).
· Ezra expresses his anger and grief and sorrow by his actions, and sits there in utter desolation, while around him gather those in Israel who tremble at God’s word (Ezra 9:3-4).
· At the time of the evening sacrifice Ezra prays and acknowledges the sin of the people against God in the face of His mercy (Ezra 9:5-15).
· A great crowd gather around Ezra joining with him in his grief (Ezra 10:1).
· Shecaniah confesses to Ezra that the people have sinned and suggests that they gather and make a covenant with God to put away their idolatrous foreign wives, calling on Ezra to arise and act (Ezra 10:2-4).
· Ezra arises and makes the priests, the Levites and all Israel swear that they will do what had been suggested (Ezra 10:5).
· Ezra retires to one of the side chambers and begins a time of fasting and prayer (Ezra 10:6).
· Proclamation is made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the returnees that within three days they must gather in Jerusalem on pain of forfeit of their property (Ezra 10:7-8).
· All the returnees gather on the twentieth day of the ninth month in the open area around the Temple, in pouring rain, in great concern over the matter (Ezra 10:9).
· Ezra points out firmly that they have sinned in the matter of marriage to idolatrous foreign women, bringing guilt on Israel, and calls on them to make confession and separate themselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign women (Ezra 10:10-11).
· The people consent but point out that there are a large number of people involved and the rain is so heavy that they cannot stand out in it, and that besides this it is a matter which will take a few days (Ezra 10:12-13).
· They suggest that their princes be appointed to deal with the matter, and that there should be brought before them out of the cities at different appointed times all those who had married foreign women, accompanied by their elders and judges (Ezra 10:14).
· A few stand up and oppose the suggestion, but are overridden, with the result that the people do what is suggested (Ezra 10:15-16 a).
· Ezra and the heads of fathers’ houses spend three months examining the cases as suggested by which time all the cases have been dealt with (Ezra 10:16-17).
· A list is given of the priests, Levites, singers, gate-keepers and all of Israel who have been involved with idolatrous foreign women, and they give their word to put away their wives and offer suitable sacrifices (Ezra 10:18-44).
‘Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came there, he ate no bread, nor drank water, for he mourned because of the trespass of those of the captivity.’
His mission accomplished Ezra rose up from his position before the house of God and went into the chamber of Jehohanan, the son of Eliashib. This would be one of the side chambers in the Temple. And once he was there he fasted, taking no bread or water, for he was ‘in mourning over the trespass of the returnees’. We can presume that he also prayed, and expressed his grief to God. This confirms the genuineness of his grief. He was heartbroken over the sins of the people.
Note On Jehoanan, the son of Eliashib.
The first thing we have to recognise is that Jehoanan, the son of Eliashib may be the name given to the chamber after some past celebrity. Both Jehoanan and Eliashib were popular names in Israel. No Jehoanan, son of Eliashib is otherwise known apart from the one who was probably son of the Eliashib who was over the chamber in the house of God (Nehemiah 12:23; Nehemiah 13:4; Nehemiah 13:7). This would be a strange description for a High Priest.
Jehoanan (YHWH is gracious) was the name given to Jehoanan the son of Kareah, a warlord in the days of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 40:7 ff; 2 Kings 25:23); Jehoanan the eldest son of king Josiah (1 Chronicles 3:15); Jehoanan a son of Elioenai, who was a post exilic prince (1 Chronicles 3:24); Jehoanan was the father of Azariah who was a priest in Solomon’s time (1 Chronicles 5:35-36); Jehoanan was a Benjamite recruit of David at Ziklag (1 Chronicles 12:5); Jehoanan was a Gadite recruit of David at Ziklag (1 Chronicles 12:13); Jehoanan was an Ephraimite chief (2 Chronicles 28:12); Jehoanan, son of Hakkatan, was an exile who returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:12). So the name was very popular.
In this very chapter three other Eliashibs are mentioned, a singer (Ezra 10:24); a son of Zattu (Ezra 10:27); and a son of Bani (Ezra 10:36). It was the name given to a descendant of David (1 Chronicles 3:24); the name of the head of the eleventh course of priests (1 Chronicles 24:12); the name of a priest who was ‘appointed over the chamber of the house of our God’ (Nehemiah 13:4; Nehemiah 13:7), who was later allied to Tobiah the Ammonite (Nehemiah 13:4), and allowed him the use of a great chamber in the Temple (Nehemiah 13:5). We are not told the name of his son.
Finally it was the name of a High Priest in the time of Nehemiah whose son was named Joiada (Nehemiah 13:28), whose grandson was called Jonathan, and whose great-grandson was called Jaddua. This Eliashib helped with the rebuilding of the wall (Nehemiah 3:1). His name appears in the list of High Priests (Nehemiah 12:10-11; Nehemiah 12:22), where again his son was Joiada and his grandson Jonathan, and his great grandson Jaddua.
In Nehemiah 12:22 a Johanan is mentioned in the sequence Eliashib, Joiada and Johanan and Jaddua, but it does not say that they were High Priests. On the basis of this sequence some have equated Johanan with Jonathan, but in Ezra 10:23 this Johanan is named as the son of Eliashib. And furthermore we have no grounds for seeing the four named as being father to son. Johanan and Jaddua may well have been otherwise related to Eliashib, with Eliashib’s great grandson being named after this Jaddua, for it will be noted that they are all seemingly connected with the reign of Darius. It was common for names to run in families. Furthermore if we see Johanan as also being named Jonathan, he would therefore be the grandson of Eliashib. But if this is so why is he called the son of Eliashib in a context where that would be deceptive? Johanan is never stated to be the grandson of Eliashib.
It is far more likely that the Jehohanan spoken of in Ezra 10:6 who had a chamber in the house was the son of the Eliashib who was appointed over the chamber of the house of God who may well have given his adult son a chamber in the Temple area. There is no good reason for identifying this Eliashib with the High Priest. But all in all it would be foolish to argue a case from this multiplicity of facts.
An added complication is that in the Elephantine papyri dated 408 BC a Jehohanan is named as High Priest. But that Jehohanan may well have been named after the Johanan mentioned above as a contemporary relation of Joiada who was at some stage High Priest, possibly due to the current High Priest being unable to function one year at the Day of Atonement because he was ritually defiled (unclean). Anyone who so acted as High Priest remained High Priest for life.
It is clear from all this that we cannot take the statement about Jehohanan the son of Eliashib as an indicator of the date of Ezra’s ministry in Jerusalem, because we do not know which Jehohanan it was.
End of Note.
‘And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together to Jerusalem,’
Ezra having retired to pray, the leaders of Israel made a proclamation throughout Jerusalem and Judea that all the returnees from exile should gather at Jerusalem. They would be living among the peoples of the land, but these were not invited. The purpose was in order to determine who had married idolatrous foreign wives.
‘And that whoever did not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance would be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of the captivity.’
And the warning given was that any who failed to turn up within three days would lose all their possessions, whilst they themselves would cease to be members of the assembly of the returnees. And this would be because they had failed to heed the counsel of the princes and the elders, that is, the local leadership. But the authority to make such a demand must have come from Ezra as the king’s appointed representative. Confiscation of goods and banishment were two of the punishments which Ezra was authorised to exact in Artaxerxes’ letter (Ezra 7:26).
‘Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together to 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.’
The demand was responded to. All the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together in Jerusalem within the allotted time period, and this was in the ninth month on the twentieth day of the month (around December). But it was sheeting down with rain, and all the people sat in the rain in a broad place before the house of God. And they were trembling, both because of the seriousness of the matter in hand, possibly remembering the Law that had been read out to them two months earlier at the Feast of Tabernacles (Nehemiah 8:1), and also because of the dreadful rain. We have here the evidence of an eyewitness. The rain was not something that was likely to be invented.
‘And Ezra the priest stood up, and said to them, “You have been unfaithful, and have married foreign women, to increase the guilt of Israel.”
Then Ezra stood up before the large assembled gathering and charged them with being unfaithful to God by marrying idolatrous foreign women who would lead them astray after their gods, adding to the guilt of their forefathers who had done similar things and had in that way become guilty before God. Israel had been guilty enough before the Exile. They were now adding to that guilt. They were behaving like their forefathers, and therefore calling on God to punish them in the same way as He had punished their forefathers. The point all the way through is not a racist one but a religious one. These women would lead them astray after false gods, and cause them to be unfaithful to God.
‘To increase the guilt of Israel.’ The picture is of a combined guilt which had built up through the centuries as the people of Israel became more and more involved with false gods. It had grown until it had reached the point where God had had to deal with it by the destruction of the Temple, and the exiling of the cream of the people. But now He had given them a new start. He had brought His remnant back from exile as those who were faithful to the worship of YHWH. The burden of guilt had been set aside. But if they now acted as their forefathers had done they would be adding to that burden of guilt, and would be even more guilty than their forefathers. They would be bringing the whole past guilt of Israel upon themselves. (We can compare how the same had been true of the Amorites. Their collective guilt had grown and grown until at length God had had to deal with it by sending Israel in to exterminate them or drive them out of God’s inheritance. It did not happen in Abraham’s time because at that time ‘the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full’ (Genesis 15:16)).
“Now therefore make confession to YHWH, the God of your fathers, and do his pleasure, and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the foreign women.”
So now what they had to do was come to YHWH, the God of their fathers, and admit their sins, thereby glorifying Him. The words translated ‘make confession’ mean ‘give praise to’. We can compare how Joshua called on Achan to confess by telling him to ‘give praise to YHWH’ by admitting what he had done. They then had to do what He wanted them to do, and separate themselves from the peoples of the land and from foreign women. The aim was to keep them from idolatry, and from degraded activities which would be displeasing to God. That this was not racist comes out in that many of ‘the peoples of the land’ were themselves Israelites, the ‘poor of the land’ who had been left behind when the cream were exiled (Jeremiah 39:10). And there would have been many of them. But because of their involvement in Canaanite religion they were now equally seen as Canaanites. Therefore they equally had to be avoided. We must in this regard remember that every aspect of life in those days was involved with religion. It was almost impossible to associate with such people without becoming involved in their religion. And that was why they had to separate from them.
As we have noted before an exception was made for those who fully and truly followed YHWH and had separated themselves from the filthiness of the land, that is from idolatry and its consequences (Ezra 6:21). So not all were excluded. Those who were excluded were excluded because of their adherence to the old religion of the land.
‘Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, “As you have said concerning us, so must we do.”
The whole gathering then answered in a loud voice, “As you have said concerning us, so must we do.” The reply is similar to that of Israel in Exodus 19:8; Exodus 24:3, and may be patterned on it, possibly unconsciously, as they saw Ezra as bringing to them the words of YHWH. The loud voice indicates their emotion and the fullness of their intention. It was a full acceptance of joint guilt. They had been made to recognise the great danger that they had placed the new Israel in, the danger of an even worse judgment than before. And they had done this by ignoring the evil in their midst. For they all knew that it had been happening, and they all knew what they should have done something about it before this.
Clearly there had been much discussion of the matter before this. They all knew why they had been summoned to Jerusalem. And they had had three days in which to consider their position and their response. Thus it was not just an emotional response to a direct appeal (although it was that as well) but a response from the heart in recognition of their failure.
“But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand outside, nor is this a work of one day or two, for we have greatly transgressed in this matter.”
These words were clearly addressed to Ezra by their leaders. They had come together to Ezra, and now they pointed out that the full implementing of what the crowds had said would not be quite so easy. Nor was it something that could be worked out there and then, for the inclement weather made it impossible for the whole crowd to stand waiting in the rain. Furthermore it was something which had to be looked into in depth. It was not merely the work of one or two days, because of the depth to which Israel had sunk in the matter, and they acknowledged the seriousness of the situation. They had greatly transgressed and disobeyed the Law of God.
“Let our princes now be appointed for all the assembly, and let all those who are in our cities who have married foreign women come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the their judges, until the fierce wrath of our God be turned from us, until this matter be despatched.”
So they proposed that their leaders, the heads of father’s houses, be appointed on behalf of the whole assembly, in order to look into the matter. Then those who had married idolatrous foreign wives should come before the council, along with the elders of their city and their judges. These would presumably themselves look into the matter with regard to individuals in their area before coming so as to distinguish between foreign women who had become true Israelites and worshippers of YHWH, and those who had continued in their idolatry. All would know who had married whom, but what would have to be investigated was their subsequent way of life. Thus it was necessary was for them to ensure that those who were discovered to have been unfaithful to YHWH came at an appointed time, until the whole matter was sorted out, thereby ensuring that the great wrath of God be turned from them, making them again acceptable before Him. Sin had to be rooted out.
‘Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah stood up against this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them.’
There were, however, as always, a few who were not in agreement with the plan. Jonathan and Jahzeiah who stood up against it were clearly important men (their patronyms are given and they are distinguished from the other two), and they were joined in their opposition by Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite. It is probable that what they did not agree with was the delay, not the agreement to get rid of foreign wives, and that in their enthusiasm they wanted the matter resolved immediately, possibly fearful of the impending wrath of God. If that is so the verse is intending to bring out the urgency felt about the matter. Others, however, see it as indicating that they disagreed with the whole idea of getting rid of idolatrous foreign wives, the idea being that they were speaking on behalf of their kinsmen who had taken such foreign wives. The aim would then be to bring out that Israel rejected the opinions of those who wanted compromise.
Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite are mentioned again after the arrival of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 8:4, Nehemiah 8:7, as assisting Ezra with the reading of the Law..
‘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.’
The returnees did what had been suggested and agreed to. The body was set up which would judge those who were brought before them, and it was made up of Ezra the priest, together with certain heads of father’s houses. They were all set apart by name. And on the first day of the tenth month they commenced looking into the matter. Thus it had taken five months to get to this point, but it had not of course been five months of little other activity. Ezra and his returnees would have had to deal with the problem of settling in. And as Ezra did not want to behave like an autocratic king, he wanted to take the people with him. And he could only do that by expounding the Law until it seized hold of the people’s consciences.
‘And they made an end with all the men who had married foreign women by the first day of the first month.’
It then took a further three months for them to complete their caseload, so that by the first day of the first month, New Year’s Day, they had dealt with all the cases of men who had married adulterous foreign women. What they were investigating was who needed to be singled out whose idolatrous foreign wives had to be put away. Some foreign wives, who were faithful to YHWH would not be sent away, only those who were involved in idolatry. Such women did not belong to the returnees, for the returnees had come in order to establish the pure worship of God. Thus even from the Persian point of view it was very necessary, for the whole point of the return was that the pure worship of YHWH be set up. And that was what Ezra and the other leaders were now achieving. It therefore fits well into the idea of a report made to his Persian sponsor, Artaxerxes.
The Names Of Those Involved In Marrying Idolatrous Foreign Women (Ezra 10:18-44 ).
Ezra then prepared for Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, a list of those with whom he had had to deal. We can compare how the king had asked for a list of those involved in building the Temple (Ezra 5:10). The list is divided up into priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers an Israel. All four houses of priests mentioned in Ezra 2:36-39 were involved. Although the promise to put away their idolatrous foreign wives and to offer sacrifices are only mentioned with respect to the first-named it is clear that the same would apply to all who were named. The king would be happy to learn that the God of Heaven had been made happy.
We do not know how often the body that was set up met. It met during the winter months, so that they would have to travel to and fro in difficult travel conditions, .and the heads of the fathers’ houses may well have had other pressing responsibilities And time would have to be given for men to prepare their defence, especially when they need to demonstrate that their wives were good Yahwists and not involved in idolatry. Furthermore some cases may have come before the body more than once. Nor do we now how long it took them to determine each case, or how many put up a good case and were declared innocent, and were therefore not listed. And time would be spent in the usual Easter courtesies. They would not want to have too many per day because of the uncertainties. Three months times 24 days (excluding Sabbaths) equals roughly 72 days available to them if they met every day. They found guilty one hundred and fifteen men. This hardly suggests dilatory progress. (If we assumed two examinations per day it would indicate one hundred and forty four cases, with twenty nine proving innocent).
As we would expect the names of clans are paralleled in the list in chapter 2. It was these who would have been involved in taking idolatrous foreign wives. Those who had arrived with Ezra would not have had enough time.
‘And among the sons of the priests who were found who had married foreign women: (were) of the sons of Jeshua: Ben-Jozadak, and his brothers (kinsmen), Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah.’
In Ezra 2:36 these were the children of Jedaiah of the house of Jeshua. Five of them were involved.
‘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.’
Having been found guilty ‘gave their hand’ that they would put away their wives, and because of their guilt each made a sacrifice of a ram of the flock. This punishment once stated would not need to be repeated. There is no need to think that it has later been omitted in other cases. Guilt offerings would be required in all cases.
‘And of the sons of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah.’
The sons of Immer are mentioned in Ezra 2:37. Three of them were found guilty.
‘And of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah.’
The sons of Harim are mentioned in Ezra 2:39. Five were found guilty.
‘And of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.’
The sons of Pashhur are mentioned in Ezra 2:38. Six were found guilty. Thus of the priests as a whole nineteen were found guilty.
‘And of the Levites: Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah (the same is Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.’
See Ezra 2:40 where they were also listed as one clan. Six were found guilty.
‘And of the singers: Eliashib.’
See Ezra 2:41 where they were listed as one clan. Only one was found guilty.
‘And of the gatekeepers: Shallum, and Telem, and Uri.’
See Ezra 2:42 where they were computed as one clan. Three were found guilty. Thus in all ten of the Levites were found guilty. It is interesting but not surprising that the Temple servants are not mentioned. Once having been foreigners they would have had no land in Israel. They would probably live in Jerusalem and not have much contact with foreign women. Furthermore they would be of a class where their wives would be expected to conform to their husbands wishes.
The Rest Of Israel.
‘And of Israel:’
Ten clans are listed as affected in Israel. The number has in fact been artificially achieved by including the sons of Bani twice because of their overwhelming numbers. We can compare the lists of ten patriarchs in Genesis 5:11. Genesis 5:1 Esdras has more but is unreliable. As we have seen it seeks to remedy what it sees as errors.
‘Of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, and Izziah, and Malchijah, and Mijamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah.’
The sons of Parosh are mentioned in Ezra 2:3. Seven were found guilty.
‘And of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Elijah.’
The sons of Elam are mentioned in Ezra 2:7. (Rather than Ezra 2:31 which may be the name of a town). Six were found guilty.
‘And of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza.’
The sons of Zattu are mentioned in Ezra 2:8. Six were found guilty.
‘And of the sons of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, Athlai.’
The sons of Bebai are mentioned in Ezra 2:11. Four were found guilty.
‘And of the sons of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, Jeremoth.’
The sons of Bani are mentioned in Ezra 2:10. Six were found guilty.
‘And of the sons of Pahath-moab: Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, and Binnui, and Manasseh.’
The sons of Pahath-moab are mentioned in Ezra 2:6. Eight were found guilty.
‘And the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch, Shemariah.’
The sons of Harim are mentioned in Ezra 2:32. Eight were found guilty. It will be noted that the ‘of’ is missing. Such occasional variations occur in lists. There is no need to amend it to fit in with our ideas of uniformity.
‘Of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, Shimei.’
The sons of Hashum are mentioned in Ezra 2:19. Seven were found guilty.
‘Of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, and Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, 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.’
This is the second mention of the sons of Bani, but apart from Adaiah they are different names. An occasional two people of the same name is not unusual. It would appear that the sons of Bani were particularly at fault in taking idolatrous foreign wives, possibly due to where they lived. It would have been surprising if at least one clan had not sinned above the norm. Real life is different from fiction. It was because of their large numbers that the writer divided them in order to make ten clans in the list. Twenty seven were found guilty (making thirty three sons of Bani in all)
‘Of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Iddo, and Joel, Benaiah.’
The sons of Nebo are mentioned in Ezra 2:29. Seven were found guilty. The total number of Israel who were found guilty was eighty six. In all, including priests and Levites one hundred and fifteen were found guilty.
‘All these had taken foreign wives, and some of them had wives by whom they had had children.’
The Hebrew has difficulties but is not impossible. It confirms that all those mentioned were found guilty and adds that in some cases children were involved. They would not, of course, just be cast out. They would return to their family home, and compensation may well have been paid. And as they were probably mainly from the higher classes they would suffer no hardship (it would require some wealth for them to be able to maintain their religions separately). Being arranged marriages their love for each other may not have been deep. When we consider that other women may have been divorced in order to make room for them, sympathy for them may not have run high (see Malachi 2:11; Malachi 2:14).
As Ezra had been sent by the king to teach and enforce the Law this was important evidence in his first year report that he was fulfilling the king’s expectations. He was in fact merciful. The king had urged death, banishment, confiscation of goods and imprisonment (Ezra 7:26).
And so the book ends on what Ezra would have seen as a triumphant note. Idolatry has been rooted out from among God’s remnant, and the whole group of the returnees have expressed their commitment in future to avoid idolatrous associations. It was not Ezra’s fault, nor his failure (he had succeeded admirably) that a few of the next generation would slip back into the old ways (Nehemiah 13:22-31). Nehemiah was able to stamp it out quickly, and much more ferociously, precisely because Ezra had laid the foundation.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ezra 10". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20