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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 9

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3547. B.C. 457.

Ezra is troubled at the marriages with strange women, Ezra 9:1-4 . His solemn confession to God, Ezra 9:5-15 .

Verse 1

Ezra 9:1. The princes came to me Those who feared God, and understood that Ezra was come with a large commission and ample powers from the king, and with a design to reform all disorders, whereof this which they came to complain of was not the least: saying, The people, and the priests, &c., have not separated themselves from the people of the lands From the heathen nations round about them, which God had expressly commanded them to do, (Deuteronomy 7:2-3,) but have associated with them both in trade and in conversation; have made themselves familiar with them; and, to complete the affinity, have taken the daughters of these heathen in marriages to their sons. Doing according to their abominations Marrying promiscuously whomsoever they liked, as the heathen are wont to do, and imitating them in some of their wicked practices, into which they have been drawn by their heathenish affinities. To do abominations, is an expression, which, in Scripture language, generally means worshipping of idols; but here it seems only to signify imitating the heathen in promiscuous marriages with any nation whatsoever, a practice which, however, would soon have led them to commit idolatry.

Verse 2

Ezra 9:2. So that the holy seed, &c. They are called a holy seed, because of the covenant which God had made with them, whereby they were constituted a peculiar people, separated from all other nations. Have mingled themselves with the people of those lands Since their return, as may be gathered from Ezra 9:8-14. Yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass Who ought to have restrained the people from it by their authority and example; and who, by acting otherwise, have made the sin more general, and have involved themselves and the nation in the guilt of it. The case, certainly, was much the more dangerous, because the great men of the nation were the principal offenders; for through this the people would be freed from all fear of punishment, and therefore would the more readily imitate their bad example. It is probable the princes, who informed Ezra of this enormous practice, had endeavoured to reform it, but could not, because they were opposed by men as great as themselves.

Verse 3

Ezra 9:3. When I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, &c. Both my inner and my upper garment. This was a token, not only of his very great grief and sorrow, but of his sense of God’s displeasure at their conduct. For the Jews were wont to rend their clothes, when they apprehended God to be highly offended. And plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard This was still a higher sign of exceeding great grief. For, in ordinary sorrow, they only neglected their hair, and let it hang down scattered in a careless manner; but this was used in bitter lamentations. And sat down astonied Through grief and shame at their sin, that they should be so ungrateful to God, who had so lately delivered them from captivity; and through an apprehension of some great and dreadful judgment befalling them, because of so open a violation of the divine law, the transgression of which had formerly proved their ruin.

Verse 4

Ezra 9:4. Then were assembled unto me To join with me, both in lamenting the sin, and in endeavouring to effect the redress of it; every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel Who stood in awe of God and of his word, and durst not violate his commands; or who feared his threatenings against those that did so, and trembled for fear of God’s judgments upon them, and upon the whole land for their sakes, as the following words imply. Compare Isaiah 66:2; Isaiah 66:5. Because of the transgression of those that had been carried away To wit, into captivity, and were safely returned from it, but yet were little amended, either by their former banishment, or their late restoration. He speaks not of those who had lately come back with himself, but of those who had returned with Zerubbabel, and of their children. And I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice When the people used to assemble together. All good people ought to own those that appear and act for God against vice and profaneness. Every one that fears God ought to stand by them, and do what he can to strengthen their hands.

Verse 5

Ezra 9:5. I rose up from my heaviness From that mournful posture, and put myself into the posture of a petitioner. He did this at the time of the evening sacrifice, because then devout people used to come into the courts of the temple, that, hearing his confession, they likewise might be made sensible of the sins of the people. And he had an eye to that great propitiation, of which that sacrifice was a peculiar type.

Verse 6

Ezra 9:6. O my God, I am ashamed and blush “Nothing can be more humble, devout, and pathetic, than this address, in which Ezra acknowledges that he was confounded when he thought of the greatness of their sins, which were ready to overwhelm them, and of the boldness and insolence of them beyond measure, even though they had seen the divine vengeance upon their forefathers in so terrible a manner, that they had not yet worn off the marks of his displeasure. He had, indeed, begun to show favour to some of them; but this so much the more aggravated their wickedness, in that, so soon after their restoration and settlement in their native country, they had returned to their old provocations, notwithstanding the many admonitions, in the law and the prophets, to have nothing to do with the people of Canaan, except it were to expel and drive them out. What then can we expect, says he, but the utter destruction of the small remnant that is left of us, if after all the punishment which God hath inflicted upon us, and now that he is beginning to be gracious unto us, we relapse into the same offences for which we have so severely suffered? For while we remain monuments of his mercy, and yet appear before him in our abominations, we must be dumb, and have nothing to plead in excuse of our detestable ingratitude.” Dodd. For our iniquities He includes himself in the number of the transgressors, because he himself was guilty of many sins; and because the princes and priests, and so many of the people, having done this, the guilt was now become national. Are increased over our head Like deep waters, in which we are, as it were, drowned, and ready to perish.

Verses 7-8

Ezra 9:7-8. Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass We are not purged from the guilt of our fathers’ sins, but we are still feeling the sad effects of them; yea, and are repeating the same sins. And now for a little space grace hath been showed It is but a little while since God hath delivered us, and yet we are already returned to our sin and folly. Or, we have enjoyed this favour but a little while, now we are sinning it away, and shortening our own happiness. To leave us a remnant to escape That by his favour many of us should escape out of captivity; whom he calls but a remnant, because the greatest part of the Israelitish nation was yet in captivity. To give us a nail Some kind of settlement; whereas before we were tossed and removed from place to place as our masters pleased. It is a metaphor from tents, which are fastened by cords and nails, or pins. In his holy place In this holy land, as the land of Judah is called, Zechariah 2:12. Or, in Jerusalem, called the holy city, (Nehemiah 11:1; Nehemiah 11:18; Daniel 10:24,) which is peculiarly mentioned, because of the temple, which was the nail that fastened their tents, and gave them some hopes of continuing in their land. That our God may lighten our eyes That he might revive and comfort our hearts. For, as darkness is often put for a state of sorrow and affliction, so light is put for joy and comfort. And give us a little reviving in our bondage For we are not quite delivered, being even here in subjection to our former lords.

Verse 9

Ezra 9:9. For we were bondmen In greater bondage than that in which we now are. Our God hath extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia Hath given us to find favour in their eyes. To give us a reviving To recover us from the grave of dreadful calamities in which we lay, like dead men and dry bones, Ezekiel 37:1. To repair the desolations thereof Of the temple: either to build the house where there was only a heap of the ruins of the old temple, or to frequent and celebrate the worship of God in that place which had long lain desolate and neglected. And to give us a wall The protection of the kings of Persia, whose edicts were their security against all those enemies wherewith they were encompassed: and the gracious providence of God, which had planted them in their own land, and watched over them from time to time.

Verse 10

Ezra 9:10. And now, what shall we say after this? What apology can we make for ourselves, after thou hast conferred such great and high favours upon us, and we have so grossly abused them?

Verses 11-12

Ezra 9:11-12. Is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands Or, of these lands, which are round about it. This expresses the cause or matter of this uncleanness: the land was not unclean of itself, but only polluted by the filthiness of its inhabitants. Give not your daughters unto their sons, &c., that ye may be strong Although you may fancy making leagues and marriages with them is the only way to establish you, yet, I assure you, it will weaken and ruin you, and the contrary course will make you strong.

Verses 13-14

Ezra 9:13-14. After all that is come upon us for our evil deeds After all our sore sufferings for our sins. Seeing thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve After all thy favours shown us in the mitigation of thy judgments. And hast given us such deliverance as this So full, so sudden, so unexpected and amazing, not only to our enemies, but also to ourselves. Should we again break thy commandments, &c. Was this a fit and just requital of all thy kindnesses? Was this thy end and design in these actions? Wilt thou take this well at our hands? That there should be no remnant nor escaping Can we reasonably expect any thing from thee less than utter ruin?

Verse 15

Ezra 9:15. O Lord, thou art righteous A just and holy God, who hatest, and wilt infallibly punish, sin and sinners. Or, thou art merciful, for the Hebrew word here rendered righteous, often signifies merciful. Notwithstanding all our sins, thou hast not utterly destroyed us, but left us a remnant; for we remain yet escaped Not entirely destroyed, not punished as we deserved. Behold, we are before thee in our trespasses We are here in thy presence, and so are all our sins; we are arraigning ourselves before thy tribunal, acknowledging thee to be just if thou destroy us. For we cannot stand before thee In judgment, as that word is often used; we must needs fall and perish at thy presence.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezra 9". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/ezra-9.html. 1857.
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