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The princes relate to Ezra, that many of the people, and of the priests, had intermarried with the idolatrous nations. Ezra, rending his garments, prays earnestly to God.
Before Christ 457.
Ver. 1. The people of Israel and the priests, &c.— See Deuteronomy 7:3. The manner in which Ezra is said to have expressed his concern for the people's unlawful marriages is, by rending his garment and his mantle, ver. 3 i.e. both his inner and upper garment, which was a token not only of great grief and sorrow, but of his apprehension likewise of the divine displeasure; and by pulling off the hair of his head and beard, which was still a higher sign of exceeding great grief among other nations as well as the Jews; and therefore we find in Homer, that when Ulysses and his companions bewailed the death of Elpenor, "they sat in great grief, and plucked off their hair." See the conclusion of the xth Book of the Odyssey. Instead of doing according to their abominations, &c. Houbigant reads, their wickedness is such as it was with the Canaanites, &c.
Ver. 6. And said, O my God, &c.— 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 shew 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 Caanan, 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 has 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.
Ver. 8. To give us a nail in his holy place— To give us a seat, &c. Houbigant. See Pilkington, p. 200. The idea seems to be taken from the nails or pins with which the tabernacle was fastened to the ground.
Ver. 13. Seeing that thou our God hast punished us, &c.— Shall it be, that when thou, our God, withholdest the rod from our iniquities, and leavest for us this remnant, ver. 14. Shall it be that we shall again break, &c.? Houbigant.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, All things appeared very fair and promising; but there were concealed abominations, which some of the princes, zealous for the honour of God, discovered and complained of.
1. They informed Ezra, as the person set in authority over them, of the strange marriages which the people had contracted with the heathen; and that the priests and Levites, who should have been the first to reprove such wickedness, were equally concerned, and the princes and rulers chief in this trespass; to the great dishonour of God's law, and of their nation, as well as thereby exposing themselves and their children to the peril of idolatry. Note; (1.) To be unequally yoked with unbelievers, is the readiest way to apostatize from God. (2.) When princes lead the way in evil, and priests, instead of remonstrating against it, comply with and copy after them, it can be no marvel that iniquity among the people reigns triumphant: surely these shall receive the greater damnation. (3.) They who are zealous for God's honour, cannot see sin committed without grief, and a desire to restrain it.
2. The information deeply affected the pious Ezra; in distress, he rent his clothes, plucked off his hair, and sat down astonished at the base ingratitude of the people, and trembling for the consequences. Note; (1.) Though careless sinners have no concern about their own souls, their zealous pastors mourn over and tremble for them. (2.) The sins of professors have especial aggravations; and, as they bring the greatest dishonour upon God, they awaken the deepest grief and indignation of the faithful.
3. Ezra's affecting grief soon drew to him at the temple, where he seems to have been, all those who, like him, reverentially trembled before God, and feared for the consequences of the people's sin. Note; (1.) The word of God is an awful thing to the true-hearted Israelite; he trembles before it for himself, lest he should offend; and for others, whom he sees offending. (2.) We are bound to strengthen the hands of those, and to join with them, who zealously desire to purge out every abomination from the congregation of the Lord.
2nd, Deep was Ezra's distress, and long it continued. Till the time of the evening-sacrifice he sat, astonished, on the ground: then, when the lamb went to the altar, he rose; and in the hope of this atoning blood, the only refuse of the miserable, with deep abasement of body and soul he poured out his penitent confessions and humbling acknowledgments before God.
1. He approaches God as his covenant God, and therefore encouraged, almost desperate as the case seemed, to draw near unto him. Note; (1.) There can be no true prayer where faith does not lead us to God as our reconciled God in Christ. (2.) Our repentance will ever be most deep and humbling when we have the surest confidence in the pardoning mercy of God.
2. With shame and confusion of face he appears before him, blushing to think of the baseness and disobedience of the people. Note; (1.) Holy shame will cover us in the view of our transgression. (2.) We shall blush for those who take no shame to themselves. (3.) Though we can say my God, we shall only the more loath ourselves for our ingratitude against him.
3. He confesses the greatness and aggravation of their sins. Though not personally concerned in the transgression, he looks on himself as involved in the national guilt. Like the stormy billows, their iniquities were ready to overwhelm them: heaped up as mountain on mountain, they reached to the clouds, and cried for vengeance; long continued, and like hereditary diseases more inveterate, transmitted from ungodly fathers to ungodly children. Neither the severe corrections which they had suffered had reclaimed them, nor the late astonishing mercies, which he enlarges upon, constrained them to return to God. Their deliverance was recent, and the pure effect of God's mere grace; the favour great, that they were permitted to escape from the house of their prison; greater, that they should be fixed in God's holy place, Jerusalem; greatest of all, that they should see the temple raised, and the glorious worship of God restored, as light rising up in the darkness to revive them after the long night of their captivity: and to prove ungrateful notwithstanding all these favours, what an aggravation of their transgressions! Note; (1.) True penitents go to the bottom, and bring forth the worst they can say of themselves; they desire not to hide, but to confess their iniquities. (2.) Every sin increases in malignity according to the means and mercies that we have ungratefully abused.
4. He appears at a loss what apology to make, or, rather, as almost ashamed to ask God for any farther forgiveness; the sin was so wilful against a precept so evident and clear.
5. He acknowledges all their past punishments to be less than their iniquities deserved; and expresses his just apprehensions, lest this repeated provocation should weary out God's patience, and bring upon them final and utter extirpation. Note; (1.) In every affliction, it becomes us to acknowledge God's mercy as well as justice, and to own, while we are out of hell, that we have less, unspeakably less, suffering than our sins deserve. (2.) It is justly to be feared, that they are near reprobacy whom neither corrections humble, nor mercies constrain.
6. In entire acquiescence with God's righteousness, however he should deal with them, he refers their miserable case to him, if yet there might be hope; renouncing every plea, justifying God if he should utterly consume them, and lying down as self-condemned before him, to hear their doom; deserving wrath to the uttermost, but, if yet spared, would stand monuments of the astonishing mercy, and transcendantly rich and infinite grace of God. Note; When we cast our souls, as desperate, upon God, justifying him in all his judgments against us, and glorifying his righteousness, he will not, cannot thrust us from him: his bowels yearn; his pity moves; and, magnifying his mercy upon us, "Where sin hath abounded, there," saith he, "shall grace much more abound."
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezra 9". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13