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Bible Commentaries
Ezra 10

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Ezra 10:0


Confession of Improper MarriagesRepentance of the People and Divorce of Gentile WivesThe Plan for Ending Mixed MarriagesThe Marriages with Foreigners Dissolved(Ezra 9:1-17)
Ezra 10:1-4Ezra 10:1-5Ezra 10:1-4Ezra 10:1-6
Ezra 10:5-8Ezra 10:5-6
Ezra 10:6-8
Ezra 10:7-9Ezra 10:7-17
Ezra 10:9-15Ezra 10:9-15
Ezra 10:10-11
Ezra 10:12-15
Ezra 10:16-17Ezra 10:16-17Ezra 10:16-17
Pagan Wives Put AwayThe Men Who Had Foreign WivesThe List of the Guilty
Ezra 10:18-44Ezra 10:18-22Ezra 10:18-44Ezra 10:18-44
Ezra 10:23-24
Ezra 10:25-44

READING CYCLE THREE (from “A Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 10:1-4 1Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and children, gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly. 2Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. 3So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, 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. 4Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act.”

Ezra 10:1 Note the different VERBS used to describe Ezra's spiritual attitude toward God (cf. Ezra 9:6).

1. “praying” (BDB 813, KB 933, Hithpael INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT)

2. “making confession” (BDB 392, KB 389, Hithpael INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT)

3. “weeping” (BDB 113, KB 129, Qal PARTICIPLE)

4. “prostrating” (BDB 656, KB 709, Hithpael PARTICIPLE)

“prostrating himself” This VERB (BDB 656, KB 709 Hithpael PARTICIPLE) means to fall down before the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 9:18, Deuteronomy 9:25). The normal physical position for prayer was standing with eyes and hands lifted to heaven. In some occasions kneeling was a way to show intensity (cf. Ezra 9:5). Prostration was an even further act of humility.

“before the house of God” Apparently, Ezra went to the temple to pray at the time of the evening sacrifice (cf. Ezra 9:5).

“a very large assembly, men, women and children gathered” The small group that came and reported the sin to Ezra (cf. Ezra 9:4) has now swelled to a large group of all age groups (cf. Nehemiah 8:2). Usually only men above the age of thirteen would have been a part of this kind of group.

One wonders if these particular Jewish women and children had been affected by the taking of foreign wives (cf. Malachi 2:10-16).

“for the people wept bitterly” Ezra's humility and confession sparked a spiritual repentance among the returnees. Whether ignorance or apathy had allowed the sin to develop during these many years is uncertain, but God's word revealed the covenantal issue.

Ezra 10:2 “Shecaniah” This was one of the sons of a guilty offender who is listed in Ezra 10:26, who had a repentant heart. He acknowledged his family's sin and that of the returnees.

“Elam” The Hebrew text has “eternity,” but most translations, ancient and modern, read the Qere “Elam.” The Hebrew words differ only by the second similar Hebrew letter (waw and yod).

“from the peoples of the land” In pre-exilic days this referred to the Jewish population, but in this context and period it refers to the population of the Persian province Beyond the River. For a good discussion of the changing meaning of this term see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, pp. 70-72.

“yet now there is hope” Ezra's teaching ministry and actions had kindled a corporate contrition. YHWH's promises and merciful character kindled hope (BDB 876) for

1. forgiveness

2. fulfillment of future promises

3. assurance of His personal presence (cf. 2 Chronicles 20:9)

Ezra 10:3 “now let us make a covenant with our God” This VERB (BDB 503, KB 500, “cut”) is a Qal IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense. In one way this is a strange statement. They already had a covenant with God. However, possibly through ignorance, these returnees did not know the Torah. With Ezra's teaching (cf. Ezra 7:23), they became aware of their transgression and now wanted a covenant renewal. See Special Topic: Covenant.

“to put away all the wives and their children” This was the consequences of their choices. I am sure it was painful for the Jews as well as these members of their families. It is hard for modern westerners who are so influenced by individual rights to understand the corporate nature of the Bible. The health and faithfulness of the “holy seed” was crucial to God's plan of universal redemption.


“according to the counsel of my lord” The term “lord” is the Hebrew word adon (BDB 10), which meant “master,” “owner,” “husband,” or “lord.” Here it refers to Ezra (cf. I Esdras 8:90).

It is PLURAL, which some take as a reference to God (i.e., Vulgate), but it probably is a PLURAL of MAJESTY acknowledging Ezra's spiritual and political stature.

“those who tremble at the commandment of God” See note at Ezra 9:4.

“let it be done according to the law” The VERB (BDB 793, KB 889) is a Niphal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense. This is the recognition that there were divine guidelines (cf. Deuteronomy 7:1-5); that covenant has requirements (cf. Ezra 10:4), as well as benefits.

Ezra 10:4 “Arise” This VERB (BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERATIVE) is often used of God arising from His throne for action (cf. Numbers 10:35; 2 Chronicles 6:41; Isaiah 2:19, Isaiah 2:21). Here it refers to a metaphor (cf. Judges 4:14) for the returnees to act on their confession and commitment.

“we will be with you” This refers to Ezra himself and those who tremble at the word of God (cf. Ezra 9:4; Ezra 10:3). These sinful leaders must put away their foreign, pagan wives and their children by them.

NASB“be courageous and act” NKJV“be of good courage and do it” NRSV“be strong and do it” TEV“so go ahead and get it done” NJB“be brave, take action”

These VERBS (BDB 304, KB 302, “be strong” and BDB 793, KB 889, “do”) are both Qal IMPERATIVES. The first VERB has a good parallel in Deuteronomy 31:6. This was God's word to Joshua several times (cf. Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:7. Joshua 1:9. Joshua 1:18). This admonition to action is reminiscent of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4, “hear and do!”).

A good parallel for the second command is 1 Chronicles 28:10. Put feet to your prayers!

Verses 5-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 10:5-8 5Then Ezra rose and made the leading priests, the Levites and all Israel, take oath that they would do according to this proposal; so they took the oath. 6Then Ezra rose from before the house of God and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib. Although he went there, he did not eat bread nor drink water, for he was mourning over the unfaithfulness of the exiles. 7They made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the exiles, that they should assemble at Jerusalem, 8and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the leaders and the elders, all his possessions should be forfeited and he himself excluded from the assembly of the exiles.

Ezra 10:5 “priests. . .Levites. . .Israel” These were the three levels of Jewish society (cf. Ezra 9:1).

“take oath” This VERB (BDB 989, KB 1396) is used twice in this verse (Hiphil IMPERFECT andNiphal IMPERFECT). It means to swear to God as an act of worship (cf. Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Ezekiel 16:8). Ezra believed they had a change of heart, but still required that they act on that change both by actions (cf. Ezra 10:4) and oath.

Ezra 10:6 “Jehohanan the son of Eliashib” Many have used this person to assert that Ezra is chronologically after Nehemiah, but both are very common names and we cannot be too dogmatic on the sketchy history of this period.

The name Eliashib can refer to

1. a person who helped Ezra (cf. Ezra 10:6; Nehemiah 12:10, Nehemiah 12:22, Nehemiah 12:23)

2. a Levitical singer who had married a pagan (cf. Ezra 10:24)

3. a son of Zattu who had married a pagan (cf. Ezra 10:27)

4. a son of Bani who had married a pagan (cf. Ezra 10:36)

5. the high priest during Nehemiah's rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (cf. Nehemiah 3:1, Nehemiah 3:20, Nehemiah 3:21; Nehemiah 13:4, Nehemiah 13:7, Nehemiah 13:28)

The name Jehohanan can refer to

1. a son of Bebai who married a pagan (cf. Ezra 10:6)

2. a priest who returned with Zerubabbel (cf. Nehemiah 12:13)

3. a Levitical singer who participated in the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem (cf. Nehemiah 12:43)

These are both very common names and they cannot be identified with precision. For a good brief discussion of this issue of chronology, see Derek Kidner, “Ezra and Nehemiah,” Tyndale Commentary Series, pp. 146-158.

“he did not eat bread nor drink water” This was a total fast (cf. Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:18; Jonah 3:7). Ezra was very concerned about these acts of unfaithfulness towards YHWH (cf. Ezra 9:3-15; Ezra 10:1).

Ezra 10:7 It must be remembered how small the territory that the returnees had been allocated by the Persian court. Only Jerusalem and a small part of the territory of Judah before the exile made up post-exilic Judah. Therefore, it was possible for all the people to come to Jerusalem as Ezra commanded.

Ezra 10:8

NASB, NRSV, NJB“forfeited” NKJV, TEV“confiscated”

This is the Hebrew term (BDB 355, KB 353, Hophal IMPERFECT) herem, which denotes something given to God (cf. Leviticus 27:28-29), like Jericho (cf. Deuteronomy 13:12-18; Joshua 6:17-19; Joshua 7:1, Joshua 7:11, Joshua 7:15, “under the ban”). Apparently those who refused to assemble also refused to put away their foreign wives and children, therefore, their property was given to the temple (or the priests, cf. Leviticus 27:21) and they personally were excommunicated (“excluded,” BDB 95, KB 110, Niphal IMPERFECT) from the people of God.

For a good brief discussion of herem, see Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 278-281.

Verses 9-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 10:9-15 9So all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month on the twentieth of the month, and all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and the heavy Revelation 1:0; Revelation 1:00Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful and have married foreign wives adding to the guilt of Israel. 11Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 12Then all the assembly replied with a loud voice, “That's right! As you have said, so it is our duty to do. 13But there are many people; it is the rainy season and we are not able to stand in the open. Nor can the task be done in one or two days, for we have transgressed greatly in this matter. 14Let our leaders represent the whole assembly and let all those in our cities who have married foreign wives come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of each city, until the fierce anger of our God on account of this matter is turned away from us.” 15Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah opposed this, with Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supporting them.

Ezra 10:9 “the men of Judah and Benjamin” The vast majority of the returnees were from pre-exilic Judah, which was made up of

1. the tribe of Simeon

2. the tribe of Benjamin

3. the tribe of Judah

4. most of the tribe of Levi (priests and Levites)

The northern tribes were taken into exile in 722 B.C. by Assyria and most were assimilated into their exiled lands.

“the ninth month” This refers to the month of Kislev which was midwinter, therefore, they were trembling not only from Ezra's statement but also from the cold brought on by the winter rains. See Special Topic: ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN CALENDARS.

This verse records eye-witness details of this event. This is Ezra's journal!

Ezra 10:10 Ezra calls on them for a public, cultic acknowledgment of their covenant violation (cf. Ezra 10:19). This was not the only sin of Israel (i.e., “adding to the guilt of Israel”), but it was a significant sin of God's people.

Ezra 10:11 “make confession” This VERB (BDB 793, KB 889, Qal IMPERATIVE) shows the seriousness and mandatory nature of their confession (this verse has three IMPERATIVES). The Hebrew term “confession” (BDB 392) also means “to give praise to.” Confession was an act of religious worship (cf. Joshua 7:19).

This same Hebrew noun is used in Nehemiah 12:27, Nehemiah 12:31, Nehemiah 12:38, Nehemiah 12:40 to describe the Levitical choir praising God.

It was also used of “thank offerings” (cf. 2 Chronicles 29:31; Psalms 50:14, Psalms 50:23; Amos 4:5; Jeremiah 17:26; Jeremiah 33:1).

Ezra 10:12

NASB“so it is our duty to do” NKJV“so we must do” NRSV“we must do” TEV“we will do” NJB“our duty is to do”

Young's Literal Translation of the Bible has “on us to do,” p. 320. The VERB (BDB 793, KB 889, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) has been used several times in this context.

1. “let it be done according to the law,” Ezra 10:3

2. “be courageous and act,” Ezra 10:4

3. “take oath that they would do according to this proposal,” Ezra 10:5

4. “make confession to the LORD God of your fathers and do His will,” Ezra 10:11

5. “so it is our duty to do,” Ezra 10:12

6. “But the exiles did so,” Ezra 10:16

The people acknowledged their guilt and agreed to act on Ezra's proposals. Faith starts in the mind, but must work out into actions (cf. Leviticus 26:40-42).

Ezra 10:13-14 “nor could this task be done in one or two days” These separations involved some investigation. Apparently some of the wives had truly become proselytes and were raising their children in the YHWHistic traditions, while others remained pagan. It is possible that these Hebrew men had put away their Jewish wives (cf. Malachi 2:10-16) in order to marry these foreign wives. This really caused problems with inheritance rights. There were 110 cases investigated in 75 days, but we do not know how many other cases were involved.

Ezra 10:15 There was not unanimity (four men were opposed, see 1 Chronicles 21:1; Daniel 8:25; 17:14, where the same idiom is used) on this issue, but a clear majority. This is obviously an eye-witness detail.

“Meshullam” Of the men listed in this verse nothing else is known. Some try to link Meshullam with a man by the same name who worked on the walls of Jerusalem (cf. Nehemiah 3:4, Nehemiah 3:6), but this was a common name. Notice the number of times people by this name are mentioned, in 1 Chronicles 3:19; 1 Chronicles 5:13; 1 Chronicles 8:17; 1 Chronicles 9:7, 1 Chronicles 9:8, 1 Chronicles 9:11, 1 Chronicles 9:12; and in Nehemiah 3:6; Nehemiah 8:4; Nehemiah 10:7, Nehemiah 10:20; Nehemiah 11:7; Nehemiah 12:13, Nehemiah 12:16, Nehemiah 12:25, Nehemiah 12:33.

Verses 16-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 10:16-17 16 But the exiles did so. And Ezra the priest selected men who were heads of fathers' households for each of their father's households, all of them by name. So they convened on the first day of the tenth month to investigate the matter. 17They finished investigating all the men who had married foreign wives by the first day of the first month.

Ezra 10:16 In spite of opposition, Ezra's proposals were acted on by the heads of the families/clans.

Verses 18-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 10:18-22 18Among the sons of the priests who had married foreign wives were found of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib and Gedaliah. 19They pledged to put away their wives, and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their offense. 20Of the sons of Immer there were Hanani and Zebadiah; 21and of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel and Uzziah; 22and of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad and Elasah.

Ezra 10:18-43 If you are interested in a detailed discussion of the etymology of these Hebrew names, a good brief source is The Expositor's Bible commentary, vol. 4, pp. 674-676.

Ezra 10:18 “Among the sons of the priests” The priests had been divided into divisions by David (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:0); only four of them returned (cf. Ezra 2:36-38). Those same four are named here.

“the sons of Jeshua” Even the family of the first returning High Priest with Zerubabbel was not exempt from this sin nor was their family's sin covered up. I Esdras 9:19 asserts that Jeshua himself was not involved.

Ezra 10:19 “they pledged” It literally says, “gave their hand” (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal IMPERFECT and 388 construct, cf. 2 Kings 10:15; 1 Chronicles 29:24; 2 Chronicles 30:8; Ezekiel 17:18; I Esdras 9:20). This was a cultural gesture of sealing an agreement.

“being guilty, they offered a lamb” This refers to the guilt offering of Lev. 5:14-26, which involves unintentional sin. It is not certain whether only the priest offered the sacrifice or if each of the offenders offered the sacrifice.

Verse 23

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 10:23 23Of Levites there were Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah and Eliezer.

Ezra 10:23-24 These same divisions of the Levites are mentioned in the genealogy of chapter 2 (cf. Ezra 2:40-42). No mention is made of any Nethinim (cf. Ezra 2:43-54) having taken foreign wives, nor of Solomon's servants (cf. Ezra 2:55-59).

Verse 24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 10:24 24Of the singers there was Eliashib; and of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem and Uri.

Verses 25-44

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezra 10:25-44 25Of Israel, of the sons of Parosh there were Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malchijah and Benaiah; 26and of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth and Elijah; 27and of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad and Aziza; 28and of the sons of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai and Athlai; 29and of the sons of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch and Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal and Jeremoth; 30and of the sons of Pahath-moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui and Manasseh; 31and of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32Benjamin, Malluch and Shemariah; 33of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh and Shimei; 34of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, 36Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasu, 38Bani, Binnui, Shimei, 39Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42Shallum, Amariah and Joseph. 43Of the sons of Nebo there were Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel and Benaiah. 44All these had married foreign wives, and some of them had wives by whom they had children.

Ezra 10:44 The Hebrew is very difficult. Derek Kidner, “Ezra and Nehemiah” Tyndale Commentary Series, p. 72, footnote #2, shows the problem: (1) “and some of them (MASCULINE ) were women and they (MASCULINE) appointed sons.” (2) Young's Literal Translation of the Bible, p. 321, has “and there are of them women - who adopt sons.” (3) The Septuagint has “all these had taken strange wives and begotten sons of them.” and (4) The Revised Standard Version quotes I Esdras 9:36, “all of these had married foreign women, and they sent them away with (their) children.”


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. To what incident does Ezra 9:1 relate?

2. Why are these ancient tribes, which no longer exist, mentioned in Ezra 10:1?

3. How can Ezra's acts be reconciled with Deuteronomy 21:10-14 and the many foreign marriages of Israel's former leaders?

4. Explain the relationship between personal sin and corporate sin in the life of both Israel and the Church.

5. If God hates divorce what does Ezra 10:0 involve and why?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezra 10". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezra-10.html. 2021.
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