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ISRAEL’S SIN OF HEATHEN INTERMARRIAGE MADE KNOWN TO EZRA, Ezra 9:1-2.
1. When these things were done Namely, the treasures delivered, the burnt offerings offered, and the king’s commissions handed to the satraps and governors, as stated Ezra 8:33-36.
The princes Certain distinguished and godly men among the chiefs of the new community at Jerusalem. Not all the princes came, for some were implicated in the trespass here confessed. Ezra 9:2.
People… priests… Levites All classes were involved, even the ministers of the temple, who, above all, should have kept themselves pure. Nor were the rulers and princes clear, as the next verse shows.
Not separated themselves from the people of the lands The people of the lands are the idolatrous nations in and about Palestine, named in this verse. With these nations, which were not extinct, but abode still in large numbers in various parts of the country, the returned exiles had largely mixed themselves. At the passover, held immediately after the feast of dedication, (Ezra 6:19-22,) a number joined the new community from “such as had separated themselves from the filthiness of the heathen of the land,” (Ezra 6:21,) apparently Israelites who had not gone into exile, but, being left in the land, had intermarried with their heathen neighbours, and being without temple, priests, or worship, had gradually lost the knowledge and worship of Jehovah. These seem to have corrupted many of the Jews who had returned from exile, and during the half century or more from that time until Ezra’s arrival, this evil leaven had been spreading through the whole community. Not all the people were guilty, but the evil had affected all classes, and the commandments of the law forbidding intermarriage with these heathen nations (Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-3) seem to have been forgotten, or else utterly ignored by even the leaders of the people.
Their abominations Their idolatrous practices. On the strictly Canaanitish nations here mentioned, see note on Joshua 3:10. The Ammonites and Moabites, whose country was east of the Jordan, had at different times long before this corrupted Israel with their abominations. Numbers 25:1; Judges 10:6. The wars between Persia and Egypt had, doubtless, brought many Egyptians into contact with the Jews, and from the time of Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kings 3:1) the Egyptians had mingled more or less with the Israelites.
2. Holy seed Jehovah’s chosen people. See marginal references.
Princes and rulers… chief in this trespass This was the most alarming fact of all. When the rulers transgress the law the people must needs become corrupt and demoralized.
EZRA’S GRIEF AND PRAYER, Ezra 9:3-15.
3. I rent my garment and my mantle Both the inner and the outer clothing. This was a sign of most excessive grief. Job rent only his mantle, Job 1:20. Compare Joshua 7:6.
Plucked off the hair Another sign of anguish and sorrow. Job shaved his head in his agony of grief.
Astonished Ezra sat down, amazed at the extent and fearfulness of his people’s sin.
4. Every one that trembled Ezra was not alone in grief and dismay over the sins of the people. Others with him realized the peril of the hour, and trembled with a profound sense of their danger. For should Divine vengeance burst upon the camp, the innocent and guilty would suffer together. Among those that trembled at the words of the God of Israel were also, doubtless, some of the transgressors who had been brought to realize their guilt and danger.
The evening sacrifice The law ordained that a lamb should be offered each day, morning and evening, and these offerings were called respectively the morning and evening sacrifices. See Exodus 29:38-41. Comp. also 1 Kings 18:29, note. While the people mingled with the heathen, and openly transgressed, they continued to sacrifice to Jehovah, thus apparently forgetting that obedience is better than sacrifice.
5. Fell upon my knees The appropriate attitude of an agonizing supplicant.
Spread out my hands Thus further indicating his own helplessness, and his imploring condition of soul.
6. O my God The following prayer of Ezra is, for its occasion, a most perfect model of intercessory supplication. Or rather, perhaps, we should say, it is a most perfect utterance of humiliation and confession before God, for there is no word of direct supplication here. Much is suggested and implied, but every utterance is that of confession of past and present sin, and personal humiliation before God. Ezra enumerates the manifold sins of his nation in connexion with the manifold mercies of God, and confesses that all the woes and punishments of Israel have been less than their sins. He ventures not to pray for mercy and pardon, but presents the people in their trespasses before Jehovah, confessing that they are not able to stand. Compare Daniel’s prayer, (Daniel 9:4-19,) where is found much of direct supplication.
Our iniquities… over our head Like a flood they have been rising higher and higher, until we are quite submerged and overwhelmed.
Grown up unto the heavens Like a tower of Babel, which has been built higher and higher, as if to defy the very God of heaven.
7. Sword… captivity… spoil Bitterly true, as the very stones of Jerusalem might testify.
Confusion of face Having nothing to answer to vindicate themselves, for their own sins had brought them thus low.
8. Now for a little space From the time of Cyrus. Yet in that short time not a few sorrows had befallen them.
Give us a nail in his holy place The Hebrew for nail means a tent-pin, and is here used metaphorically for pitching one’s tent and abiding in a place. So these exiles had been permitted to return and settle in and about the holy city.
Lighten our eyes Make them shine and sparkle with hope of returning good.
9. We were bondmen Having been subject to Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian kings.
Kings of Persia Especially Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes.
To give us a wall in Judah Another metaphorical expression (compare give a nail, in Ezra 9:8) presenting the idea of a fenced inclosure, a fortified town, whose surrounding walls were a means of defence against enemies. The new community at Jerusalem had found the favours of the Persian kings a wall of defence against their foes. So in Isaiah 5:2; Isaiah 5:5, the house of Israel is represented as a well-fenced vineyard.
11. Commanded by thy servants the prophets Especially by Moses, the great prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15) and lawgiver. Comp. with this and the next verse Exodus 23:32; Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-3.
12. Nor seek their peace or their wealth Quoted from Deuteronomy xxiii, 6. The sense is, thou shalt not make it an object of care to promote the welfare or prosperity of the heathen.
14. Wouldest not thou be angry The question is the strongest possible confession that they merited the Divine anger.
15. In our trespasses Thus he leaves the case with his God, who is eminently righteous. But he does not venture to ask pardon for Israel’s enormous trespasses. It will not do to pray for that until Israel ceases to do evil.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezra 9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13