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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Ezra 10

 

 

Verse 1

1. There assembled… a very great congregation — It seems that Ezra’s prayer and his agonizing attitude had brought the most of them together. His position before the house of God, in the fore-court of the temple, at the time when many would naturally be resorting there for the worship of the evening sacrifice, (Ezra 9:4-5,) and his attitude of kneeling down and spreading out his bands towards heaven, would soon attract a multitude around him, and his touching prayer would naturally make them weep.

For the people wept very sore — Or, as the margin, wept a great weeping. And this helped further to call a large assembly to the spot.


Verses 1-17

PUTTING AWAY THE STRANGE WIVES, Ezra 10:1-17.

To us, with our Christian sentiments and feelings respecting the inviolability of the marriage relation, this procedure of Ezra in enforcing the separation of these Jews from their wives seems exceedingly harsh and severe. Nor is it to be reconciled, or reconcilable, with our Lord’s profound teaching that the marriage relation is closer and more inviolable than any other human relation, and never to be sundered except in the case of fornication. Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:4-9. But Ezra’s action must be viewed and explained from the Mosaic standpoint. His mission was to reconstruct the Jewish state on the basis of the law of Moses, and that law, as we have seen, expressly prohibited marriages with the heathen.

Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:3. It was also well known that marriages with the heathen, and the consequent adoption of heathen abominations, has been the main cause of all the woes of Israel. And now, in reconstructing the Jewish state, it would be fatal to the permanence of the same to allow the precedent of extensive intermarriages of this kind to stand unrebuked. Ezra could not but see that such a precedent, if established, would govern the life and conduct of his people for the generations that were to follow, and it was plainly irreconcilable with Mosaic law. It was better, therefore, to check the evil then, though it cost great sorrow and trouble, than to let it alone to ruin all the holy seed.


Verse 2

2. Of the sons of Elam — Two individuals of this name are mentioned in the list of those who returned with Zerubbabel, (Ezra 2:7; Ezra 2:31,) but there is nothing to decide which one of them is here intended. Compare Ezra 10:26.

Now there is hope — From the fact that the people weep. There is always hope for sinners that are penitent enough to weep.


Verse 3

3. Make a covenant — Enter into a solemn agreement, and swear to put away all the wives. Comp. Ezra 10:5; Ezra 10:12; Ezra 10:19.

And such as are born of them — This was Shechaniah’s proposition; but how far the children with their mothers were put away does not appear, for in Ezra 10:11; Ezra 10:19 there is no mention of children. Doubtless all infant children went with their mothers, and this would be likely to be the rule with all children, unless some, old enough to express a choice, preferred to be adopted into the Jewish community. Such might have been retained as proselytes. See note on Ezra 10:44.

The counsel of my lord — The advice and arrangements which Ezra might propose. Thus Shechaniah courteously addresses Ezra.

Those that tremble — Those who, like Ezra, had a keen sense of the dangers of the hour, and the people’s exposure to the curse of God. See note on Ezra 9:4.

According to the law — The whole reform should proceed in strict accordance with the law of Moses.


Verse 4

4. Arise — Ezra was probably still bowed down before the temple. Ezra 10:1, note.

Unto thee — Ezra possessed the proper authority from the king, (Ezra 7:25,) and the wisdom to institute the needed reformation.


Verse 5

5. Made… all Israel to swear — That is, all Israel that were present and represented on that occasion.


Verse 6

6. Chamber of Johanan — One of the chambers or cells of the temple where this son of Eliashib abode. Compare Nehemiah 13:4-5. Johanan, or Jehohanan, was probably the same as Jonathan in Nehemiah 12:11. In that case we must understand the word son here as grandson. Davidson asserts (Kitto’s Cyc.) that Eliashib lived after Nehemiah, but this does not show but that he lived at the time of Nehemiah and of Ezra also, and long before his death his grandson might have occupied a chamber of the temple, and exercised the priestly functions.

Did eat no bread, nor drink water — Like Moses when he mourned for the transgression of Israel, Deuteronomy 9:18.


Verse 7

7. They made proclamation — Namely, the princes and elders. See next verse. Literally, They made a voice pass in Judah, etc. See note on Ezra 1:1.


Verse 8

8. Forfeited — Placed under ban, and thereby devoted to Jehovah. See note on Joshua 6:17.


Verse 9

9. The ninth month — Chisleu, corresponding with December, the rainy season of Palestine, and hence the great rain mentioned in this verse.

In the street of the house of God — In the open broad place before the temple; in the court.


Verse 12

12. All… answered — It was the loud uttered vow and pledge of a vast assembly to conform to the Divine requirement. Compare Joshua 1:16-18, notes.


Verse 13

13. Not able to stand without — It was impracticable then and there to rectify the whole matter, and attend to each individual case. Hence the adoption of the plan of procedure described below. Ezra 10:14-17.


Verse 14

14. Come at appointed times — They probably arranged for them to come according to families, or, perhaps, according to cities, and the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, came along with them to be witnesses and judges of cases known to them.


Verse 15

15. Only Jonathan — So simplified and complete was the method here adopted of disposing of each case, that only the four persons named in this verse were required to attend to the chief burden of it, such as recording the names and evidence in each case. These acted under the general oversight and direction of Ezra and the persons mentioned in the next verse.


Verse 16

16. Children of the captivity did so — That is, the persons implicated, and the whole people, adopted the plan arranged by Ezra.

After the house of their fathers — So that every father’s house was represented.

All of them by their names — The name of each of the more distinguished fathers was probably called, and from each family thus represented a person was chosen, and all these, with Ezra himself, were separated, that is, chosen and set apart, to examine the matter. They had the responsibility and control of the investigation and decision of each case, while the four persons named it the previous verse were probably required to act as secretaries for them.


Verse 17

17. End… first month — So that they were employed three months in the matter.


Verse 19

19. Gave their hands — As a solemn form of indicating their acceptance of the covenant, (Ezra 10:3,) and of binding themselves to put away their wives. Handshaking is a natural ceremony of ratifying a solemn agreement between parties. Comp. 2 Kings 10:15.

A ram… for their trespass — According to the law of Leviticus 6:1-6.


Verses 19-44

LIST OF THOSE WHO HAD TAKEN STRANGE WIVES, Ezra 10:18-44.

So important to the new community was the whole procedure, that the names of the implicated ones were chronicled, and immortalized in connexion with this sad affair. Ezra embodied the list in his own book as a testimony of his care for Israel, and here it still stands, a monument of his fidelity to the people of his God.

The list gives, 1) the names of the sons of the priests who had taken strange wives, Ezra 10:18-22; Ezra 2) the names of the Levites, Ezra 10:23; Ezra 3) the names of the singers, Ezra 10:24; Ezra 4) the names of non-official or ordinary Israelites, Ezra 10:25-43.


Verse 25

25. Moreover of Israel — That is, of non-official or simple Israelites, as distinguished from the priests, Levites, and singers just mentioned. The names of the chief fathers of this list are all found in the list of those who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel, chap. 2. The Bani of Ezra 10:34 is not to be identified with the Bani of Ezra 10:29. The latter is probably the Bani of Ezra 2:10, while the other is, perhaps, a corruption of Bezai, (of Ezra 2:17,) or possibly the name of some person not mentioned at all in the list of chapter 2.


Verse 44

44. Wives by whom they had children — The Hebrew reads literally, And there were of them ( הם, them, is here masculine, and seems to refer to all these at the beginning of the verse,) wives, and they set (or placed, ישׂימו, the masculine form of the verb) children. The brevity and obscurity of the text are such as to make the exact meaning very doubtful. The naked statement of our common version, which follows in sense the Septuagint and Vulgate, that some of these wives had children, seems bootless. The masculine form of the verb, as well as its peculiar meaning of setting, appointing, etc., inclines one to think that the writer here speaks of some disposition which some of these husbands, who put away their wives, made also of their children. Bertheau conjectures that וישׂימוmay be a corruption of גרשׂים, (thrust out, used of divorce in Leviticus 21:7,) and has been transposed from its proper place before wives, so that originally the text read: And some of them thrust out wives and children. While not prepared to accept this emendation of the text, we think it brings out substantially the meaning which the Hebrew writer meant to convey. For Ezra 10:3 implies that children as well as wives were put away.

The Book of Ezra ends abruptly here, but this reformation was not the end of his ministry for Israel. How long he continued at Jerusalem after the events of this chapter we have no means of knowing, but it is very supposable that he continued there at least some days, in order to instruct the people further in the knowledge of the law. Many have thought that he remained at Jerusalem as governor until the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, when Nehemiah was appointed to that office by the king. But if Ezra had been superseded by Nehemiah we should, doubtless, have had some notice of it in the history of the latter. The abrupt termination of this book, and the subsequent relapse of the Jews at Jerusalem, and their deplorable state when Nehemiah came, leads us rather to the opinion that Ezra soon returned again to Babylon. This view is favoured by the fact that his commission was only to bear the gifts of the king and his counsellors, and “to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” Ezra 7:14.

Several years later Ezra appears at Jerusalem again, in connexion with Nehemiah and many Levites, reading and expounding the law to a great assembly of the people. Nehemiah 8. The agreement of the ancient traditions in associating Ezra with the Great Synagogue, and the formation of the Old Testament Canon, may authorize us to believe at least this much, that in concert with Nehemiah and the leading Jews of his time he did collect and arrange the books of the Old Testament Canon in substantially the form in which we now possess them. He lived at a time when such a work could best be done, and he had facilities for doing it which no later age possessed. And it may be added, he alone of all the Jews of his age was most competent to perform a work of such responsibility and care. How long he lived after this is uncertain. Josephus says he died at an advanced age, and was buried with distinguished honours at Jerusalem; but other traditions have it that he died on his way back to Persia, and his reputed tomb is still shown on the banks of the Tigris, about twenty miles above its junction with the Euphrates.

Ezra was unquestionably one of the greatest men of his age, and his mighty influence upon his people is attested by the almost innumerable traditions of his character and works, which afterwards sprung up among the Jews, and still linger about his name. He is said to have introduced the square character into Hebrew writing, and also to have established the office of dragoman, or interpreter, whose duty it was to translate and explain the words of the Scriptures as they were read in the synagogue. He is said to have been the founder and first president of the Great Synagogue, and, in fact, of the entire system of synagogue worship as it afterwards prevailed among the Jews of all lands. To him has been attributed the authorship of several books of the Old Testament, [Chronicles, Nehemiah, Esther,] besides this one which bears his name.

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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Ezra 10:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/ezra-10.html. 1874-1909.

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