EZRA CHAPTER 10.
The Adjustment of the Intermarriage Problem.
EZRA’S REFORM MEASURES ADOPTED. — V. 1.Now, when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, for it was in the court of the Lord that he made his prayer, as shown in chapter 9, there assembled unto him out of Israel, out of those present for the evening sacrifice, a very great congregation of men and women and children; for the people wept very sore, they were plunged into great depths of grief over the evil circumstances into which so many had plunged themselves by contracting forbidden marriages. Ezra’s passionate prayer, therefore, was a sensation which attracted people to the court of the Temple in increasing numbers. V. 2. And Shechaniah, the son of Jehiel, one of the Sons of Elam, evidently a man of some importance, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, acting unfaithfully and without loyalty, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land; for, though not himself guilty, he spoke in the general name of the people; yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing, a removal of the evil was still possible in his opinion. V. 3. Now, therefore, let us make a covenant with our God, by obligating themselves before God with a solemn vow, to put away all the wives, by an absolute divorce, and such as are born of them, the children of such mixed marriages, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God, the will and the precepts of the Lord being interpreted by the spiritual leaders of the people; and let it be done according to the Law, rather, “it shall happen according to the Law,” as explained by Ezra and his colleagues. V. 4. Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee; Ezra was the one man competent to take charge of the problem, both on account of his familiarity with the Law of God and on account of the authority vested in him by the king of Persia. We also will be with thee, to back him up in any plan proposed by him; be of good courage and do it. V. 5. Then arose Ezra and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel to swear that they should do according to this word, he obligated them by a solemn oath and thus stimulated their zeal. And they sware. V. 6. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, he left the place in the court where he had prayed, and went into the chamber of Johanan, the son of Eliashib, where he could meet the princes and elders of the Jews in private; and when he came thither, he did eat no bread nor drink water, keeping up an absolute fast as a sign of mourning, in order to impress all the others with the sincerity of his motives; for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away. V. 7. And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, both of the first and second band of returned exiles, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem, v. 8. and that, whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, who had immediately agreed to the proposition of Ezra, all his substance should be forfeited, devoted to God, confiscated for the use of the Temple, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away, excluded from the Jewish Church by a sentence of excommunication. V.9. Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month, between the end of December and the first part of January, the coldest and most disagreeable season in Palestine; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, out in the court and in the open square before the court, trembling because of this matter, excited and worried on account of the cause for which they had been summoned, and for the great rain, which at that season falls in torrents. V. 10. And Ezra, the priest, stood up and said unto them, Ye have transgressed and have taken strange wives, dwelling with them in a wedlock which did not meet with the approval of the Lord, to increase the trespass of Israel, for the entire congregation would be held responsible for this evil. V. 11. Now, therefore, make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, acknowledging their wrong, and do His pleasure, in bringing forth fruits meet for repentance; and separate yourselves from the people of the land and from the strange wives. It was a radical measure, but one which would prove immediately effective in cleansing Israel from defilement. V. 12. Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, their resolution firmly and unhesitatingly expressed, As thou hast said, so must we do, feeling themselves in conscience bound to be obedient. V. 13. But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, the season being too disagreeable, neither is this a work of one day or two, and therefore to be disposed of while they waited; for we are many that have transgressed in this thing. V. 14. Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, as a commission to adjust the entire affair, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, they were to be notified on what days they should come, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, as witnesses and assistant judges, to investigate each case thoroughly, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us; with the cause of the wrath removed, the Lord’s wrath itself would cease. V. 15. Only Jonathan, the son of Asahel, and Jahaziah, the son of Tikvah, were employed about this matter, literally, “stood against this thing,” they withstood the proposed resolution; and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them, all four desiring to continue the custom of intermarriages. V. 16. And the children of the captivity did so, they acted according to their proposal. And Ezra, the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, heads of father-houses, and all of them by their names, were separated, as a commission to handle this matter, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter, they held a session to take up the cases. V. 17. And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month. The sessions thus lasted, in all, very nearly three months. Any Christian congregation which finds that evils have crept into its midst is in duty bound to investigate the matter and to remove all offenses.
CATALOG OF MEN WHO HAD TAKEN STRANGE WIVES. — V. 18. And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives; namely, of the sons of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and his brethren: Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah. V. 19. And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives, pledging themselves most solemnly by giving their right hand; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass. Cp. Lev. 5, 14. 15. V. 20. And of the sons of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah. V. 21. And of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah. V. 22. And of the sons of Pashur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jozabad, and Elasah. V. 23. Also of the Levites: Jozabad, and Shimei, and Xelaiah, (the same is Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. V. 24. Of the singers also: Eliashib; and of the porters: Shallum, and Telem, and Uri. V. 25. Moreover, of Israel, of the lay-members of the congregation: of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah. V. 26. And of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah. V. 27. And of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza. V. 28. Of the sons also of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. V. 29. And of the sons of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth. V. 30. And of the sons of Pahathmoab: Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh. V. 31. And of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Ishljah, Malchiah, Shemalah, Shimeon, V. 32. Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. V. 33. Of the Sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. V. 34. Of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, and Uel, V. 35. Benaiah, Bedelah, Chelluh, V. 36. Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, V. 37. Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau, V. 38. and Bani, and Binnui, Shimei, V. 39. and Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah, V. 40. Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, V. 41. Azareel, and Shelemiah, Shemariah, V. 42. Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. V. 43. Of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, Benaiah. V. 44. All these had taken strange wives; and some of them had wives by whom they had children, a fact which, of course, in. creased the difficulties of Ezra’s task. All those who have sinned openly ought to acknowledge their transgression in the same manner and put away the offense. Every Christian congregation should be zealous about the honor of God and the welfare of all the souls in its midst.