EZRA CHAPTER 9.
Ezra’s Sorrowful Prayer
THE EVIL OF INTERMARRIAGES EXPOSED. — V. 1. Now, when these things were done, namely, the delivery of the treasures and the money, the bringing of the sacrifices, and the paying of respects to the official representatives of the Persian king in the satrapy of which Judea was a part, the princes, certain chief men among the people, came to me, saying, The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, of the remnants of the Gentile nations that were still found in the land, doing according to their abominations, showing a tendency to relapse once more into gross idolatry, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites, whose idolatrous practices had persisted in the country during all these centuries. V. 2. For they, the Jews who had previously returned from Babylonia, have taken of their daughters for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy seed, the children of Israel as a peculiar people, as a nation consecrated to Jehovah, have mingled themselves with the people of those lands; yea, the hand of the princes and rulers, of the leaders of the people, hath been chief in this trespass, which was a plain violation of the divine Law, Deut. 7, 2. 3. The mixed marriages threatened the purity of Israel and imperiled the higher blessings connected therewith. V. 3. And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, both the inner dress and the outer cover, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, all signs of most overpowering grief and righteous anger, and sat down astonied, staring dully into nothingness, as one helpless in angry displeasure. V. 4. Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, those impressed with the terror of Jehovah’s possible wrath, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away, of those living in captivity, of the people who had returned with the first company of exiles; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice. Ezra foresaw the dangerous results of the condition as reported to him and was overwhelmed with the difficulty of correcting the evil. Mixed marriages are always dangerous, for experience has shown that the believing spouse is more often misled into misbelief and indifference than the unbelieving is brought to the knowledge of the truth.
EZRA’S CONFESSION OF THE PEOPLE’S SIN. — V. 5. And at the evening sacrifice, about the middle of the afternoon, I arose up from my heaviness, from the stupor which had benumbed him; and having rent my garment and my mantle, once more indicating his anger, sorrow, and grief, I fell upon my knees and spread out my hands unto the Lord, my God, in a gesture of humble supplication, v. 6. and said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush, a very emphatic expression of his repentant sorrow for his people, to lift up my face to Thee, my God; for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens, their great abundance being like a flood which threatened to engulf the Jews forever. V. 7. Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day, as the history of both Israel and Judah under the kingdom had shown; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to be killed outright, to captivity, to languish in exile, and to a spoil, their land having been plundered time and again by the enemies, and to confusion of face, to the deepest shame and humiliation, as it is this day. V. 8. And now for a little space, for almost sixty years, grace hath been showed from the Lord, our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in His Holy Place, the figure being that of a peg on which domestic utensils were hung and the meaning that God had again given them a part and a right in His house, in His Temple, that our God may lighten our eyes, by removing the night of trouble and weakness resting upon them, and give us a little reviving in our bondage, by bestowing salvation, strength, and encouragement. V. 9. For we were bondmen, held captive by the enemies; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, restoring them once more as a nation and as a congregation of Jehovah, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem, by protecting them against all their oppressors. The mercies of God having been mentioned, the sin of the people stands out all the more strongly by comparison. V. 10. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Thy commandments v. 11. which Thou hast commanded by Thy servants, the prophets, for their mixed marriages involved idolatry, saying, The land unto which ye go to possess it is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness. V. 12. Now, therefore, give not your daughters unto their Sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, Ezra here quotes from Moses, Ex. 23, 32; 34, 16; Deut. 7, 3, nor seek their peace or their wealth forever, that ye may be strong and eat the good of the land, enjoy all its richest blessings, and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever, as a permanent possession of the children of Israel. V. 13. And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great trespass, the punishment of their exile, seeing that Thou, our God, hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, literally, “hast restrained a part of our sins from below,” namely, in this, that His punishment was below the measure of their misdeeds, and hast given us such deliverance as this, v. 14. should we again break Thy commandments and Join in affinity with the people of these abominations, by entering into mixed marriages with them? The thought is that the remembrance of the leniency of the Lord in dealing with the people ought certainly to restrain them from transgressing His precept. Wouldest not Thou be angry with us till Thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? This fate the general blameworthiness of the people in the new transgression would certainly have deserved. V. 15. O Lord God of Israel, Thou art righteous, a Judge whose holiness would constrain Him to bring punishment upon the congregation if its members would continue in the present transgression; for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day. Behold, we are before Thee in our trespasses, for we cannot stand before Thee because of this. The implication was that, unless, by the help of divine grace, they would repent and bring forth fruit meet for repentance in a prompt change of tactics, the wrath of the righteous God would be sure to strike them. A confession of this kind also includes the prayer for forgiveness and will therefore surely be heard.