v1 Ezra prayed and he confessed. He wept and he threw himself onto the ground in front of the house of God. As he was doing these things, a large crowd of the *people of Israel gathered with him. There were men, women and children and they all wept aloud.
Verse 1 Ezra was in front of the house of God when he prayed. He had torn his clothes and he had pulled hair from his head and his beard. Many people gathered with him. They did not just come to see what he was doing. They also wept aloud because they too were sad about the *sins of the people (Ezra 9:3-4).
v2 Then Shecaniah (the son of Jehiel) spoke to Ezra. Shecaniah was one of the *descendants of Elam. He said, ‘We have not obeyed God. We have married foreign women from the nations round us. However, there is still hope for Israel. v3 So we should now make a promise to our God. We will promise to send away all these women and their children. We will follow your advice, master. And we will follow the advice of those people who are afraid because of the command of our God. We want to obey God’s law. v4 Get up. This matter is your duty. We will support you. So, act with courage.’
Verses 2-4 A man called Shecaniah spoke to Ezra. Shecaniah was also very sad because of the *sins of the people. He had not married a foreign wife (Ezra 10:18-44), but some of his relatives had (Ezra 10:26). Shecaniah knew that there was still hope for Israel. He knew that God still loved the *people of Israel. But the people had to turn away from their *sins if they wanted God to forgive them. Shecaniah suggested that the *Jewish men should send their foreign wives away. Then they would obey God’s commands again. It was Ezra’s duty to make sure that the people obeyed God’s laws (Ezra 7:25-26). Shecaniah promised that the people would support Ezra in his task.
v5 So Ezra got up. He made the leaders of the priests and the *Levites and all the *people of Israel make the promise. So they made the promise that they had suggested.
Verse 5 Ezra agreed with Shecaniah’s proposal. So Ezra made sure that all the people promised to send away the foreign women.
v6 Then Ezra went away from the front of the house of God. He went to Jehohanan’s room. Jehohanan was the son of Eliashib. While Ezra was there, he did not eat any food. He did not drink any water either. The people who had returned after the *exile had not been loyal to God. So Ezra was still very sad.
Verse 6 Although the people had made a good promise, Ezra was still very sad. He went to a more private place. And he did not eat or drink. This showed that he was sad. He probably prayed to God again while he was there.
v7 Then the leaders issued a declaration in all Judah and Jerusalem. They called all the people who had returned from the *exile to gather in Jerusalem. v8 The officials and the leaders made a command. Anyone who did not come in three days would lose all his property. The people who had returned from the *exile would also separate that person from them.
Verses 7-8 The leaders of the people wanted to be sure that the people performed their promise. So the leaders ordered all the people to gather in Jerusalem in three days.
If the people really wanted to be part of God’s special people, the *Jews, then they would come to Jerusalem. Anyone who did not obey would lose all his property. And that person would not continue to belong to God’s special people, the *Jews.
v9 After three days, all the men from the families of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. It was the 20th day in the 9th month. All the people sat in the square in front of the house of God. They were trembling with fear. This was because of the affair and also because of the heavy rain. v10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and he spoke to the people. He said, ‘You have not been loyal to God. You have married foreign women. Therefore, you have made Israel even more guilty. v11 Now confess to the *LORD, the God of your *ancestors. And do what pleases him. Separate yourselves from the people in the nations round you. And separate yourselves from your foreign wives.’
Verses 9-11 So all the people gathered in Jerusalem as their leaders had ordered. The people were very sorry about their *sins. It was the rainy season so they were also unhappy because of the rain.
Ezra reminded the people that they had not obeyed God’s laws. He told them to confess their *sins to God. And he told them to do what would please God. They must send away their foreign wives. Also, they must separate themselves from the evil people who lived round them. They could not continue to have such close relationships with people who opposed God.
v12 Then all the people who had gathered answered. They said in a loud voice, ‘We agree. We must do what you have said. v13 But there are many people here. It is the rainy season and we cannot stand outside. Many people have *sinned in this affair. So we cannot deal with it in one or two days. v14 Our leaders should act for all the people. They should select days for judgement. Everyone in our cities who has taken a foreign wife should come on those days. They should come with the leaders and judges from each city. This must happen until our God stops being angry with us for this affair.’
v15 Only Jonathan (the son of Asahel) and Jahaziah (the son of Tikvah) did not agree with this. And Meshullam and Shabbethai (the *Levite) supported them.
Verses 12-15 The people agreed with Ezra. They knew that they had *sinned. They knew that they must obey Ezra’s order.
However, the people did not want to do this in a hurry. They would send their foreign wives away, but the arrangements would take time. So the people made a recommendation to Ezra. They proposed that their leaders should *judge each man with a foreign wife.
Only a few men did not agree with this plan.
v16 So the people who had returned from the *exile did this. Ezra the priest chose men who were the heads of the families. He chose each by name and he separated them by their families. They sat down on the first day of the 10th month to examine the affair. v17 Their task was complete on the first day of the first month. By then, they had finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women.
Verses 16-17 Ezra agreed with the people’s plan. And he chose the heads of the families who would *judge the people. Ezra chose men who knew the people. They would be able to *judge fairly.
The heads of the families *judged each man who had a foreign wife. They finished this task after three months.
The Bible does not tell us what happened to these women afterwards. Probably they returned to their fathers’ families, as a widow might do. And they took their children with them. It is likely that the men also had to return the wedding gifts from the women’s families. Perhaps the men also paid money to the women.
These men had to separate themselves completely from their foreign wives. Clearly, that was not a nice thing to do. But that was the result of their *sin when they married these women. The result of *sin is never pleasant. Even after God forgives us, we must sometimes suffer the results of our *sin.
v18 Some of the *descendants of the priests had married foreign women:
· There were Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib and Gedaliah. These men were the *descendants of Jeshua (the son of Jozadak) and his brothers. v19 (They all promised to send away their wives. And, because they were guilty, they made a *sacrifice of a male sheep. That was their *sacrifice for their *sin.)
· v20 There were Hanani and Zebadiah, who were the *descendants of Immer.
· v21 There were Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel and Uzziah, who were the *descendants of Harim.
· v22 There were Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad and Elasah, who were the *descendants of Pashhur.
v23 There were *Levites too:
· There were Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (who was Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah and Eliezer.
· v24 There was Eliashib from among the singers.
· And there were Shallum, Telem and Uri. (They were among the men who guarded the gates.)
v25 And from the rest of the *people of Israel, there were the men in the list below:
· There were Ramiah, Jeziah, Malchiah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malchijah and Benaiah. They were the *descendants of Parosh.
· v26 There were Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth and Elijah. They were the *descendants of Elam.
· v27 There were Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad and Aziza. They were the *descendants of Zattu.
· v28 There were Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai and Athlai. They were the *descendants of Bebai.
· v29 There were Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal and Jeremoth. They were the *descendants of Bani.
· v30 There were Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui and Manasseh. They were the *descendants of Pahath-Moab.
· v31 There were the *descendants of Harim. They were: Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, v32 Benjamin, Malluch and Shemariah.
· v33 There were Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh and Shimei. They were the *descendants of Hashum.
· v34 There were the *descendants of Bani. They were Maadai, Amram, Uel, v35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, v36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, v37 Mattaniah, Mattenai and Jaasu.
· v38 There were the *descendants of Binnui. They were Shimei, v39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, v40 Macnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, v41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, v42 Shallum, Amariah and Joseph.
· v43 There were Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel and Benaiah. They were the *descendants of Nebo.
v44 All these men had taken foreign wives. And some of them had children by these wives.
Verses 18-44 Ezra recorded the names of the men who had foreign wives. Some of them were priests and *Levites. Some had responsibilities in the *temple.
Verse 18 mentions *descendants of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak. Jeshua was the chief priest when the first *Jews returned from the *exile (Ezra 3:2; 5:2). These men had not been good models for the people.
Over 100 men had foreign wives. This may seem to be a small number as there were thousands of *Jews in Judah. But these men had done a serious *sin against God. So Ezra and the other leaders had to deal with the affair.
Perhaps some of these men had divorced their *Jewish wives before they married their foreign wives. The *prophet Malachi spoke God’s word about this time. He said that the people had made God very angry. The people had married foreign women and they had divorced their first wives (Malachi 2:10-16).
This chapter shows that it is very important to remain loyal to God. The men who married foreign wives had not been loyal to God. These men cared more about the affairs of this world than they cared about their relationship with God. And their *sin had become so serious that it affected their whole nation. That is why the *Jews told these men to divorce their wives. It was an extraordinary decision in an unusual situation.
The *New Testament also teaches that Christians should not marry unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Sometimes it is necessary for Christians to be separate from other people. *Sin is dangerous. And it is easy for one person to imitate another person’s *sin.
However, the Bible also teaches that divorce is not a good thing (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 5:32). A Christian who is married to an unbeliever should not divorce that person. If the unbeliever is content to live with that Christian, they should continue to be husband and wife (1 Corinthians 7:12-17). The Christian should pray for the unbeliever and for their children, that they too will trust in Christ. A Christian should always show real love to other people, especially to his or her own family.
altar ~ a table (usually stone or metal) where the priests burned animals and gave other gifts as a *sacrifice to God.
ancestors ~ parents, grandparents and previous members of the same family.
Assyrian / Assyrians ~ a person from Assyria or anything that has a relationship with Assyria.
Babylonian / Babylonians ~ a person from Babylonia or anything that has a relationship with Babylonia.
BC ~ years Before Christ was born.
bronze ~ a brown metal. Bronze is usually less precious than gold and silver.
bull ~ the male animal which mates with a cow.
Chaldean ~ a person from Chaldea or anything that has a relationship with Chaldea.
descendant ~ a later member of a family, town, or nation.
Elamite / Elamites ~ a *descendant of Elam or a person from Elam or anything that has a relationship with Elam.
exile ~ a period when people cannot live in their own country. This period may be for many years.
introduction ~ the first part of a book, which explains the book’s purpose.
Israelites ~ *descendants of Jacob who was also called Israel. Sometimes the word ‘Israelites’ means all of Jacob’s *descendants. But sometimes it only means those *descendants who were from the northern part of the country called Israel.
Jews ~ another name for the *Israelites, especially those *Israelites who were from Judah. (Judah was the southern part of the country called Israel.)
Jewish ~ something that has a relationship to the *Jews.
judge ~ to make decisions about the law.
kingdom ~ the place or territory or country where a king rules.
Levites ~ the people from one of the 12 families of the *Israelites; they acted as assistants to the priests in the *temple.
LORD ~ a name for God. It means that he is always God.
New Testament ~ the part of the Bible which the first Christians wrote.
Passover ~ annual ceremony to remember God’s rescue of the *Jews from the country called Egypt.
people of Israel ~ another name for the people who are *Jews.
Persian / Persians ~ a person from Persia or anything that has a relationship with Persia.
prophet ~ someone who tells God’s messages; a person whom God sends to speak for him; someone who declares God’s words.
sacrifice ~ a gift to God to ask him to forgive *sins; or to thank him for something. The *Jews offered these to God, often an animal or bird, when they asked God to forgive their *sins. Jesus gave himself to die as a *sacrifice for our *sins.
Samaritan / Samaritans ~ a person from Samaria or anything that has a relationship with Samaria.
sin ~ when people do bad things against God or other people; when people do not obey the commands of God.
supervise ~ to lead a group of people who are carrying out a task.
temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews *worshipped God.
up to ~ a way to describe a maximum amount.
Urim and Thummim ~ sacred objects that some priests could use in order to know what God was telling the people to do. The name means ‘perfect lights’. They were probably some sort of precious stone.
worship ~ to praise God and to give thanks to him; to show honour to God and to say that we love him very much.