Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.
Before the house of God - i. e., in front of the temple, praying toward it 1 Kings 8:30, 1 Kings 8:35; Daniel 6:10, and thus in the sight of all the people who happened at the time to be in the great court.
And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.
Jehiel was one of those who had taken an idolatrous wife Ezra 10:26; and Shechaniah had therefore had the evil brought home to him.
Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.
Let it be done according to the law - i. e., let a formal "bill of divorcement" be given to each foreign wife, whereby she will be restored to the condition of an unmarried woman, and be free to marry another husband (see Deuteronomy 24:1-2). The facility of divorce among the Jews is well-known. According to many of the rabbis, a bill of divorcement might he given by the husband for the most trivial cause. Thus, no legal difficulty stood in the way of Shechaniah's proposition; and Ezra regarded it as necessary for the moral and religious welfare of the people.
Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.
Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware.
Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away.
The "chamber of Johanan" was probably one of those attached externally to the temple (see 1 Kings 6:5-6). Eliashib was the grandson of Jeshua Ezra 3:2, and was high priest under Nehemiah Neh 3:1. He could assign chambers in the temple to whomever he pleased (see Nehemiah 13:4-5).
And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;
And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away.
Separated from the congregation - i. e., "excommunicated" (compare Exodus 12:19; Numbers 19:20, etc.). The power assigned to Ezra is stated in Ezra 7:25-26.
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; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain.
It was the ninth month - Or, our December, a time when rain fails heavily in Palestine: four months, therefore, after Ezra's arrival in Jerusalem (compare Ezra 7:9).
The street - Rather, "the court," the "broad," "spacious, place" (compare the 2 Chronicles 29:4 note).
And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel.
Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.
Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.
But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing.
Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us.
Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them.
Some translate it: "Nevertheless, Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah opposed this." The opposition was useless Ezra 10:16.
And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter.
And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.
The business occupied the commission full two months. In some cases, it may be presumed, they had to summon persons before them who did not wish to part with their foreign wives; in all, they had to assure themselves that the wives were foreign; finally, they had in every case where they decreed a divorce to make out the "writing of divorcement" Ezra 10:3.
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.
Compare with the list in Ezra 2.
And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass.
They gave their hands - i. e., "solemnly pledged themselves" (compare the marginal references).
And of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah.
And of the sons of Harim; Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah.
And of the sons of Pashur; Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
Also of the Levites; Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah, (the same is Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri.
Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah.
And of the sons of Elam; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah.
And of the sons of Zattu; Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza.
Of the sons also of Bebai; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.
And of the sons of Bani; Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth.
And of the sons of Pahathmoab; Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh.
And of the sons of Harim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,
Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah.
Of the sons of Hashum; Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei.
Of the sons of Bani; Maadai, Amram, and Uel,
Benaiah, Bedeiah, Chelluh,
Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,
Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau,
And Bani, and Binnui, Shimei,
And Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah,
Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,
Azareel, and Shelemiah, Shemariah,
Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph.
Of the sons of Nebo; Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, Benaiah.
All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.
The guilty persons, it would seem, were 113 in number. They comprised 4 members of the high priest's family, 13 other priests, 10 Levites, and 86 lay Israelites belonging to at least 10 distinct families. The fact noted in the second clause of the verse must have increased the difficulity of Ezra's task.