Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.Abominations - The mixed marriages had prevented that complete separation of the people of God from the idolatrous rites, or "abominations," which the Law required, and which was necessary for purity of religion. See 1 Kings 11:2 note.
For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.
And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.Plucking out the hair with the hands, so common among the Classical nations, is, comparatively speaking, rarely mentioned as practiced by Asiatics.
Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.
And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God,
And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush 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.
Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; 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 captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.Very similar in tone to this are the confessions of Nehemiah Neh 9:29-35 and of Daniel (see the marginal references). The captivity had done its work by deeply convincing of sin the Jewish nation that had previously been so proud and self-righteous.
And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.The "little space" was above 60 years, counting from the second year of Darius Ezra 4:24, or about 80 years, counting from the first year of Cyrus Ezra 1:1. This does not seem to Ezra much in the "lifetime" of a nation.
A remnant to escape - Rather, "a remnant that has escaped." The "remnant" is the new community that has returned from the captivity.
A nail - Compare the marginal note and reference. The metaphor is probably drawn from a tent-pin, which is driven into the earth to make the tent firm and secure.
For we were bondmen; 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, 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.We were bondmen - Rather, "we are bondmen" (compare the marginal reference). The Israelites, though returned from the captivity, were still "bondmen." The Persian monarch was their absolute lord and master.
And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments,
Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, 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.Saying - The words which follow in this verse are not quoted from any previous book of Scripture, but merely give the general sense of numerous passages. Compare the marginal references.
Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.
And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this;Deliverance - Or, "remnant," as in Ezra 9:8.
Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?
O LORD God of Israel, thou art righteous: 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.Some take "righteous" to mean here "kind" or "merciful." Others give it the more usual sense of "just," and understand the full meaning of the passage to be, "Thou art righteous, and hast punished us, because of our sin, the contraction of forbidden marriages, so that we are a mere remnant of what was once a great people."