Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
NOTE ON CHAPTERS 9 AND 10
The great severity which characterises Ezra’s policy, as described in these two chapters, calls for special notice. The fact that he was so close a student of the law lends peculiar importance to his acts. His own words (Ezra 9:10-12) indicate his view. The Jews by contracting marriages with strange women had violated the law of God. They had courted a renewal of national catastrophe. Their only hope lay in the renewal of God’s mercy. Their present duty was clear. They must prove the sincerity of their repentance by putting away the ‘strange women’. Though it meant ruin to the happiness of scores of homes, the step would vindicate ‘the commandment’ and eradicate the source of peril to the people.
The laws to which Ezra must have referred would have been those found in Exodus 23:31-33; Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-5.
These passages contain prohibitions, very similar in character, directed against intermarriage with the nations that dwelt in Canaan, on the ground that such marriages would inevitably lead to idolatry and to the abominations connected with idolatrous worship. The evils arising from a disregard of these laws are touched upon in Jdg 3:5-6, where the language, if based upon that of the legislation quoted above, belongs to the Compiler rather than to an early fragment of writing.
The laws themselves, which are obviously more ancient in substance than the literary shape in which they are presented to us, must indeed at an early time have become disregarded (cf. Judges 11; 2 Samuel 11:3; 1 Kings 11:1); but their antiquity is shown by the threefold treatment of the subject, perhaps also by the apparent allusions to the same subject in Genesis 24:3; Genesis 27:46.
It was not strange however that the prohibition should become a dead letter, when marriage with foreigners generally, and even with Ammonites and Moabites, was permitted by custom (cf. Leviticus 24:10; Deuteronomy 21:11-12; Ruth 1:4; 2 Samuel 3:3; 1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 14:21; 1 Chronicles 2:17; 1 Chronicles 2:34, &c.), when the rights of the stranger were respected and safe-guarded (Exodus 12:49; Leviticus 24:22), when Edomite and Egyptian could be received in the third generation into Israelite citizenship (Deuteronomy 23:7-8).
The rigour of Ezra’s reform included all ‘foreign wives’ among the inhabitants of the seven proscribed nations of Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:1-5). The severest code was accepted as the highest standard of action. The exclusiveness, which the law had required to be exercised towards Canaanites alone, was now to be practised towards all alike. If the letter of the law was exceeded, the critical position of the Jewish community explains the measure. The permanence of Judaism depended on the religious separateness of the Jews. The holy mission of the Jewish people could alone be realized by complete freedom from contamination with idolatrous influences.
By the dissolution of marriage with the heathen Ezra sought to check at its source the stream of laxer conceptions upon religious duty. By demanding of the people so heavy a penalty, he taught them that the purity of ‘the holy seed’ was worthy of so great a sacrifice. He awoke the national pride in their call to be the ‘peculiar people’ of the Lord. His action even if it strained the letter of the law, as it has been transmitted to us, enforced the sovereignty of its rule. He fenced off the people against the subtler temptations to idolatry and averted the imminent danger of his time, the fusion of the Jews at Jerusalem with the semi-heathen ‘peoples of the land’.
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.Chap. Ezra 10:1-5. The People’s Confession and Oath
1. Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed] R.V. Now while Ezra prayed and made confession. The Hebrew shows that the people were assembling during Ezra’s prayer. The report of Ezra’s public grief would quickly spread, and he had maintained his attitude of shame and humiliation throughout the day (Ezra 9:4). The Vulgate ‘Orante Esra et implorante’ is more correct than the LXX. ὡς προσηύξατο Ἔσδρας καὶ ὡς ἐξηγόρευσε.
It will be observed that the 1st person is here dropped, having been maintained since Ezra 7:27. Henceforward the Compiler only adapts instead of quoting Ezra’s memoirs, or perhaps he here makes use of other materials.
‘Made confession’. As in Nehemiah 1:6; Nehemiah 9:2-3; Daniel 9:4; Daniel 9:20; 2 Chronicles 30:22; Leviticus 5:5; Leviticus 16:21; Leviticus 26:40; Numbers 5:7.
casting himself down before the house of God] In the agony of his confession he had ceased to kneel (Ezra 9:5) and had prostrated himself on the ground.
before the house of God] Ezra was probably in one of the outer courts of the Temple, and in prayer turned himself in its direction, cf. 1 Kings 8:30; 1 Kings 8:35; 1 Kings 8:38, &c. 2 Chronicles 20:9 ‘If evil come upon us … we will stand before this house and before thee (for thy name is in this house) and cry unto thee in our affliction, and thou wilt hear and save’, Daniel 6:10. See on Ezra 9:15.
there assembled] R.V. there was gathered together, cf. Ezra 10:7 ‘gather themselves together’.
out of Israel] See Ezra 7:28. The word ‘Israel’ refers here as in Ezra 10:2; Ezra 10:10 to the whole community, not as in Ezra 10:5 to the laity.
a very great congregation … wept] Large numbers were of the same mind with Ezra.
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.2. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam] R.V. Shecaniah. A Jehiel is mentioned in Ezra 10:26 as one ‘of the sons of Elam’ that had married ‘strange women’. It is hardly likely that Shecaniah would have taken action against his own father and mother (or stepmother); though, if he did, it would strikingly illustrate the intensity of the feeling aroused. ‘The children of Elam’ are mentioned in Ezra 2:7, Ezra 8:7.
We have trespassed] See on Ezra 9:2.
have taken strange wives] R.V. have married strange women. ‘Have married’ a word meaning literally ‘caused to dwell’ used in this technical sense here and Ezra 10:10; Ezra 10:14; Ezra 10:17-18; Nehemiah 13:23; Nehemiah 13:27.
of the people of the land] R.V. of the peoples of the land. ‘of the land’, not as in Ezra 9:1-2; Ezra 9:11 ‘of the lands’. Shecaniah refers especially to the heathen living amongst the people of Israel.
yet now there is hope in Israel] ‘Hope’. This word in the Hebrew is used for the object of hope in Jeremiah 14:8; Jeremiah 17:13; Jeremiah 50:7. In 1 Chronicles 29:15 ‘our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding (Heb. ‘hope’)’, and in this passage, the source or means of ‘hope’ is denoted.
Shecaniah relied upon the promise attached to repentance (e.g. Deuteronomy 30:1-10). ‘Even now’ corresponds to the ‘and now’ in Ezra 9:10.
concerning this thing] The same words in the Hebrew as ‘because of this’ (Ezra 9:15). Shecaniah clearly does not mean ‘on account of this repentance’, but ‘with reference to this offence’.
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.3. let us make a covenant &c.] Compare other covenants undertaken by the people, e.g. 2 Chronicles 15:12; 2 Chronicles 29:10; 2 Chronicles 34:31-32; Nehemiah 10:29; Jeremiah 34:15.
to put away the wives &c.] Either legal divorce or the annulling of the marriages by public decree. The marriages had been valid, but were now declared sinful. The method of separation was forcible expulsion. The case of the wives and of their children, who had become ‘proselytes’ and embraced the Israelite religion, is not taken into account. The words ‘and such as are born of them’ probably refer to the children of tender years.
according to the counsel of my lord] so R.V. text: R.V. Marg. Or, ‘the Lord’. The Hebrew text is ‘Adonai’, ‘my Lord’, and the Vulgate accordingly renders ‘juxta voluntatem Domini’. It is objected, (1) that the word ‘counsel’ (as in Ezra 10:8) seems in this context to imply human counsel, as generally. (2) Used of the Divine purpose, it is found chiefly in poetry and prophecy (e.g. Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 5:19; Isaiah 19:17; Jeremiah 49:20; Jeremiah 50:45). (3) The name ‘Adonai’ (Lord) as a Divine title only occurs elsewhere in these books, Nehemiah 1:11; Nehemiah 4:14; Nehemiah 8:10; Nehemiah 10:30. (4) The expression ‘the counsel of the Lord and of those that tremble at the word of God’ is harsh. The rendering ‘my lord’ requires us to read ‘Adoni’, a very slight change. This was apparently read by the LXX. and by 1 Esdr., where there is no mention of the Divine name. The application of the title ‘my lord’ to Ezra is peculiar (but see Nehemiah 3:5), and the allusion to his ‘counsel’, which can only refer to the substance of Ezra’s prayer, is not very natural. It is not easy to decide between the two readings. On the whole the R.V. text rendering is to be preferred. The tendency of Jewish scribes would be rather to introduce the Divine Name, if it was not in the text, than to alter it, if it was in the text, into a common word: and this tendency would be assisted, in this case, by the use of ‘Adonai’ in Nehemiah 1:11; Nehemiah 4:14. If the rendering of the R.V. marg. be adopted, then the ‘counsel of the Lord’ will refer to the teaching of the law. The combination of the Divine name ‘with those who trembled at the commandment of our God’ may be paralleled by Ezra 6:14, or Acts 15:28.
of those that tremble at &c.] Cf. note on Ezra 9:4.
and let it be done according to the law] or ‘and according to the law it shall be done’. The clause is not very definitely expressed. And it has been differently understood to mean either that the general law forbidding marriage with the heathen should now be observed, or that this particular act of ‘putting away the strange wives’ should be performed in accordance with the regulations for divorce contained in the law (e.g. Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.4. The appeal to Ezra.
Arise] Not a reference to Ezra’s prostration but a summons to energetic action, Joshua 1:2; Jdg 4:14; 1 Samuel 16:12 and often.
for this matter belongeth unto thee:] R.V. for the matter &c. Literally ‘for this matter is upon thee’. Cf. Nehemiah 13:13, ‘And their business was (lit. and it was upon them) to distribute unto their brethren’. Isaiah 9:6, ‘And the government shall be upon his shoulder’. Ezra was marked out for the duty, partly because he had so publicly testified to his condemnation of the people’s sin, partly because he had received the royal commission ‘to teach’ them that knew not the laws of his God (Ezra 7:25).
we also will be with thee] R.V. and we are with thee. The R.V. gives the full meaning, by placing only a comma after ‘thee’. The lead in the work was Ezra’s, but Shechaniah and his friends were ready to cooperate at once in the reform. The present tense is therefore more appropriate than the future.
be of good courage, and do it] Literally, ‘be strong, and do’. The responsibility of initiative required especial courage, when the policy would inevitably produce widespread discontent with no material compensation. David uses the same words to Solomon when entrusting to him the work of constructing the Temple. 1 Chronicles 28:10, ‘Take heed now; for the Lord hath chosen thee to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it’: cf. 2 Chronicles 19:11, ‘Deal courageously’ (Heb. Be strong and do), are the words of encouragement given to Amariah, Zebadiah and the Levites by Jehoshaphat, as he commissioned them to act as judges among the people.
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.5. Ezra’s prompt action: an oath administered to the princes.
the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel] R.V. the chiefs of the priests. Here as in Ezra 8:29 the A.V. by rendering ‘chief priests’ gives an erroneous meaning. ‘The chiefs’ here spoken of are the princes or leaders of the three groups into which the people divides itself at this time, priests, Levites, and Israel or laity. Cf. ‘the chiefs of the priests’ (2 Chronicles 36:14), ‘the chiefs of the Levites’ (2 Chronicles 35:9), ‘the princes (or chiefs) of Judah’ (Nehemiah 12:31), ‘the princes of the people’ (Nehemiah 11:1). The rendering of the LXX. (ὥρκισε τοὺς ἄρχοντας τοὺς ἱερεῖς κ.τ.λ.) seems to make ‘the princes’ or chiefs a separate class from the priests and the Levites.
Ezra’s policy was at once to bind to his side the leaders of the people. By administering to them the oath of cooperation in the work of reform, while public feeling was still intensely aroused, he secured from them a public assurance of support. After that, they could not well recede from their oath. If they did not second his efforts, their hands were effectually tied. In dealing with a community which was to all intents and purposes a religious oligarchy, to compromise the chiefs or princes in his favour was the first and surest step to a successful result.
according to this word] i.e. Shecaniah’s proposal that the people should put away from them the foreign women, whom they had married.
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.6–15. The Assembly and the Reform
6. went into the chamber] See on Ezra 8:29, and cf. Nehemiah 13:4.
Johanan the son of Eliashib] R.V. Jehohanan the son of Eliashib. The best-known Eliashib of this period is the High-priest who appears as a contemporary of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 13:4; Nehemiah 13:28). In Nehemiah 12:23 we find the mention of a ‘Johanan the son of Eliashib’, but who, by comparison with Ezra 10:7; Ezra 10:22, must have been this Eliashib’s grandson. It is probable that the ‘Jehohanan the son of Eliashib’ is the same as that ‘Johanan the son of Eliashib’. If so, how are we to account for a chamber, presumably in the Temple precincts, being assigned to one who was the grandson of the High-priest Eliashib? (a) Some suppose that Johanan the grandson of Eliashib was old enough at this time to receive as one of the High-priestly family a special chamber. But why should Ezra betake himself to the chamber of one who must have been but a mere boy? For Eliashib was living 20 years later (cf. Nehemiah 13:7). (b) Others suppose the Compiler to be using the language of a considerably later generation than that of Ezra; he knew of a certain chamber in the Temple’s precincts as Johanan’s chamber, because it had become associated with the name of Eliashib’s grandson during his High-priesthood. This appears to be the most probable explanation. If so, the use of the name helps to determine the date at which Ezra’s Memoirs were compiled. It is however possible that the Jehohanan the son of Eliashib was of a different family from the Johanan the son of Joiada and grandson of Eliashib, and that the difficulty is only an apparent one arising from the similarity of names in the families of the same great house or tribe.
and when he came thither, he did eat, &c.] So the R.V. text. The R.V. marg. says ‘According to some ancient versions, and he lodged there’. The Hebrew word for ‘he came’ is the same as that for ‘went’ in the previous clause. This reading is supported by the Hebrew text and by the LXX. (καὶ ἐπορεύθη ἐκεῖ). It is however hard to believe that it can be the original reading. (1) The repetition of the word is awkward. (2) The clause, stating that he refused to taste food, does not follow suitably upon the mention of his arrival. (3) The adverb in the original does not strictly mean ‘thither’, but ‘there’. The parallel passage in 1 Esdras (Ezra 9:2) has ‘and having lodged there’, and this reading is supported by the Syriac Peshitto and the Arabic. The variation in the Hebrew text requisite to give this meaning is exceedingly small. In the old Hebrew characters the two letters (ן and ך) are very liable to be confused, while the use of the very similar verb just before made an accidental repetition very possible.
This reading is probably correct, and we should accordingly translate ‘And he lodged (or passed the night) there’. The words are then the same as in Genesis 28:11, ‘And he tarried there all night’; Genesis 32:13, ‘And he lodged there that night’; Joshua 8:9, ‘but Joshua lodged that night’. The point emphasized is that Ezra continued in the precincts of the Temple all that night and protracted his fast. ‘He lodged there and did eat no bread nor drink water’: i.e. while he lodged there, he fasted.
because of the transgression of them that had been carried away] R.V. because of the trespass of them of the captivity. ‘Trespass’, cf. Ezra 9:4. ‘Them of the captivity’, i.e. ‘haggolah’, cf. on Ezra 8:35.
And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;7. And they made proclamation &c.] The phrase for making a proclamation is peculiar; it occurs also in chap. Ezra 1:1, where see note.
The authors of this proclamation are not mentioned. But we are evidently intended to understand the princes and the chiefs of the people (Ezra 10:5) who had taken the oath administered by Ezra. That some little interval of time elapsed between the events just narrated and the issue of this proclamation is a natural supposition. The policy advocated by Shecaniah (Ezra 10:2-3) had been approved. But time and deliberation were needed to determine upon the best method of putting it into execution (see note on Ezra 9:1).
throughout Judah and Jerusalem] That is to say, in every district in southern Palestine and in every quarter of the capital. Cf. ‘Jerusalem and Judah’ (Ezra 2:1), ‘Judah and Jerusalem’ (Ezra 4:6, Ezra 5:1, Ezra 9:9).
unto all the children of the captivity] Cf. notes on this phrase Ezra 2:1, Ezra 4:1, Ezra 6:16; Ezra 6:19, Ezra 8:35.
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.8. and that whosoever would not come] R.V. and that whosoever came not, i.e. whosoever failed (not, whosoever refused) to appear. The causes for non-appearance are not hinted at. All defaulters were to be treated as contumacious.
within three days] An expression which shows within what narrow limits the new community was established. The mention of Bethel (Ezra 2:28), Lod (Ezra 2:33), and Jericho (Ezra 2:34) as some of the most distant towns belonging to the Jews, shows that the requirement to be in Jerusalem within three days made no impossible demand upon the powers of an ordinarily active man.
according to the counsel of the princes and the elders] The real administrative body in Jerusalem. The representatives of the chief households and families. On the elders cf. Ezra 5:5.
all his substance should be forfeited] R.V. marg. Heb. devoted. A man’s substance is his possessions, ‘goods’. Cf. Ezra 1:4. The first part of the penalty was confiscation of property and the appropriation of the money, realized from its sale, by the Temple treasury. On ‘devotion’ (ḥerem) see Leviticus 27:28-29. In early times ‘devotion’ was tantamount to ‘destruction’ (cf. Exodus 22:20; Joshua 7:1-26, &c.; 1 Samuel 15:8; 1 Samuel 15:33).
and himself separated] The sentence of excommunication (see on Nehemiah 13:28). To be separated from the congregation was no mere decree of banishment. A man with such a sentence was to be outlawed and disowned by his own race. The community was a religious one. Its heaviest punishment was exclusion from its privileged ranks.
from the congregation of those that had been carried away] R.V. from the congregation of the captivity.
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.9. all the men of Judah and Benjamin] All the male population capable of attending. ‘Men of Judah and Benjamin’, cf. Ezra 1:5, Ezra 4:1.
It was the ninth month] R.V. it was the ninth month—not a fresh sentence. The ‘ninth month’ was Chislev, corresponding nearly to our December. The Assyrian month Ki-shilivu is the same name. The month is mentioned in Nehemiah 1:1; Zechariah 7:1. On the 15th of this month 168 b.c. the Temple was profaned and the altar polluted by Antiochus Epiphanes; on the 25th of this month, three years later, 165 b.c., Judas the Maccabee and his companions celebrated ‘the Dedication’ or Purification of the Temple, which was afterwards observed as an annual festival (cf. John 10:22). See 1Ma 1:54; 1Ma 4:59. The general assembly was therefore summoned only four months after Ezra’s arrival (see Ezra 7:8).
sat in the street of the house of God] R.V. sat in the broad place before the house of God. Literally ‘in the broad place of the house of God’. Cf. Nehemiah 8:1 ‘And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the broad place (A.V. street) that was before the water gate’, and 3. An area belonging to ‘the house of God’ in which the whole assembly could collect, must have been a large open court. See the same word in Deuteronomy 13:16 and 2 Samuel 21:12, where an open place or square in the middle of a town gives a truer sense than the word ‘street’. The idea of the word in the original is width, not narrowness.
trembling because of this matter] The popular apprehension was aroused to the utmost, partly by the penalty for non-attendance at the assembly (Ezra 10:8), partly by the rumours of the action proposed by Shecaniah and approved by the princes, partly by dread of Divine wrath at the national transgression. The verb used here for ‘trembling’ occurs elsewhere in the O. T. only in Daniel 10:11 and Psalm 104:32.
and for the great rain] R.V. marg. Heb. the rains. We must suppose that the rains, which prevail during December in Palestine, were on this occasion exceptionally ‘heavy’ and seemed to the people to denote the Divine displeasure (cf. 1 Samuel 12:18), besides adding to the discomfort of gathering to Jerusalem. This was ‘the early rain’ following after seed-time (cf. Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23) as distinguished from ‘the latter rain’ of spring-time.
And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel.10. Ezra the priest] See note on Ezra 7:11.
Ye have transgressed] R.V. Ye have trespassed, as in Ezra 10:2; Ezra 10:6, Ezra 9:4 and Nehemiah 1:8; Nehemiah 13:27. It is best to keep ‘transgress’ and ‘transgression’ for the Hebrew words ‘pâsha’ and ‘pesha’, which only once occur in this book (Ezra 10:13) but are very frequent elsewhere.
and have taken strange wives] R.V. and have married strange women. See note on Ezra 10:2.
to increase the trespass of Israel] R.V. to increase the guilt of Israel. The ‘guilt’ or ‘guiltiness of Israel’, see on Ezra 9:6; Ezra 9:15. The fresh offence had added to the black account against Israel.
10–11. Ezra’s address to the people: (1) the offence stated; (2) the reform commanded, consisting of (a) public confession, (b) practical amendment.
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.11. make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers] R.V. make confession (marg. Or, give thanks) unto the Lord, the God of your fathers. ‘Make confession’. Literally ‘give thanksgiving or praise’. The substantive is connected with the verb which in its reflexive form means, as in Ezra 10:1, ‘made confession’. It is found elsewhere in these books (Nehemiah 12:27; Nehemiah 12:31; Nehemiah 12:38-40; 2 Chronicles 29:31; 2 Chronicles 33:16) with the meaning of ‘thanksgiving’, which is the general sense of the word in other books (Leviticus 7:12-13; Leviticus 7:15; Psalm 26:7; Psalm 42:4; Psalm 50:14; Psalm 50:23; Psalm 56:12; Psalm 100:4; Psalm 107:22; Psalm 116:17; Psalm 147:7; Isaiah 51:3; Jeremiah 17:26; Jeremiah 30:19; Jeremiah 33:11; Amos 4:5; Jonah 2:9). The only possible exception is Joshua 7:19 ‘My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and make confession (marg. Or, give praise) unto him’. There, as in this passage, ‘make confession’ is a good paraphrase rather than a strict translation. ‘Praise’ was given to God by the utterance of confession. The penitent who renounced his sin and threw himself upon the mercies of God rendered that true praise of trust and love, from which ‘confession’ springs. Cf. Psalm 50:23 ‘Whoso offereth the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifieth me’. On ‘the Lord, the God of your fathers’, see note on Ezra 8:28.
and do his pleasure] The words of praise to be verified in action. The same phrase as in Psalm 40:8 ‘I delight to do thy will, O God’, Psalm 143:10 ‘Teach me to do thy will’.
and … from the people of the land, and from the strange wives] R.V. from the peoples of the land and from the strange women. See note on Ezra 10:2. The separation entailed not merely the divorce of the wives but a complete breaking of intercourse with all residents in the land who had not adopted the religion of the Jews.
Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.12. Then all the congregation, &c.] The deliberations are not recorded. The substance of their decision is here paraphrased. The method of its expression was probably by unanimous acclamation. We can hardly suppose that there was free discussion. The princes debated and harangued the multitude: the multitude listened and expressed disapproval or approbation by cries and shouting.
with a loud voice] Cf. Ezra 3:12; 2 Samuel 15:23.
As thou hast said, so must we do] R.V. As thou hast said concerning us, so must we do. R.V. marg. ‘As thou hast said, so it behoveth us to do’. Literally the clause runs ‘According to thy word (or words) upon us to do’. It is a disputed point whether ‘upon us’ is to be taken with what precedes or with what follows, i.e. ‘according to thy word respecting us, it is necessary to do’ or ‘according to thy word, it falls upon us to do’. (a) The rendering of the R.V. text is that of the Vulgate ‘juxta verbum tuum ad nos, sic fiat’, and is supported by the traditional Jewish interpretation supplied by the Hebrew accents. The sentence is then clearly greatly condensed, and although the construction of the verb ‘to do’ is very harsh, the meaning is clear. (b) As however the rest of the people’s reply shows no symptom of such compression, the alternative explanation of the rendering in the margin seems preferable. The use of the preposition ‘upon’, with a sense of ‘duty’ or ‘obligation’ occurred in Ezra 10:4. Cf. Nehemiah 13:13; 2 Samuel 18:11. The people then accept the responsibility in which their assent involves them.
12–14. The resolution of the general assembly epitomised. A general assent to Ezra’s proposal. The time of the year and the magnitude of the task make it necessary to appoint a commission to carry it into execution.
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.13. Such an enquiry must be of a lengthy nature. The matter cannot be summarily disposed of. The people who have come in from a distance cannot in the rainy weather protract their stay in the city by living and sleeping in the open air, as they would have done had it been summer.
for we are many that have transgressed in this thing] R.V. for we have greatly transgressed in this matter. The A.V. is not the correct rendering, but it expresses the general meaning. The greatness of the transgression consisted in the number of the offenders as well as in the heinousness of the offence. ‘Transgress’, see note on Ezra 10:10. The verb (pâshâ) frequently means to rebel (e.g. 2 Kings 1:1; 2 Kings 3:5; 2 Kings 3:7; 2 Kings 8:20; 2 Kings 8:22; 2 Chronicles 21:8). The transgression of the people was ‘rebellion’ against ‘the law’ of the Divine king.
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.14. A commission recommended.
Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand] R.V. Let now our princes be appointed (marg. Heb. stand) for all the congregation. The A.V. fails to give the idea of the original, where a difficulty is occasioned by the preposition ‘for’. There are practically two ways of explaining the passage (1) Let now our princes stand for (i.e. in the place of ἀντὶ) all the congregation. (2) Let there now stand our princes for (i.e. in the interests of, ὑπὲρ) all the congregation. The latter is the preferable. The commission then was to consist of the princes who, in conjunction with the local elders and judges, should enquire into the cases that had occurred in each town and district.
and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities] R.V. and let all them that are in our cities which have married strange women. The R.V. reproduces the two relative sentences of the original, the one giving the locality of the offender, the other particularizing the offence; perhaps the formal character of the actual wording of the decree here peeps out.
in our cities] This expression seems to exclude Jerusalem. The case of those who dwelt in the capital could be investigated by the princes on the spot and without delay. In the case of inhabitants of other towns, the officials of each town were to be convened at Jerusalem and to assist the permanent commission; the offenders at the same time were to be summoned to attend the investigation in person.
at appointed times] Cf. ‘at times appointed’, Nehemiah 10:34; Nehemiah 13:31.
the elders of every city, and the judges thereof] i.e. the representatives of the populace and the administrators of justice, belonging to each town.
until the fierce wrath of our God … be turned from us] So also R.V. It is much to be doubted whether this can be regarded as a satisfactory rendering.
(1) There is no real connexion between the previous sentence ‘let our princes be appointed &c.’ and the words ‘until the fierce wrath, &c.’ ‘The fierce wrath’ had not been displayed, as in David’s day, by a visitation such as a plague or a famine, nor by any fresh hostile oppression. There is therefore no natural explanation for the expression, such as there is for the very similar words ‘Hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast’, Isaiah 26:20; ‘Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge, until these calamities be overpast’, Psalm 57:1. If there was no external symptom of the Divine displeasure, its continuance could only be apprehended mentally or morally, and would have no sort of relation to the investigation and punishment of the offence.
(2) The work of the commission—in a great measure an undertaking of popular contrition, but very largely also the expression of a definite policy of excluding aliens from the community—could not be concluded, until its ends had been accomplished. Now unless we are prepared to change the words ‘until the fierce wrath, &c.’ into so different a meaning as ‘until the cause of the fierce wrath &c. be removed’, it seems that a limitation of time has no rightful place here.
(3) The English rendering ignores the literal transitive meaning of the verb. Literally translated, the sentence runs, ‘up to the point of, to turn away the fierce wrath of our God’. It seems very probable that we should reject the temporal signification of the word rendered ‘until’, and treat it as an instance of a redundancy not uncommon in late Hebrew. It will then merely strengthen the preposition, denoting purpose, prefixed to the verb. Supposing this to be the true explanation, the rendering will be ‘with a view (or, unto this end) to turn away the fierce wrath of our God’.
The verb, which is transitive, is thus given its proper force familiar in other similar passages. Psalm 78:38 ‘Yea, many a time turned he his anger away’; Psalm 106:23 ‘Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach to turn away his wrath’; Jeremiah 18:20 ‘Remember how I stood before thee to speak good for them, to turn away thy fury from them’; Proverbs 15:1 ‘A soft answer turneth away wrath’.
The English version gives the general sense in the same way as the Vulgate ‘donec revertatur ira Dei nostri a vobis’. But the English reader would never guess that the verb is used, not in the intransitive form ‘to return’ (as in Numbers 25:4; 2 Chronicles 29:10; 2 Chronicles 30:8 : Jeremiah 30:24), but in the causative ‘to cause to return’, ‘to turn away’ ‘to avert’.
the fierce wrath of our God] This particular expression ‘the fierce wrath’, as applied to the Almighty, occurs in the O.T. thirty-four times, being used with special frequency (ten times) in Jeremiah. See also 2 Chronicles 28:11; 2 Chronicles 28:13; 2 Chronicles 29:10; 2 Chronicles 30:8.
for this matter] R.V. until this matter be dispatched. Marg. Or, as touching this matter. Literally rendered, the Hebrew words give ‘up to the point of (or, until), to this matter’. The R.V. apparently coordinates this clause with the preceding one. But there can be but one opinion that the whole sentence ‘Let now our princes be appointed … until the fierce wrath of our God be turned from us, until this matter be dispatched’, is quite intolerably harsh. The last clause only receives definiteness from the insertion of the words ‘be dispatched’. But it constitutes a most empty addition to state that the enquiry should last until its business was dispatched. The present phrase is apparently only another instance, if the text be correct, of the same redundancy of expression in the later Hebrew mentioned above. The word, rendered ‘until’, amplifies the preposition. And the usage of the compound preposition is the same as that of the simple preposition when found with the same words elsewhere. Genesis 19:21 ‘concerning this thing’; 1 Samuel 30:24; Daniel 1:14 ‘in this matter’. The rendering of the margin is therefore to be preferred, ‘to turn away the fierce wrath of our God as touching this matter’. The words are the same in meaning as Ezra 9:15 ‘because of this’, Ezra 10:2 ‘concerning this thing’.
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.15. Slight opposition.
Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter] R.V. stood up against (Marg. Or, were appointed over) this matter.
The word ‘only’, the English reader should take notice, is not used in the sense of ‘alone’, but as an adversative, ‘notwithstanding’, ‘nevertheless’. It would therefore naturally introduce the mention of an exception or of an opposition.
There are two views as to the correct rendering of the verse. The point of difference lies in the Hebrew words variously rendered ‘were appointed over’ and ‘stood up against’.—(1) The rendering of the A.V. ‘were employed about’, though less accurate, agrees with that of the R.V. margin ‘were appointed over’.—The Hebrew literally translated is ‘stood over’; (a) it is noticeable that this verb to ‘stand’ is the same as that used in the previous Ezra 10:12 ‘Let now our rulers be appointed (Heb. stand)’. If there were no other point to be considered, it would seem most natural that the narrative should be resumed with the same verb as had just occurred in a reported speech and with the repetition of the phrase ‘about this matter’ (Ezra 9:15). (b) After the people’s declaration, it was to be expected that the names of some of the commission would be recorded. (c) The use of the adversative may betaken to imply a departure from the first proposal of a commission. (d) The mention of Meshullam and Shabbethai, who ‘helped’, seems to suggest cooperation in the execution of, not in the opposition to, the scheme. (2) The rendering of the R.V. ‘stood up against’ has greater probability. (a) It accounts for the use of the adversative ‘only’. (b) The use of the words to ‘stand over or against’ in a hostile sense is supported by 1 Chronicles 21:1; 2 Chronicles 20:23; Daniel 8:25; Daniel 11:14. (c) Except for this verse we should have no record of any of the opposition, which, considering the extreme severity of the measures, would be almost inevitable. It is indeed a reasonable objection that the mention of the opposition is very awkwardly inserted between the people’s declaration and the statement (in Ezra 10:16) of their action. But this objection applies to the verse (15) as a whole rather than to the special interpretation of it, and, as a matter of fact, the abruptness of the insertion is due to the Compiler’s work, and is scarcely lessened by the alternative interpretation. Another objection, that the word ‘help’ used of Meshullam and Shabbethai would not naturally express their support of an opposition, can only be partially admitted. It is true that, as only four opponents are mentioned by name, they might much more easily have been grouped together, unless there was some special reason for separating them. But whatever special reason there was for separating the pairs of names, would apply equally well, whether the individuals were said to carry out or to oppose the scheme. This objection therefore like the other is equally well raised against any explanation of the verse; it does not affect the selection to be made between the two renderings.
Accepting the rendering of the R.V., we need not suppose that these four individuals were the only opponents of Ezra’s policy. They are here mentioned as the leaders of the opposition, and there is every reason to suppose that their opinions must have been shared by very many.
and Meshullam] Possibly the same as the Meshullam mentioned in Ezra 10:29. If so, we may suppose from Ezra 10:19 that he along with the others who had similarly offended ‘gave his hand’ that he would put away his wife. Perhaps he had been convinced of the public necessity for the action, which for private reasons he felt obliged to condemn. This conflict of feeling might account for his being described as only ‘helping’ the opponents.
Shabbethai the Levite] This name does not occur in 23 or 24 among the Levites who had offended. Shabbethai may have opposed for other reasons, either because members of his family were implicated, or because he considered the letter of the law to be strained by the adoption of the proposed measures. The opposition of a Levite deserved especial record.
helped them] As if their position were a subordinate one in the opposition. They supported, but did not head the movement, cf. 1 Kings 1:7 ‘they following Adonijah helped him’.
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.16, 17. The Commission at work
16. the children of the captivity did so] For this expression cf. Ezra 10:7. The proposal was no sooner made than it was carried into execution. The personal influence of Ezra must account for the ready acquiescence of the people generally.
And Ezra the priest] Ezra is here mentioned first, and it is probable that he presided over the court of enquiry. On his title ‘the priest’, cf. Ezra 7:11.
with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers] R.V. with certain heads of fathers’ houses, after their fathers’ houses. The word ‘with’ does not appear in the Hebrew, but, if the existing text be correct, we clearly need some such copula, which is supplied in the LXX. and Vulg. The phrase ‘certain heads of fathers’ houses, after their fathers’ houses’ seems to mean that each ‘father’s house’ (cf. Ezra 2:3, &c.) was represented on the commission by its chief or head. Literally rendered, the Hebrew runs, ‘Ezra the priest, men, heads of fathers’ houses, &c.’
all of them by their names] A full list of the households being furnished, the representative chiefs of certain ‘houses’ were required by name to attend. Cf. ‘were expressed by name’, Ezra 8:20.
were separated] i.e. were set apart for the work. The use of this word ‘separated’ shows that a certain number and not all of the chiefs were employed on this occasion. The text is not quite free from suspicion. The absence of the copula before ‘men (or, certain) heads’ taken in conjunction with the reading of the Syriac Peshitto favours another rendering ‘And Ezra the priest separated (or set apart for the work) certain men (that were) heads &c.’ In other words Ezra made the necessary selection. Not all the heads of the great houses were summoned to sit on the commission. We read of ninety-eight in, Ezra 2:3-61, and this number would have been far too unwieldy for the purpose. Certain of them were therefore to be set apart from the whole number. And Ezra was the natural person to make the selection. Having recently arrived from Babylon, he would be impartial, while the fact of his having originated the whole movement marked him out to be head of the enquiry.
, and sat down] R.V.; and they sat down. The R.V. separates the clause more-definitely from the preceding one. The Hebrew phrase is the same as the English ‘and the commission held its first sitting’.
in the first day of the tenth month] The first of Tebeth (see Esther 2:16), the Assyrian Tibi-tuv, about the same as our January.
to examine the matter] The Hebrew word ‘to examine’ is of very strange form, and looks as if the name of ‘Darius’ had been carelessly introduced by a copyist in the place of the similar word ‘to examine’. He was perhaps reminded, by the look of the letters, of the word similarly formed composing the familiar name of the king.
And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.17. And they made an end with all the men, &c.] The Hebrew runs ‘And they made an end with the whole (business), i.e. the men that had, &c.’ The English rendering expresses the meaning. But the wording of the present Hebrew text can hardly be correct, and there is some ground for the conjecture that the words’ the men that had married strange wives ‘found their way into the text from a heading or a marginal gloss.
that had taken strange wives] R.V. that had married strange women.
by the first day of the first month] The investigation had lasted precisely three months. It lasted until the 1st of Nisan, having been continued throughout the months of Tebeth, Shebat (Zechariah 1:7) and Adar (Ezra 6:15).
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.18–22. Priests
18. that had taken strange wives] R.V. that had married strange women: the R.V. puts a colon after ‘women’, and a comma after ‘brethren’. The ‘Jeshua the son of Jozadak’ here mentioned is clearly the High-priest, the contemporary of Zerubbabel. In chap. Ezra 2:36 we have mention of ‘the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three’. It is to the house of Jedaiah that these four priests belonged; for in that passage as in this, the houses of Immer, Harim and Pashur are mentioned immediately afterwards. Whether Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib and Gedaliah were grandsons or only kinsmen of Jeshua the son of Jozadak we are not told.
18–44. The List of those who ‘had married strange women’
The record of the names was probably one of the documents officially preserved. The publicity of such a list was in itself a punishment to the offenders and a warning to others.
As in chap. 2, the list falls into the three groups of Priests, Levites, and Israel (or Laity), i.e. 17 Priests, 10 Levites, 86 ‘of Israel’—113 in all.
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.19. they gave their hands] R.V. their hand. The Hebrew has the singular. On this symbol of a promise or pledge compare 2 Kings 10:15 ‘If it be, give me thine hand. And he gave him his hand’. Ezekiel 17:18 ‘And behold, he had given his hand, and yet hath done all these things’. Lamentations 5:6 ‘We have given the hand to the Egyptians’. 2 Chronicles 30:8 ‘But yield yourselves (Heb. give the hand) unto the Lord’.
and being guilty, &c.] It has been supposed that whereas the solemn pledge or promise, to put away the strange women, was made by all, the priests alone had to offer the sacrifice of a ram. The sacrifice of a ram for a guilt offering is enjoined, ‘if anyone commit a trespass and sin unwittingly, in the holy things of the Lord’ (see Leviticus 5:14-19). There is however no real reason for limiting the guilt offering to the priests. The passage from Leviticus makes no such restriction. It is probable that this verse represents the form of solemn renunciation imposed upon all the offenders, i.e. the promise and the guilt offering. It is mentioned after the first names on the list, and should be understood after each recorded group of names. The repetition of the formula was considered unnecessary.
being guilty] These words sound like the sentence of the commission, after investigating each case.
20, 21, 22. The sons of Immer, Harim and Pashur. In Ezra 2:37-39 and Nehemiah 7:40-42 the order of the names is Immer, Pashur and Harim. In 1 Chronicles 24:8-14 ‘Harim’ is the third and Immer the sixteenth priestly course: see notes on Ezra 2:37, &c.
Several of the names here mentioned occur in the lists of Nehemiah 8, 12.
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.23–25. Levites, singers, and porters
23. Kelaiah (the same is Kelita)] See Nehemiah 8:7; Nehemiah 10:10, Kelita. Jozabad, Nehemiah 8:7.
Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri.24. Of the singers also] R.V. And of the singers. There is no variety in the copula, such as the A.V. would imply. Only one ‘singer’ is recorded in the list of offenders. On the prominence given in these books to the ‘singers,’ see Introd.
Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah.25–43. Israel, or the laity
as distinguished from priests and Levites. Cf. Ezra 2:2 ‘the men of the people of Israel’. Ezra 9:1 ‘the people of Israel, and the priests and the Levites’.
Moreover of Israel] R.V. And of Israel. There is no variety to break the simplicity of the list. The names of the houses here mentioned have all been mentioned in chap. 2. Thus
Parosh (Ezra 10:25)
in Ezra 2:3 :
number of offenders
Elam (Ezra 10:26)
in Ezra 2:7 number of offenders
Zattu (Ezra 10:27)
in Ezra 2:8 number of offenders
Bebai (Ezra 10:28)
in Ezra 2:11 number of offenders
Bani (Ezra 10:29)
in Ezra 2:10 number of offenders
Pahath-Moab (Ezra 10:30)
in Ezra 2:6 number of offenders
Harim (Ezra 10:31)
in Ezra 2:32 number of offenders
Hashum (Ezra 10:33)
in Ezra 2:19 number of offenders
Bani (Ezra 10:34)
in Ezra 2:10 number of offenders
Nebo (Ezra 10:43)
in Ezra 2:29 number of offenders
In this list, as compared with that in Ezra 2, the following points may be observed:
(a) The house of Bani is twice mentioned (Ezra 10:29 and Ezra 10:33). This is almost certainly due to an early error in the text. The conjecture that the name of Bigvai (Ezra 2:14) or of Bezai (Ezra 2:17) should be, in one instance or the other, substituted for that of Bani is not improbable, especially as otherwise there are seven houses (Ezra 2:12-19) in succession not mentioned here.
(b) The disproportionately large number of offenders belonging to the second Bani (Ezra 10:34) makes it probable that we have lost the names of three other houses. It will be noticed that the ‘sons of Nebo’ are the only representatives of about twenty towns mentioned in Ezra 2:21-35.
(c) The order of the list of houses is here quite different from that of Ezra 2, an illustration probably of the faithfulness with which the various extant lists were reproduced.
And of the sons of Elam; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah.26. Jehiel] ‘of the sons of Elam’, see note on Ezra 10:2.
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.29. and Ramoth] R.V. Jeremoth. Marg. ‘Another reading is, and Ramoth’. The reading of the C’thib is ‘Jeremoth’; of the K’ri, of the LXX. and Vulg. ‘and Ramoth’ (LXX. καὶ Ῥημώθ, et Ramoth). The reading of C’thib ‘Jeremoth’ is nevertheless preferable. It has support in 3 Esdras 9:30 ‘and Jeremoth’ (καὶ Ἱερεμώθ). It is also the less familiar word and would be more likely to undergo change to ‘and Ramoth’ than vice versa.
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,35. Chelluh] R.V. Cheluhi. Marg. ‘Another reading is, Cheluhu’.
Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,
Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau,37. and Jaasau] R.V. and Jaasu. Marg. ‘Another reading is, Jaasai’. The LXX. clearly had ‘Jaasu’, which they mistook for a verb and rendered ‘and they did or made’ (καὶ ἐποίησαν) regardless of the lack of meaning. The C’thib has ‘Jaasu’: the K’ri ‘Jaasai’.
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.43. Jadau] R.V. Iddo. Marg. ‘Another reading is, Jaddai’. Here the LXX. has Jadai (Ἰαδαὶ) and 1Es 9:35 Edais (Ἠδαῒς), which agree with the reading of the K’ri. The reading of the C’thib is ‘Iddo’, and is preferred by the R.V. as in the three preceding instances (Ezra 10:29; Ezra 10:35; Ezra 10:37).
All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.44. All these had taken strange wives] So also the R.V., a different phrase in the original from that rendered ‘had married strange women’. See on Ezra 9:2.
and some of them had wives by whom they had children] So R.V. Marg. Or, some of the wives had borne children. The clause in the original is beset with difficulties. Literally rendered it seems to be ‘And there were of them (masc.) wives, and they (masc.) begat children’. The LXX. renders freely ‘And they begat of them sons’ (καὶ ἐγέννησαν ἐξ αὐτῶν υἱούς) agreeing generally with the A.V. and R.V. text. The Vulgate has ‘And there were of them wives which had borne children’, agreeing with the margin of the R.V. This, it must be confessed, gives the best sense, although it does violence to the grammar in the matter of genders. The exact purpose of the clause is also a matter of uncertainty. (1) By some it is supposed that the clause is intended to illustrate the difficulties with which this general divorce was attended. The action was complicated by the question of the children. (2) Others think that it is added to show how thoroughly the commission was carried out. Mothers and their children were alike driven forth, in accordance with Shecaniah’s proposal (Ezra 10:3) ‘Let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and such as are born of them’. The probability that we are here confronted with another instance of textual corruption receives support from the parallel passage, 1Es 9:36 ‘And they put them away along with their children’, which suggests the existence of a different original text.