Ezra 10:3
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Ezra 10:3. To put away all the wives, and such as are born of them — If this seem to any to have been an act of great severity, if not injustice, “let it be observed that the law (Deuteronomy 7:1, &c.) was express, and enforced with weighty reasons against these pagan marriages; and, therefore, since whatever is done contrary to law is, ipso facto, null and void, these marriages with idolatrous women, which were strictly forbidden by God, were, properly speaking, no marriages at all; and the children which proceeded from them were in no better condition than those whom we call bastards. No interposition of civil authority was therefore needful to dissolve these marriages; the infidelity and idolatry of the party espoused were as much an interdiction as any the most proximate degree of consanguinity, which, by the laws of all civilized nations, is known to vacate the marriage. But even suppose the civil authority thought proper to interpose in this matter, yet wherein had the Jews any reason to complain, if, in just punishment of their wilful breach of a known and positive law, they were excluded from cohabiting with these illegal wives; those Jews, who, for every light and trivial cause, made no scruple to give even their lawful wives a bill of divorcement, and might, therefore, with much less difficulty, be supposed willing to repudiate those whom the laws of their God, for fear of their catching the infection of idolatry, had forbidden them to live with?” — Dodd. See Selden, Uxor. Hebrews, 50:3, c. 18. It may be observed further here, that these wives and children were only cast out of the commonwealth of Israel, but were not utterly forsaken: probably care was taken by authority that they should have some provision made for them. For all was to be done according to the counsel of Ezra, and other good men, who feared God, and would not enjoin or advise any thing that was unjust or unmerciful. They would also probably take care that the children should be educated in the Jewish religion.

10:1-5 Shechaniah owned the national guilt. The case is sad, but it is not desperate; the disease threatening, but not incurable. Now that the people begin to lament, a spirit of repentance seems to be poured out; now there is hope that God will forgive, and have mercy. The sin that rightly troubles us, shall not ruin us. In melancholy times we must observe what makes for us, as well as against us. And there may be good hopes through grace, even where there is the sense of great guilt before God. The case is plain; what has been done amiss, must be undone again as far as possible; nothing less than this is true repentance. Sin must be put away, with a resolution never to have any thing more to do with it. What has been unjustly got, must be restored. Arise, be of good courage. Weeping, in this case, is good, but reforming is better. As to being unequally yoked with unbelievers, such marriages, it is certain, are sinful, and ought not to be made; but now they are not null, as they were before the gospel did away the separation between Jews and Gentiles.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. 2-4. Shechaniah … answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed—This was one of the leading men, who was not himself a delinquent in the matter, for his name does not occur in the following list. He spoke in the general name of the people, and his conduct evinced a tender conscience, as well as no small fortitude in making such a proposal; for as his father and five paternal uncles (Ezr 10:26) were involved in the guilt of unlawful marriages, he showed, by the measure he recommended, that he deemed it better to obey God than to please his nearest relatives.

yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing—This hope, however, depended on timely measures of reformation, and therefore, instead of surrendering themselves to despair or despondency, he counselled them to amend their error without delay, relying on God's mercy for the past. Though the proposal may seem harsh and cruel, yet in the peculiar circumstances of the Jews it was just as well as necessary; and he urged the duty of seeing it executed on Ezra, as the only person competent to carry it into effect, being possessed of skill and address for so delicate and difficult a work, and invested by God, and under Him by the Persian king (Ezr 7:23-28), with the requisite authority to enforce it.

To put away all the wives; which though it may seem harsh, yet is not unjust, if it be considered,

1. That marriages made between some prohibited persons; as suppose, between a father and his daughter, a brother and a sister, are not only unlawful, but void marriages, and ipso facto null, by the political laws of civil nations. And therefore these marriages with idolatrous and heathen women, being expressly and severely forbidden by God, might well be disannulled. And it was one of good Theodosius’s laws, that those actions which were done against law, should be accounted not only unlawful, but null.

2. That there were many peculiar laws given to the Jews concerning the marrying and putting away of wives, as hath been observed before in their proper places, and therefore it is not strange if there be something more in this case that is now usual with us.

3. Supposing the matrimonial tie had continued, yet they might be excluded from cohabitation with them, as a just punishment upon them for the wilful breach of a known and positive law of God.

And such as are born of them: this may seem harder than the former, but many things may be said.

1. Whatsoever evil befell either them or their children, they had all reason to accept it as the just and deserved fruit of their own sin.

2. That children may and sometimes do suffer, at least temporal evils, for their parents’ sins, or upon occasion of them, is most evident, both by the Scripture instances, and by the laws and usages of nations in some cases.

3. This may seem to have been a necessary part of severity, partly, as a proper punishment of the parents’ sin herein, and to deter others more effectually from the like practices; partly, to prevent the corruption of their other children by the conversation and society of this ungodly and idolatrous brood; and partly, lest such children, being continually present with them, and stealing into their affections, might at last prevail with them to take their ejected wives again.

4. These children were only cast out of the families and commonwealth of Israel, but were not utterly forsaken and ruined; but due care was probably taken by authority that they should have some provision made for them, and some care taken about their education in the Jewish religion, &c.

According to the counsel of my lord; either,

1. As thou counsellest and desirest us to do. Or,

2. Let us do it in such manner as thou shalt think fit and agreeable to the law, as it follows; for it requires great caution, as being a matter of no small difficulty.

And of those that tremble at the commandment of our God: and of other serious and religious persons who may with thee consider and regulate the business.

Let it be done according to the law: this is meant, either,

1. Of the matter of the business, let that be done which the law requires; let them be put away. Or,

2. Of the manner of it, which must be according to the rules of God’s law.

Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God,.... Renew our covenant with him, and lay ourselves under fresh obligation by promise and oath, and unanimously agree

to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them; he means all the strange wives, such marriages being unlawful; and such wives might the more easily be put away, since bills of divorce were in frequent use with the Jews, and the children of such also being illegitimate; and the rather they were to be put away, lest they should corrupt other children, or get into the affections of their fathers, which might lead on to receive their mothers again, and especially this was to be done as a punishment of their sin: though no doubt but a provision was to be made, and was made, for the maintenance both of wives and children:

according to the counsel of my Lord; either of Ezra, whom he honours with this title, being a ruler under the king of Persia; or of the Lord God, according to his will declared in his words, which is his counsel:

and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; feared to break it, and dreaded the effect of such a breach; and who no doubt would follow the counsel of the Lord, and join in their advice to act according to the proposal made:

and let it be done according to the law; as that directs in such cases.

Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away {c} 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.

(c) Who are strangers and married contrary to the law of God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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).

Verse 3. - Now therefore let us make a covenant. Shechaniah had probably in his thoughts the (comparatively) recent covenant which the people had made in the reign of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 34:15) on the subject of releasing their Hebrew slaves after six years of servitude. That covenant was entered into before God, in the temple, by the princes and all the people (ibid. ver. 10). To put away all the wives. Shechaniah probably held that marriages made contrary to the law were not merely wrongful, but invalid. At any rate, since the law of Moses, as interpreted by the Rabbis, allowed divorce "for every cause" (Matthew 19:3), the remedy suggested was feasible, though scarcely one which the civil power could enforce. And such as are born of them. "Filii matrem sequuntur" was a maxim of Roman, and, apparently, also of Jewish law. Young children require especially a mother's care. Older ones might be already tainted with idolatry. It was best, Shechaniah thought, to make a clean sweep, and dismiss the children as well as the mothers. According to the counsel of my lord. Ezra had not yet advised any course; but Shechaniah gathers from the horror which he has expressed what his wishes must be. Let it be done according to the law. Either, "Let the law, which forbids these marriages, be in this way satisfied" (Dathe); or, "Let the repudiation of the wives take place in the mode prescribed by the law" (see Deuteronomy 24:1). Ezra 10:3Then one of the sons of Elam, Shecaniah, the son of Jehiel, stood forth from amidst the assembly, and uttered the confession: "We have been unfaithful towards our God by marrying strange wives, but there is yet hope for Israel concerning this thing. We will now make a covenant with God to put away all the strange wives and their children from the congregation, according to the counsel of the Lord, and of those who fear the commandment of our God, that it may be done according to the law." Shecaniah, of the sons of Elam (comp. Ezra 2:7; Ezra 8:7), is a different person from the descendant of Zattu, mentioned Ezra 8:5; nor is Jehiel identical with the individual whose name occurs in Ezra 10:26. ונּשׁב, and have brought home strange wives. הושׁיב, to cause to dwell (in one's house), said in Ezra 10:10, Ezra 10:14, Ezra 10:17, Ezra 10:18, and Nehemiah 13:23, Nehemiah 13:27, of bringing a wife home. Shecaniah founds his hope for Israel in this trespass upon the circumstance, that they bind themselves by a solemn covenant before God to put away this scandal from the congregation, and to act in conformity with the law. To make a covenant with our God, i.e., to bind themselves by an oath with respect to God, comp. 2 Chronicles 29:10. הוציא, to put away - the opposite of הושׁיב. All the wives are, according to the context, all the strange women (Ezra 10:2), and that which is born of them, their children. Instead of אדני בּעצת, according to the counsel of the Lord, De Wette, Bertheau, and others, following the paraphrase in the lxx and 1 Esdras, read אדני, according to the counsel of my lord, i.e., of Ezra. But this paraphrase being of no critical authority, there is no sufficient reason for the alteration. For Shecaniah to call Ezra my lord sounds strange, since usually this title was only given by servants to their master, or subjects to their sovereign, and Shecaniah afterwards addresses him simply as thou. Besides, Ezra had given no advice at all in this matter, and still less had he come to any resolution about it with the God-fearing members of the community. יעשׂה after the preceding נכרת־בּרית, we will make a covenant, must be taken as hortative: and let it be done according to the law. בּ חרד, caring for with trembling.
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