Ezra 9:1
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.
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(1) Now when these things were done.—The remainder of the book is occupied with the execution of Ezra’s function as a moral reformer. One chief disorder is mentioned, that of the mixed marriages (Ezra 9:2), which the new lawgiver evidently regarded as fatal to the purity of the Divine service, and to the design of God in separating for a season this peculiar people.

(1-4) The report of the abuse of mixed marriages is formally brought before Ezra.

(1) The princes—Heads of tribes, native rulers of Jerusalem, as distinguished from the satraps and governors. Zerubbabel’s office had no successor; and the term princes expressed rather their eminence than their authority, which had been powerless to check the abuses they complain of.

Doing according to their abominations.—Rather, as it regards their abominations. They are not charged with abandonment to idolatry, but with that peculiar laxity which appears in the sequel.

The Ammonites.—It is remarkable that all the ancient proscribed races are mentioned, and not the specific nations by the names of which the Samaritans were known, as if to make the case as hateful as possible. At the same time, many of these races still lingered in the neighbourhood of Judæa.

(2) The holy seed.—The “holy nation” or “peculiar people” of Exodus 19:6 is called the “holy seed” by Isaiah (Ezra 6:13), with reference to its being preserved and kept holy amidst judgments; and here the same term is used with reference to its desecration by being made common among the nations.

The princes and rulers.—The upper classes, whether priests and Levites or laymen.

This trespass.—There is no question as to the unlawfulness of these intermarriages, nor any palliation on account of necessity. The rulers report it, and Ezra receives the report as evidence that the whole purpose of God with regard to the people was, at the very outset of their new economy, in course of being defeated by the guilt of the heads of Israel. Their delinquency as such is admitted on all hands.

(3) I rent my garment and my mantle.—The actions of Ezra betoken his horror and grief. But both the rending of the outer and inner garment and the plucking the hair were symbolical acts, teaching their lesson to the people who witnessed, and, as we see, were deeply impressed.

(4) Trembled.—In fear of the Divine judgments.

Transgression of those that had been carried away.—The usual name of the people at this time. During their captivity, however, they had not been thus guilty. It was the aggravation of their guilt that they committed the trespass now.

Ezra 9:1. The princes came to me — Those who feared God, and understood that Ezra was come with a large commission and ample powers from the king, and with a design to reform all disorders, whereof this which they came to complain of was not the least: saying, The people, and the priests, &c., have not separated themselves from the people of the lands — From the heathen nations round about them, which God had expressly commanded them to do, (Deuteronomy 7:2-3,) but have associated with them both in trade and in conversation; have made themselves familiar with them; and, to complete the affinity, have taken the daughters of these heathen in marriages to their sons. Doing according to their abominations — Marrying promiscuously whomsoever they liked, as the heathen are wont to do, and imitating them in some of their wicked practices, into which they have been drawn by their heathenish affinities. To do abominations, is an expression, which, in Scripture language, generally means worshipping of idols; but here it seems only to signify imitating the heathen in promiscuous marriages with any nation whatsoever, a practice which, however, would soon have led them to commit idolatry.

9:1-4 Many corruptions lurk out of the view of the most careful rulers. Some of the people disobeyed the express command of God, which forbade all marriages with the heathen, De 7. Disbelief of God's all-sufficiency, is at the bottom of the sorry shifts we make to help ourselves. They exposed themselves and their children to the peril of idolatry, that had ruined their church and nation. Carnal professors may make light of such connexions, and try to explain away the exhortations to be separate; but those who are best acquainted with the word of God, will treat the subject in another manner. They must forebode the worst from such unions. The evils excused, and even pleaded for; by many professors, astonish and cause regret in the true believer. All who profess to be God's people, ought to strengthen those that appear and act against vice and profaneness.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. CHAPTER 9

Ezr 9:1-4. Ezra Mourns for the Affinity of the People with Strangers.

1, 2. Now when these things were done—The first days after Ezra's arrival in Jerusalem were occupied in executing the different trusts committed to him. The nature and design of the office with which the royal authority had invested him was publicly made known to his own people by the formal delivery of the contribution and the sacred vessels brought from Babylon to the priests to be deposited in the temple. Then his credentials were privately presented to the provincial governors; and by this prudent, orderly proceeding he put himself in the best position to avail himself of all the advantages guaranteed him by the king. On a superficial view everything contributed to gratify his patriotic feelings in the apparently flourishing state of the church and country. But a further acquaintance discovered the existence of great corruptions, which demanded immediate correction. One was particularly brought under his notice as being the source and origin of all others; namely, a serious abuse that was practised respecting the law of marriage.

the princes came to me, saying—The information they lodged with Ezra was to the effect that numbers of the people, in violation of the divine law (De 7:2, 3), had contracted marriages with Gentile women, and that the guilt of the disorderly practice, far from being confined to the lower classes, was shared in by several of the priests and Levites, as well as of the leading men in the country. This great irregularity would inevitably bring many evils in its train; it would encourage and increase idolatry, as well as break down the barriers of distinction which, for important purposes, God had raised between the Israelites and all other people. Ezra foresaw these dangerous consequences, but was overwhelmed with a sense of the difficulty of correcting the evil, when matrimonial alliances had been formed, families had been reared, affections engaged, and important interests established.Ezra and others, hearing of the unlawful marriage of the people with strangers, mourn for it, Ezra 9:1-4. He prayeth unto God, and confesseth their sins, and particularly this, Ezra 9:5-15.

The princes; who feared God, and understood that Ezra was come with large commission from the king, and with this design, to reform all disorders, whereof this was not the least. From the people of the lands, i.e. from the heathen nations round about them, which God had expressly commanded them to do, Deu 7:2,3. Doing according to their abominations, to wit, either,

1. Marrying promiscuously whomsoever they liked, as the heathens used to do; or,

2. Imitating them in their idolatrous or other wicked practices, into which they were drawn by their heathenish affinities; although they are not charged with any other crime besides their marriage in the following account of it.

Now when these things were done,.... When the captives with Ezra had refreshed themselves, and weighed the money and vessels they brought, and put them into the hands of proper persons, and offered sacrifices, and delivered the king's commissions to his lieutenants and governors, and shown his own:

the princes came to me; some of the nobles of Israel, the most religious of them, who were concerned at the corruptions that were among them, though not a sufficient number to reform them:

saying the people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the land: but joined with them, though not in idolatrous practices, yet by marrying with them, which might lead them into them:

doing according to their abominations; not serving idols as they did, but imitating them in their marriages: even

of the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites; affinity with many of these was forbidden by an express law, Deuteronomy 7:1 all but the Moabites, Ammonites, and Egyptians, and from these for the same reason they were to abstain; namely, lest they should be drawn into idolatry; that the priests and Levites should do this, who ought to have known the law, and instructed the people better, was very sad and shocking.

Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not {a} 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.

(a) From the time they came home under Zerubbabel until the coming of Ezra, they had degenerated contrary to the law of God, and married where it was not lawful, De 7:3.

Commencement of the Religious Reform

Chap. Ezra 9:1-4. The Sin of the People

1. Now when these things were done] Cf. 2 Chronicles 31:1. A very indefinite note of time. We have two dates given by which we can conjecture the length of the interval that had occurred since the events narrated at the close of the previous chapter. (1) The sacred gifts had been handed over to the care of the priests and Levites on the 4th day of the fifth month, ch. Ezra 7:8, Ezra 8:33. (2) The summons for the general assembly, convened to enquire into the people’s sin was sent out on the 27th date of the ninth month, ch. Ezra 10:8-9.—On the one hand, it is said, not very much time could have elapsed since Ezra’s arrival; for otherwise neither the subject of the complaint could have escaped his observation, nor the information have affected him with such astonishment. On the other hand, if, as is likely, the mention of ‘these things’ refers to the communication of the king’s commissions to the neighbouring satraps and governors, Ezra himself may at first have been occupied in these trans actions and perhaps have been absent from Jerusalem, attending in person at the courts of the local governors, to claim the Jewish privileges and exemptions. Furthermore Ezra would have made his ground secure with the princes of the people (Ezra 10:6), before proceeding to meet the question that had arisen with strong measures.

We therefore conjecture that the report of ‘the princes’ described in this verse was made about four months after the events described in ch. Ezra 8:31-35, and a week or two before the summons of the general assembly.

the princes] the leaders of the people, the chiefs of the fathers’ houses. The term does not mean the whole number, but rather representatives of the class. Many princes were implicated in the charge.

came to me] R.V. drew near unto me: more literally.

The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites] The three divisions of the Jewish settlement. ‘The people, namely Israel’ are the laity as distinguished from the priests and Levites. See Ezra 6:16, Ezra 7:13.

have not separated themselves] The explanation is given in Ezra 9:2. Compare also Ezra 6:21, ‘all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land’. Idolatry was the inevitable evil attendant upon the mixed marriages with the heathen.

from the people of the lands] R.V. from the peoples of the lands—referring especially to the heathen of the neighbouring countries. See note on Ezra 6:21.

doing according to their abominations] The phrase ‘the abominations of the heathen’ (haggôyyim) is very familiar. Deuteronomy 18:9 : 1 Kings 14:24 : 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 21:2 : 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:2; 2 Chronicles 36:14. ‘The heathen’, thus usually found in connexion with this phrase, can hardly differ from ‘the peoples of the lands’. Their ‘abominations’, which primarily referred to the immoralities of their nature worship, are here associated with the mixed marriages, since the foreign wives introduced impure forms of worship among the Israelites. Others render ‘in respect of their abominations’.

even of the Canaanites &c.] The Hebrew preposition is better here rendered as expressing identification = ‘even’, ‘namely’ &c. than comparison = ‘according to’ (the abominations of). The eight nationalities here mentioned exemplify the possibilities of contamination from intercourse with ‘the peoples’. They differ therefore from the list of nations whose conquered territory the Israelites were to possess. Five in Exodus 13:5, Canaanite, Hittite, Amorite, Hivite, Jebusite: six are named in Exodus 3:8; Deuteronomy 20:17; Joshua 9:1; Joshua 12:8, Canaanite, Hittite, Amorite, Perizzite, Hivite, Jebusite: seven in Deuteronomy 7:1; Joshua 3:10; Joshua 24:11, Hittite, Girgashite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, Jebusite. Of the seven names occurring in these lists, two i.e. the Hivite and the Girgashite are not here mentioned. Three others are inserted, the Ammonite, the Moabite, and the Egyptian. (In the parallel passage of 1Es 8:69 ‘the Ammonites’ are omitted, and ‘the Edomites’ substituted for ‘the Amorites’—a change indicating the later date of this composition.) The position of the Ammonites, Moabites and Egyptians between the Jebusites and the Amorites is strange. But the list so far as it refers to contemporaneous influences, is illustrative rather than exhaustive of ‘peoples’ (a) not driven out of Palestine, (b) dwelling on the frontier of Israel. It combines typical names, familiar in the lists of the early writings of this people, with those of countries which were the chief source of more recent corruption.

The mention of the Ammonite, Moabite, and Egyptian together suggest the influence of Deuteronomy 23:3-7.

Verse 1. - When these things were done. It must have been some considerable time afterwards. Ezra reached Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month (Ezra 7:9), rested three days (Ezra 8:32), and on the fourth day of the same month made over the vessels to the temple authorities. It was not till the seventeenth day of the ninth month that, on Ezra's motion, the matter of the mixed marriages was taken in hand (Ezra 10:8, 9). Yet we cannot suppose that action was long delayed after the matter came to Ezra's knowledge. The princes. The civil heads of the community, whom Ezra found at the head of affairs on his arrival, and whose authority he did not wholly supersede (see Ezra 10:14, 16). The people of the lands. The idolatrous nations inhabiting the districts adjoining Palestine: Egyptians and Amorites on the south; Moabites and Ammonites on the east; Canaanites probably towards the north and the north-west. Doing according to their abominations. Rather, "in respect of their abominations." The complaint was not so much that the Jews had as yet actually adopted idolatrous functions, as that they did not keep themselves wholly aloof from them. The foreign wives would introduce idolatrous rites into their very houses. Ezra 9:1Information given of the intermingling of Israel with the heathen nations of the land by marriage (Ezra 9:1-4), and Ezra's prayer and confession (Ezra 9:5-15). - Ezra 9:1, Ezra 9:2. "When this was done, the princes came to me, and said, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, do not separate themselves from the people of the lands, according to their abominations, (even) of the Canaanites; ... for they have taken (wives) of their daughters for themselves and for their sons, and the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of the lands." What now follows is placed in close chronological sequence with what precedes by the formula אלּה וּככלּות, at the time of the completion of these things; comp. 2 Chronicles 31:1; 2 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 7:1. אלּה are the things related Ezra 8:33-36. Of these the delivery of the gifts took place on the fourth day after Ezra's arrival at Jerusalem, i.e., on the fourth or fifth day of the first month (comp. Ezra 8:32, etc., with Ezra 7:9). The sacrifices (Ezra 8:35) would undoubtedly be offered immediately; and the royal orders would be transmitted to the satraps and governors (Ezra 8:36) very soon after. As soon, then, as Ezra received intelligence concerning the illegal marriages, he took the matter in hand, so that all related (Ezra 9:3-10) occurred on one day. The first assemblage of the people with relation to this business was not, however, held till the twentieth day of the ninth month (Ezra 10:9); while on the calling of this meeting, appearance thereat was prescribed within three days, thus leaving apparently an interval of nine whole months between Ezra 8 and Ezra 9:1-15. Hence Bertheau conjectures that the first proclamation of this assembly encountered opposition, because certain influential personages were averse to the further prosecution of this matter (Ezra 10:15). But though Ezra 10:4-7 does not inform us what period elapsed between the adoption of Shecaniah's proposal to Ezra, and the proclamation for assembling the people at Jerusalem, the narrative does not give the impression that this proclamation was delayed for months through the opposition it met with. Besides, Ezra may have received the information concerning the unlawful marriages, not during the month of his arrival at Jerusalem, but some months later. We are not told whether it was given immediately, or soon after the completion of the matters mentioned Ezra 8:33-36. The delivery of the royal commands to the satraps and governors (Ezra 8:36) may have occupied weeks or months, the question being not merely to transmit the king's decrees to the said officials, but to come to such an understanding with them as might secure their favour and goodwill in assisting the newly established community, and supporting the house of God. The last sentence (Ezra 8:36), "And they furthered the people and the house of God," plainly shows that such an understanding with the royal functionaries was effected, by transactions which must have preceded what is related Ezra 9:1-15.

This matter having been arranged, and Ezra being now about to enter upon the execution of his commission to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of his God (Ezra 7:12), he received information of the illegal marriages. While he was in the temple, the princes (השּׂרים, the princes, are those who give the information, the article being used e.g., like that in הפּליט, Genesis 14:13) came to him, saying: The people (viz., Israel, the priests, and the Levites; the three classes of the Israelite community) do not separate themselves from the people of the lands; comp. Ezra 6:21. כּתעבתיהם, with respect to their abominations, i.e., as Israel should have done with respect to the abominations of these people. The ל to לכּנעני might be regarded as introducing the enumeration of the different nations, and corresponding with מעמּי; it is, however, more likely that it is used merely as a periphrasis for the genitive, and subordinates the names to תּעבתיהם: their, i.e., the Canaanites', etc., abominations, the suffix relating, as e.g., at Ezra 3:12 and elsewhere, to the names following. Give Canaanitish races are here named, as in Exodus 13:5, with this difference, that the Perizzites are here substituted for the Hivites, while in Exodus 3:8; Exodus 23:23, both are enumerated, making six; to these are added in Deuteronomy 7:1 the Girgashites, making, generally speaking, seven nations. Ammonites, Moabites, and Egyptians are here cited besides the Canaanitish races. The non-severance of the Israelites from these nations consisted, according to Ezra 9:2, in the fact of their having contracted marriages with them. In the law, indeed (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3), only marriages with Canaanitish women were forbidden; but the reason of this prohibition, viz., that Israel might not be seduced by them to idolatry, made its extension to Moabites, Ammonites, and Egyptians necessary under existing circumstances, if an effectual check was to be put to the relapse into heathenism of the Israelitish community, now but just gathered out again from among the Gentiles. For during the captivity idolaters of all nations had settled in the depopulated country, and mingled with the remnant of the Israelites left there. By "the people of the lands," however, we are not to understand, with J. H. Michaelis, remnants of the races subjugated by Nebuchadnezzar and carried to Babylon, - who were now, after seventy years, returning, as well as the Jews, to their native lands under Cyrus; in support of which view Mich. incorrectly refers to Jeremiah 25:9, etc. - but those portions, both of the ancient Canaanitish races and of the Moabites and Ammonites, who, escaping the sentence of captivity, remained in the land. נשׂאוּ is naturally completed by נשׁים from the context; comp. Ezra 10:44; 2 Chronicles 11:21, and other passages. The subject of התערבוּ is the collective הקּדשׁ זרע, the holy seed, i.e., the members of the nation called to holiness (Exodus 19:5). The appellation is taken from Isaiah 6:13, where the remnant of the covenant people, preserved in the midst of judgments, and purified thereby, is called a holy seed. The second part of Ezra 9:2 contains an explanatory accessory clause: and the hand of the princes and rulers hath been first in this unfaithfulness (מעל, comp. Leviticus 5:15), i.e., the princes were the first to transgress; on the figurative expression, comp. Deuteronomy 13:10. סגנים is an Old-Persian word naturalized in Hebrew, signifying commander, prefect; but its etymology is not as yet satisfactorily ascertained: see Delitzsch on Isaiah 41:25.

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