Ezra 9:5
And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell on my knees, and spread out my hands to the LORD my God,
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(5-15) Ezra’s prayer of confession and deprecation.

(5) And at the evening sacrifice I arose up.—Until the afternoon Ezra had sat silent and in grief before the Temple, and in presence of the people. Then, amidst the solemnities of the sacrifice, he uttered the prayer which he had been meditating.

(6) And said, O my God.—The confession begins with “O my God;” but Ezra is the representative of the people, and it proceeds “O our God” (Ezra 9:10), without once returning to the first person.

(7) Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass.—In these Common Prayers of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel, the race of Israel is regarded as one, and national sins as one “great trespass.” The repetition of “this day” at the beginning and at the end of the verse is to be observed: in the former place in reference to the sin; in the latter in reference to the punishment.

(8) A little space.—The “little” here and at the close of the sentence are emphatic. All the present tokens of mercy are said at the conclusion of the prayer (Ezra 9:14) to be conditional in their continuance. The little space from the time of Cyrus was nearly two generations; but it was a moment only in relation to the past and the possible future. The idea is inverted in Isaiah 54:7 : “For a small moment have I forsaken thee.”

Nail in his holy place.—The Temple was itself the sure nail on which all their hopes hung.

A little reviving.—Literally, make us a little life. The present revival was but the beginning, and still by manifold tokens precarious.

(9) We were bondmen.—Better, we are bondmen. In this lies the emphasis of the appeal.

A wall.—Like “the nail,” a figurative expression for security. The literal wall was not yet rebuilt. This completes the description of Divine mercy: first, the people were a delivered remnant; the Temple was a sure nail for the future of religion; and their civil estate was made secure.

(10) After this.—But all was a mercy for which there had been no adequate return.

(11) Saying.—In the later Old Testament Scriptures the quotation of the earlier is often of this character, giving the substance of many passages. The same style is observable in the New Testament.

(12) Give not your daughters.—See Deuteronomy 7:3, the only place where the interdict includes both daughters and sons. It is observable that the giving of daughters in marriage to heathens is not mentioned either in Ezra or in Nehemiah.

Nor seek their peace.—An evident echo of that most stern injunction in Deuteronomy 23:6.

(15) O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous.—The solemn invocation shows that this is a summary of the whole prayer: God’s righteousness is magnified, as accompanied by the grace which had preserved them, although as only a remnant; and as such covered with their trespasses; and especially with “this” the present trespass, the guilt of which underlies all.

Ezra 9:5. I rose up from my heaviness — From that mournful posture, and put myself into the posture of a petitioner. He did this at the time of the evening sacrifice, because then devout people used to come into the courts of the temple, that, hearing his confession, they likewise might be made sensible of the sins of the people. And he had an eye to that great propitiation, of which that sacrifice was a peculiar type.9:5-15 The sacrifice, especially the evening sacrifice, was a type of the blessed Lamb of God, who in the evening of the world, was to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Ezra's address is a penitent confession of sin, the sin of his people. But let this be the comfort of true penitents, that though their sins reach to the heavens, God's mercy is in the heavens. Ezra, speaking of sin, speaks as one much ashamed. Holy shame is as necessary in true repentance as holy sorrow. Ezra speaks as much amazed. The discoveries of guilt cause amazement; the more we think of sin, the worse it looks. Say, God be merciful to me sinner. Ezra speaks as one much afraid. There is not a surer or saddler presage of ruin, than turning to sin, after great judgments, and great deliverances. Every one in the church of God, has to wonder that he has not wearied out the Lord's patience, and brought destruction upon himself. What then must be the case of the ungodly? But though the true penitent has nothing to plead in his own behalf, the heavenly Advocate pleads most powerfully for him.Plucking out the hair with the hands, so common among the Classical nations, is, comparatively speaking, rarely mentioned as practiced by Asiatics. Ezr 9:5-15. Prays to God.

5-15. I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God—The burden of his prayer, which was dictated by a deep sense of the emergency, was that he was overwhelmed at the flagrant enormity of this sin, and the bold impiety of continuing in it after having, as a people, so recently experienced the heavy marks of the divine displeasure. God had begun to show returning favor to Israel by the restoration of some. But this only aggravated their sin, that, so soon after their re-establishment in their native land, they openly violated the express and repeated precepts which commanded them to extirpate the Canaanites. Such conduct, he exclaimed, could issue only in drawing down some great punishment from offended Heaven and ensuring the destruction of the small remnant of us that is left, unless, by the help of divine grace, we repent and bring forth the fruits of repentance in an immediate and thorough reformation.

From my heaviness, i.e. from that mournful posture, Ezra 8:4, and put myself into the posture of a petitioner. Or,

by reason of my heaviness, or affliction. Having mourned for the sin, I considered that was not sufficient, and that God expected the confession and amendment of it, and therefore I fell to prayer. And at the evening sacrifice I rose up from my heaviness,.... The signs and tokens of it, particularly sitting on the ground; or "from my fasting" (n), having eaten nothing that day, it being early in the morning when he was told the above case:

and having rent my garment and my mantle; which he had done before, and still kept them on him in the same case:

fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God; in the posture and with the gesture of an humble supplicant.

(n) "jejunio meo", Michaelis; so Jarchi.

And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God,
5–15. Ezra’s Confession

5. And at the evening sacrifice] R.V. And at the evening oblation, i.e. at the time of its being offered.

I arose up from my heaviness] R.V. I arose up from my humiliation. Marg. fasting. The Hebrew word ‘Taanith’ occurs only here in the O.T.: in later Hebrew it became the accepted for religious fasting. This passage favours the original application to general humiliation rather than to abstinence from food. So the LXX. ταπείωσις.

and having rent my garment and my mantle] R.V. even with my garment and my mantle rent; and. There is no need to render as the A.V. and most commentators, as if Ezra for a second time rent his clothes. He calls attention to the fact that in the presence of the assembled people he stood before them with these evident signs of his grief and dismay, and thus by a mute appeal united them with him in his act of prayer.

fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands] We find in Scripture both kneeling and standing as the postures of prayer. For kneeling compare 1 Kings 8:54, Solomon … kneeling on his knees with his hands spread forth toward heaven. Daniel 6:10 ‘And he kneeled upon his knees three times a day.’ Psalm 95:6 ‘Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker’. Cf. Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5. For standing cf. 1 Samuel 1:26; 1 Kings 8:22; 1 Chronicles 23:30; Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:11.

The attitude of spreading out the hands expressed the desire to receive and to embrace the Divine gift, the hands open and the palms turned upwards as if to accept. Cf. Exodus 9:29; 1 Kings 8:22, Isaiah 1:15 ‘And when ye spread forth your hands’. 2Ma 3:20 ‘All holding their hands toward heaven made supplication’.

the Lord my God] Cf. Ezra 7:6; Ezra 7:9; Ezra 7:14; Ezra 7:19-20; Ezra 7:25-26 and especially 28.Verse 5. - At the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness. The time of sacrifice was the fittest time for prayer, especially for a prayer in which acknowledgment of sin was to form a large part. Sacrifice symbolized expiation; and Ezra probably felt that his supplication would be helped by the expiatory rite which was being performed at the time. He rent his garment and his mantle a second time, as a renewed indication of sorrow, and with the view of impressing the people who "were assembled unto him" (ver. 4) the more, and stirring them up to penitence. "Segnius irritant animum demissa per aures Quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus." After the delivery of the dedicated gifts, those who had come up out of captivity (with Ezra), the sons of the captivity, offered burnt-offerings and sin-offerings, out of gratitude for the favour shown by God in the gracious restoration of His people Israel. This is implied in the words: "burnt-offerings to the God of Israel, twelve bullocks for all Israel" (the twelve tribes), and twelve he-goats for a sin-offering, as in Ezra 6:17. Ninety-six (8 x 12) lambs and seventy-seven lambs (77, the intensified seven) were likewise brought as a burnt-offering. "All this was a burnt-offering for the Lord," of which, therefore, nothing could be eaten by the offerers. The sin-offering preceded the burnt-offering, as the necessary basis of an acceptable burnt-offering. The sin-offerings availed as an atonement for the sins of all Israel, and the burnt-offerings typified the surrender of the entire nation to the service of the Lord. Thus the fact that these were offered for all Israel was an actual declaration that they who had now returned were henceforth resolved, together with all Israel, to dedicate their lives to the service of the Lord their God.
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