Ezra 9:6
And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.
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Ezra 9:6. O my God, I am ashamed and blush — “Nothing can be more humble, devout, and pathetic, than this address, in which Ezra acknowledges that he was confounded when he thought of the greatness of their sins, which were ready to overwhelm them, and of the boldness and insolence of them beyond measure, even though they had seen the divine vengeance upon their forefathers in so terrible a manner, that they had not yet worn off the marks of his displeasure. He had, indeed, begun to show favour to some of them; but this so much the more aggravated their wickedness, in that, so soon after their restoration and settlement in their native country, they had returned to their old provocations, notwithstanding the many admonitions, in the law and the prophets, to have nothing to do with the people of Canaan, except it were to expel and drive them out. What then can we expect, says he, but the utter destruction of the small remnant that is left of us, if after all the punishment which God hath inflicted upon us, and now that he is beginning to be gracious unto us, we relapse into the same offences for which we have so severely suffered? For while we remain monuments of his mercy, and yet appear before him in our abominations, we must be dumb, and have nothing to plead in excuse of our detestable ingratitude.” — Dodd. For our iniquities — He includes himself in the number of the transgressors, because he himself was guilty of many sins; and because the princes and priests, and so many of the people, having done this, the guilt was now become national. Are increased over our head — Like deep waters, in which we are, as it were, drowned, and ready to perish.

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.

He includes himself in the number of the transgressors, not only by a rhetorical figure called communication, but partly because he himself was guilty of many sins; and partly because the princes and priests, and so many of the people, having done this, the guilt was now become national.

Increased over our head; like deep waters, in which we are as it were drowned, and ready to perish. Compare Psalm 38:4.

And said, O my God,.... Here begins the prayer of Ezra, and that with faith in God as covenant God, even when he was about to make confession of sin, and repentance for it; that prayer is right which is put up in faith, and that repentance genuine which is accompanied with faith, and flows from it:

I am ashamed, and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God; a true sight and sense of sin causes shame and blushing, and never more than when a man is sensible of his covenant interest in God, and of his grace and favour to him, particularly in the forgiveness of his sin, see Ezekiel 16:61

for our iniquities are increased over our head; arisen and swelled like mighty waters, which seemed to threaten an overwhelming of them:

and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens; being done in an open, public, and insolent manner, and in such numbers, that they were, as it were, piled up in heaps, reaching to heaven, and calling down vengeance from thence. Ezra includes himself as being one of the same nation; and these sins being so common were become national ones, which involved all the individuals, and exposed them to the divine resentment.

And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased {d} over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the {e} heavens.

(d) That is, we are drowned in sin.

(e) They so exceed that they cannot grow greater.

6. A brief exordium: expression of personal shame and national guilt.

I am ashamed and blush] These words occur together frequently as in Jeremiah 31:19 ‘I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth’. Isaiah 45:16; Psalm 35:4. Ezra’s expression of shame and confusion is the echo of the prophet’s words, ‘Beashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel’ (Ezekiel 36:32), the very opposite of their spirit, who ‘were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush’ (Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 8:12).

to lift up my face to thee] The consciousness of sin will not permit the humble supplicant to ‘lift up so much as his eyes to heaven’ (Luke 18:13). The first person singular is here dropped.

for our iniquities are increased over our head] The metaphor is drawn from the waters of a flood (cf. Genesis 7:17-18). Compare Psalm 38:4 ‘For mine iniquities are gone over mine head’.

and our trespass] R.V. our guiltiness. The word ‘guiltiness’ (‘ashmah’, not ‘ma-al’ ‘trespass’ of Ezra 9:1) is used here and in Ezra 9:7; Ezra 9:13; Ezra 9:15, Ezra 10:10; Ezra 10:19. It is the state of guilt resulting from sin, e.g. Leviticus 4:3, ‘if the anointed priest shall sin so as to bring guilt (ashmah) on the people’; Ezra 6:5; Ezra 6:7, 2 Chronicles 28:13 ‘For ye purpose that which will bring upon us a trespass (marg. ‘guilt’, Hebr. ‘ashmah’) against the Lord, to add unto our sins and to our trespass; for our trespass is great’, 2 Chronicles 24:18, 2 Chronicles 28:10, 2 Chronicles 33:23, Amos 8:14 ‘Swear by the sin (ashmah) of Samaria’. Psalm 69:5 ‘My sins (marg. Heb. guiltinesses) are not hid from thee’.

is grown up unto the heavens] Compare the same metaphor applied to ‘rage’, 2 Chronicles 28:9 ‘In a rage which hath reached up unto heaven’. Either, which is most probable, hyperbolically of magnitude, as of the tower of Babel, ‘whose top may reach unto heaven’ (Genesis 11:4), cities walled up to heaven (Deuteronomy 1:28), the judgement of Babylon (Jeremiah 51:9), or metaphorically, as if the magnitude of the guilt had forced itself upon the notice of God like the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-21).

6–15. Ezra’s Prayer

Ezra’s prayer, as a confession of national sin, should be compared with the prayer of the Levites (Nehemiah 9:6-38), and more especially with the prayer of Daniel (Daniel 9:4-19). As in the confession of Daniel, the personality of the speaker is merged in that of the nation, The sin of the race no less than its shame and its punishment is acknowledged in the ‘we’, ‘our’, and ‘us’. The self-abnegation and love of Ezra as of Moses (Exodus 32:32), and of Paul (Romans 9:3), accept the obligations of nationality as the source of guilt as well as on privilege to the individual.

The general plan of the confession resembles that of Daniel. It consists of (1) general confession, Ezra 9:6 (cf. Daniel 9:4-6), (2) the sins of former time, Ezra 9:7 (Daniel 9:7-8); (3) God’s mercy and goodness, Ezra 9:7-8 (Daniel 9:9); (4) Israel’s sin in the face of the Divine warning, Ezra 9:10-12 (Daniel 9:10-14); (5) the fresh guilt and final appeal, Ezra 9:13-15 (Daniel 9:15-19).

Verse 6. - I am ashamed and blush. Jeremiah had complained that in his day those who "committed abominations were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush" (Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 8:12). Ezra, with these words in his thoughts possibly, begins his confession with a protestation that he at any rate is not open to this reproach - he blushes and burns with shame for the sins of his people. Our iniquities are increased over our head. i.e. have kept on rising like a flood; "gone over our head" (Psalm 38:4), and overwhelmed us. And our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. Has grown to such a height that it has attracted the notice of God, and made him angry with us. Ezra 9:6Ezra 9:6, etc. The train of thought in this prayer is as follows: I scarcely dare to lift up my fact to God, through shame for the greatness of our misdeeds (Ezra 9:6). From the days of our fathers, God has sorely punished us for our sins by delivering us into the power of our enemies; but has now again turned His pity towards us, and revived us in the place of His sanctuary, through the favour of the king of Persia (Ezra 9:7). But we have again transgressed His commands, with the keeping of which God has connected our possession of the good land given unto us (Ezra 9:10). Should we then, after God has spared us more than we through our trespasses have deserved, bring His wrath upon us, till we are wholly consumed? God is just; He has preserved us; but we stand before Him with heavy guilt upon us, such guilt that we cannot endure God's presence (Ezra 9:13). Ezra does not pray for the pardon of their sin, for he desires only to bring the congregation to the knowledge of the greatness of their transgression, and so to invite them to do all that in them lies to atone for their guilt, and to appease God's wrath.

"I am ashamed, and am covered with shame, to lift up my face to Thee, my God." ונכלמתּי בּשׁתּי united, as in Jeremiah 31:19, comp. Isaiah 45:16, and other passages. נכלם, to be covered with shame, is stronger than בּושׁ. "For our iniquities are increased over our head," i.e., have grown above our head. ראשׁ למעלה, to or over the head. למעלה serves to enhance the meaning of רבוּ, like 1 Chronicles 23:17. "And our guiltiness is great, (reaching) unto the heavens;" comp. 2 Chronicles 28:9.

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