Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.CHAPTER 10
1. The effect of Ezra’s prayer on the people (Ezra 10:1-4)
2. Ezra summons an assembly (Ezra 10:5-8)
3. The gathering, confession and the evil judged (Ezra 10:9-17)
4. The register of those who had married strange women (Ezra 10:18-44)
Ezra 10:1-4. Ezra’s prayer, confession and humiliation were before the house of the LORD.” The people saw his great sorrow and his tears, they heard his words confessing the nation’s sins. It produced a wonderful effect among the people. “There assembled unto him out of Israel a great congregation of men and women and children, for the people wept very sore.” Was this great weeping real contrition over their disobedience? or did they weep in anticipation of the separation from the wives they had taken? No doubt they thought of what the demanded separation would mean for them; yet it was an aroused conscience which produced the tears of repentance.
Schechaniah’s voice is heard in behalf of the people. He was a son of Jehiel. His own father is mentioned among those who had taken strange wives (Ezra 10:26). His words then must have condemned his own father. He said, “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land.” He acknowledged the sin of the people violating the direct commandment of the LORD. But he also had confidence in the mercy of God, that not all was lost on account of their disobedience, “yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.” Yet this hope and mercy could only be realized by self-judgment and by putting away all the wives and such as were born of them. He therefore said, “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 who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.” The law demanded the dismissal of these wives and children, for they were unclean, and admission into the congregation of Israel had to be denied to them. How different it is under grace! In 1Corinthians 7:10, etc., we read what grace has done even for an unbelieving husband who is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife who is sanctified by the believing husband, and that their children are not unclean, but holy.
Then Schechaniah addressed weeping Ezra: “Arise! for this matter belongeth unto thee; we also will be with thee; be of good courage and do it.” These words must have dried Ezra’s tears, for they evidence the answer to his humiliation and prayer. Confession, humiliation, self-judgment and putting away the evil are always the condition of the restoration of God’s people.
Ezra 10:5-8. Ezra took hold at once. The priests, Levites and all Israel had to swear that they would act upon this word. But Ezra’s grief was not ended. He arose and went into the chambers of Johanan, the son of Eliashib. He did not eat bread, nor did he drink water. He still mourned because of the transgression of the people. God’s presence was sought by this deeply spiritual man of God, and in His holy presence he felt anew the sin of the people. What deep soul exercise Ezra passed through! This is what is so sadly lacking in our own days. So many make light of the sin and worldliness of those who profess the Name of Christ, there is but little heart searching, true humiliation and self-judgment to be seen. Such is the spirit of Laodicea.
A proclamation was then made. The time to act had come. All the returned captives were to gather themselves together in Jerusalem. It had to be within three days. Neglect of this commandment meant the confiscation of their substance and separation from the congregation of Israel.
Ezra 10:9-17. The great gathering takes place. They all obeyed the Word. We see them sitting in the wide space before the house of the LORD. They were a trembling, Lightened company, on account of this matter and also the great rain, for the cold and rainy season had started in. Ezra addresses the multitude in simple but firm words. Once more he mentions their sin and the guilt which rests upon them on account of it. He demands confession, and separation from the peoples of the land and from the strange women. There was an immediate response: “As thou hast said concerning us, so must we do.” Then a plan is inaugurated to bring the separation about in as speedy a manner as possible. What self denial and heartaches this must have meant! In verse 15 we read of those “who were employed about this matter.” But the translation of this sentence is more than doubtful. It has been rendered “they stood up against this.” If there was opposition it was not opposition to the separation decree. They probably opposed the method which had been suggested; they may have demanded an immediate action.
Ezra 10:18-44. The examination of the whole matter as agreed upon began on the first day of the first month (Nisan-March-April), the time of the New Year, the new beginning according to Exodus 12:1. Then follows the list of the men who had married the strange women. God’s record is again before us in these names. The names of the priests come first. Theirs was the greater responsibility and guilt. The sons of Joshua head the list. What an illustration of what man is, that the sons of the high priest, who, with Zerubbabel, had been such great instruments of the Lord to lead the first captives back, should corrupt themselves with these women! They gave their hand that they would put away their wives, and confessing themselves guilty, they brought a ram for an offering. In all, seventeen priests were guilty, and six Levites. The guilty singers and porters are given by name in verse 24. Then follow eighty-six more names who had all defiled themselves by strange women.
Ezra’s great work was finished. In Nehemiah we read how he was still active, ministering to the people in spiritual things, in reading and expounding the Word of God (Nehemiah 8:8).