Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Ezr 10:1-17. Ezra Reforms the Strange Marriages.
1. Now when Ezra had prayed—As this prayer was uttered in public, while there was a general concourse of the people at the time of the evening sacrifice and as it was accompanied with all the demonstrations of poignant sorrow and anguish, it is not surprising that the spectacle of a man so respected, a priest so holy, a governor so dignified as Ezra, appearing distressed and filled with fear at the sad state of things, should produce a deep sensation; and the report of his passionate grief and expressions in the court of the temple having rapidly spread through the city, a great multitude flocked to the spot.
And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.
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.
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.
Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.
Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware.
5-8. Then Ezra … went into the chamber of Johanan—At a private council of the princes and elders held there, under the presidency of Ezra, it was resolved to enter into a general covenant to put away their foreign wives and children; that a proclamation should be made for all who had returned from Babylon to repair within three days to Jerusalem, under pain of excommunication and confiscation of their property.
Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away.
And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;
And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away.
Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain.
9-11. Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin—The returned captives belonged chiefly to these tribes; but other Israelites are also included under these names, as they all were then occupying the territory formerly assigned to those two tribes.
It was the ninth month—that is, between the end of December and the beginning of January, which is the coldest and most rainy season of the year in Palestine.
all the people sat in the street—that is, the court.
And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel.
10-17. Ezra the priest stood up, and said—Having fully represented the enormity of their sin and urged them to dissolve their unlawful connections, he was gratified by receiving a prompt acknowledgment of the justice of his reproof and a promise of compliance with his recommendation. But as the weather was ungenial and the defaulters were too numerous to be passed in review at one time, it was resolved that a commission should be appointed to examine into the whole matter. These commissioners, assisted by the judges and elders of the respective cities, made a minute investigation into every case, and after three months' labor completely removed all traces of the abuse. Doubtless, an adequate provision was made for the repudiated wives and children, according to the means and circumstances of the husbands.
Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.
Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.
But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing.
Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us.
Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them.
And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter.
And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.
And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: namely, of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah.
Ezr 10:18-44. Those That Had Taken Strange Wives.
18. among the sons of the priests—From the names of so many men of rank appearing in the following list, some idea may be formed of the great and complicated difficulties attending the reformatory work.
And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass.
19. they gave their hands—that is, came under a solemn engagement, which was usually ratified by pledging the right hand (Pr 6:1; Eze 17:18). The delinquents of the priestly order bound themselves to do like the common Israelites (Ezr 10:25), and sought to expiate their sin by sacrificing a ram as a trespass offering.
And of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah.
And of the sons of Harim; Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah.
And of the sons of Pashur; Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
Also of the Levites; Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah, (the same is Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri.
Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah.
And of the sons of Elam; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah.
And of the sons of Zattu; Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza.
Of the sons also of Bebai; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.
And of the sons of Bani; Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth.
And of the sons of Pahathmoab; Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh.
And of the sons of Harim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,
Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah.
Of the sons of Hashum; Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei.
Of the sons of Bani; Maadai, Amram, and Uel,
Benaiah, Bedeiah, Chelluh,
Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,
Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau,
And Bani, and Binnui, Shimei,
And Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah,
Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,
Azareel, and Shelemiah, Shemariah,
Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph.
Of the sons of Nebo; Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, Benaiah.
All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.