Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
B.—THE REMOVAL OF THE ERROR, AND THE LIST OF THOSE WHO PURIFIED THEMSELVES FROM IT
I. The effect that Ezra’s prayer had upon Shechaniah, then upon the princes of the congregation
1Now 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.
2And 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. 3Now 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 4at 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. 5Then 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. 6Then 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. 7And they made proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem; 8And 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.
II. The Success of Ezra in the Assembly of the Congregation. Ezra 10:9–17
9Then 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. 10And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. 11Now 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. 12Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do. 13But 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. 14Let 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. 15Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them. 16And 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. 17And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.
III. List of those who Separated Themselves from their Wives. Ezra 10:18–44
18And 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. 19And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass. 20And of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah. 21And of the sons of Harim; Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah. 22And of the sons of Pashur; Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jozabad, and Elasah. 23Also of the Levites; Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah, (the same is Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. 24Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri. 25Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah. 26And of the sons of Elam; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and Jeremoth, and Eliah. 27And of the sons of Zattu; Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza. 28Of the sons also of Bebai; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. 29And of the sons of Bani; Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth. 30And of the sons of Pahath-moab; Adna, sand Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh. 31, 32And of the sons of Harim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. 33Of the sons of Hashum; Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. 34Of the sons of Bani; Maadai, 35Amram, and Uel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Chelluh, 36Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37, 38, 39Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau, And Bani, and Binnui, Shimei, And 40, 41Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah, Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azareel, 42and Shelemiah, Shemariah, Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. 43Of the sons ofNebo; Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, Benaiah. 44All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Ezra 10:1–8. This chapter from beginning to end treats of the great results attending the penitential prayer of Ezra in the congregation.
Ezra 10:1. Now when Ezra had prayed, etc.—Ezra’s prayer is properly designated as a confessing. הִתְוַדּוֹת, comp. notes on 9:15. מִתְנַפֵּל means: prostrating one’s self, lying on the knees, comp. 10:1.—Before the house of God,—elsewhere also “before the face of God,” in the court of the temple. That a great crowd gathered together unto him had its reason in the fact that the people wept very much, that is, for sorrow over the evil circumstances into which so many had plunged themselves, and especially were deeply moved with him also in view of the sins by which they had done it, and accordingly also desired assistance. בֶּכֶה, which form only occurs here, depends upon its verb, although it is separated from it by the adverb הַרְבֵּה in the manner of an infin. abs.
Ezra 10:2. And Shechaniah——answered,etc.—That Ezra himself did not step forth with a definite demand, that he waited until one of the congregation should make a proposition, did not have its reason in the fact that his position did not entitle him to make such a demand, but in the circumstance that the reformation could only be of worth and thoroughly carried out when it came forth from the congregation itself. Shechaniah here, the son of Jehiel, is to be distinguished from Shechaniah, the son of Jahaziel, in Ezra 8:5. And Jehiel, his father, is probably not identical with the one mentioned in Ezra 10:26. Were it so, Shechaniah would not have scrupled to make a proposition by which his own father would be compelled to dismiss his wife. The sons of Elam, to whom he belonged, occur in 2:7; 8:7, and again in Ezra 10:26. He was, and this is significant, no priest, nor prince, but one of the congregation, so that in and with him the congregation itself promptly arose to vindicate the law. הוֹשִׁיב, cause to dwell, is in our chapter (comp. Ezra 10:10, 14, 17, 18), and so also in Neh. 13:23, 27, used for the taking home of wives. Shechaniah confesses: We have acted unfaithfully towards the Lord in taking home foreign women (comp. Ezra 10:10 and Neh. 13:27), in order to justify Ezra for his strong condemnation of this intermarriage. At the same time he retains hope, עַל־זֹאת = at this transgression (comp. 9:15), or rather in spite of it. עַל in itself sensu medio, may readily have the meaning of “in spite of,” comp. Is. 53:9; Job 16:17. מִקְוֶה is here=תִּקְוָה. Shechaniah is of the opinion that a removal of the evil is still possible, and perhaps he already recognized also the fact that the resolution to carry out this difficult thing might give the impulse to a general reformation.
Ezra 10:3. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God—that is, we will obligate ourselves by a solemn covenant and a sworn vow to God (comp. 2 Chron. 29:10) to put away.—הוֹצִיא is here the opposite of הוֹשִׁיב—all the wives—namely, as a matter of course, all foreign ones—and such as are born of them—also to send away the children. This resolution might almost seem to be unnecessarily severe, yet it is a matter of question whether it would not have been harder still to separate the mothers from their children. The little ones still needed their mothers, and the larger ones might easily be a support for their mothers. Moreover, it was to be feared that the children, if they were retained, would constitute a bond between the men and their banished wives that would soon again reassert its power and render possible the return of the wives. We are by no means to conclude from Ezra 10:11–19 that they contented themselves with reference to this proposition, with the removal of their wives. Comp. against this view Ezra 10:44 and Neh. 13:23 sq. Moreover, however, that which Shechaniah here in his zeal so comprehensively proposes might yet not be so recognized and required, without exception. There was no sufficient ground for removing sons who were willing to live in accordance with the law, and who were not necessarily to be cast out on account of the mother.—According to the counsel of the Lord and of those that tremble at the commandment of our Lord.—That the Lord and those who tremble at His command should be brought together in this way is almost remarkable. The Sept. and Esdras, and after them also De Wette and Bertheau, read accordingly אֲדֹנִי, my Lord, which would be Ezra [so A. V. and Rawlinson.]1 But Ezra had not yet given any counsel at all, and besides, it is hardly conceivable that Shechaniah should here speak to him in such a reverent tone, and then in the verses immediately following so familiarly and cheeringly. Already the Vulgate has juxta voluntatem domini, and according to De Rossi, quite a number of MSS. read even יְהוָֹה. The connection of the two expressions, which is in itself somewhat remarkable, would probably say: according to the counsel of the Lord, as it is understood and vindicated by those who tremble at His commandments. Entirely parallel is Acts 15:28: “for it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” The עֵצָה of the Lord is often elsewhere His decree (comp. Is. 5:19; 19:17; Ps. 106:13); here, however, according to the context, the counsel, which He gives, as Ps. 107:11; Prov. 1:25; 2 Kings 17:13. Thus mildly Shechaniah expresses himself, however, because a specific command to dismiss the wives, and likewise also their children, was not found in the law, and moreover also partly because the law, in so far as it yet gave an impulse thereto, had a counselling, that is, a precautionary significance with the good of the congregation in view. The clause כַּתּוֹרָה יֵעָשֶׁה is not to be taken in an optative sense [A. V.]—which would be weak—but as a promise: it shall happen according to the law. The fourth verse, moreover, passes over from the tone of comfort to that of promise.—Arise, for upon thee is the matter.—This can only mean: upon thee the matter has to depend; thou must carry it out according to thy judgment and conviction.—And we with thee.—This means in accordance with the foregoing. And we will be with thee, will help thee.
Ezra 10:5–8. Now Ezra made use of the favorable sentiment: he made the princes, etc.,to swear to doכַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה, that is, to carry out the proposition of Shechaniah, then however continued his sorrow, and thereby deepened the zeal that had been excited, until he saw the beginning of the execution of the reform.—Ezra arose from before the house of God, that is, he left the place in the court, where he had prayed, and went into the chamber of Johanan, the son of Eliashib, in order to fast and mourn there. This cell was certainly in the wing that the new temple had gained, and which served for the preservation of the garments of the priests and other articles, but likewise for the provisional abode of the priests and Levites; according to Neb. 13:4–9 the high-priest Eliashib had erected a cell for the use of the Ammonite Tobia, as his relative, which he used in his frequent visits to Jerusalem. The names of Johanan and Eliashib frequently occur (comp. Ezra 10:24, 27, 36), one of the twenty-four classes of priests had its name from a more ancient Eliashib, 1 Chron. 24:12. But that an apartment or cell of the temple should be named after a subordinate man of the name of Johanan, as Ewald supposes (Gesch. IV., S. 263), is impossible. It is very likely that we are to think of the later high-priest Johanan, and indeed the more so that he was not, it is true, as the one under consideration, a son, but a grandson of Eliashib. The order of high-priests from the time of Zerubbabel was as follows: Jeshua, Joiakim, Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, Jaddua, comp. Neh. 12:10 sq., where it is true Jonathan stands in place of Jaddua; where however, according to Neh. 12:22, 23, Johanan is meant. In the time of Ezra, Joiakim or Eliashib was high-priest. We must probably suppose that the author used a later designation for the previous times as one more intelligible to his readers. The apartment might have been present already in the time of Ezra, which subsequently, perhaps in consequence of a re-building, was named after the high-priest Johanan. The second וַיִּלֶךְ is a needless repetition, and cannot be at all compared with the twice-repeated וַיָקָם in verses 5 and 6, which at any rate each time receives a special definiteness by an additional clause, (against Keil).2שָׁם is besides, at any rate very seldom used in the sense of “thither,” as it must be taken to be in connection with וַיִּלֶךְ. The supposition of Cler. and Berth. that we are to read instead of it יַיָּלֶן, and he passed the night or remained there, commends itself very much to our judgment. Already Esdras 9:1 has: κὰι αὐλισθεὶς ἐκε͂ι, the Syriac: and he sat or remained there; the Sept. however: κὰι ἐπορεύθη ἐκε͂ι.—Eat no bread nor drink water is to fast. Comp. Ex. 34:28; Deut. 9:9.
Ezra 10:7. Thus they, namely, the princes and elders, who according to Ezra 10:8 took the matter in hand—made proclamation.—הֶעֱבִיר קוֹל as 1:1,—and indeed probably whilst Ezra was still fasting and mourning, thus immediately after Ezra’s penitential prayer and Shechaniah’s proposition—that all the members of the congregation should assemble unto Jerusalem.
Ezra 10:8. According to the counsel or resolution of the princes and the elders,etc.—כַּעֲצַת belongs to the following clause—the ban should fall upon every one’s substance who should not come in after three days3 to Jerusalem, his possessions were to be forfeited for the benefit of the temple4 (Lev. 27:28 and Neh. 12:28), and he himself however should be at once cast forth from the congregation.
Ezra 10:9–17. The assembling took place on the twentieth day of the ninth month, namely, in the same year which Ezra had arrived in Jerusalem. (comp. Ezra 9:1), and indeed in the square (רְחוֹב) of the house of God, probably on the east or south-east side of the temple court, yet not before the water gate. Comp. notes on Neh. 8:1. If already the affairs themselves, which naturally had not remained concealed from them, were calculated to excite them to the utmost, and depress them, the stormy weather that had set in made their situation utterly miserable. In December it is not only cold, but the rain is accustomed to fall in torrents. Comp. Robinson’s Phy. Geog., p. 287.
Ezra 10:10, 11. When Ezra now held up before them their error and called upon them to give praise unto the Lord, that is, honor Him indeed by the separation from the people of the land, above all from the foreign wives—נָתַן תּוֹדָה as Josh. 7:19—then the entire assembly (Ezra 10:12) announced with a loud voice, accordingly unreservedly resolved—קוֹל גָּדוֹל (the same as בְּקוֹל גָּדוֹל3:12) is a closer designation, which is co-ordinated to the subject or the so-called acc. instrum., Gesen., S. 138, Anm. 3, comp. Ps. 3:5, etc.—according as thy words to us we must do.—Already the Vulgate in accordance with the accents, connects עָלֵינוּ with the foregoing (juxta tuum verbum ad nos, sic fiat); we may however in accordance with Ezra 10:4, Neh. 8:13; 2 Sam.18:11, likewise connect עָלֵינוּ with what follows, so that the sense is: thus we are in duty bound to do.
Ezra 10:13, 14. However, it could not be established in this way, namely, by a general declaration, whether many of the guilty would not be dissatisfied with the step concluded upon, and seek to withdraw from their obligation. If the separation was to be carried out energetically and surely, it must be established in detail who were united in marriage with strange women, and it was necessary that the elders or princes in question should undertake to take care that the resolution of the congregation should everywhere have its proper consequences. Thus it was necessary that there should be confirmations and explanations that demanded a long time. Those who had spoken accordingly continue:—But the people are many.—אֲבָל is an adversative particle of limitation. Their meaning is that on account of the large number of the assembly, it is not certain whether they all were really agreed.—And the time is violent rain.—This is briefly for: the time is that of the violent rain, just as “thine eyes are doves” Song of Songs, 4:1.— And there is no strength to stand without = we cannot longer stand in the cold.—And the business is not for one day and not for two, etc.—There are so many cases that must be established and examined into.
Ezra 10:14. Let now our princes stand for the entire congregation,etc.—לְכָל־הַקָּחָל serves not as a closer designation of the princes as such who belonged to the entire congregation in distinction from the elders and judges of the separate cities (Berth.), as it has already been taken by the Sept., στήτωσαν δὴ ἄρχοντες ἡμῶν, and Esdras: στήτωσαν δὲ ὅ προηγόυμενοι τοῦ πλήθους. The ל is rather a designation of the dat. commodi, and here is equivalent to “in place of.” The sense is, let the princes remain in Jerusalem and advise with Ezra; especially however name to him the members of the congregation in question.—And let every one in our cities who has taken home strange wives, come at fixed times, and with them (for, with him) the elders of every city, and the judges thereof.—The princes are to fix the times for the guilty ones named by them to Ezra, when they have to appear with their elders and judges; the guilty are then to promise to dismiss the wives; the elders and judges however are intrusted with the duty of watching over the performance of their vows. Since the various local congregations might be called at different times, it was possible in this way to dispose of them in Jerusalem in a much shorter period. The article before הוֹשִׁיב again represents the relative as in Ezra 10:17; 8:25. עִתִּים מְזֻמָּנִים. are appointed terms, only here and Neh. 10:35; 13:31זִמֵּן is a Chaldaism.—Until they turn away the fierce wrath of our God from us with reference to this matter.—עַד in the sense of “until,” gives no difficulty. For it might be expected of a God who is ever so gracious, that with the cause of the wrath the wrath itself also would cease. The supposition of Betheau, that עַד with the following ל in the later language is used for the simple ל, thus stating the purpose, cannot be proved from Jos. 13:5; 1 Chron. 5:9; 13:5, compared with Num. 13:21. Also in the clause עַד לַדָּבָר הַזֶּה after wrath, עַד retains its meaning; the sense is: which reaches even to this matter.5 Certainly, however, the simple לַדָּבָר הַוֶּה would have sufficed here (comp. Gen. 19:21; 1 Sam. 30:24; Dan. 1:14), just as עַד לְמֵרָחוֹק, 2 Chron. 26:15; Ezra 3:13, and לְמֵרָחוֹק, 2 Sam. 7:19 amount to the same thing. With the first words of the verse, “let our princes stand,” this clause cannot be connected in the sense of “so long as this matter lasts, (Keil); against this is not only the fact that it would be somewhat superfluous, but also that a new clause: And let every one—come—has come in between.
Ezra 10:15–17. Only Jonathan, etc.—If we follow the clear usage of the language we must regard this as in apposition. אַךְ properly “only” (then often it is true “in truth”) easily leads to an adversative limitation, and עָמַד עַל means 1 Chron. 21:1; 2 Chron. 20:23; Dan. 8:25; 11:14:stand against any person or thing, as sometimes also קוּם עַל. Accordingly Jonathan and Jahaziah withstood the adopted resolution, whether they merely had some objection to the proposed method of dealing with the matter, or were also opposed to the banishment of strange wives itself. Only the circumstance that verse 16 is joined on, without an adversative particle, although it treats of the obedience of the congregation, seems to favor the view that here also an agreement is meant, as then already the Vulgate has: steterunt super hoc præfecti sunt huic negotio. But in truth, according to our conception, Ezra 10:16 is not in contrast with Ezra 10:15. All depends upon the emphasis placed upon “only” at the beginning of Ezra 10:15. Not notwithstanding that, but because only Jonathan, etc., withstood, the congregation did, as a whole, as had been proposed. The present reading in Ezra 10:16וַיִּבָּדְלוּ Ezra, the priest, men as heads of fathers’ houses were separated, is not only opposed by the fact that we should expect with the Sept. and Vulg. the copula before אֲנָשִׁים, since an asyndeton would here be very remarkable, but likewise by the fact that a separation of Ezra could hardly be spoken of, for he was already sufficiently set apart by his entire position. We may therefore with Ewald, Gesch. IV., S. 185 and Berth., in accordance with Esdras and the Peschito read יַיַּכְדֵּל לוֹ—And Ezra separated for himself, or at any rate also וַיִּבָּדְלוּ לָעֶזְרָא—there were separated unto Ezra. [So Rawlinson].—After the fathers’ house = so that every father’s house was represented by its head.—And they all with names, as 8:20.—And they held a session—so יַיִּשְׁבוּ here—on the first day of the tenth month, thus ten days after the general assembly of the people, to Investigate the matter.—Instead of דַּרְיוֹשׁ which is not a Hebrew formation, we are to read the infin. דְּרוֹשׁ.
Ezra 10:17. And they made an end with all, etc., אֲנָשִׁים (men who had taken home strange wives) can hardly be in apposition with בַּכֹּל as the more ancient interpreters would have it; the expression would be too peculiar; moreover the accentuation is against it. No more can אֲנָשִׁים be the object of וַיְּכֲלּוּ and בַּכֹּל be a designation of place; they brought to an end the men (the hearing of them) in every place (Berth.); אֲנָשִׁים in this case would certainly require the article. The same objection is to be made to the rendering of Keil, “with reference to the men,” which in itself moreover already misses the sense. The suspicion that the clause was a title of the following section in Ezra 10:18, and only by mistake was placed here is quite natural, but it is not confirmed by any ancient version. Thus we must regard the entire clause as a brief, loosely attached, closer designation of כֹּל, and understand: they were ready with the entire object incumbent upon them, that however was men who, etc.—[Rawlinson in loco: “In some cases, it may be presumed, they had to summon persons before them who did not wish to part with their foreign wives; in all they had to assure themselves that the wives were foreign; finally they had in every case where they decreed a divorce to make out the ‘writing of divorcement,’ to which the woman put away was entitled as evidence of her having been a wife and having become free.”—TR.]—By the first day of the first month, namely, of the following year. The session thus lasted in all very nearly three months.
Ezra 10:18–44. Catalogue of the men, who had strange wives, and were obliged to dismiss them. First of all are the priests in Ezra 10:18–22, and indeed in Ezra 10:18 and 19 four of the house of the high-priest.—Of the sons of Jeshua,etc. This evidently means the high-priest Jeshua, who had come to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. The sons of his brother were probably only his distant relatives; according to 2:36, they were, if Jeshua there is the high-priest Jeshua, sons of Jedaiah, thus brother in a broader sense.
Ezra 10:19. They gave their hands, that is, they vowed in a solemn manner by striking hands (comp. 2 Kings 10:15) to dismiss their wives. וַאֲשֵׁמִים might follow as epexegesis = and indeed as guilty. But it is more simple to supply: and they were guilty, that is, as they stood there guilty. The more general law of Lev. 5:14 sq. comes into consideration. They must bring a guilt-offering, because they had committed a מַעַל against Jehovah, for which a satisfaction was possible, and hence must likewise be given; comp. the different opinions respecting the guilt-offering in Keil’s Archäol. I. S. 244. עֵיל־צֹאן is subordinated as an accusative of closer definition to the previous word. In connection with the following persons we are to supply in thought the promise to dismiss the wives and probably also the offering of a corresponding guilt-offering.—Of the names following in Ezra 10:20–22 some occur again in Neh. 8:4; 10:2–9, which perhaps designate the same persons. In all eighteen priests were guilty; none of the divisions that had returned with Zerubbabel had kept themselves free from the transgression (comp. 2:36–39).
In Ezra 10:23 and 24 ten Levites follow, among whom Kelaiah, usually called Kelita (comp. Neh. 8:7 and 10:11); furthermore Jozabad, who again occurs in Neh. 8:7.
Ezra 10:26–44 give the names from the rest of Israel. In all there are eighty-six, distributed among ten of the families named in chapter 2. It is singular that the sons of Bani are mentioned twice in Ezra 10:29 and Ezra 10:34, and probably there is an error in the second Bani, although it already occurs in the reading of the Sept. and Esdras. Whilst of every other family only four, six, seven or eight persons are enumerated in Ezra 10:34 sq. not less than twenty-seven are mentioned as of this family. Furthermore it is singular that the inhabitants of the cities adduced in 2:21–28 and Ezra 10:33–35 are not expressly mentioned, whilst yet in Ezra 10:7 sq. and Ezra 10:14 those outside the city come into consideration as well as the Jerusalemites. Probably the twenty-seven men mentioned in Ezra 10:34–41 belonged to the different districts of Judah.
Ezra 10:44 concludes the entire catalogue with a summary statement.—All these had taken strange wives.—נשׂאי must be taken as a participle; probably, however, we should read as the perfect נָשְׂאוּ. for the expression נָשָׁא נָשִׁים, comp. 9:2. No admissible sense can be derived from the last words of the verse; the translation: And there were among them women, and they had, or which had brought sons into the world, by which the masc. suffix of מֵהֶם, and so also the masc. form וַיָּשִׂימוּ, is referred to the wives, gives a statement, which is too self-evident to be correct. But a change which Bertheau proposes: “And there were among them those who sent away wives and sons,” does not commend itself, partly because it is in too little connection with the text as we have it, partly because such a clause would likewise be too self-evident after Ezra 10:3.—[Rawlinson adopts the former interp. and says: “The fact is noted as having increased the difficulty of Ezra’s task.”—TR.]
THOUGHTS UPON THE HISTORY OF REDEMPTION
Ezra 10:1–4. 1. It is certainly worthy of remark that it is not narrated of Ezra that he, as we should expect, expressly and severely denounced the men married to strange Wives, but that we are only told of his prayer and confession of sin, in which he includes himself in the number of the guilty. Earnest sorrow for the sin to be denounced in others, and especially persevering prayer in their behalf, which in the nature of the case readily includes intercession, generally makes a deeper impression as well upon the persons themselves as their adherents, than castigating sermons, as then likewise here a great crowd of men, women, and children assembled. about the praying and sorrowing Ezra, deeply affected by his sorrow.
2. If a head of a community sorrows in true sympathy and anxiety for his people, the better class of the people do not lack the earnest wish to remove his sorrow, and especially its cause: the love and respect which they entertain for him very easily pass over into this wish, and then there is easily found in the congregation itself a spokesman, who, as here Shechaniah, openly acknowledges the guilt, and correctly expresses what it is necessary to do in order to be free from it. Such a voice, moreover, arising out of the congregation itself, such willingness, springing up of itself, is the best result and reward of the sorrowing one. The willingness of the congregation, thus testified, is thereby at the same time still further intensified and enlarged, and the improvement which then takes place as a free act, has a truly ethical significance.
3. Such a one, who stands in the midst of a congregation, has need not only of a strict conscientiousness, but also of great courage and alacrity, in order to openly designate a sin of which many have been guilty as a sin, and demand the putting of it away. But he who is first convinced that the sin in question is really sin, and that the putting it away is really God’s will, should not be frightened by any objection from expressing his conviction, and improving the others, who perhaps are only weak, but not hardened. A lack of conscientiousness and courage in this respect is truly lamentable; it is ominous and ruinous for those in question. Joy in God, on the other hand, has its great blessings under all circumstances, even when, instead of good resulting, at first only opposition, scorn, and persecution are reaped. Besides, a good transaction never remains entirely, at least never very long, wholly without results.
Ezra 10:5–8. It is indeed possible, yea, usually the case, that the first better feelings which dawn at a reformation are transitory. Many let themselves be carried away by the awakening voices of the better spirits, so that they to a certain extent outrun themselves, and regard themselves as capable of the severest self-sacrifices; but afterwards, when they come to realize the difficulties to be overcome, in all their magnitude, they shrink back from them as quickly as they had before resolved to overcome them. Even because they are so great, they deem themselves excused from carrying out their resolution. And the longer they hesitate the more grounds they find to justify the sins that were to be put away. He who would truly improve a congregation should therefore never be satisfied with a first good resolution on their part; his earnestness, his sorrow, his prayer must endure, and it must be felt by all, that he has no rest and no joy until the good resolution has become act and fact. But if anything, such a perseverance will have the power to deepen and render permanent the penitence of the congregation, so that, as in our history, it takes the steps with earnestness and zeal, that are necessary to carry out the good resolution.
Ezra 10:9–12. The wife was not in such a high station among the Israelites as among Christians. Polygamy was still allowed. Yet the true relation to God and the recognition of the truth, that the woman had been created in the divine image, already involved, that the position of the man towards the woman was much better than among the heathen Asiatics. The demand that wives and children should be dismissed was at any rate, for the most of the parties concerned, one of the hardest that could at all be made. But a true reformer should not hesitate to demand even the hardest things of the congregation of the Lord, and express his demand with clearness and definiteness. His rule is God’s word and will alone. Every modification, weakening, and rendering it easy on his part, renders his work of reformation all the more difficult. For it deprives him of his authority as an instrument of God; he thereby abandons the only safe foundation, besides passes over to act in his own name. It renders it difficult for the congregation to follow him. For to do God’s pure and clear will there is ever to be found fresh readiness, but to execute the will of a man, or what he may think proper, does not satisfy. The divine will often demands much
Very much—but its accomplishment has a corresponding blessing, but this fails if God’s demand is weakened by human devices.
Ezra 10:13–17. 1. We cannot blame the authorities for assembling the people without delay even in the cold and rainy season of the year. The removal of transgressions against God’s law and will admits of no delay. But again, it would not have been justifiable for Ezra to have prepared additional unnecessary burdens for the people, who already had besides enough to bear in the burden they had taken on themselves if He exposed them to the injuries of the storm, so to speak, punished them. Towards him who is willing to impose upon himself every self-denial, even the hardest, for the sake of the word of God, every possible forbearance has ever its proper place. And under all circumstances he who would carry out a difficult work of reformation has to take care that everything moves on in order.
2. From our point of view, the dismissal of strange wives with their children, seems extravagantly severe,—without doubt there were also many in the congregation of that time who found the demand of Ezra beyond measure hard, many who might be ruined by this proceeding. Notwithstanding, if we properly estimate all the circumstances of that period, and especially the great dangers that threatened the very existence of the congregation, we will be obliged to regard Ezra as in the right. We are not always to avoid that which may be a stumbling-block. The point of view which alone decides at last, is ever that the communion with the Lord must be re-established or furthered; all communion and friendship with men must stand in the background. If, when we let the latter retire to the background we be regarded as destitute of consideration and the like, we may easily put up with it. Even the opinion of men already prepares a martyrdom, to which Peter’s word may be applied, “happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” 1 Pet. 4:14. What a thorough success his proceeding without regard to consequences had is clear from Neh. 8–10; for it certainly already gave an important impulse to the renewal of the covenant there narrated,—it is clear then moreover from Ps. 111 and 112, which praise the Lord still for the redemption given to the people, at the same time, however, already are full of praise of the law and the disposition in accordance with the law, especially also from Ps. 119, if it originated already in this period where the poet, just as Ezra in chap. 9, refers to deadly peril, from which the Lord only has delivered him, or removed him, and the one thought that only in the keeping of the divine commandments is salvation, is given with variation, comp. especially Ezra 10:37 sq.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Ezra 10:1–4. The power of sorrow over sin (if it be a true, divine sorrow): 1) It moves the pious to sympathy and sorrow; 2) the more intelligent to the recognition of sin; 3) the guilty, at least in part, to the resolution to put away sin.—The possibility of hope in God: 1) In spite of what circumstances: eyen when the pious leaders sorrow, and the more intelligent are obliged to admit great transgression; 2) under what conditions: when we are ready to re-establish the communion with God by putting away sin, and again cheer those sorrowing for it.—STARKE: If we have sinned and deserved punishment, we should not despair, or let go every hope, as if we were out and out ruined; but we should confess the sins committed, lament and grieve for them, and take our refuge with the mercy of God.
Ezra 10:5–8. How will it be better? 1) If he who has to represent the cause of God obligates superiors (fathers and teachers) to do their duty and suffers sorrow so long as they have not accomplished their work.—SEARKE: Preachers should be an example for the people (1 Tim. 4:12), that they should see their good works and be likewise incited to good.—In the example of the great is a great power for evil and also for good. 2) When the superiors earnestly and zealously take heed to remove the general transgression. 3) When those who would not follow are excluded from communion with the others.—STARKE: Those who publicly sin should be publicly chastised, in order that others also may fear. Preachers should chastise with especial earnestness where there is loose conduct in matter of marriage.—In true conversion we must for God’s sake renounce that which is hard and difficult for us to renounce.
Ezra 10:9–12. True willingness to set aside that which separates from God: 1) on the side of the people—they follow the call of their superiors punctually, with zeal, in spite of external difficulties; 2) on the side of the teacher—he sincerely shows the people their sins, and requires of them also confidently the most difficult things; 3) on the side of those who have sinned—they vow to free themselves from their guilt.—The duty of loving God more than our nearest relatives. 1) When we are to follow it—always and under all circumstances, even when to fulfil it is especially difficult. 2) What it means—especially this, that we do wrong in letting our highest good be imperilled by relatives, by our wives or by our children,—that we are therefore bound to choose the wife, above all, with reference to the Lord; 3) upon what it is based—on our having to give the Lord praise and honor (comp. Ezra 10:11)—BRENTIUS: Non est quidem matrimonium sine consensu et sine promissione, at illa non sufficiunt. In contractu matrimonii requiretur legis observatio.
[SCOTT: Genuine humiliation before God and sorrow for sin always produce works meet for repentance.—Fervent affections should not be allowed to subside till our most beloved sins have been renounced.—HENRY: Our weeping for other people’s sins may perhaps set them a weeping for themselves, who otherwise would have continued senseless and remorseless.—Then there is hope of people when they are convinced not only that’ tis good to part with their sins, but that ’ tis indispensably necessary.—WORDSWORTH: Prayer may preach; the sighs and sobs of the penitent are sometimes the best sermons; but prayers and tears avail not without practice.—TR.]
[Rawlinson in loco “This expression shows the high position which Ezra occupied as the commissioner of the Persian king. His counsel does not appear to have been expressly given. but might be gathered from the general tone of his prayer.”—TR]
[It may be as in the A.V., the protasis of a temporal clause, as “When he came thither.”—TR]
[Rawlinson in loco “The brevity of this term indicates the narrowness of the area over which the returned Israelites were Spread.”—TR]
[Rawlinson in loco “The Persians allowed generally to the conquered nations that they should be governed by their own laws. In the present case Ezra had had special permission to appoint magistrates and judges who should judge the people according to the law of his God (7:25) and could enforce his views of the law of only by confiscation of goods, but even by death (7:26),”—TR]
[Rawlinson after Dathe and Maurer follows two MSS. Which read עַל הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה—TR]
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.