Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.Ezra and others, hearing of the unlawful marriage of the people with strangers, mourn for it, Ezra 9:1-4. He prayeth unto God, and confesseth their sins, and particularly this, Ezra 9:5-15.
The princes; who feared God, and understood that Ezra was come with large commission from the king, and with this design, to reform all disorders, whereof this was not the least. From the people of the lands, i.e. from the heathen nations round about them, which God had expressly commanded them to do, Deu 7:2,3. Doing according to their abominations, to wit, either,
1. Marrying promiscuously whomsoever they liked, as the heathens used to do; or,
2. Imitating them in their idolatrous or other wicked practices, into which they were drawn by their heathenish affinities; although they are not charged with any other crime besides their marriage in the following account of it.
For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.This they had done, either,
1. In the land of their captivity, into which these people were carried as well as others, as appears from Jeremiah 25:9, &c. Or rather,
2. Since their return, as may be gathered from Ezra 9:8,9,10,14.
The princes and rulers; who should have restrained the people from this sin by their authority and example; and, by doing otherwise, made the sin more general, and involved themselves and the nation in the guilt of it.
And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.My garment and my mantle; both my inner and my upper garment.
Plucked off the hair of my head, and of my beard, in testimony of my great grief and indignation; which was usual among all these eastern and ancient people, wherein he did not transgress that law, Leviticus 19:27 Deu 14:1, because he did not shave off all the hair, but only plucked off some hairs.
Sat down astonied; partly for grief and shame at the sin; and partly for fear of some great and dreadful judgment which he expected and feared for it.
Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.Then were assembled unto me; to join with me both in lamenting the sin, and in endeavouring the redress of it.
Every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, i.e. who stood in awe of God, and of his word, and durst not violate his commands; or who feared his threatenings against those that did so, and trembled for fear of God’s judgments upon them, and upon the whole land for their sakes, as the following words imply. Compare Isaiah 66:2,5.
Those that had been carried away, to wit, into captivity, and were safely returned from it, and yet were not reformed either by their former affliction, or by their latter deliverance.
Until the evening sacrifice, when the people used to assemble together. See Psalm 141:2 Acts 3:1.
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,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 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.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.
Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.We have been in a great trespass unto this day: we are not purged from the guilt and filth of our fathers’ sins, but we are still feeling the sad effects of their sins in the continuing captivity of a great number of our brethren; and we are still repeating the same sins.
And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.Now for a little space: it is but a little while since God hath delivered and restored us, and yet we are already returned to our former sin and folly. Or thus, We have enjoyed this favour but a little while, and now we are sinning it away, and shortening our own happiness.
To leave us a remnant to escape; that by his favour many of us should escape out of captivity; whom he calls but a remnant, because the far greatest part of the Israelitish nation were yet in captivity.
To give us a nail, i.e. either,
1. A just and merciful prince of our own nation and religion; such being compared to nails or pins, as Isaiah 22:23. Or rather,
2. Some kind of settlement; whereas before we were tossed and removed from place to place as our masters pleased. It is a metaphor from tents, which are fastened by cords and nails, or pins. In his holy place, i.e. in this holy land, as the land of Judah is called, Zechariah 2:12. Or, in Jerusalem, which is called the holy city, Nehemiah 11:1,18 Da 9:24; which is peculiarly mentioned, because of the temple, which was the nail which fastened their tents, and gave them some ground of hopes to continue in their land.
That our God may lighten our eyes, i.e. that he might revive and comfort our hearts. For as darkness is oft put for a state of sorrow and affliction, so light is put for joy and comfort.
Give us a little reviving in our bondage; for we are not quite delivered, but still wear our fetters upon us, being even here in subjection to our former lords.
For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.We were bondmen, i.e. in greater bondage than that in which we now are.
Hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, i.e. hath given us to find favour in their eyes.
To give us a reviving; to recover us from the grave of dreadful calamities, in which we lay like dead men and dry bones, Ezekiel 37:1, &c.
To repair the desolations thereof, to wit, of the temple; either,
1. To build the house, where there was only a heap of the ruins of the old temple. Or rather,
2. To frequent and celebrate the worship of God in that place, which hath long lain like a desolate and neglected place. For the building of the house was mentioned in the next foregoing words.
To give us a wall, Heb. a hedge, or a fence; either,
1. The wall built about Jerusalem. But it is probable that was not yet built, as we shall see by the following history. Besides, this fence is intimated to be as much a fence to the rest of Judah as to Jerusalem. Or,
2. The favour and protection of the kings of Persia, whose edicts on their behalf were under God their security against all those enemies wherewith they were encompassed. Or,
3. The powerful and gracious providence of God, which had brought them together, and planted them in their own land, and watched over them from time to time.
And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments,What apology can we make for ourselves, after thou hast conferred such great and high favours upon us, and we have so grossly abused them?
Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness.An unclean land with the filthiness of the people: this notes the cause or matter of this uncleanness. The land was not unclean in itself, but only polluted by the filthiness of its inhabitants.
Of the lands; or, of these lands which are round about it. This land is as corrupt as any of the rest of the heathen nations.
Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.Nor seek their peace; but root them out, as I have commanded you to do; which also they have abundantly deserved, both of mine and of your hands. See Deu 7:2.
That ye may be strong: although you may fancy that this way of making leagues and marriages with them is the only way to establish and settle you, yet I assure you it will weaken and ruin you, and the contrary course will make you stronger.
And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this;After all our sore sufferings for our sins, and after all thy favour showed to us in the mitigation of thy judgments.
Such deliverance as this; so full, so sudden, and unexpected, and amazing, not only to our enemies, but also to ourselves.
Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?Should we again break thy commandments? was this a fit and just requital of all thy kindnesses? or was this thy end and design in these actions? or wilt thou take this well from our hands?
There should be no remnant nor escaping: can we reasonably expect any thing from thee less than utter ruin?
O LORD God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this.Thou art righteous; a just and holy God, who dost hate, and wilt infallibly punish, sin and sinners. Or, thou art merciful, as appears from hence, that notwithstanding all our sins, thou hast not utterly destroyed us, but left a remnant of us. The Hebrew word here rendered righteous, is oft used for merciful; as is well known to all the learned.
For we remain yet escaped; or, though we remain, &c., i.e. though thou hast yet spared us in part, yet thou art righteous, and therefore wilt certainly punish and destroy us according to our deserts, if we do not repent us, and reform this great wickedness.
We are before thee in our trespasses; we are here in thy presence, and so are all our sins; we are arraigning ourselves before thy tribunal, acknowledging ourselves to be vile offenders, and thee to be just, if thou destroy us.
We cannot stand before thee, to wit, in judgment, as that word is oft used, as Psalm 130:3; compare Psalm 1:5; we must needs fall and perish at thy presence, as the phrase is, Psalm 9:3. Because of this; because of this our great guilt, and the aggravations of it.