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…
Roused by the speech of Shechaniah to the work of reformation, Ezra promptly took his measures. These are set forth in the words before us. The consideration of the subject may be conveniently arranged under three heads, viz. -
I. THE PROCLAMATION.
1. This was drawn up in the temple (vers. 6, 7).
(1) In the "chamber of Johanan, the son of Eliashib." Eliashib was high priest, in which office he was succeeded by his son Joiada (Nehemiah 12:10). Some think Johanan was another name for Joiada; but Joiada had a son Jonathan, who more probably was this Johanan (Nehemiah 12:11). In this case Ezra consulted with the grandson of Eliashib. Sagacity for counsel is not always found with age.
(2) Perhaps the chamber of Johanan was the place in which a council of priests assembled. The plural "they" who "made proclamation" shows that Ezra did not issue it upon his sole authority. It would go forth with the sanction of the civil and ecclesiastical rulers of the nation (see ver. 8).
(3) It was also drawn up in a spirit suited to the solemnity of the occasion and the place. Ezra still continued his fast; "for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away." Mourning should not cease until sin is abandoned. Under the influence of this true spirit the document was framed.
2. Its measures were strong and peremptory.
(1) All the children of the captivity were to assemble in Jerusalem within three days. Sufficient time was given. No man can plead that God has not given him sufficient time for the securing of his salvation. But there was no time to waste. We must not play with repentance. Procrastination is peril.
(2) Failing to appear, the ecclesiastical penalty was excommunication. Exclusion from the society of God's people upon earth is a fearful forfeiture But what must be the calamity of permanent exclusion from the holy universe!
(3) There was also a civil penalty, viz., "that all his substance should be forfeited." The Hebrew for "forfeited" here is in the margin construed "devoted," which suggests that it should be given to the sacred uses of the temple. This was fitting where civil and ecclesiastical laws were the same; but here is no justification for the infliction of civil penalties by ecclesiastical authority under the gospel.
II. THE APPEAL (vers. 10, 11).
1. The people were prepared to hear it.
(1) The fear of God was upon them. "All the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter." The Spirit of God had wrought this conviction m their hearts in answer to Ezra's prayer.
(2) They were also terrified because of the rain. This rain may have been natural and seasonable, for it was then December, and the Septuagint construes the word for "rain" by winter. It was probably miraculous (comp. 1 Samuel 12:18). This agrees best with the terror it occasioned.
2. It urged upon them the duty of reformation.
(1) It brought home to them their sin. Simply the heads of the discourse are given here; but many arguments were doubtless used to force home conviction.
(2) It urged them to make full confession to God. Where conviction is deep and real there will be full confession. God requires this (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9).
(3) It moved them to forsake their sin. There is an impudent confession of sin which aggravates its turpitude. Sincere confession leads to reformation.
III. THE RESPONSE.
1. The people consented to the reformation.
(1) The consent was emphatic. "As thou hast said, so must we do." We must do it, or we are undone.
(2) It was hearty. They said this "with a loud voice." It is well to pronounce ourselves against our sins. It strengthens our courage for God.
(3) It was unanimous. "All the congregation answered." There is a wonderful unanimity in seasons of religious revival. God uses the sympathy of numbers.
2. They suggested measures for carrying it on.
(1) The business was too heavy to be finished m a day. Nice points might arise to be considered. For example, some of the reputed strange wives may have become Jewish proselytes.
(2) The rulers of all the congregation were to be represented by the elders of every city and the judges. Before these local courts justice might be carried out with reasonable expedition.
3. Ezra consented to their proposal.
(1) Three months were accordingly occupied with this business (vers. 16, 17). During this time 113 delinquents were convicted (vers. 18-44).
(2) Amongst these were members of the high priest's family. They gave their hands in token of their submission (see 1 Chronicles 29:24, margin) to put away their wives. They also offered a ram for their trespass. This example was doubtless followed by the people, for everything was to be done according to the law (ver. 3; also Leviticus 6:4, 6).
(3) In these sacrifices the gospel was foreshadowed. Note - "All the children of the captivity" appear to have been settled "in Judah and Jerusalem," which suggests that there were but few of the "ten tribes" among them, who would naturally seek their inheritance in other parts of Palestine. Agreeably to this, the people who assembled in response to the proclamation are described as "all the men of Judah and Benjamin." - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the room of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib: and [when] he came there, he ate no bread, nor drank water; for he mourned because of the trespass of them of the captivity.