Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God…
Ezra was a very remarkable man. He represented the Persian court as governor in Judaea. But this was the least feature of his distinction. He was a man of the most exemplary piety, a very profound scholar, and withal the subject of Divine inspiration. When it was noised in the city that such a man had rent his clothes, there was naturally a vast concourse of people. In the presence of this assembly he offered his prayer to God, in the whole of which there is not an expression of hope. This stirred the soul of Shechaniah to deliver his speech, which was eminently wise and most appropriate to the occasion.
I. IT CONTAINED A FULL CONFESSION OF SIN (ver. 2).
1. This had been done before by/Ezra.
(1) He did this for himself, to express to God the grief of his soul that the Divine honour should have been so insulted; that his people should have been so wicked and foolish as to have exposed themselves to the vengeance of heaven.
(2) But not on the part of the people who Were involved in the crime. Ezra had no ground for hope; for without repentance a sinner has no plea for mercy (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 1:11-15). To Ezra, therefore, the smoke of the evening sacrifice could only be a symbol of wrath.
2. Now it is done on behalf of the people. He does not appear himself to have been guilty; but his father and other members of his family were implicated (ver. 26). He was in a position to know that the "sore weeping" of the people, sympathetic with the weeping of Ezra (ver. 1), was the expression of a genuine contrition. Note - By weeping for the sins of others we may set them weeping for themselves.
II. IT PROPOSED A NATIONAL REPENTANCE AND REFORMATION (ver. 3).
1. They were to pledge themselves to put away all the strange wives and their issue.
(1) This extreme measure was required by the law. For in ancient times it was the duty of the children of Israel to exterminate the idolatrous people of the land (Deuteronomy 7:1-3).
(2) The genius of the gospel is different (see 1 Corinthians 7:12, 13). Now if there be one believing parent the offspring may receive baptism and Church recognition.
2. This was to be done in the most solemn manner.
(1) "Let us make a covenant," literally, let us cut (התאראשׂ כרת) a covenant. The allusion is to the custom of dividing a victim, and laying the pieces over against each other, so that the people covenanting might pass between them (see Genesis 15:10).
(2) This ceremony on the part of the people expressed their willingness to be treated as the victim had been, viz., to be cut up by the sacrificing knife of Divine justice if they proved faithless to their pledges (see Jeremiah 34:18-20).
(3) This ceremony points to the gospel of Christ, who is our covenant or purification-sacrifice, securing to us all blessings if we comply with the terms of mercy. It also admonishes us that if we do not comply, then the sword of flame will be turned upon us, and we shall be made ourselves the sacrifices for our sin.
III. IT SUGGESTED MEASURES FOR CARRYING OUT THE REFORMATION.
1. Ezra was himself to be the prime actor in this. "This matter belongeth unto thee."
(1) He had the moral qualifications for the work. His very soul was in it. His influence with his people was unequalled. He was the most eminent servant of God.
(2) He had the political qualifications. Governor, etc.
2. He was to associate with him as his council "those that tremble at the commandment of God.
(1) These were the godly persons whose sympathies led them first to gather round him (Ezra 9:4).
(2) With such a council the reformation would be the more likely to be carried out according to the law."
3. The chiefs of the people pledged themselves to be with him.
(1) Surely then "there is hope in Israel." "The valley of Achor," i.e. of trouble, has ever been "the door of hope" (Hosea 2:15). God promises to return to those who return to him (1 Samuel 7:8; Isaiah 55:7; Hosea 6:1).
(2) This speech of Shechaniah was surely God's answer to the prayer of Ezra. He was to Ezra what the angel was to Daniel (comp. Daniel 9:20).
(3) Now is the moment for action, and Ezra is equal to the occasion. "Then arose Ezra," etc. (ver. 5). "Them is a tide in the affairs of men," etc. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Now while Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there was gathered together to him out of Israel a very great assembly of men and women and children; for the people wept very bitterly.