Book of Ezra Chapter Ten Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
As you read this chapter, prayerfully consider the loving heart of Ezra the priest, in relation to the God he loved and the people he served. And it's not only ordained clergy who are to respond in such a manner. Centuries later, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would sum up God's commands for all of us: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength...and...You shall love your neighbor as yourself..." (Mark 12:30-31). Honest love is to be the heart of not only clergy, but of all who have faith in the Lord.
Ezra the man, the priest, had discovered that his beloved people had deviated from God's will for them, and this was how he responded in Verse 1: "Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large assembly, men, women and children, gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept bitterly." When your people, your tribe, your family, your nation sins, you are part of the problem in the sight of God. You are of that people and when your president, king, prime minister or whatever your leaders are called—when they sin, you are to pray for them as though you did the act yourself. You have an assignment to pray for them, plead for them as Ezra did, and when such prayers are uttered before the Throne of God, He will answer. And note that honest, fervent prayer is contagious. If we pray in such a manner, others will join us.
When you have complete understanding and pray as he did, your leaders and the people will be drawn to turn from their sinful ways, as seen in the last words of Verse 1, and in Verse 2: "Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, said to Ezra, 'We have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.'" Israel was to remain pure, in that their lineage was to be from faithful ancestors Abraham and Sarah alone, unmixed with the blood of those who were the previous owners of the lands given by God to the sons and daughters of Israel. Abraham and Sarah had simple trust, what we call "faith" in the Lord. The people they were to dispossess were idolators, and God knew that Israel would be contaminated through intermarriage with local tribes that looked to religion which had its origin in mere human ideas.
Shecaniah continued his encouragement to Ezra in Verses 3-4: "So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. 4 Arise! For this matter is your responsibility, but we will be with you; be courageous and act." God's will for mankind is clear, simple and is summed up by the words of Jesus in Mark 12:30-31, but the manifestation of His will for us to love is expressed individually within the lives of each one. I am called to express His love for others chiefly through the gift of teaching, whereas you might exhibit another expression of His love. In each case, God's love comes out of us and all praise is to Him. And when we are weak, which all of us are, we are to encourage one another in the use of those gifts.
Verses 5-6: "Then Ezra rose and made the leading priests, the Levites and all Israel, take oath that they would do according to this proposal; so they took the oath. 6 Then Ezra rose from before the house of God and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib. Although he went there, he did not eat bread nor drink water, for he was mourning over the unfaithfulness of the exiles." Ezra was shaken, but he managed to get to his feet and went quickly to Jehohanan, a notable Levitical priest who had returned to Jerusalem with Ezra (Nehemiah 12:13). Ezra's appetite for the things of this world was gone as he continued to fast, pray and mourn for his people.
Verses 7-9: "They made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the exiles, that they should assemble at Jerusalem, 8 and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the leaders and the elders, all his possessions should be forfeited and he himself excluded from the assembly of the exiles. 9 So all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month on the twentieth of the month, and all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and the heavy rain." This was serious business. Not only did ALL of the former exiles have to show up in Jerusalem within three days, but this was no time to be late because they would lose EVERYTHING if they were. It was the time of year called "December" in most modern calendars, and cold rain poured on them. The people trembled for more than one reason.
There are times to be subtle and this was not one of them. Ezra was very direct as he spoke to the people in Verses 10-11: "Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, 'You have been unfaithful and have married foreign wives adding to the guilt of Israel. 11 Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers and do His will; and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.'" It's not often that God's will is as clearly seen for a people as it was at that moment, which is why we should all study the Word of God, the Bible, with great diligence as Ezra did. In faith we become sensitized to the Touch of God in our lives, and as seen in Romans 10:17, "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
Verses 12-14: "Then all the assembly replied with a loud voice, 'That’s right! As you have said, so it is our duty to do. 13 But there are many people; it is the rainy season and we are not able to stand in the open. Nor can the task be done in one or two days, for we have transgressed greatly in this matter. 14 Let our leaders represent the whole assembly and let all those in our cities who have married foreign wives come at appointed times, together with the elders and judges of each city, until the fierce anger of our God on account of this matter is turned away from us.'" What is God calling you to do or not do? In the case of these returning exiles, they were to reflect the holiness and purity of God, His love to an unbelieving world. They were to marry, to form business and other relationships within Israel only, avoiding the idolatry that surrounded them. What are you convicted about? What should you change right now?
The will of God was clear for them, just as, when we are honest, it's clear to us as well. But there was opposition for them and it will be so for us, as in Verse 15: "Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah opposed this, with Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supporting them." But the opposition was limited, as the context continues into Verses 16-17: "But the exiles did so. And Ezra the priest selected men who were heads of fathers’ households for each of their father’s households, all of them by name. So they convened on the first day of the tenth month to investigate the matter. 17 They finished investigating all the men who had married foreign wives by the first day of the first month." And in deciding whether these verses should apply to us today, we should consider 2 Corinthians 6:14—"Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what partnership has light with darkness?" God intends to separate us, to help us, not hinder.
Reading Verses 18-19, remember that God intends that those who are clergy will be examples to others: "Among the sons of the priests who had married foreign wives were found of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib and Gedaliah. 19 They pledged to put away their wives, and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their offense." Our lives are no longer merely about ourselves, but also about those we are called to serve. When you are tempted—pray. And if you are drawn to make restitution, do it.
The balance of the chapter, from Verses 20-43, is a listing of the names of those who had intermarried with women from the idolatrous tribes that surrounded Israel. And note that Ezra the priest KNEW the people that God had assigned to him: "Of the sons of Immer there were Hanani and Zebadiah; 21 and of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel and Uzziah; 22 and of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad and Elasah. 23 Of Levites there were Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah and Eliezer. 24 Of the singers there was Eliashib; and of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem and Uri. 25 Of Israel, of the sons of Parosh there were Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malchijah and Benaiah; 26 and of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth and Elijah; 27 and of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad and Aziza; 28 and of the sons of Bebai: Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai and Athlai; 29 and of the sons of Bani: Meshullam, Malluch and Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal and Jeremoth; 30 and of the sons of Pahath-moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui and Manasseh; 31 and of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32 Benjamin, Malluch and Shemariah; 33 of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh and Shimei; 34 of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, 36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasu, 38 Bani, Binnui, Shimei, 39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40 Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42 Shallum, Amariah and Joseph. 43 Of the sons of Nebo there were Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel and Benaiah." Ezra knew each one of these men who were willing to repent from this lapse, and the Lord knows them, too, just as He knows you and me.
Verse 44: "All these had married foreign wives, and some of them had wives by whom they had children." When you have placed your trust in the Lord, know His Holy Spirit, and then deviate from His will, He will bring you back. The journey home may well be painful, as it was for the men of this chapter, and for their families also. The men had wives, many had children, and in order for God's intended purposes for this nation to resume, painful separations had to occur. Men, women and children wept, grieving this loss. But God is known to provide for those who mourn. If you have gone off track, confess to Him what you have done. He will lead you back and He has provision for all who experience loss. TRUST in Him—and pray.
Lord, I have deviated from Your will in my life. I confess what I have done and I submit my life to You once more. Show me what I must do. Please forgive my sin and heal my aching heart. Comfort those I have harmed. I trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.