Read Ezra 10
The People’s Confession of Sin
While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. 2 Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. 4 Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”
5 So Ezra rose up and put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel under oath to do what had been suggested. And they took the oath. 6 Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While he was there, he ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles.
7 A proclamation was then issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem for all the exiles to assemble in Jerusalem. 8 Anyone who failed to appear within three days would forfeit all his property, in accordance with the decision of the officials and elders, and would himself be expelled from the assembly of the exiles.
9 Within the three days, all the men of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of God, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain. 10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. 11 Now honor the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.”
12 The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: “You are right! We must do as you say. 13 But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; so we cannot stand outside. Besides, this matter cannot be taken care of in a day or two, because we have sinned greatly in this thing. 14 Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our God in this matter is turned away from us.” 15 Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, supported by Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite, opposed this.
16 So the exiles did as was proposed. Ezra the priest selected men who were family heads, one from each family division, and all of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to investigate the cases, 17 and by the first day of the first month they finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women.
Those Guilty of Intermarriage
18 Among the descendants of the priests, the following had married foreign women:
From the descendants of Joshua son of Jozadak, and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib and Gedaliah. 19 (They all gave their hands in pledge to put away their wives, and for their guilt they each presented a ram from the flock as a guilt offering.)
20 From the descendants of Immer:
Hanani and Zebadiah.
21 From the descendants of Harim:
Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel and Uzziah.
22 From the descendants of Pashhur:
Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad and Elasah.
23 Among the Levites:
Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah and Eliezer.
24 From the musicians:
From the gatekeepers:
Shallum, Telem and Uri.
25 And among the other Israelites:
From the descendants of Parosh:
Ramiah, Izziah, Malkijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malkijah and Benaiah.
26 From the descendants of Elam:
Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth and Elijah.
27 From the descendants of Zattu:
Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad and Aziza.
28 From the descendants of Bebai:
Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai and Athlai.
29 From the descendants of Bani:
Meshullam, Malluk, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal and Jeremoth.
30 From the descendants of Pahath-Moab:
Adna, Kelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui and Manasseh.
31 From the descendants of Harim:
Eliezer, Ishijah, Malkijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32 Benjamin, Malluk and Shemariah.
33 From the descendants of Hashum:
Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh and Shimei.
34 From the descendants of Bani:
Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Keluhi, 36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37 Mattaniah, Mattenai and Jaasu.
38 From the descendants of Binnui:
Shimei, 39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40 Maknadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42 Shallum, Amariah and Joseph.
43 From the descendants of Nebo:
Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel and Benaiah.
44 All these had married foreign women, and some of them had children by these wives.
This is a difficult passage, particularly as the ending of this book. This is a pretty hard burden to bear. Does God really want all of the wives from other cultures and their children sent back to Persia?
Consequences are difficult, and make no mistake, that’s what this is. God is very, very clear with His people that they shouldn’t intermarry with people who don’t follow Him. This is for good reason: when God’s people intermarry with pagans, it does not go well for them. See Genesis through Malachi for more. In this case, it’s evident that God’s people haven’t listened.
Ezra is an interesting figure. We don’t get as complete of a sense of his character as we do with David or Moses or Paul. What we do see from him here and in Nehemiah is what he does best: seeking to change the hearts of God’s people with God’s Word. He’s looking for transformation and restoration, and he’s looking to the Word to provide it. Smart move!
There’s an overwhelming conviction on the part of God’s people that they’ve been disobedient to God. They’re almost unanimously willing to accept the consequences of their actions. As an aside, most scholars tend to agree that those sent away at the end of this book do not represent everyone that could be sent away. The elders of the people spend three months interviewing families, and given the prevalence of intermarriage, it’s clear that not every foreign wife is sent away—just those that refuse to forsake their foreign gods to follow the One, True God.
So what do we see from God’s people that we can take and apply to our lives? It’s not that if we’re in a “pagan marriage” we should be looking for a divorce (1 Corinthians 7:12-17). It’s that disobedience to God draws us away from Him. Marrying pagans drew His people away from Him. They confessed, they repented, they faced the consequences, and they were absolved. What disobedience in your life is drawing you away from God? What do you need to confess to your community? What repentance is God calling you to?
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:8-9.
Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, in whom we have this forgiveness!
- When was the last time you dealt with consequences from your sin?
- Spend some time in quiet meditation—how is God calling you to repent?
- We’re called to be a community of faith like we see in Ezra—how are you going to confess and rely on your community to remind you that you are a forgiven, redeemed child of God?
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