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.
And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.
Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.
Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.
Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware.
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.
And they made proclamation ° throughout Judah and Jerusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should gather themselves together unto Jerusalem;
And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away.
Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain.
And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel.
Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.
Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.
But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing.
Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us.
Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite helped them.
And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated, and sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter.
And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.
And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: namely, of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah.
And they gave their hands that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they offered a ram of the flock for their trespass.
And of the sons of Immer; Hanani, and Zebadiah.
And of the sons of Harim; Maaseiah, and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah.
Also of the Levites; Jozabad, and Shimei, and Kelaiah, (the same is Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
Of the singers also; Eliashib: and of the porters; Shallum, and Telem, and Uri.
Moreover of Israel: of the sons of Parosh; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah.
Of the sons also of Bebai; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.
All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.
 

10:8 three days. The people in the outlying towns of Judah and Benjamin were all within fifty miles or less of Jerusalem, and so could reach the capital within three days after they heard the proclamation. In view of the rather severe fine threatened for those who would not come, they all came (Ezra 10:9).

10:11 separate yourselves. This edict of complete separation from the people of the land, even to the point of divorcing their pagan wives, seems severe, but it was necessary if the divine mission of Israel was to be accomplished. It was his marriages with “strange wives” that first led to King Solomon’s downfall, and to the introduction of idolatry into the kingdom of Israel. Once again the same problem had produced a pervasive compromise with their “abominations,” so it had to be stopped, cost what it may. Ezra had been given complete authority by Artaxerxes not only to teach the laws of God to the people of Israel but also to enforce them through magistrates and judges which he would establish, even to the extent of capital punishment when necessary (Ezra 7:25-26).

10:15 were employed about this matter. The Hebrew word here translated “employed” has a wide variety of meanings depending on context, with its basic etymology apparently meaning “stand.” The context here seems to indicate that the four men listed in this verse “stood” against Ezra’s command to divorce their “strange wives,” at least for a time. One of them, Meshullam, had married one of these women, but he did agree finally to divorce her (Ezra 10:19,29). It is significant that no other opposition than this arose against Ezra’s seemingly harsh decree.

10:17 all the men. Nothing is said about the Jewish women that may have married pagan men, although they also had been included in the Mosaic prohibition (Deuteronomy 7:3). If there were such, their husbands were probably not under Ezra’s authority, and in effect they would have given up their Jewish identity.

10:44 strange wives. These pagan wives and their children were not simply turned out to fend for themselves. The customs of the time—as well as simple considerations of right and wrong—would require that any dowry a wife had brought with her be returned with her back to her parents’ home. Both she and her children, if any, would become members again of the family of her parents.


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