Study Notes

Ezra 9:1-10:44


Last Thursday night, we saw that Ezra, the priest and scribe who'd been living in Babylon, was given permission to go to Israel with any of the Jews who wanted to return.

The king commissioned him to establish a system of law and justice based on the Word of God, and even gave silver and gold to buy offerings to sacrifice to the Lord once the people arrived.

As chapter eight ended, we saw that God divinely protected them on their journey, and they arrived in Jerusalem safely. They offered the sacrifices, and delivered King Artaxerxes' command to the local officials.

9:1-2 The Holy Race Intermingled

Ezra had been commanded by King Artaxerxes to appoint magistrates and judges and put in place a system of law and justice based on the Word of God (7:25-26).

Now the first issue of God's Law versus man's behavior arises: The Jews had been marrying women from the surrounding nations.

Of course the Law of God had forbidden this. God had specifically said to the nation before they entered the land,

Exod. 34:13-16 " are to tear down their altars and smash their {sacred} pillars and cut down their Asherim - for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God - lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they play the harlot with their gods, and sacrifice to their gods, and someone invite you to eat of his sacrifice; and you take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods, and cause your sons {also} to play the harlot with their gods.

The Lord had forbidden intermarriage between the idolatrous nations and His chosen people. They were to remain separate.

9:3 Ezra's Reaction

When Ezra heard about this sin and how rampant it was, he was appalled. That Hebrew word means "to be awestruck or stupefied with horror, to be made desolate through astonishment." The fact that God's people had entered into sin so quickly after leaving Babylon and so blatantly in rebellion to the Law of God just wiped him out.

His physical reactions demonstrated his inward feelings. He tore his clothes to demonstrate that his heart was ripped. He pulled out his hair and beard, causing himself physical pain to match that of his spirit. And then he just sat down in silence.

9:4 Trembling At The Word

Ezra's violent and extreme reaction to the news caused quite a stir among the people in Jerusalem. A large crowd of people who believed the Word of God gathered where he was.

They were afraid of God's anger and judgment being directed toward them. They knew that God had said,

Deut. 7:3-4 " shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will quickly destroy you.

It was black and white: God said that He would quickly destroy them if they entered into this behavior - and they had.

There are a lot of people today who refuse to believe that God has said what He means and means what He has said. His repeated insistence that man repent or be judged is often disbelieved and thus disregarded.

But these people who gathered around Ezra took the Word of God seriously. They rallied around the man who was going to stand for righteousness.

9:5 Ezra's Position Of Prayer

Ezra arose from his humiliation. This does not mean that he had been humiliated by anyone, but literally that he had been humbling and afflicting himself with fasting for most of the day.

He headed to the temple (10:1) and went right to public prayer, down on his knees, hands outstretched to the Lord.

9:6-9 Guilty, But A Brief Moment Of Grace

As Ezra prayed to the Lord, he included himself as being part of the nation who was in sin. He did not stand aloof and say, "It was them - I have done no wrong!"

He acknowledged to the Lord that the reason that he and his people were in Babylon in the first place was because they had sinned by disregarding the Word of God.

He admitted that the fact they'd been allowed to return to the land at all was only by God's grace - it was completely undeserved. God had allowed it, not because the people were now sinless, but to preserve a remnant of His people.

9:10-15 Ezra's Confession

How did God's people repay Him for His mercy and grace? They again rebelled and entered into sin by intermarrying with the heathen.

In Ezra's prayer, no excuses are attempted. God's righteousness is acknowledged, and the people's guilt is admitted.

10:1-2 There Is Still Hope

As Ezra was praying, the original group that had come to him (9:4) stood weeping. This attracted an even larger crowd.

One of the men in the crowd, named Shek-an-YAW (the son of Yekh-ee-ALE, one of the sons of Ay-LAWM), confessed in agreement. "Yes, we have been unfaithful to God by doing this. But there is still hope!"

By his statement, Shek-an-YAW proved to have a more Biblically-balanced view of God than most Christians do today. I have found that believers seem to either be convinced that God is angrily judging sin, or that He is gracefully forgiving all sin. They perceive Him to be continually angry or perpetually smiling.

But the truth is exactly what Shek-an-YAW says:

- God judges sin, but forgives those who are repentant.

- God hates rebellion and iniquity, but gives man time to realize his wrongdoing and turn away from it.

- God is angered by transgression, but is merciful to transgressors that seek His forgiveness.

And having recognized this, Shek-an-YAW made a suggestion...

10:3 Putting Away The Wives And Children

Shek-an-YAW believed that the only way for the people to truly repent for this sin was for them to completely turn away from it. He suggested that the foreign women - as well as the children that had come from these marriages - be put away.

Now this opens up an interesting discussion. The Bible is clear that God hates divorce, but also that He insists that you repent for sin.

- So what happens if your marriage starts in sin?

- What happens when the very nature of your marriage is sinful?

- What if you married an unbeliever?

- What if your relationship started in adultery or fornication?

You can see how this could really be a can of worms, couldn't it?

Let's begin with the words of Jesus, as He taught His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount.

Matt. 5:29-32 "And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell. And it was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for {the} cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

Although Jesus told us to cut out anything in our lives that causes us to sin, He says immediately afterward that divorce is only allowed if your spouse commits adultery.

It would seem that your spouse is not one of the eyes or hands that should be cut off!

The apostle Paul also addressed the issue before us: specifically, that of people that are in marriages to unbelievers. He said,

1Cor. 7:12-13 ...if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, let him not send her away. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away.

1Cor. 7:15-17 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such {cases,} but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk...

So, after hearing from Jesus and Paul, was Shek-an-YAW correct in saying that the wives and children should be put away? If this decision was made after these commands were given, I would have to say no.

I would say that if I had the full counsel of God, I would have suggested that each of the men should go home and tell his heathen wife, "Honey, I have been a terrible witness. Just the very fact that we got married when you were not a follower of the Lord is a demonstration of my rebellion. But we've got to start from the point we are now. So here's the deal: I'm going to get right with God. I'm going to walk in righteousness from now on. Our children will be raised in the ways of God, your idols will be removed from our house, and we're not going to go to any of your family's sacrifices."

Now, at that point, the heathen wife could choose to serve the Lord with her husband, or she could choose to leave. A divorce would not be held against the believer in such a case.

10:4-5 Your Responsibility, But We Are With You

Shek-an-YAW said, "Ezra, you are the one who's been put in authority by the king, so this matter is your responsibility. But even though you're going to have to take the lead in dealing with it, we want you to know that we are behind you."

10:6-8 A Mandatory Assembly Called

It was proclaimed that all of the Jews who had returned from Babylon had to come to Jerusalem within three days. Whoever did not come would have his property confiscated and be excommunicated.

In the meantime, Ezra stayed with the high priest (Yeh-ho-khaw-NAWN, the son of El-yaw-SHEEB), praying and fasting.

10:9-14 An Investigation To Be Made

Ezra confronted the Israelites with their sin and told them what they must do. Surprisingly, the people agreed. Their suggestion was to get out of the hard rain (it was December, according to our calendars), and let the leaders of the people administrate this command locally.

10:15 Opposition

Not everyone was in agreement to this plan. There were four guys that were in opposition:

Ezra 10:15 ...Jonathan the son of As-aw-ALE and Yakh-zeh-YAW the son of Tik-VAW opposed this, with Mesh-ool-LAWM and Shab-beth-AH-ee the Levite supporting them.

I don't know on what grounds they opposed this, but it may have to do with the fact that Mesh-ool-LAWM was one of the guys who had married a foreign woman (10:29).

10:16-17 The Investigation Finished

The local leaders completed their investigations, and confronted the men with their sin. Now, this could not have been a comfortable situation for anyone - not the leaders, not the men who'd married the foreign wives, and not the wives themselves.

As a pastor, I am occasionally put in situations where I have an obligation before God to confront someone about sin, and to deal with it as I see the Word of God dictating that I must. And even though I know that I am in the will of God, and obligated as His ambassador, it still is never comfortable to do. Feelings are hurt and friendships are strained. When there is no repentance, gossip begins, controversy erupts, and fallout happens. But no matter how difficult, uncomfortable, or controversial it may be, I have no choice but to be God's ambassador.

(10:18-44) Those Who Were Guilty

The rest of the book simply lists those that were guilty of this sin, and put away their wives.

Saints, we can avoid so many of these controversies and difficulties by avoiding sin.

Maybe you think that your walk with God is strong enough to survive dating, being in love with, even marrying a non-believer. But King Solomon thought that too. After all, he'd spoken with God personally. He'd built the temple. Surely nothing could affect his walk with the Lord. But when he married foreign women, they turned his heart away from God.

The end result was that God tore the kingdom away from Solomon. God's perfect will for his life was ruined for life.

Are you considering an act of rebellion that may bring permanent consequences in your life? It's not worth it.

Ps. 37:3-5 Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

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