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ch. 10:18-44 

The People’s Confession Of Sin (ch. 10:1 - 17)    


In the first half of verse 1 you see how Ezra was feeling about the sin of Israel.  He was weeping.  He threw himself down before the Lord.  These are the actions of one very disturbed and serious man.  As some Evangelicals used to say, “he was wrestling in prayer”. 


While Ezra was weeping before the Lord, many men, women and children caught the vision and came to Ezra and followed him in weeping and intercessory prayer before their God.


In verse 2 a man named Shecaniah came to Ezra and confessed on behalf of the crowd that Israel had sinned by marrying pagan women, yet even as he said that, he also said that there is still hope for Israel.  This is a great truth.  There is always hope in God, but this hope can only be based on true repentance.  Without repentance there is only false hope.


In verse 3 Shecaniah suggests that Israel makes a vow, a covenant that is based on their repentant heart.  With the counsel of Ezra he suggests that all the pagan women and children be sent away, that is, be sent back to where they came from.  This is a devastating suggestion, but it does show how serious these people were in their repentance.  This creates a real problem with people.  Why would Israel suggest such a thing?  Why would Ezra entertain such an idea?  Could God really accept this as a solution to Israel’s sin?  Men would be sending away wives and even children that they loved and cared for. Nevertheless, this was the proposed solution to Israel’s sin.  But all this, as verse 3 says, “is in accordance with the Law” of God.


In verse 4 Shecaniah tells Ezra to “rise up”, that is, rise of from his prayer before the Lord.  He tells Ezra that he and the rest will support him in this vow if Ezra decides this should be done.  It’s more than a suggestion at this point.  It appears to be the answer the Jews want their leaders to take action on.  Shecaniah is encouraging Ezra to take action, and put this plan into effect.


In verse 5 we see that Ezra agrees to the plan of action.  He calls the priests and Levites to prepare the oath. This had to be burdensome in some respects to Ezra.  Here he was weeping and praying, asking God for forgiveness and direction, and now the direction that has come about is both real and devastating.


In verse 6 we see that Ezra withdrew himself from everyone to continue to weep before the Lord.  Ezra had not just pray a few quick little prayers.  This was a period of prayer, and serious intercessory prayer at that.  At this point in his prayer, he neither ate or drank.  He fasted before the Lord because of the sin of Israel and that which would soon take place.


In verse 7 we see that the decision had been made.  A general call went out to all the Jews in Jerusalem and in the surrounding area.  Everyone was to come to Jerusalem.  This was a very important meeting.  In verse 8 we note that the leaders of the Jews said that if you did not come to this gathering, your property would be taken from you and you’d be expelled from the number of the exiles.  You’d be cut off from the rest of the Jews.  This shows us the seriousness of the matter at hand.  Everyone had three days to gather in Jerusalem.


Verse 9 tells us that everyone appeared in Jerusalem within the three days.  The verse also tells us that they were all “distressed by the occasion and by the rain”.   It was the rainy season.  This would have been December in our calendar.  So you can well imagine that everyone sitting in the rain was very unhappy about getting wet, but it does show their resolve to repent.   There doesn’t seem to have been any serious thought to waiting until spring when the whether was better.  This is a Scriptural principle, that is, “do it now – do it when the Spirit is leading – you don’t wait”. 


Yet it was more than rain the distressed these people.  Ezra says that the “occasion” also distressed them.  The occasion being the state the Jews now found themselves in the resolution that would be announced at this gathering.


In verse 10 Ezra gets up to address the crowd of people.  He tells them that they have been unfaithful to their God by marrying foreign women. Now we have to think about this. How would you feel if you were one of these foreign women who heard these words?  I’m convinced that you wouldn’t feel very happy.  This would have caused great distress. 


Ezra says that such marriages has “added to their guilt”.   This means that they were already guilty of other things and this sin has just added more guilt upon the guilt that already existed.  If you read the book of Malachi, you’ll see other things that the Jews were doing wrong.  Malachi actually wrote a couple decades later. That tells us that things didn’t really get better for the Jews.


In verse 11 Ezra tells these people “to make confession before the Lord”.  What he is saying is that those involved in this sin must come before God and confess their sins.  They must recognize their sin, and they must tell God that they have sinned.  This confession must first be done before anything else takes place.  This is the first stop as well in the New Testament gospel message.  It’s called “repenting”.


After confession, Ezra tells them “to do His will”.  They must then follow up repentance with doing something, and that’s doing God’s will.  God’s will is seen in the next verse, and it is devastating.  This is what many people, and many Christians have trouble with in this passage.  These men of Israel must do two things.  The first is to “separate themselves” from those who follow pagan gods.  I would think that would be reasonably easy, other than the fact that possibly many or some of these men would have business partnerships with these pagan men.  That might make it hard on them.


The second thing these men needed to do would be very very hard, and that was to separate themselves from their pagan wives.  That would be very hard.  It would be hard on them and also extremely hard on the wives that they had to send away.  But this clearly shows the seriousness of the matter. 


In verse  12 we note, that even though everyone was distressed, they all agreed with Ezra, at least all the men. They all agreed to make this separation.


Verse 13 acknowledges some practicalities of their decision.  They said that they’ve sinned greatly.  This sin had been taking place for decades, and they understood that there are consequences of their sin, and the putting away of their wives could not be done in the rain on that very day.  They even said that it would take more than a few days.  I’m sure they were right. 


A plan to do the will of God is worked out in verse 14.  Everyone would go home.  Each man who had married a pagan would make an appointment with the official in his town.  It appeared by what is said, that the arrangements for separation would be made at that time. 


One thing we need to realize is that the Law of Moses allowed for non Jews to become Jews, as long as they gave themselves to the commandments of God .  This would mean that in the event of a man becoming a Jew, he would have to be circumcised.  It might well have been established at these meetings that these women did become Jews, although we do not know this.  The general idea from the words in the text seem to suggest working out some kind of financial arrangement with the women these men had to separate themselves from. 


In verse 16 and 17 Ezra set up men from the head of each family group in Israel to deal with this situation.  The process took two months.  Ezra is a very detailed person and has shown this detail in his account, but he does not tell us how these men dealt with the  men who had married foreign women.  That would be real nice to know. 


For those who might struggle with what is happening here, you might want to think of the words of Jesus.  He told us that if our eye offends you, cut it out.  Or if your hand offends you, cut it off.  We know that Jesus wasn’t telling us to cut our eyes and hands off or else we would have seen it in action.  What he was telling us was to take sin seriously.  We’re to cut off, or to separate ourselves from those things that cause us to sin, and that is the case here in Ezra’s day. 


To sum this very difficult chapter up, I believe we need to see this event as a special event in history.  This was a God inspired national revival based on repentance.   The measures taken in this revival were extreme, and was God’s will.  I don’t believe we can take these events and personalize them in individual ways.  For example.  I don’t think a woman who is married to a non-Christian man should divorce him as did the men in this chapter.  Paul says just the opposite in 1 Cor. 7.  What we should learn from this chapter is that God takes sin very seriously and so should we.  


Those Guilty Of Intermarriage  (ch. 10:18 - 44)


The list of men who had married pagan women are written for all to see.  Ezra did not hide the fact of who committed such sins. The whole idea of confession of sin, is to open the confession up before God and many times before man.  And so the list is written down for all history to see.  The list is found in verses 18 through 43. 


Verse 44 says that all of the above men had foreign woman and some had children by them.  The alternate reading is, “they sent them away with their children”.  I’m not sure why and how the NIV writers chose their translation over the other possible translation, except for the fact that the NIV’s version is less harsh.  The verse could have been easily translated as the men sent the pagan women and their children away, which in fact was the intent of the decision everyone agreed to.


This is how Ezra ends his account.  He states the facts of Israel in his day as they were.  He paints us a true picture of the state of Israel.  He does not hide the bad parts.  The book of Ezra was written for us to learn.  We learn how God feels about sin, and how we as God’s people consistently stray from following our God. We learn something of the justice of God, and that He is not happy with sin, or with us when we sin.  He takes such things very seriously, and so should we, although we seldom do.  


Ezra lived in a day when Israel should have been in the process of being restored.  They tried and failed.  They tried again and failed.  The temple got built but it did fall into disrepair.  Herod, a Gentile ruler fixed it up a few years before Jesus was born.  The temple we see in the New Testament in Jerusalem is the same temple these people built, yet it was restored by Herod, and then destroyed totally by the Roman invasion of 70 AD, and has never been rebuilt, at least not as yet as I write in 2009.                 

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