About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Chapter - Chapter 10
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
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
In verse 2 a man named
Shecaniah came to Ezra and confessed on behalf of the crowd that
In verse 3 Shecaniah
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
This is how Ezra ends his
account. He states the facts
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.