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Ezra’s 9

EZRA CHAPTER   9

Ezra’s Prayer About Intermarriage

 1 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites.

 2 They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”

 3 When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled.

4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.

 5 Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God

6 and prayed:
       “O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.

7 From the days of our forefathers until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.

 8 “But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage.

9 Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.

 10 “But now, O our God, what can we say after this? For we have disregarded the commands

11 you gave through your servants the prophets when you said: ‘The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its peoples. By their detestable practices they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other.

12 Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance.’

 13 “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this.

14 Shall we again break your commands and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor?

15 O LORD, God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.”

INTRODUCTION TO EZRA  9

Some of the Israelites had intermarried with the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites.  So the holy race was being polluted with the detestable practices of the heathen and to make matters worse, the officials and leaders are some of the worst offenders.  Ezra flies into a rage, he is appalled, enraged, incensed, furious and irate.  Ezra realized that these priests and leaders are not fit to associate with the common folk.  He lays the scripture on them and then sat down appalled till the evening sacrifice.  At 3 O’clock he stood up, his clothes were torn and he lifted his hands in prayer and said he was ashamed, he said that their sins were piled higher than their heads that their guilt had reached to heaven.  Ezra recounts God’s grace in their history and claims that they have polluted the land.  He claims that they are an escaped remnant and that none of them could face God in such a condition.  He resented what was happening like a new broom in an old mess.  The answer to Ezra’s prayer will come in the next chapter.

EXPOSITION OF CHAPTER 9

Ezra’s Prayer About Intermarriage

1 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites.

The whistle blowers tell Ezra that the holy people are mixed up with heathenism.  This report reaches the ears of Ezra about four months after his arrival.  Malachi wrote about this problem in

Malachi 2:10-16. “ Have we not all one Father  ? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?  Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god.  As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty. Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, Why? It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.  So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. I hate divorce, says the LORD God of Israel, and I hate a man’s covering himself  with violence as well as with his garment, says the LORD Almighty.”

From Malachi we learn that these Jews were divorcing the wives of their youth and marrying foreign girls.  Not only were they marrying pagan women but they were worshipping their gods.  Eight nations were mentioned but only seven were forbidden for intermarriage.

Deut. 7:1-7 “ When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you-  and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally.  Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.  Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons,  for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.  This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles  and burn their idols in the fire.  For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.”

20:17,18. “Completely destroy  them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you.  Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.”

The proverb was fulfilled “they jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.”

I Kings 11:1-10  “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods. Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.  He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.  As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.  He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech  the detestable god of the Ammonites.  So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites.  He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command.”

Neh. 13:23-30. “Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab.  Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah.  I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves.  Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?”  One of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest was son-in-law to Sanballat the Horonite. And I drove him away from me.  Remember them, O my God, because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites.  So I purified the priests and the Levites of everything foreign, and assigned them duties, each to his own task.”
2 They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”

The very ones who should have been speaking out were the greatest perpetrators.  This act of infidelity led in the wrong direction.  This betrayal was led by the leaders.  The holy seed was all mixed up with these pagans.  They were as guilty as a killer caught in the act.

3 When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled.

Ezra slumped to the ground, pulled out his hair, ripped his garment and was convulsed with rage.  He sat down astounded.  In such a state of shock that the Priest were involved in this sinful and shameful act.  They were as knotty as a fouled fishing line.

4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.

Ezra was so outraged that he didn’t say anything till three o’clock in the afternoon.  Many were trembling with fear and the pressure was mounting.  Ezra was about to burst like an over inflated tire at the unprincipled act of demoralization.  He knew that if this was left unchecked that it would demoralize the whole community like gangrene untreated.  This hellish act was like a housewarming in Hades.

5 Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God

He had been in despair and now he picked himself up—gathers his senses—ripped some more clothes—fell to his knees—stretches out his hands to God—Ezra felt as helpless as an innocent man in a kangaroo court.  He was as afflicted as a miser whose money turns out to be counterfeit

6 and prayed:
       “O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.

O my God I can’t bear to face you.  He was as heated as the water in a Turkish bath.  This man who was as holy as the ground at the burning bush and is furious at the sins of the leaders.

7 From the days of our forefathers until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.

Ezra was ashamed and disgraced that “since the days of our fathers” God had “taken them to the wood shed” Ezra was as humbled as King Henry VIII barefoot in the snow three days seeking access to the pardon of the pope.  Ezra believes that their sins were higher than the heavens and that their guilt was reprehensible.  So great was their indiscretion that it was a deed without a name.  Ezra prays as a man caught red handed.  The real question was what God would do to the corporate body.

8 “But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage.

God’s grace had been shown unto them by touching the heart of the kings of Persia and now a remnant has escaped and like a nail driven into a board and clinched on the back side they had come home to rebuild.  They had been revived like a dry parched tree in a drought that gets a steady rain.  However the guilt of public shame looms like a dark ominous cloud over them.

9 Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.

Ezra sees them—past and present—he is like a beggar at the gate regarding Israel’s future.  Ezra had come back like a ladder of hope only to see them refusing to climb to heights with God.  Ezra sees the leaders as hypocritical as a pious pervert.  Sin was on the loose and he was trying to bring them back to the Law of Moses.

10 “But now, O our God, what can we say after this? For we have disregarded the commands

The law had forbidden intermarriage with these nations.  De. 7:1-3; 23:7.  They had thrown God’s law to the wind and the land was filled with obscene vulgarities.  There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe their guilt.

11 you gave through your servants the prophets when you said: ‘The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its peoples. By their detestable practices they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other.

Not only were the people polluted and unholy but the land had been filled with moral rot from one end to another.

12 Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance.’

Ezra does not mince his words but tells them that this intermarriage is unholy and must stop immediately.  He urges them not to worry about what the heathen thought or said—their opinions mattered little to Ezra.  He urges them to stop worrying about getting rich but to cultivate the good grace of God.  Build up a lasting estate—a legacy that will pass down to your children—riches that do not fade or wither but rather pass on to your children and grandchildren.

13 “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this.

Ezra reminds God that on top of all that they had gone through, their accumulated guilt, that God had not punished them as much as they deserved but gave them deliverance from Babylonia slavery to the home of their ancestors.

14 Shall we again break your commands and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor?

Israel was at it one more time marring the women of idolatry and raising their children by women with no moral principles.  Will God be so angry that he will totally abandon them leaving them no way of escape and no remnant?

15 O LORD, God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.”

Ezra stood as a convicted criminal before the court pleading with the judge of all the earth.  He confesses that they were guilty and unworthy to stand before God.  Ezra finally throws himself on the mercy of the court.

 

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