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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Ezra 10

 

 

Verse 2

A GRIEVOUS TRESPASS

‘We have trespassed against our God.’

Ezra 10:2

I. It was, without doubt, a very grievous sin.—The people had acted in direct violation of the express commandment of God, and nothing would tend to hinder the testimony and impede the influence of the chosen people more fatally than this intermarriage with heathen and strange women. We know how perniciously the counterpart of this reacts on the children of households, where believers and unbelievers are unequally yoked together.

II. At the same time Ezra’s measures were very drastic, and the weight of suffering must have fallen very heavily on the poor wives and mothers, divorced from their husbands, and separated from their children. In missionary policy one would rather follow the wise counsels given by the Apostle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:12-16).

III. It must have required a large amount of courage for Ezra to take the course he did.—The matter certainly ‘belonged’ unto him, but many a man would have flinched. Probably, however, the way was made easier for him by his very deep and evident concern. He took the sin of the people home to himself, as though it were his own, and they respected him for doing so. There is nothing that so moves people as to see another moved for their sins, and they will bear almost anything from one whose motive is transparently pure. Would that our hearts were as sensitive as Ezra’s, and that we could induce in others, through our tears, a trembling on account of sin!

Illustration

‘From our point of view, the dismissal of strange wives with their children seems extravagantly severe—without doubt there were also many in the congregation of that time who found the demand of Ezra beyond measure hard, many who might be ruined by this proceeding. Notwithstanding, if we properly estimate all the circumstances of that period, and especially the great dangers that threatened the very existence of the congregation, we shall be obliged to regard Ezra as in the right. We are not always to avoid that which may be a stumbling-block. The point of view which alone decides at last, is ever that the communion with the Lord must be re-established or furthered; all communion and friendship with men must stand in the background.’


Verse 6

VICARIOUS PENITENCE

‘He mourned because of the transgression of them.’

Ezra 10:6

I. An innocent yet penitent leader.—It is certainly worthy of remark that it is not narrated of Ezra that he, as we should expect, expressly and severely denounced the men married to strange wives, but that we are only told of his prayer and confession of sin, in which he includes himself in the number of the guilty. Earnest sorrow for the sin to be denounced in others, and especially persevering prayer in their behalf, which in the nature of the case readily includes intercession, generally makes a deeper impression, as well upon the persons themselves as their adherents, than castigating sermons, for we are told that a great crowd of men, women, and children assembled about the praying and sorrowing Ezra, deeply affected by his sorrow.

II. A guilty but penitent people.—If a head of a community sorrows in true sympathy and anxiety for his people, the better class of the people do not lack the earnest wish to remove his sorrow, and especially its cause: the love and respect which they entertain for him very easily pass over into this wish, and then there is easily found in the congregation itself a spokesman, who, as here Shechaniah, openly acknowledges the guilt, and correctly expresses what it is necessary to do in order to be free from it. Such a voice, moreover, arising out of the congregation itself, such willingness, springing up of itself, is the best result and reward of the sorrowing one. The willingness of the congregation, thus testified, is thereby at the same time still further intensified and enlarged, and the improvement which then takes place as a free act, has a truly ethical significance.

Illustrations

(1) ‘A true reformer should not hesitate to demand even the hardest things of the congregation of the Lord, and express his demand with clearness and definiteness. His rule is God’s word and will alone. Every modification, weakening, and rendering it easy on his part, renders his work of reformation all the more difficult. For it deprives him of his authority as an instrument of God; he thereby abandons the only safe foundation, besides passes over to act in his own name. It renders it difficult for the congregation to follow him. For to do God’s pure and clear will there is ever to be found fresh readiness, but to execute the will of a man, or what he may think proper, does not satisfy. The Divine will often demands much—very much—but its accomplishment has a corresponding blessing, but this fails if God’s demand is weakened by human devices.’

(2) ‘We cannot blame the authorities for assembling the people without delay even in the cold and rainy season of the year. The removal of transgressions against God’s law and will admits of no delay. But again, it would not have been justifiable for Ezra to have prepared additional unnecessary burdens for the people, who already had besides enough to bear in the burden they had taken on themselves if He exposed them to the injuries of the storm, so to speak, punished them. Towards him who is willing to impose upon himself every self-denial, even the hardest, for the sake of the word of God, every possible forbearance has ever its proper place. And under all circumstances he who would carry out a difficult work of reformation has to take care that everything moves on in order.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Ezra 10:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/ezra-10.html. 1876.

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