Ezra 9 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
NOTE ON CHAPTERS 9 AND 10
The great severity which characterises Ezra’s policy, as described in these two chapters, calls for special notice. The fact that he was so close a student of the law lends peculiar importance to his acts. His own words (Ezr 9:10-12) indicate his view. The Jews by contracting marriages with strange women had violated the law of God. They had courted a renewal of national catastrophe. Their only hope lay in the renewal of God’s mercy. Their present duty was clear. They must prove the sincerity of their repentance by putting away the ‘strange women’. Though it meant ruin to the happiness of scores of homes, the step would vindicate ‘the commandment’ and eradicate the source of peril to the people.
These passages contain prohibitions, very similar in character, directed against intermarriage with the nations that dwelt in Canaan, on the ground that such marriages would inevitably lead to idolatry and to the abominations connected with idolatrous worship. The evils arising from a disregard of these laws are touched upon in Jdg 3:5-6, where the language, if based upon that of the legislation quoted above, belongs to the Compiler rather than to an early fragment of writing.
The laws themselves, which are obviously more ancient in substance than the literary shape in which they are presented to us, must indeed at an early time have become disregarded (cf. Judges 11; 2Sa 11:3; 1Ki 11:1); but their antiquity is shown by the threefold treatment of the subject, perhaps also by the apparent allusions to the same subject in Gen 24:3; Gen 27:46.
It was not strange however that the prohibition should become a dead letter, when marriage with foreigners generally, and even with Ammonites and Moabites, was permitted by custom (cf. Lev 24:10; Deu 21:11-12; Rth 1:4; 2Sa 3:3; 1Ki 3:1; 1Ki 14:21; 1Ch 2:17 ; 1Ch 2:34, &c.), when the rights of the stranger were respected and safe-guarded (Exo 12:49; Lev 24:22), when Edomite and Egyptian could be received in the third generation into Israelite citizenship (Deu 23:7-8).
The rigour of Ezra’s reform included all ‘foreign wives’ among the inhabitants of the seven proscribed nations of Canaan (Deu 7:1-5). The severest code was accepted as the highest standard of action. The exclusiveness, which the law had required to be exercised towards Canaanites alone, was now to be practised towards all alike. If the letter of the law was exceeded, the critical position of the Jewish community explains the measure. The permanence of Judaism depended on the religious separateness of the Jews. The holy mission of the Jewish people could alone be realized by complete freedom from contamination with idolatrous influences.
By the dissolution of marriage with the heathen Ezra sought to check at its source the stream of laxer conceptions upon religious duty. By demanding of the people so heavy a penalty, he taught them that the purity of ‘the holy seed’ was worthy of so great a sacrifice. He awoke the national pride in their call to be the ‘peculiar people’ of the Lord. His action even if it strained the letter of the law, as it has been transmitted to us, enforced the sovereignty of its rule. He fenced off the people against the subtler temptations to idolatry and averted the imminent danger of his time, the fusion of the Jews at Jerusalem with the semi-heathen ‘peoples of the land’.
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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".