Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The people are greatly afflicted by Ezra's prayer, Ezr 10:1. Shechaniah proposes that all who have taken strange wives should put them away, and the children they had by them; and make a covenant to serve God, Ezr 10:2-4. Ezra is encouraged; and make a proclamation to collect the people, to find who had transgressed, Ezr 10:5-8. They come together on the twentieth day of the ninth month, Ezr 10:9. Ezra exhorts them to put away their strange wives, Ezr 10:10. The people agree to it, and require time, Ezr 10:11-14. This being granted, the business is completed by the first of the first month, Ezr 10:15-17. Some of the priests had taken strange wives; their names, and the names of all who were in the same trespass, vv. 18-44.
The people wept very sore - They were deeply affected at the thought of God's displeasure, which they justly feared was about to light upon them, because of their transgressions.
Shechaniah the son of Jehiel - He speaks here in the name of the people, not acknowledging himself culpable, for he is not in the following list. It is in the same form of speech with that in James, Jam 3:9. With the tongue curse we men. He seems to have been a chief man among the people; and Ezra, at present, stood in need of his influence and support.
Yet now there is hope in Israel - מקוה mikveh, expectation, of pardon; for the people were convinced of the evil, and were deeply penitent: hence it is said, Ezr 10:1, that they wept sore.
Let us make a covenant - נכרת ברית nichrath berith, let us cut or divide the covenant sacrifice. See the notes on Gen 15:10.
Arise; for this matter belongeth unto thee - By the decree of Artaxerxes, he was authorized to do everything that the law of God required: see Ezr 7:23-28. And all officers were commanded to be aiding and assisting; hence Shechaniah says, We are with you.
And they sware - The thing was evidently contrary to the law of God; and now he bound them by an oath to rectify the abuse.
Johanan the son of Eliashib - Eliashib was high priest, and was succeeded in that office by his son Joiada, Neh 12:10. Probably Johanan here is the same as Jonathan in Nehemiah, who was the son of Joiada, and grandson of Eliashib. Some suppose that Johanan and Joiada were two names for the same person.
All his substance should be forfeited - To the use of the temple.
So the Septuagint understood the place: Αναθεματισθησεται πασα ἡ ὑπαρξις αυτου, "All his substance shall be devoted to a holy use."
Himself separated - Excommunicated from the Church of God, and exiled from Israel.
Ninth month - Answering to a part of our December.
Trembling because of - the great rain - Απο του χειμωνος, Because of the winter, Septuagint; it was now December, the coldest and most rainy part of the year in Palestine.
Make confession - Acknowledge your sins before God, with deep compunction of heart, and the fullest resolution to forsake them.
As thou hast said, so must we do - They all resolved to do what Ezra then commanded, they did put away their wives, even those by whom they had children; Ezr 10:44 : this was a great hardship on the women and children. Though by the Jewish laws such marriages were null and void, yet as the women they had taken did not know these laws, their case was deplorable. However, we may take it for granted that each of them received a portion according to the circumstances of their husbands, and that they and their children were not turned away desolate, but had such a provision as their necessities required. Humanity must have dictated this, and no law of God is contrary to humanity. After all, there is some room to doubt whether they did put them finally away, for several years after Nehemiah found Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab; Neh 13:23. And if these were not the same women, we find that the same offense was continued.
The first day of the first month - So they were three whole months in examining into this affair, and making those separations which the law required.
They gave their hands - They bound themselves in the most solemn manner to do as the rest of the delinquents had done; and they made all acknowledgment of their iniquity to God by offering each a ram for a trespass-offering.
Moreover of Israel - That is, as Calmet observes, simple Israelites, to distinguish them from the priests, Levites, and singers, mentioned in Ezr 10:18, Ezr 10:23, Ezr 10:24.
Some of them had wives by whom they had children - This observation was probably intended to show that only a few of them had children; but it shows also how rigorously the law was put in execution.
According to a passage in Justin Martyr's dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, Ezra offered a paschal lamb on this occasion, and addressed the people thus: "And Ezra said to the people, This passover is our Savior and our Refuge; and if ye will be persuaded of it, and let it enter into your hearts, that we are to humble ourselves to him in a sign, and afterwards shall believe in him, this place shall not be destroyed for ever, saith the Lord of Hosts: but if ye will not believe in him, nor hearken to his preaching, ye shall be a laughing-stock to the Gentiles." - Dial. cum Tryphone, sec. 72.
This passage, Justin says, the Jews, through their enmity to Christ, blotted out of the book of Ezra. He charges them with cancelling several other places through the same spirit of enmity and opposition.
In the Hebrew text this and the following book make but one, though sometimes Nehemiah is distinguished as the second book of Esdras. In the Masoretic enumeration of sections, etc., both books are conjoined. This may be seen at the end of Nehemiah. I can add nothing of importance to the character of Ezra, which has already been given so much in detail in the introduction to this book.
Corrected, March, 1828. - A. Clarke.