Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The separation of the strange wives from the congregation. - Ezr 10:1-5. While Ezra was making this confession before God, a numerous assemblage gathered around him, and wept aloud. From this point onwards Ezra relates the further course of events in such wise as to cast his own person in the background, and speaks of himself in the third person. The matter of his prayer is more definitely declared by וּכהתודּתו, and his posture in prayer by וּמתנפּל בּכה, weeping and casting himself down (lying on his knees, Ezr 9:5). "Before the house of God," i.e., in the court of the temple. The confirmatory clause: for the people wept much (בכה הרבּה, a weeping in mass), furnishes the motive of so great a number of men, women, and children gathering around Ezra. Very many were as distressed as he was at the marriages with strange wives, and regarded them as a grievous trespass; hence they assembled weeping around him.
Then one of the sons of Elam, Shecaniah, the son of Jehiel, stood forth from amidst the assembly, and uttered the confession: "We have been unfaithful towards our God by marrying strange wives, but there is yet hope for Israel concerning this thing. We will now make a covenant with God to put away all the strange wives and their children from the congregation, according to the counsel of the Lord, and of those who fear the commandment of our God, that it may be done according to the law." Shecaniah, of the sons of Elam (comp. Ezr 2:7; Ezr 8:7), is a different person from the descendant of Zattu, mentioned Ezr 8:5; nor is Jehiel identical with the individual whose name occurs in Ezr 10:26. ונּשׁב, and have brought home strange wives. הושׁיב, to cause to dwell (in one's house), said in Ezr 10:10, Ezr 10:14, Ezr 10:17, Ezr 10:18, and Neh 13:23, Neh 13:27, of bringing a wife home. Shecaniah founds his hope for Israel in this trespass upon the circumstance, that they bind themselves by a solemn covenant before God to put away this scandal from the congregation, and to act in conformity with the law. To make a covenant with our God, i.e., to bind themselves by an oath with respect to God, comp. Ch2 29:10. הוציא, to put away - the opposite of הושׁיב. All the wives are, according to the context, all the strange women (Ezr 10:2), and that which is born of them, their children. Instead of אדני בּעצת, according to the counsel of the Lord, De Wette, Bertheau, and others, following the paraphrase in the lxx and 1 Esdras, read אדני, according to the counsel of my lord, i.e., of Ezra. But this paraphrase being of no critical authority, there is no sufficient reason for the alteration. For Shecaniah to call Ezra my lord sounds strange, since usually this title was only given by servants to their master, or subjects to their sovereign, and Shecaniah afterwards addresses him simply as thou. Besides, Ezra had given no advice at all in this matter, and still less had he come to any resolution about it with the God-fearing members of the community. יעשׂה after the preceding נכרת־בּרית, we will make a covenant, must be taken as hortative: and let it be done according to the law. בּ חרד, caring for with trembling.
"Up! for this matter concerns thee (thou art called to carry it out), and we are with thee (will assist thee therein); be strong (courageous) and do it."
Then Ezra (who during this speech had continued upon his knees) arose, and made the chiefs of the priests, of the Levites, and of all Israel swear to do according to this word; and they swore. הזּה הדּבר is Shecaniah's proposal to put away the strange wives.
Hereupon Ezra left the place before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib, to fast and mourn there for the unfaithfulness (transgression) of them that had been carried away (הגּולה מעל like Ezr 9:4). Johanan the son of Eliashib cannot actually be Johanan ben Eliashib (Neh 12:23) the high priest, however natural it may be to understand by the chamber of Johanan one of the chambers in the out-buildings of the temple, called after the name of some well-known individual. For the high priest Eliashib was a contemporary of Nehemiah, and the high priest Johanan was not the son, but, according to the definite statement, Neh 12:10, the grandson, of Eliashib, and the son of Joiada (the correct reading of Neh 12:11 being: Joiada begat Johanan and Jonathan). Now a chamber of the temple could not in Ezra's time have been as yet called after a grandson of Eliashib the contemporary of Nehemiah;
(Note: This would not, indeed, be impossible, because, as we shall subsequently show (in our Introduction to the book of Nehemiah, 2), Eliashib's grandson Johanan might be already ten years of age at the time of the transaction in question; so that his grandfather, the high priest Eliashib, might have called a chamber of the temple after the name of his grandson. This view is not, however, a very probable one.)
and both Johanan and Eliashib being names which frequently occur (comp. Ezr 10:24, Ezr 10:27, Ezr 10:36), and one of the twenty-four orders of priests being called after the latter (Ch1 24:12), we, with Ewald (Gesch. iv. p. 228), regard the Johanan ben Eliashib here mentioned as an individual of whom nothing further is known-perhaps a priest descended from the Eliashib of Ch1 24:12, and who possessed in the new temple a chamber called by his name. For there is not the slightest reason to suppose, with Bertheau, that a subsequent name of this chamber is used in this narrative, because the narrator desired to state the locality in a manner which should be intelligible to his contemporaries. Cler. and Berth. desire, after 1 Esdr. 9:1 (καὶ αὐλισθεὶς ἐκεῖ), to change שׁם ויּלך into שׁם ויּלן: and he passed the night there without eating bread or drinking water. But the lxx having καὶ ἐπορεύθη ἐκεῖ, and the repetition of the same word being, moreover, by no means infrequent, comp. e.g., ויּקם in Ezr 10:5, Ezr 10:6, and finally שׁם repeatedly standing for thither, e.g., Sa1 2:14 (שׁם הבּאים), there are no adequate grounds for an alteration of the text. The paraphrase of 1 Esdr. arises merely from the connection, and is devoid of critical value. To eat no bread, etc., means to fast: comp. Exo 34:28; Deu 9:9.
The resolution carried into execution. - Ezr 10:7, Ezr 10:8. A proclamation was sent forth throughout Judah and Jerusalem (קול העביר, comp. Ezr 1:1) to all the children of the captivity to assemble at Jerusalem under pain of the punishment, that whoever should not come within three days, all his substance should be forfeited and himself excluded from the congregation, according to the decision of the princes and elders, who, as the heads of the community, had taken the matter in hand, and made this announcement. The forfeiture of substance is not its destruction, as prescribed Deu 13:13-17 in the case of a city fallen into idolatry, but its appropriation to the benefit of the temple, after the analogy of Lev 27:28.
After three days all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem. This took place on the twentieth day of the ninth month. On this statement of time, see the remark in Ezr 9:1. The assembled multitude sat there on the open space of the house of God, i.e., probably the open space (הרחוב) in front of the water-gate, Neh 8:1, Neh 8:3, Neh 8:16, at the eastern or south-eastern side, before the temple court; see remarks on Neh 8:1. "Trembling" because of this matter, the seriousness of which they might perceive from the heavy penalty attached to their non-appearance within three days, and "because of the rain." The ninth month, corresponding with our December, is in the cold rainy time of the year (comp. Ezr 10:13), "when the rain usually falls in torrents" (Robinson, Phys. Geog. p. 287).
Ezra then stood up and reproved the assembled multitude, saying: You have brought home (הושׁיב, comp. Ezr 10:2) strange wives to increase the trespass of Israel (comp. Ezra's confession, Ezr 9:6-15), and exhorted them to give glory to God and to do His pleasure, (viz.) to separate themselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. On תודה תּנוּ, comp. Jos 7:19. Separation from the people of the land consisted, under the circumstances, in the dismissal of the strange wives.
The whole assembly replied with a loud voice, and therefore with firm resolve: According to thy word it is our duty to do. עלינוּ must not be drawn to what precedes, as in the Vulgate, juxta verbum tuum ad nos, sic fiat, but to what follows, as in Ezr 10:4, Neh 13:13; Sa2 18:11. But - they further remark, Ezr 10:13 - the people are many, - i.e., the assemblage is very large to be able to deal immediately with the several cases; and it is (now) the time of the heavy rains, and there is no power to stand without, - i.e., at the present season we are not able to remain in the open air until the business is discharged; neither is this the work of one day, or of two, for we have transgressed much in this matter, - i.e., one or two days will not suffice to investigate and decide upon all cases, because very many have broken the law in this respect.
"Let then our rulers stand for the whole congregation, and let all who in all our cities have brought home strange wives come at appointed times, and with them the elders of each city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God be turned away from us, as long as this matter lasts." There were so many cases to deal with, that the rulers, as the judicial authorities, must decide in this matter; and those who in all the cities of the land had transgressed, were to appear before these authorities, and submit their individual cases to their jurisdiction. The choice of the verb יעמדוּ, to stand or set oneself to discharge some business, here therefore to give judgment, is occasioned by the preceding לעמוד. The whole community had assembled according to the proclamation, and was standing there for the purpose of bringing the matter to a close. This they were not, however, able to do, for the reasons stated Ezr 10:13; hence the princes, as rulers of the community, are to remain for the discharge of the business. לכל־הקּהל is not a genitive dependent on שׂרינוּ, and explanatory of the suffix of this word-our, viz., the whole congregation's, princes (Bertheau) - an unnatural and superfluous elucidation; for if the whole congregation say: our princes, it is self-evident that not the princes of a section or portion of the people, but of the whole congregation, must be intended. לכל־הקּהל is the object of יעמדוּ: let them stand for the whole congregation (ל עמד like ל קוּם, Psa 94:16), not instead of, but for the good of the congregation, and transact its business. In our cities, i.e., including the capital, for there is here no contrast between Jerusalem and the other cities. The article to ההשׁיב stands, as is often the case, for the relative אשׁר, e.g., Ezr 10:17, Ezr 8:25. מזמּנים עתּים, appointed times, stated terms, used only here and in Neh 10:35; Neh 13:31. זמּן is a Chaldaistic expression. With the accused were to come the elders and judges of every city, to furnish the necessary explanations and evidence. להשׁיב עד, until the turning away of the fierceness of the wrath (ל עד according to the later usage of the language instead of עד only, comp. Ewald, 315, a, not instead of ל only, as Bertheau seeks, by incorrectly interpreted passages, to prove). The meaning is: until the fierce wrath of God concerning these marriages shall be turned away, by their dissolution and the dismissal of the strange women from the congregation. The last words, הזּה לדּבר עד, offer some difficulty. De Wette and Bertheau translate them: on account of this matter, which ל עד can by no means signify. We regard ל עד = עד of the older language, in the sense of during, like Kg2 9:22, according to which the meaning is: as long as this thing lasts; but we connect these words, not, as J. H. Michaelis, with the immediately preceding clause: the wrath which is fierce during this matter (quae usque, i.e., constanter ardet), but take them as more exactly defining the leading idea of the verse: the princes are to stand and judge the guilty as long as this matter lasts, so that הזּה לדּבר עד is co-ordinate with וגו להשׁיב עד.
Jonathan the son of Asahel, and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah, indeed opposed this proposal on the part of the community, and were supported in their opposition by two Levites, but without being able to carry it out. This statement is introduced by אך, only, in the form of a qualification to the remark that the whole assembly (Ezr 10:12) made this resolution: nevertheless Jonathan ... stood up against this. For על עמד, to stand up against, or as elsewhere על קוּם, comp. Ch1 21:1; Ch2 20:23; Dan 8:25; Dan 11:14. Such also is the view of R. Sal. and Lightf., while older expositors understand it as meaning: only Jonathan ... stood up for this matter, like the steterunt super hoc of the Vulgate, or as the decidedly incorrect explanation of J. H. Mich.: praefecti sunt huic negotio. - Nothing further is known of the four opponents here named. That they did not succeed in this opposition appears from what follows. Ezr 10:16 The children of the captivity, i.e., the returned exiles, did so; i.e., the congregation carried their resolve into execution. And Ezra the priest, and men, heads of houses according to their houses, - i.e., so that each house was represented by its head, - were separated, i.e., chosen to conduct the investigation. The ו copulative before אנשׁים has been lost, as asyndeton seeming in this case inadmissible. Bertheau, on the contrary, unnecessarily changes ויבּרלוּ into לו ויּבדל after 1 Esdras 9:16. "And they all by names," comp. Ezr 8:20. ויּשׁבוּ, and they held a sitting (i.e., their first sitting) on the first day of the tenth month, and therefore only ten days after the assembly just spoken of. הדּבר לדריושׁ, to inquire into the matter. It is impossible in Hebrew to form דּריושׁ from דּרשׁ, and this word can only arise from דּרושׁ, as Ewald, 239, a, note, Olshausen, Lehrb. d. hebr. Spr. p. 150, and Bttcher, ausf. Lehrb. der hebr. Spr. i. 1, p. 162, note, unanimously agree.
And they made an end with all, with respect to the men who had brought home strange wives. בּכּל (with the article) cannot be so connected with אנשׁים, from which it is separated by the accentuation of the latter, as to admit of the repetition, as by older expositors, of the preposition בּ before אנשׁים: with all, namely, with the men. Still less can בּכּל, as Bertheau thinks, be taken in the sense of "in every place," and אנשׁים connected as an accusative with ויכלּוּ: they finished in every place the men (!); for כּלּה with an accusative of the person signifies to annihilate, to make an end of, while ב כּלּה means to finish, to make an end with, comp. Gen 44:12. If, as the accentuation requires, we take בּכּל independently, אנשׁים can only be an accusative of more exact definition: in respect of the men (אנשׁים being without the article, because words which define it follow). As this gives a suitable meaning, it seems unnecessary to alter the punctuation and read בּכל־אנשׁים, or with Ewald, 290, c, note 1, to regard אנשׁים בּכּל as a singular combination. - Till the first day of the first month (of the next year), therefore in three months, their sittings having begun, according to Ezr 10:13, on the first day of the tenth month. - The account of this transaction closes with -
The list of the men who had taken strange wives, vv. 18-44; among whom were priests (Ezr 10:18-22), Levites (Ezr 10:23, Ezr 10:24), and Israelites, i.e., laymen (vv. 25-43).
Among the priests there stand first, four names of sons and brethren of the high priest Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. אחיו, his (Jeshua's) brethren. Judging by Ezr 2:36, these were among the descendants of Jedaiah, a section of the house of the high-priestly family (see rem. on Ezr 2:36), and were therefore distant cousins of the high priest. They gave their hands, i.e., bound themselves by shaking hands, to put away their wives, i.e., to dismiss them, and to sever them from the congregation of Israel, ואשׁמים, "and guilty a ram for their trespass," i.e., condemned to bring a ram as a trespass-offering. ואשׁמים is to be regarded as the continuation of the infinitive clause להוציא. As elsewhere, infinitive clauses are continued without anything further in the verb. finit. (comp. Ewald, 350); so here also does the adjective אשׁמים follow, requiring that להיות should be mentally supplied. איל־צאן, a ram of the flock, is, as an accusative of more exact definition, dependent on אשׁמים. This trespass-offering was imposed upon them according to the principle of the law, Lev 5:14, etc., because they had committed a מעל against the Lord, which needed expiation; see on Lev 5:14. - In what follows, only the names of the individuals, and a statement of the families they belonged to, are given, without repeating that the same obligations, namely, the dismissal of their strange wives, and the bringing of a trespass-offering, were imposed on them also, this being self-evident from the context. - Among the sons of Immer were three, among the sons of Harim five, among the sons of Pashur six offenders; in all, eighteen priests. By comparing Ezr 2:36-39, we perceive that not one of the orders of priests who returned with Zerubbabel was free from participation in this transgression. Some of the names given, Ezr 10:20-22, reappear in the lists in Neh 8:4 and Neh 10:2-9, and may belong to the same individuals.
Of Levites, only six names are given, and that without stated the houses to which they belonged. From Ezr 2:40, however, it appears that they were of the sons of Jeshua and Kadmiel there mentioned. "Kelaiah, the same is Kelita;" the latter is the usual name of the person in question, and that which he bears in Neh 8:7 and Neh 10:11. Jozabad also reappears in Neh 8:7.
Of singers one, and of porters three names are given; comp. Ezr 2:41-42. In all, ten Levites.
Of Israel, as distinguished from priests and Levites, i.e., of the laity. Of these latter are given in all eighty-six names, belonging to ten races, vv. 25-43, who returned with Zerubbabel. See Nos. 1, 5, 6, 9, 8, 4, 30, 17, and 27 of the survey of these races. ירמות in Ezr 10:29 should, according to the Chethiv, be read ירמות. - The twofold naming of sons of Bani in this list (Ezr 10:29 and Ezr 10:34) is strange, and Bani is evidently in one of these places a mistake for some other name. Bertheau supposes that Bigvai may have stood in the text in one of these places. The error undoubtedly lies in the second mention of Bani (Ezr 10:34), and consists not merely in the wrong transcription of this one name. For, while of every other race four, six, seven, or eight individuals are named, no less than seven and twenty names follow בּני מבּני, though all these persons could hardly have belonged to one race, unless the greater number of males therein had married strange wives. Besides, no names of inhabitants of cities of Judah and Benjamin are given in this list (as in Ezr 2:21-28, and Ezr 2:33-35), although it is stated in Ezr 10:7 and Ezr 10:14 that not only the men of Jerusalem, but also dwellers in other cities, had contracted these prohibited marriages, and been summoned to Jerusalem, that judgment might be pronounced in their several cases. These reasons make it probable that the twenty-seven persons enumerated in Ezr 10:34-42 were inhabitants of various localities in Judah, and not merely individuals belonging to a single house. This supposition cannot, however, be further corroborated, since even the lxx and 1 Esdr. read the name Bani in Ezr 10:27 and Ezr 10:34, nor can any conjecture respecting the correct reading laying claim to probability be ventured on. In the single names, the Greek texts of the Septuagint and 1 Esdras frequently differ from the Hebrew text, but the differences are almost all of a kind to furnish no material for criticism. A considerable number of these names reappear in the lists of names in the book of Nehemiah, but under circumstances which nowhere make the identity of the persons bearing them certain.
Ezr 10:44 contains the statement with which the account of this transaction closes. The Chethiv נשׂאיּ seems to be an error of transcription for נשׂאוּ (the Keri), which the sense requires. וגו מהם וישׁ, "and there were among them women who had brought forth sons." מהם must be referred to women, notwithstanding the masculine suffix. ישׂימוּ, too, can only be referred to נשׁים, and cannot be explained, as by J. H. Mich.: unde etiam filios susceperant seu procreaverant. The gender of the verb is adapted to the form of the word נשׁים, an incorrectness which must be attributed to the increasing tendency of the language to use the masculine instead of the feminine, or to renounce a distinction of form between the genders. There are no adequate reasons for such an alteration of the text as Bertheau proposes; for the lxx already had our text before them, and the καὶ ἀπέλυσαν αὐτὰς σὺν τέκνοις of 1 Esdr. 9:36 is a mere conjecture from the context. The remark itself, that among the women who were sent away were some who had already brought children into the world, is not superfluous, but added for the purpose of showing how thoroughly this matter was carried out. Separation from women who already have children is far more grievous, ob communium liberorum caritatem, than parting with childless wives.
Strictly as this separation was carried out, this evil was not thereby done away with for ever, nor even for very long. After the arrival of Nehemiah at Jerusalem, when the building of the wall was concluded, the congregation again bound themselves by an oath, on the occasion of a day of prayer and fasting, to contract no more such illegal marriages (Neh 10:31). Nevertheless, Nehemiah, on his second return to Jerusalem, some five and twenty to thirty years after the dissolution of these marriages by Ezra, again found Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Moab, and Ammon, and children of these marriages who spoke the tongue of Ashdod, and could not speak the Jews' language, and even one of the sons of the high priest Jehoiada allied to a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite (Neh 13:28, etc.). Such a phenomenon, however strange it may appear on a superficial view of the matter, becomes comprehensible when we consider more closely the circumstances of the times. The nucleus of the Israelite community in Jerusalem and Judah was formed by those exiles who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and Ezra; and to this nucleus the remnant of Jewish and Israelite descent which had been left in the land was gradually united, after the rebuilding of the temple and the restoration of the worship of Jahve. Those who returned from Babylon, as well as those who remained in the land, had now, however, lived seventy, and some of them one hundred and fifty, years (from the captivity of Jehoiachin in 599, to the return of Ezra in 457) among the heathen, and in the midst of heathen surroundings, and had thus become so accustomed to intercourse with them in civil and social transactions, that the consciousness of the barriers placed by the Mosaic law between Israel, the people of Jahve, and the Gentiles, was more and more obliterated. And this would specially be the case when the Gentiles who entered into matrimonial alliance with Israelites did not flagrantly practise idolatrous worship, i.e., did not offer sacrifice to heathen deities. Under such circumstances, it must have been extremely difficult to do away entirely with these unlawful unions; although, without a thorough reform in this respect, the successful development of the new community in the land of their fathers was not to be obtained.
Ezra's narrative of his agency in Jerusalem closes with the account of the dissolution of the unlawful marriages then existing. What he subsequently effected for the revival of religion and morality in the re-established community, in conformity with the law of God, was more of an inward and spiritual kind; and was either of such a nature that no striking results ensued, which could furnish matter for historical narrative, or was performed during the period of his joint agency with Nehemiah, of which an account is furnished by the latter in the record he has handed down to us (Neh 8:10).