Showing non-Jewish wives the door
Ezra, face-down and sobbing1Ezra created a spectacle at the Temple. He prayed and cried about Israel’s sins. And then sobbing, he dropped face-down on the ground. A crowd formed around him—men, women, and children. They began crying and sobbing, too.
2A man from Elam’s family, Shecaniah son of Jehiel, told Ezra, “We broke our connection to God when we married foreign women. They’re not part of us. But our situation isn’t hopeless. Not yet at least.
Goodbye wives and kids3Let’s make a sacred promise to God that we’ll send away all these outsiders—we’ll get rid of the foreign wives and the children we had with them. May all of us who take the laws of God seriously look to you, Ezra, for answers. Tell us what to do next. 4We’re with you. So be strong and say what has to be said.”
5Ezra got up from the ground. He told all the leading priests, Levites, and other Jews that they needed to do what Shecaniah had said. The men promised they would do it.
6Ezra left the crowd and went to the home of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. He spent the night fasting. He didn’t even drink water. He was grieving about the Jewish people and this sin that so many men had committed. 7A notice went out to all Jews now living in Jerusalem and Judah: Come to Jerusalem for a meeting, or else. 8If they failed to come within three days, Jewish officials and elders agreed to confiscate their land and ban them from the Jewish community.
9So, all former Jewish exiles from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin came to Jerusalem within three days. It was winter in Jerusalem, the twentieth day of the nineth month, Chislev. The crowd sat in the Temple courtyard, trembling. They shook with fear about what was coming, and because of the cold and the heavy rain.
10Ezra the priest stood to address them:
“Men, if you have married foreign women you have sinned. And you’ve added extra guilt to Israel. 11Admit your sin and tell it to the LORD, the God of your ancestors. Then do what you know he wants you to do. Break off those relationships. Divorce your foreign wives and stay away from foreigners.”
12People in the crowd shouted their answer, “Yes! Yes!”
13Some in the group said, “This problem involves a lot of families. We can’t settle all those cases in this heavy rain. And it’s going to take more than a day or two. A lot of us have committed this sin. 14Why not send the people home for now? Let our officials stay here in Jerusalem. They can work out a plan to schedule hearings for the families to meet with our judges and other leaders. Perhaps then God won’t punish us for this sin.”
15Four men didn’t want to do it that way. They were Jonathan son of Asahel, Jahzeiah son of Tikvah and two Levites, Meshullam and Shabbethai. 16All the other Jews who had returned from exile agreed with the plan. So, Ezra appointed a team of family leaders to meet and consider the problem. It took them three months. They started meeting on the first day of Tebeth, the tenth month on the Jewish calendar. 17And it took them until the first day of Nisan, the first month, to finish the list of men who married foreign wives.
Priests guilty of marrying foreign wives18This is a list of 113 men who married foreign wives, admitted their guilt, and then promised to sacrifice a ram to erase the guilt.
Priests on the list of men were all from the family of Joshua son of Jozadak and his brothers:
Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah.
19They agreed to send their wives away and sacrifice a ram as a guilt offering. All the others on the list did the same.
More Temple workers with foreign wives20From Immer’s family:
Hanani and Zebadiah.
Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah.
Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.
Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (aka, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.
Temple security guards:
Shallum, Telem, and Uri.
Other Jews with foreign wives25Parosh’s family:
Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Hashabiah, and Benaiah.
Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah.
Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza.
Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai.
Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth.
Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh.
Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah.
Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei.
Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, 36Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasu.
Shimei, 39Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph.
Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah.
44All these men divorced their wives. Then they told the women to leave and take their children with them.
Notice the shift in tense from Ezra 9. There, Ezra is doing the talking. And he’s writing in the first-person. Now in chapter 10 we have a narrator, using the third-person style to describe a messy job: ordering 113 Jewish men to divorce their non-Jewish wives and send them away with their children. Scholars debate whether Ezra wrote this. Some wonder if it’s the work of an editor upset about his son marrying a lady who was one golden calf and two porkchops shy of kosher. Or for some other reason. Yet, many say it’s Ezra’s story, whether he wrote it or not. Either way, it’s tough for some folks to picture Jesus telling the men to show their ladies and their children the front door. Men who would do that would want to be Jews pretty badly.
Shecaniah almost bullies Ezra. He pushes the priest into ordering everyone who married non-Jewish women to divorce them and send them away with their children. Some scholars wonder if Shecaniah was looking out for himself. His father, Jehiel, is listed among the 113 Jewish men in the group who are married to non-Jews (10:26). Perhaps his father had two wives and Shecaniah was the son of his Jewish wife. Shecaniah may have guaranteed himself a better inheritance with his half-brothers gone. And he may not have liked his half-mother much, either. Win, win. Until his dad got home from the meeting.
It’s unknown who this person is. Some guess that he lived near the Temple, where Ezra had been, and he may have been one of the Temple workers.
The tribes of Judah and Benjamin were the main Jewish groups the Babylonian invaders had exiled in 586 BC. These tribes made up the southern Jewish nation of Judah. The northern Jewish nation of Israel, with the other tribes, were exiled long before that, in 722 BC, by Assyrian invaders. They became known as the Lost Tribes of Israel. They never seemed to come back in large groups. They apparently became assimilated into other cultures. Many southern Jews, however, returned home after one generation in exile. They had still maintained a sense of distinction as God’s people, though living in shameful punishment.
Chislev on the Jewish calendar runs from mid-November to mid-December.
Some would argue that “Stay away from foreigners” sounds pretty much the opposite of “love the outsiders, for you were outsiders in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).
None of these four men is listed among the offenders. They may have preferred to deal with the offenders right away, rather than sending them home.
Tebeth runs from about mid-December to mid-January.
Nisan runs from about mid-March to mid-April.
In older lingo, the guilt offering was called the trespass offering, as in, “Forgive us our trespasses” or sins. In fact, scholars can’t seem to figure out what the difference is between a “sin offering” and a “guilt offering.” One guess is that guilt offerings were more serious and often involved making restitution. Leviticus 5:14-7:7 talks about when a person needs to make a guilt offering. Leviticus 7:1-10 talks about how to make the sacrifice.
“Gatekeepers,” guarded the entrances into the Temple courtyards.
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