Chapter 10 picks up right where chapter 9 left off, with Ezra praying and making confession for the sin of the people. As he is doing so, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. We see that the people accept the truth about their sin, are convicted, and confess that their sin is just that – sin (vv.1-3).
From within the community comes the idea to put away all these wives and their children (v.3), and Ezra as the leader is exhorted and encouraged to do just that: Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it (v.4). Ezra is on board, uses his great authority (7.26) to good effect, and calls for a mass-assembly that absence from would result in, simply, being excommunicated (vv.6-8).
We see a hugely unified response and commitment (given the weather) (v.9), and Ezra lays out what should now happen,
“You have behaved in an unfaithful manner by taking foreign wives! This has contributed to the guilt of Israel. Now give praise to the Lord God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the local residents and from these foreign wives.”
All but four are in agreement, and there is some dispute as to whether they didn’t want to separate from their foreign wives or, actually, they wanted to do it now and not wait (vv.12-15).
Over a three month period the people considered this matter, and so I read, sought to find out if the local residents and…foreign wives were willing to renounce their paganism and commit to the community of God’s people, or not. As we said in chapter 9, the separation and setting apart is not race based, but concerned with the abominations of these people, not the races of the people involved (9.1).
The rest of chapter 10 is a long list of those who had taken foreign wives, and v.44 tells us that a few of these had borne children. Ezra is then not read of in the Bible for more than ten years until he appears in Nehemiah 8.
Living in this land was not the problem for Ezra and the people,
but living as if they were of that land was the problem.
Taking on customs, cultures, actions, and behaviours that left them unrecognisable as a community of God’s people was the problem (9.1).
For Ezra and his task to rebuild a thriving community of people sold-out to God – His Word, His will, and His ways – this was a major stumbling block that required a major recalibration (10.16-44).
As we finish walking through Ezra, perhaps this should be our major takeaway; the task of being in and building a thriving community of God’s people takes a major recalibration of your life. The first step is to turn to Jesus and follow His example, as F.B. Meyer wrote,
“Let us at least separate ourselves after the manner of Christ, who frequented the temple, acknowledged the State, accepted invitations to great houses; but his heart and speech always revolved about his Father.”
Simply, we can be in the world as Jesus was and the people in Ezra were (frequented the temple, acknowledged the State, accepted invitations to great houses) but not of the world (his heart and speech always revolved about his Father).