Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Now when Ezra had prayed--As this prayer was uttered in public,
while there was a general concourse of the people at the time of the
evening sacrifice and as it was accompanied with all the demonstrations
of poignant sorrow and anguish, it is not surprising that the spectacle
of a man so respected, a priest so holy, a governor so dignified as
Ezra, appearing distressed and filled with fear at the sad state of
things, should produce a deep sensation; and the report of his
passionate grief and expressions in the court of the temple having
rapidly spread through the city, a great multitude flocked to the spot.
2-4. Shechaniah . . . answered and said unto Ezra, We have
trespassed--This was one of the leading men, who was not himself a
delinquent in the matter, for his name does not occur in the following
list. He spoke in the general name of the people, and his conduct
evinced a tender conscience, as well as no small fortitude in making
such a proposal; for as his father and five paternal uncles
were involved in the guilt of unlawful marriages, he showed, by the
measure he recommended, that he deemed it better to obey God than to
please his nearest relatives.
yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing--This hope,
however, depended on timely measures of reformation, and therefore,
instead of surrendering themselves to despair or despondency, he
counselled them to amend their error without delay, relying on God's
mercy for the past. Though the proposal may seem harsh and cruel, yet
in the peculiar circumstances of the Jews it was just as well as
necessary; and he urged the duty of seeing it executed on Ezra, as the
only person competent to carry it into effect, being possessed of skill
and address for so delicate and difficult a work, and invested by God,
and under Him by the Persian king
with the requisite authority to enforce it.
5-8. Then Ezra . . . went into the chamber of Johanan--At a private
council of the princes and elders held there, under the presidency of
Ezra, it was resolved to enter into a general covenant to put away
their foreign wives and children; that a proclamation should be made
for all who had returned from Babylon to repair within three days to
Jerusalem, under pain of excommunication and confiscation of their
9-11. Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin--The returned captives
belonged chiefly to these tribes; but other Israelites are also
included under these names, as they all were then occupying the
territory formerly assigned to those two tribes.
It was the ninth month--that is, between the end of December and the
beginning of January, which is the coldest and most rainy season of the
year in Palestine.
all the people sat in the street--that is, the court.
10-17. Ezra the priest stood up, and said--Having fully represented
the enormity of their sin and urged them to dissolve their unlawful
connections, he was gratified by receiving a prompt acknowledgment of
the justice of his reproof and a promise of compliance with his
recommendation. But as the weather was ungenial and the defaulters were
too numerous to be passed in review at one time, it was resolved that a
commission should be appointed to examine into the whole matter. These
commissioners, assisted by the judges and elders of the respective
cities, made a minute investigation into every case, and after three
months' labor completely removed all traces of the abuse. Doubtless, an
adequate provision was made for the repudiated wives and children,
according to the means and circumstances of the husbands.
18. among the sons of the priests--From the names of so many men of
rank appearing in the following list, some idea may be formed of the
great and complicated difficulties attending the reformatory work.
19. they gave their hands--that is, came under a solemn engagement,
which was usually ratified by pledging the right hand
The delinquents of the priestly order bound themselves to do like the
and sought to expiate their sin by sacrificing a ram as a trespass