After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2 For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” 3 As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled.4 Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, 6 saying:
“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. 7 From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. 8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.
10 “And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments,11 which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ 13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, 14 shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? 15 O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.”
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Questions to Consider:
1. Ezra and the second wave of exiles had made it back to Jerusalem safely, but everything was not hunky dory. In your own words, summarize the dilemma this chapter deals with.
2. Which specific sin does this chapter address? (1-2) Which classes of Israelites had intermarried with foreigners? (1) Which class was leading the way in the sin of intermarriage? (2b) How does it affect God’s people when their leaders set a bad example by sinning? Why is it important today that pastors and elders are required to be “above reproach“?
3. What was the first thing Ezra did when he was informed of the intermarriages? (3-4) What did the people who feared God and had not sinned by intermarrying do? (4) Why do you think they did this? What was the second thing Ezra did? (5) Compare and contrast Ezra’s leadership and example with the leadership and example of the “officials and chief men” (2).
4. Why did Ezra react with such grief and repentance over the intermarriages? (7, 10-12a, 14) What are the “abominations” referred to in verses 11 and 14? Read 2 Corinthians 7:10. Does Ezra’s grief seem godly (grief over offending God) or worldly (solely afraid of sin’s consequences)? Did Ezra confess and seek forgiveness for his own sin or the people’s sin?
5. In what (spiritual) posture does Ezra approach God in prayer? (6a) Ezra’s prayer can be broken down into several smaller sections:
6-7 Admission of Israel’s G____t
8-9- Acknowledgement of God’s G___ness
10-12- Confession of Israel’s specific S_n
13-14- Recognition that Israel deserves P_____ment
15- Petition for God’s M___y
How can Ezra’s prayer serve as a model to us when we repent of our sin and ask God’s forgiveness?
6. To whom does the phrase “holy race” (2) refer? Does the word “race” in this phrase mean skin color? Some people try to use verses like this to support the fale teaching of Kinism. Considering the historical background and context of this chapter, can verse 2 be used to support banning interracial marriage and segregating worship in the church today? Why not? How does this demonstrate the importance of understanding and using Scripture in context?