Sunday, October 25, 2020



Ezra 9

The Report


After the second wave of exiles returned to Israel and offered their sacrifices, some officials came to Ezra. This is a first person account from Ezra. According to Ezra 10:9, this was about four months after Ezra and the second wave of exiles returned to Israel. 

The officials reported that some Israelites had intermarried with the pagan women in the area. This included some of the priests and Levites. The officials put it in terms of separating themselves from the peoples of the lands, and listed some of them. The leaders of the people were the ones most guilty of this (chief men and officials).

Malachi, who is believed to have appeared as a prophet during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah also condemned intermarriage with pagans. There is also an implication that Israelite men may have divorced their Israelite wives to marry pagan women. (Malachi 2:10-14)

The laws against intermarriage with pagan peoples was part of the covenant. For example, in Exodus 34:11-16, God told the Israelites he would drive out the different peoples that lived in Canaan so the Israelites could dwell there. He forbade them from making a covenant with those people, ordered them to tear down the altars and pillars, and to marry with them. 

This prohibition is religious more than racial. The Lord clearly wanted them to remove all temptation to worship other gods, or idols. This is stated again in Deuteronomy 7:1-5. God said pagan wives would turn the Israelite sons to idolatry. We read about that very thing happening to Solomon. He married many pagan women and built altars for their religion and participated in their rituals. And they turned his heart away from God. (1 Kings 11)

God called the Israelites out of the nations to be holy and to be consecrated to him. They were not to live as the other nations lived. If they lived holy lives in obedience to the covenant, God would bless them. If they did not, he would drive them from the land.

So, being called out of the world into a relationship with God requires separation from the world’s values and commitment to the values of God. The values of God express his holiness and he called them to be holy. 

God gave the Israelites many laws that demonstrated this, from the way they dressed, to the way they ate, and to the way they married. 

Similarly, God calls us out of the world to live for him. The New Testament repeats the requirement for us to be holy as God is holy. Paul continues the Old Testament thought of separation by writing “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has slight with darkness? What accord has Christ with Bell? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbelievers? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are are the temple of the living God…” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16) 

Since the Israelites had just returned from being driven out of the land, you would think they would be extra sensitive to these issues. But they were not.

Ezra Reacts


Since Ezra was dedicated to God and zealous for the teaching and observance of the law, he was horrified to learn of this situation. He reacted by tearing his garment, pulling his hair out, and sitting “appalled”. These are expressions of grief. Others, who were faithful to the law, joined him and they sat in grief until the time of the evening sacrifice. Those who had not sinned were grieved over the sins of others and the affront to God who had graciously returned the to their own land. 

That reaction sounds extreme, doesn’t it? But God said “this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word”. (Isaiah 66:2)

Ezra Prays


After Ezra’s time of grieving, he turned to God in prayer. He knelt in humility and began to confess the sin of these Israelites. Notice that Ezra did not sin, but he treats the sin of some as a sin of the nation, of the whole people of God. He saw confession and forgiveness as their greatest need.

Ezra first told God he was ashamed even to face him because their sins were so great. He reached back to the past, saying their iniquities were so great that God gave them over the captivity and shame. (7) He was especially ashamed because had just given them his favor, returning them to Israel, reviving them to rebuild the temple,  and protecting them from their enemies. (8-10)

Ezra recited the Old Testament law and the reason for the prohibition. This was known, but they did it anyway, despite the favor God had shown them. Ezra said that God would be just to consume them completely because they stood before him in sin. 

What I admire about Ezra is his degree of conviction of the sin of his people. He offers no excuses or explanations. He said “we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this”. (15)

Ever since the serpent said “did God actually say” in Genesis 3, people have tried to minimize and excuse sin. It is going on today as some want to say that what God called sin is not really a sin. Some also try to make God one dimensional, with that dimension being love, while refusing to acknowledge that he is also holy and just. 

Let’s be plain: it is an ungodly heart that makes light of sin. The cost of forgiveness is the blood of Jesus, the Son of God. Nothing else could do it. Grace may be free to us, but it came at great cost. And the cost was great because our sin is great. And God takes it seriously. You cannot appreciate grace and forgiveness unless you understand the seriousness. 

Ezra casts himself and Israel completely on the mercy of God. At this point, he is so convicted on the people’s sin, he cannot even ask for forgiveness yet. 

In so many places in the world, the church as adapted to its culture as opposed to God’s law. Ezra saw this and led the nation into repentance and rededication to holiness, as we will see in the next chapter. 

His message, God’s message, is the same for the church today. We must adhere to the word of God in complete faithfulness, repent of our sins, and dedicate ourselves to holy lives lived in obedience to the word of God. 

Sunday, October 04, 2020



Roll Call


Ezra gives us a detailed census of those who gathered to go to Jerusalem. You can again see that genealogy is important to the Jews. “Son” here means descendant, not a direct father son connection. Two men of the priestly line came, one of the line of Phineas, who was Gershom, and one of the line of Ithamar. Since Ezra was also of the line of Phineas, he and Gershom were related.

There is one descendant of David named Hattush. He is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:17-24, which lists men in the line of David, including Zerubbabel. He, therefore, would be a relative of Zerubbabel, who led the first group of exiles to Jerusalem 80 years before. He was Zerubbabel’s great great grand-son. So, God continued to preserve the line of David as he promised, so that the Messiah and Greater King would come from David’s line. 

Some of the men were labeled “leading men”. (16) They must have been leaders in the Jewish community in Persia. There were also “men of insight”, which probably means they were experts in the law. 

Interestingly, there are 12 identifiable families in this list, just as there were 12 tribes\families of Israel who made the first exodus. All but one of these had family members listed in the first group that went to Jerusalem under Cyrus’ decree. So, the first journey divided some families who are now reunited in later generations. 


Gathering the Levites

Chapter 8 and 9 are written in the first person (“I”). This section must be from Ezra’s personal record of the events. 

The group assembled at the river and Ezra reviewed who was there and who was not. He discovered that no Levites had come. That was not acceptable to him, because he needed them to serve in the temple and to help teach the law. 

So, Ezra sent for them, asking them to send ministers to the temple.    He sent leading men and men of insight, who were likely teachers of the law. Ezra must have thought these influential people could persuade the Levites to come. 

And some did come. Ezra credits God for this, saying the good hand of our God was on us. (18) One in particular was valuable, for Ezra called him a “man of discretion”. (18)

This group is much smaller than the first group to leave Persia, maybe ten percent of that group.




Once everyone arrived at the river, Ezra proclaimed a fast with prayer. This shows you he was a respected man having the authority to call for a fast and to be obeyed. The purpose of this fast was to humble themselves before God and ask him to give them a safe journey. He believed God could protect them from robbers on the road. 

Ezra added that he did not feel that he could ask the king for soldiers to protect them since he told the king the and of God was on them. God listened to their prayers and granted them a safe journey. 


Priests to Care For The Offerings

A great amount of wealth was being brought with the exiles to Jerusalem. Four months of being close to silver and gold can offer much temptation. To protect against this, Ezra gave the silver and gold to the priests to carry. He reminded them that they, as priests were holy. They were set aside for the work of the Lord. (28)

Ezra also told them the vessels were holy, to be used in worship in the temple. And the offerings were also holy because they were dedicated to the Lord. For a holy person to misuse or steal holy objects would be a great travesty, akin to Uzzah touching the Ark and dying. (2 Samuel 6:7) Further, according to the law, only priests and Levites could handle the instruments of worship in the temple. 

As an added layer of protection, Ezra told them the silver and gold would be weighed by the priests and levites at the temple, so they were accountable to have the right amount. And, indeed, when the came to Jerusalem, after three day, the presented the gold and silver and it was weighed and recorded.


Sacrifices Offered

Also at that time, the newly arrived exiles offered many burnt offerings, including one bull for each tribe of Israel. A sin offering of one goat for each tribe was also made. This is done even though only two tribes are present at this time. Symbolically, 12 represents the complete nation of Israel, for whom the bull is offered in sacrifice to atone for sins. 

Lastly, the king’s decree to support the Temple was delivered to the appropriate government officials. They obeyed the decree and aided the Jews and the beautification of the the Temple.

The business of the journey was complete. 


It was necessary to bring these Jews back to Judah to help repopulate their land.

It was necessary to bring Levites and temple servants back to maintain the temple and worship correctly.

It was necessary to bring Ezra to re-establish obedience to the law.

God did all these things to get his people back into living in a covenant relationship with him.

God gives us all we need to worship him and live according to his will; and he expects us to do it.