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1. IT is matter of great shame and lamentation when God's
I professing people do not separate themselves from the appearance of sin, and the danger of infection from it. It was sad that the priests and princes should choose daringly to violate the law of God. There is scarce any thing by which the interest of religion and the cause of God are more injured, than by those who are professors of religion marrying into profane and irreligious families. There is little comfort in such relations ; and great danger of being corrupted, and of having children neglected or seduced. But the God of this world blinds the eyes ; and makes the safety of the soul, and the support of religion, too often the last things to be thought of, when they or their children are entering upon new relations in life.
2. Those who tremble at the word of God, should lament the sins of others, and begin to oppose their progress. When God is dishonoured, and the souls of men injured, or likely to be so, it should grieve the hearts of all who fear God or dread his wrath.. We should behold transgressors with grief, and heartily join with all those who are desirous of opposing the progress of sin, as these persons did with Ezra, that we may assist them, keep them in countenance, and strengthen one another's hands in such an important work. • 3. Deep humility and shame become us all when we acknowledge our sins before God. We should blush inwardly at our guilt, folly, and rebellion ; should appear before him in the most humble posture, and be covered with confusion of face. This is an essential ingredient of true repentance ; and if we thus humble ourselves before God, we may hope for his pardoning mercy, and that he will exalt us in due time.
4. When God removes his afflicting hand, and gives us a little revival, it may reasonably be expected that we should be humble and watchful. Ezra intimates that this might have been expected in consequence of what God had done for them. The patience and mercy of God toward us, in removing any calamity we have laboured under, and in granting us ease, health, liberty, and other comforts of life, shoaid lead us to repentance and reformation; make us dread sin, and be solicitous to serve and please him.
5. The word of God, known and declared among us, is an aw. ful aggravation of guilt if we act contrary to it. Ezra quotes the law and repeats the commandment, that sin might appear exceeding sinful. The law is in our hands, to direct our steps and keep us from sin ; and if we overlook this, and persist in evil ways, great is our guilt, there is no cloak for our sin. That servant who knows his master's will and does it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.
6. Relapses into sin, after affliction and humiliation, are exceed. ingly provoking to God, and merit his peculiar displeasure and our utter ruia, v. 13, 14. The design of national or personal afflictions is to take away sin ; and if we have acknowledged this, and profess.
ed repentance, yet return to folly, we may expect the anger of the Lord to increase, and that our plagues shall be made wonderful. Oh that we may consider this ! lest God rise up to plead his cause against an hypocritical nation, and utterly destroy us.
7. It becomes a penitent to give judgment against himself, and glorify God even while he condemns him, v. 15. This will show that his heart is truly humble, that pride is in some measure subdued, and that he accepts the punishment of his iniquities. This is give ing glory to God, and the sure way to obtain his forgiveness and help. Let us then own that the Lord is righteous ; this will promote as well as manifest, our humility and patience ; it will quicken us in our return to God and duty, and dispose him to return to us in a way of grace and mercy.
In the last chapter we saw how Ezra was affected with the sin of the
preople ; here we see the effect his concern had, and the redress of the abuse. INTOW when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed,
I weeping and casting himself down before the house of
God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great con..gregation of men and women and children ; the uncommon
dread and grief and confusion of so extraordinary a person, which was observed by those who were present at the evening sacrifice, and who reported it through Jerusalem, brought many together ;
and they also were much affected, for the people wept very sore, 2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, (one) of the sons of Elam, · answered and said unto Ezra, we have trespassed against our
God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land : 3 yet not there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now · Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all • the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the coun• sel of my lord, and of those that trembled at the commandment 4 of our God : and let it be done according to the law. Arise ;
for [this] matter [belongeth] unto thee : we also will be] with
thee : be of good courage, and do [it.] This is a bold and honest • speech : and remarkably 80, as his father, who was still living, and - $ several of his uncles, had been guilty, in this matter, v. 26. Then
arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all e Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word.
And they sware. He solemnly admonished them of their duty in the name of God, and bound ihem by an oath to the performance
of it. 6. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went • into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib, that he might .. there consult with the prieste and Levites about executing this
counsel : and (when) he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water : for he mourned because of the transg ressionof 7 them that had been carried away. And in consequence of this
consultation, they made proclamation throughout Judah and Je
rusalem unto all the children of the captivity, that they should 8 gather themselves together unto Jerusalem ; And that whoso
ever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those
that had been carried away ; be excluded from the societies of the 9 Jews, and all the privileges of their nation and religion. Then
all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was7 the ninth month, and the twentieth [day] of the month ; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God about the temple, trembling because of [this] matter, at the reflection of their transgressions, and for the great rain, which they considered as a token of the di.
vine displeasure against them, it being probably unseasonable at 10 that time of the ycar. And Ezra the priest stood up, and said
unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, 11 to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make con
fession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure :
and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from 12 the strange wives. Then all the congregation answered and 13 said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do. But
as the people (are) many, and (it is] a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither [is this] a work of one day or two : for we are many that have transgressed in this
thing ; we piropose another method of doing it, which is this ; 24 Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them
which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us; the people were to come by their cities to Jeru. salem, and their elders and judges with them, to testify who had
transgressed, and see that the intended reformation was made.* 15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of
Tikvah were employed about this [matter :) and Meshullam 36 and Shabbethai the Levite helped them. And the children of
the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, [with] certain chief of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by (their) names, were separated, and sat down in the first day
• The remainder of this chapter is taken up with an account of the persons concerned in seeing the reformation completed, and of those who had trespassed; and it is melancholy, to find so many of tbe priests and leading men involved in this transgression. We find no par. ticular account how the affair was conducted. It seems probable, that if any of these foreign women would have embraced the Jewish religion and put away their idolatry, they might have been retained, except in the case of the priests, to whom such a liberty could not have been allowed: undoubtedly those who were sent away had a proper provision made for them. Sbechaniah proposed potting away the children, but Ezra in v. 11, says nothing about then. It is probable they were detained and instructed in the knowledge of the law. Had for this resolure step been taken, the purity of the Israelitish nation would have been soon and very greatly corrupted
17 of the tenth month to examine the matter. And they made
an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the
first day of the first month. 18 And among the sons of the priests there were found that had
taken strange wives : [namely,) of the sons of Jeshua the son
of Jozadak, and his brethren ; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Ja. 19 rib, and Gedaliah. And they gave their hands that they would
put away their wives ; and [being] guilty, (they offered) a ram 20 of the flock for their trespass. And of the sons of Immer; 21 Hanani, and Zebadiah. And of the sons of Harim ; Maaseiah, 22 and Elijah, and Shemaiah, and Jehiel, and Uzziah. And of the
sons of Pashur; Elioenai, Maasejah, Ishmael, Nethaneel, Jo. 93 zabad, and Elasah. Also of the Levites ; Jozabad, and Shimei.
and Kelaiah, (the same [is] Kelita,) Pethahiah, Judah, and Elie24 zer. Of the singers also; Eliashib : and of the porters ; Shal. 25 lum, and Telem, and Uri. Morcover of Israel: of the sons
of Parosh ; Ramiah, and Jeziah, and Malchiah, and Miamin, 26 and Eleazar, and Malchijah, and Benaiah. And of the sons
of Eiam ; Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, and Abdi, and jie27 remoth, and Eliah. And of the sons of Zattu : Elioenai, Elia. 28 shib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza. Of the
sons also of Bebai ; Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, [and] Athlai. 29 And of the sons of Bani ; Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, 30 Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth. And of the sons of Pahath
moab; Adna, and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Be31 zaleel, and Binnui, and Manasseh. And [of] the sons of Ha32 rim; Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchiah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, Beije 33 jamin, Malluch, [and] Shemarjah. Of the sons of Hashum ;
Mattenai, Mattathah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, 34 [and] Shimei. Of the sons of Bani ; Maadai, Amram, and 35, 36 Vel, Benaiah, Bedeiah, Chellub, Vaniah, Meremoth, Elia37, 38 shib, Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasau, And Bani, and 39 Binnui, Shimei, And Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah, 40, 41 Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, Azareel, and Shelemiah, 42, 43 Shemariah, Shahum, Amariah, [and] Joseph. Of the sons • of Nebo ; Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jadau, and Joel, 44 Benaiah. . All these had taken strange wives : and (some) of
them had wives by whom they had children.
REFLECTIONS. 1. TA HEN men are humble and contrite, it is an hopeful
VV circumstance that they will reform what is amiss; there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. There is no expectation of a thorough reformation, till the heart is sensible of the evil of sin, and deeply humbled for it. Professions of concern and promises of reformation are little to be depended upon till then. Godly sorrow alone worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of. 2 Cor. vii. 10.
- 2. The zeal and courage of Shechaniah was very honourable and worthy imitation, Though his father and uncles were guilty, yet,” when the honour of God and the purity of his religion was concern. ed," he boldly declared his detestation of such practices, and his desire to have them rectified. A good example to all, especially to young people, not to be ashamed to appear on the Lord's side, though their seniors and near relations may be corrupt or lukewarm. It will be much to their honour, and God will own and honour them for it.
3. When we are sensible of the evil of sin, vigorous resolutions should be taken against it, and executed without delay. Ezra, and those who joined with him, struck while the iron was hot. All possible dispatch is necessary in those cases where men's passions are apt to get the botter of their reason. It is necessary in all cases · where reformation is concerned. We should be resolute, to part
even with what is dearest to us, and to do it immediately, lest the · mind change and circumstances alter. I made haste, says David, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.
4. Solemn covenant transactions with God should seal and confirm our resolutions of amendment. These people swore to do it, and offered up a sacrifice for their trespass. The heart is treacherous ; therefore when a good resolution is formed, we should bind ourselves solemnly to the Lord. This strengthens good resolutions, prevents our returning to folly, and will be an happy means of securing us from future temptations. We should be able to say with David, I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.