The prophet Ezra praying, engraving by Gustave Doré. 1832 

Pleading for a second chance- Wednesday, 25th week in ordinary time – Ezra 9:5-9

Ezra accompanies the second batch of exiles from Babylon in the year 458 BC to Jerusalem. His priestly background gave him clarity of vision for he knew the importance of having the people back where the sacrificial system was being practiced. That story is told in chapters seven and eight which sets the scene for chapter nine, where sin is uncovered in the post-exilic community.

The first days after Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem were occupied in executing the different trusts committed to him but a further acquaintance discovered the existence of great corruptions, which demanded immediate correction.

Some leaders, perhaps men who had previously returned to the land under Zerubbabel, soon realized that Ezra was a man who was devoted to the accurate teaching of the Law. They felt compelled to disclose to Ezra that a number of the people who had returned in the first group under Zerubbabel, were in violation of divine law.

What was this law that the people had broken? One of God’s major prohibitions was that His people were not to marry outside the community of believers and now it is disclosed that many have contracted marriages with Gentile women. These men included several of the priests and Levites, as well as of the leading men in the country.

Who were these Gentiles? There were a small number of Jews who were not taken to Assyria or Babylon and had intermarried with gentiles forming the nucleus of the later race of Samaritans. Over a period of time there was great hostility between the Jews who returned from exile and those who had stayed back and intermarried with the people of nations such as Ammon, Moab, and Egypt

 Even though they were both of the same Semitic races, their reasons for not associating with each other were religious. The fear was that If God’s people married outside Israel then they would inevitably be encouraged towards idolatry. Foreign marriages contaminated Israel, fostered the foreigners’ prosperity, weakened Israel spiritually, and decreased her opportunity to enjoy the land’s crops.

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