November 17, 2023

Do you confess your sin or excuse your sin?

Ezra 9–10

Jaclyn West
Friday's Devo

November 17, 2023

Friday's Devo

November 17, 2023

Big Idea

Ezra set his heart to study, do, and teach the law.

Key Verse | Ezra 9:10-11

"And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 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.'"

Ezra 9–10

Ezra Prays About Intermarriage

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. For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race 1 9:2 Hebrew offspring has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. 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. 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, 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. 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. 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 2 9:8 Hebrew nail, or tent-pin within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 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 3 9:9 Hebrew a wall 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 People Confess Their Sin

While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord 4 10:3 Or of the Lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take an oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.

Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib, where he spent the night, 5 10:6 Probable reading; Hebrew where he went neither eating bread nor drinking water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles. And a proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the returned exiles that they should assemble at Jerusalem, and that if anyone did not come within three days, by order of the officials and the elders all his property should be forfeited, and he himself banned from the congregation of the exiles.

Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. And all the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain. 10 And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. 11 Now then make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” 12 Then all the assembly answered with a loud voice, “It is so; we must do as you have said. 13 But the people are many, and it is a time of heavy rain; we cannot stand in the open. Nor is this a task for one day or for two, for we have greatly transgressed in this matter. 14 Let our officials stand for the whole assembly. Let all in our cities who have taken foreign wives come at appointed times, and with them the elders and judges of every city, until the fierce wrath of our God over this matter is turned away from us.” 15 Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah opposed this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them.

16 Then the returned exiles did so. Ezra the priest selected men, 6 10:16 Syriac; Hebrew And there were selected Ezra heads of fathers' houses, according to their fathers' houses, each of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to examine the matter; 17 and by the first day of the first month they had come to the end of all the men who had married foreign women.

Those Guilty of Intermarriage

18 Now there were found some of the sons of the priests who had married foreign women: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah, some of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers. 19 They pledged themselves to put away their wives, and their guilt offering was a ram of the flock for their guilt. 7 10:19 Or as their reparation 20 Of the sons of Immer: Hanani and Zebadiah. 21 Of the sons of Harim: Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah. 22 Of the sons of Pashhur: Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.

23 Of the Levites: Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. 24 Of the singers: Eliashib. Of the gatekeepers: Shallum, Telem, and Uri.

25 And of Israel: of the sons of Parosh: Ramiah, Izziah, Malchijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Hashabiah, 8 10:25 Septuagint; Hebrew Malchijah and Benaiah. 26 Of the sons of Elam: Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth, and Elijah. 27 Of the sons of Zattu: Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad, and Aziza. 28 Of the sons of Bebai were Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, and Athlai. 29 Of the sons of Bani were Meshullam, Malluch, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal, and Jeremoth. 30 Of the sons of Pahath-moab: Adna, Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui, and Manasseh. 31 Of the sons of Harim: Eliezer, Isshijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32 Benjamin, Malluch, and Shemariah. 33 Of the sons of Hashum: Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, and Shimei. 34 Of the sons of Bani: Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhi, 36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37 Mattaniah, Mattenai, Jaasu. 38 Of the sons of Binnui: 9 10:38 Septuagint; Hebrew Bani, Binnui Shimei, 39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40 Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42 Shallum, Amariah, and Joseph. 43 Of the sons of Nebo: Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel, and Benaiah. 44 All these had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children. 10 10:44 Or and they put them away with their children


[1] 9:2 Hebrew offspring
[2] 9:8 Hebrew nail, or tent-pin
[3] 9:9 Hebrew a wall
[4] 10:3 Or of the Lord
[5] 10:6 Probable reading; Hebrew where he went
[6] 10:16 Syriac; Hebrew And there were selected Ezra . . .
[7] 10:19 Or as their reparation
[8] 10:25 Septuagint; Hebrew Malchijah
[9] 10:38 Septuagint; Hebrew Bani, Binnui
[10] 10:44 Or and they put them away with their children

"How are we to understand the command to 'separate yourselves from the foreign wives?'"

Listen Now

Dive Deeper | Ezra 9–10

Ezra 9 opens with some returning exiled Israelites approaching Ezra and letting him know that the Israelites had not kept themselves separated from the people of the land though God had explicitly commanded it (Ezra 9:10-11; Deuteronomy 7:3; Exodus 34:16). Worse yet, the leaders had led the way in this sin. God commanded His people to stay separate from those in the Promised Land because He knew that those who did not know Him would turn the Israelites' hearts away from Him, like Solomon's wives (1 Kings 11:3). 

God gives us commands for our protection, not because He needs anything from us. He wanted His people's hearts to remain near to Him and so they and their children would benefit from His gifts to them for years to come—so they would be blessed (Ezra 9:12).

When Ezra hears of the people's sin, he does something amazing—he mourns over their sin and identifies himself with it as if it were his own. He was grieved over rebellion against God, not how the people's sin reflected on him. I think this is one of the clearest pictures of repentance in Scripture—recognizing sin, confessing it, grieving that it grieves God, and making a plan to turn from it.

The people were unfaithful; but they were also willing to see their error, and it pained them—"the people wept bitterly." (Ezra 10:1; see also 2 Corinthians 7:10) They were not just sorry but made a plan to turn from their sin, to literally separate themselves (1 John 2:15-16) from the source of their unfaithfulness. God brought His people through captivity and made them into a people who feared Him again through the consequences of sin.

I must often, if not daily, do this in my own life. How have I been unfaithful to the Lord by choosing my own way today? Did I go against something He explicitly commanded me? React impulsively instead of walking by His Spirit (Galatians 5:16)? I need repentance because God uses it to soften my heart and help me turn toward Jesus.

This month's memory verse

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Discussion Questions

1. Is there any sin you need to repent of today? If you're not sure, ask the Lord to show you and help you be willing to see and forsake it, to soften your heart, and to give you a love for His commands. (Psalm 51:17; 139:23-24; 119:36)

2. While the decision the Israelites came to might seem extreme to us, it shows that they were willing to change their lives at a cost to themselves because they valued God and His Word more. Praise God that He sent Jesus, so we never have to experience retribution for our sins! Consequences, sometimes, but punishment—never. Have you thanked Jesus lately for paying the debt for your sin so you don't have to experience punishment for it? That your name is written in His Book of Life?

3. In your life, who is quick to recognize, confess, and repent when they mess up, and who is quick to defend themselves? How might the people in your life be affecting your ability to see and turn from your own sin?

Respond to Today's Passage

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Hugh Stephenson

Good morning, Jaclyn! Thank you for this devo and this truth- “God gives us commands for our protection, not because He needs anything from us. He wanted His people's hearts to remain near to Him and so they and their children would benefit from His gifts to them for years to come—so they would be blessed” (Ezra 9:12). Wonderfully said. Q1. This is a HAHA questions because the answer is “Yes, all of them”. Just about any kind you can think of. The big confession for me was my re:gen inventory in 2013. Well over 100 individual items. I can’t convey the weight that was lifted off of me in doing it. Q2. Being able to gain a basic understanding of Jesus’s atonement is among the greatest gifts ever. The idea that He endured the separation from God that I deserved for eternity has been life changing. Q3. Amy is my best example of confession. For both of us our sinful nature gives us lots of chances. We are committed to keeping short accounts - which has been a huge blessing as well. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Short intros from the ESV SB Notes Ezra 9:1–10:44 Ezra Discovers and Confronts the Problem of Intermarriage. Ezra discovers that the Jewish community has mixed with idolatrous non-Jewish groups in religion and in marriage, and he leads the community in an act of repentance and in a systematic separation from the foreign women and their children. Ezra 10:1–17 The People Agree to Dissolve the Marriages.Ezra prays, and the people confess their sin (vv. 1–2). They agree to do God’s will (vv. 3–5). Ezra seeks an answer (vv. 6–8), which is for them to separate from their wives (vv. 9–12), and the people obey (vv. 13–17)

Hugh Stephenson

How important are gratitude prayers? How important is confession? And how important is praise as a part of both? Ezra’s prayer reminds me of Daniel’s prayer in the book of Daniel, (Daniel 9:4-19). What I see in both is that praise and gratitude give the context for the horrific and ungrateful nature of the sin. In so doing, they underline the need for a “fearless and searching” confession. As I have mentioned, in my morning pre-dawn dog walk I will alternate between worship music and gratitude prayers. What these passages say to me is that Ezra and Daniel model the practice of setting up confession by praying back to God how generous and merciful He is. A key theme of the chapter is the faithfulness of God in all ways. What a great contrast it is to set that up against the unfaithfulness of the Israelites for centuries. Yet, God is merciful and is constantly wooing them back to Him so that they might be saved, (2 Peter 3:9). Ezra and others also demonstrate what a great and powerful force good leadership can be. We’ve seen through the book of the Kings how quickly great culture can be ruined - and how hard it is for them to make their way back. It doesn’t happen very often. From the notes- “Under God, Ezra’s public prayer and demonstration of grief bring a large number of people to repentance, as shown by the statement that they wept bitterly. The term “assembly” is used for a formal gathering of Israel as a religious community.” Ezra 10:11 “Make confession is based on Hebrew words that could also be translated in other contexts as “give thanks or praise” (Hb. natan + todah; cf. Josh. 7:19 and ESV footnote). Some overlap of these meanings is not surprising because rightful confession is itself a kind of worship of God.” "See what a happy influence the good examples of great ones may have upon their inferiors. When Ezra, a scribe, a scholar, a man in authority under the king, so deeply lamented the public corruptions, they [many of the men, women, and children (v. 1)] concluded that they were indeed very grievous." "Ezra was not some self-appointed reformer and custodian of other people's morals. He came to Jerusalem as a commissioner of the Persian king, with instructions, and not just permission, to insist that in the sub-province of Judea the Pentateuchal law was state law (7:25f.), 'the law of the Medes and Persians' (cf. Dan. 6:8). He was therefore legally entitled to compel obedience on this issue; a specific penalty is not laid down in the law, and it would have been left to his discretion.”

Hugh Stephenson

"The Book of Ezra-Nehemiah presents Ezra as a strong personality. He did not emphasize the law as an end in itself; rather, he was convinced that the covenant community needed to return to God by taking seriously his revelation and applying it to every aspect of life." Constable offers this conclusion. The Book of Ezra records two major Jewish returns to the Promised Land from Babylon. The principal events of the period grew out of these migrations. The first of these took place in 537 B.C. under the leadership of Sheshbazzar and then Zerubbabel. About 50,000 Jews returned, rebuilt the temple, and re-established worship as the Mosaic Law directed, to the best of their ability (chapters 1—6). The second return occurred in 458 B.C. under Ezra's leadership. About 1,700 men (perhaps about 5,000 Jewish men, women, and children) returned on that occasion, and the result was a restoration of the people's allegiance to the Mosaic Law. Their purified marriages illustrate the sincerity of their commitment. (The Book of Nehemiah records a third migration, in 444 B.C.) In both returns, God's sovereign control over the Persian kings is very evident. God moved the hearts of these men to permit His people to return and so fulfill His will (cf. Prov. 21:1). God can and will do seemingly impossible things in order to remain faithful to His promises to His people. The purpose of Ezra was to give a historical account of the restoration of Israel to its land from the priestly (religious) point of view. Ezra was a priest as well as a scribe. He emphasized the re-establishment of the people in the land under the Mosaic Law. Return to the Mosaic Law, as well as to the Promised Land, is a major theme throughout this book. Overall, the main theme is the religious restoration of Israel. This book is also a powerful revelation of how God deals with His chosen ones when they prove unfaithful to Him. He does not discard what He has chosen, but He fashions it anew when it fails. "Today some people question the idea that things sometimes happen because of sinful actions. Through their suffering, believers can learn the kind of people God delights to bless and use.”

Greg Jones

Hey Jaclyn, I really like your deeper dive. When you say, “When Ezra hears of the people's sin, he does something amazing—he mourns over their sin and identifies himself with it as if it were his own.” I think you nailed it but I also think Ezra has a lot more to teach and if we zoom out from his present situation we can see some changes that he would want to get noticed. Zooming in on the present Ezra’s prayer. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, 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. 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.’ Zooming out That comes real close to quoting Deuteronomy 7:1-4. As you mention “Do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons” is the same as Deuteronomy 7:3 Where Deuteronomy says “and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. (V2) Ezra softens that up and says “never seek their peace or prosperity”. Zooming in, a reminder of who Ezra is. Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of…son of Abishua, son of [[[Phinehas]]], son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest—this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, [[[the hand of the Lord his God was on him.]]] Ezra 7:1-6 Zooming out to the wilderness While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. And the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the Lord, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.” (VV 1-5 is about Moabite women, hold that thought. V 6 is a Midianite women. BTW Moses’ wife Zipporah is a Midianite whose father was a priest Exodus 2:16-21. His other wife was Cushite Numbers 12:1) And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. When [Phineas] the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand. (It can be said Phinehas and Ezra, son of Phineas, both do something amazing. But there is a distinction in what they do in similar situations.) And the Lord said to Moses, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. [[[Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.’”]]] Numbers 25:1-13 We’re pretty familiar with the Davidic covenant concerning a king in the line of David. Most of us are not to familiar with the Phinehas covenant of peace an a perpetual priesthood. So zooming back in, if Ezra always sounds a little more peaceful, it’s a covenant thing. With no king on the throne Ezra’s not saying I’m the new king, he’s teaching the law and following the lead of the Israelites he’s abiding with as they implement what he’s teaching-Pictured more than stated. Zooming back out and looking at another marriage. It’s interesting that the progression from Phinehas to Ezra is violent to peaceful. In the line of David, Boaz a farmer and local leader marries a Moabite. They are the grandparents of David’s father. David begins as a shepherd who becomes king. And the kings that follow lead the country into exile. Basically there’s a progression from peaceful to violent. “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever.” Deuteronomy 23:3 But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. Ruth 1:3-4 Boaz speaking: Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” Ruth 4:10 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David. Ruth 4:18-22 I don’t think Ruth and Boaz is supposed to be read as an example of disobedience. I don’t think the story of Phinehas is supposed to be read as an example of obedience. I do think both stories were/are meant to challenge our view of God’s views in order to grow them/us.

Sue Bohlin

Thank you, Jaclyn. I was bummed out about all the divorces, compounded by the children sent away with their mothers, until I encountered insight from David Guzik's commentary at He pointed out that the leaders took the time to investigate all the marriages to foreign wives, and the pagan wives were given the chance to "choose you this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15). This is so good: "They finished questioning all the men who had taken pagan wives: The whole process took many weeks because so many men had taken pagan wives. The questioning was necessary because they needed to examine if one of these wives had genuinely decided to serve the Lord God and to forsake her native religions. "i. If the pagan wife had decided to keep her primary allegiance with her former people and their idols, she could not live among the covenant community and had to be divorced. "ii. To the end of the chapter, there is a list showing that only about 114 of these pagan wives refused to embrace the God of Israel and had to be divorced. Yamauchi calculates that it was less than one-half of one percent of the people who were guilty of this pagan intermarriage and who had to divorce their wives. Though it was such a small percentage, it still had to be dealt with strongly – and it was. It also shows that most of the foreign wives joined the people of God in their hearts as well as their homes." I feel much better now.

Michael Scaman

The problem weighed so heavy on Ezra he went away and spent overnight at someone's house He spoke to the people and God even sent heavy rain as he talked as if to emphasize the gravity of the situation I don't know they needed to put away the wives and children or if they just needed to come to the Lord Sometimes the Bible reports but reporting is not the same as approval.

Amy Lowther

1. I would ask the Lord to help me continue going to Him on everything as the holidays begin and good times occur not idolizing things. 2. Yes, I thank Jesus everyday. Jesus helps me understand things and see things clearly. 3. Honesty is the best policy. When mistakes are made, they are hard to take. I always try to do good in everything I do, but mistakes happen. When people discuss situations to improve things if mistakes happened, it is a chance misunderstandings can be cleared up. Staying to God’s Ways and God’s Words helps to produce the best results.