Ezra tells the story of the rebuilding of the Solomon’s temple. King Cyrus allows the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, even giving them the plunder that was originally stolen. Back in Jerusalem, work on the temple begins almost immediately, but former enemies of Israel and Judah work to stop construction.

Eventually, for a time, construction does stop, but begins again in earnest once King Darius decrees “Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site” (Ezra 6:7).

There is not universal joy at the rebuilding, however. The older generation, who had seen the original temple, weep at the site of the new foundation. The younger generation, raised in captivity, cry out for joy. When the new temple is completed the whole population celebrates, but this original sadness harkens back to the message of Chronicles and Kings. The root of yearning for mercy from God after being taken captive, coming from a knowledge of how strong the relationship between God and the Israelites was, most likely caused this weeping at the new temple foundation. A sadness that comes from replacing something divine with something lesser.

A warped version of replacing the divine with pagan ends the book of Ezra. The men of Israel married foreign wives and had children with them, going against the will of God. Because of this, Ezra calls on all men of Israel with a foreign wife to expel them from his home, along with any children they have. They must not anger God. “Shall we then break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor?” (Ezra 9:14).

First, any “detestable practices” had been done by previous generations of Israelites under previous kings. And we’ve seen time and time again some truly horrible things done in the name of God. Second, why expel the families? Why not bring them into the Israelite fold? That has certainly happened before. Why break up more families so soon after returning to a homeland?

Regardless, any mixed families are exiled at the end of the book and the Israelites can presumably continue rebuilding their city, culture and population.

Thank you for reading,

AR

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One thought on “Ezra

  1. It is not clear that the “detestable practices” had not been done by the current generation. The fact that outsiders like Ruth, who followed the God of the Jews, were accepted would indicate that the women in this chapter did not. Also, the word translated as “marriage” in 10:2 was not the term for marriage, but meant “giving a home to”, which indicates that the men were already not following the command of God (although even David had concubines…). At any rate it was disobedience that got them exiled in the first place, and it was the people – not a decree from God or Ezra – who asked that the families be removed – probably because the people who asked for it did not approve of the situation. And people are people. They (we) are fickle and judgemental. Even in that, Ezra looked at each case individually over several months. Perhaps some families were not broken up. The story of Ruth would indicate that any family that was worshipping the Jewish God was indeed brought into the fold and became a part of God’s people, so I would infer that the trials were to determine just that – how the families were living.
    Again, this was a time when a chosen people were used to show the nature of God. I think that is still true, but Jesus changed everything. He welcomed foreigners – but asked them to follow Him. He loved and was kind to harlots and thieves – so much so, he was rebuked by Pharisees. He came to draw people to Him, not condemn them: John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
    Once the aspect of how to live a life was established with the rules of this particular society (and these rules were for keeping disease and jealousy and all sorts of negative impact at bay) were established, Jesus came to show us that the rules were made out of love and caring, to actually be a help. Jesus came to show us how to live – and He was loved by all except certain religious leaders. Even the Roman leader Pilate found no fault in Him.

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