Ezra 10

 

This entire chapter, the last in Ezra, deals with the men of the captivity who took foreign women as their wives.  As usual throughout the bible, women are ignored.  Didn’t any women of the captivity take foreign husbands?  What about them?  How were they judged and treated?  As far as Ezra was concerned, either they were ignored by the judges or he didn’t think their cases needed to be recorded.  In the very last verse he mentions women and their children.  It’s possible that this passage, although difficult to interpret, may address in an indirect way their treatment.  Scholars, however, seem to have concluded that the passage rather refers to the men’s foreign wives who had borne children for them.  Apparently, this did not prevent their separation from their Jewish husbands.  Also, I wonder how the separation was conducted.  Elsewhere in the bible, foreign women who were captured in battle were allowed to be married to Jewish men.  But there are also instances where alien women were slaughtered to prevent enticement of susceptible Jews to idolatry.

וּכְהִתְפַּלֵּל עֶזְרָא וּכְהִתְוַדֹּתֹו בֹּכֶה וּמִתְנַפֵּל לִפְנֵי בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים נִקְבְּצוּ אֵלָיו מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל קָהָל רַב־מְאֹד   10:1

אֲנָשִׁים וְנָשִׁים וִילָדִים כִּי־בָכוּ הָעָם הַרְבֵּה־בֶכֶה׃

Ezra 10:1   Then as Ezra interceded and made his confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God, a very large crowd assembled by him from Israel, men and women and children, as the people wept a great weeping.

וַיַּעַן שְׁכַנְיָה בֶן־יְחִיאֵל מִבְּנֵי (עֹולָם) [עֵילָם] וַיֹּאמֶר לְעֶזְרָא אֲנַחְנוּ מָעַלְנוּ בֵאלֹהֵינוּ וַנֹּשֶׁב נָשִׁים   10:2

נָכְרִיֹּות מֵעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ וְעַתָּה יֵשׁ־מִקְוֶה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַל־זֹאת׃

Ezra 10:2   And Shecaniah son of Jehiel, from the sons of Elam, spoke, and he said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful toward our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but now there may be hope for Israel concerning this.”

The word in the parentheses, translated as the name Elam, is misspelled.  The correct spelling is in the brackets.

וְעַתָּה נִכְרָת־בְּרִית לֵאלֹהֵינוּ לְהוֹצִיא כָל־נָשִׁים וְהַנּוֹלָד מֵהֶם בַּעֲצַת אֲדֹנָי וְהַחֲרֵדִים בְּמִצְוַת אֱלֹהֵינוּ   10:3

וְכַתּוֹרָה יֵעָשֶׂה׃

Ezra 10:3   “So now we can make a covenant for our God to put out all the women and who had been born from them, according to the counsel of the Master and of those trembling at the commandments of our God, and It shall be done according to the law.”

It’s interesting to me that Shecaniah seems to believe that the Lord will counsel them about the foreign women.  But maybe he’s merely referring to the Torah’s commandments as the counsel of the Master?  I won’t guess what the answer is.

קוּם כִּי־עָלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר וַאֲנַחְנוּ עִמָּךְ חֲזַק וַעֲשֵׂה׃   10:4

Ezra 10:4   “Arise, for the matter is upon you, but we are with you.  Be strong and act.”

וַיָּקָם עֶזְרָא וַיַּשְׁבַּע אֶת־שָׂרֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל לַעֲשׂוֹת כַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה וַיִּשָּׁבֵעוּ׃   10:5

Ezra 10:5   So Ezra arose, and he made the chiefs of the priests, the Levites, and all of Israel swear to do according to this word, and they swore.

וַיָּקָם עֶזְרָא מִלִּפְנֵי בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים וַיֵּלֶךְ אֶל־לִשְׁכַּת יְהוֹחָנָן בֶּן־אֶלְיָשִׁיב וַיֵּלֶךְ שָׁם לֶחֶם לֹא־אָכַל וּמַיִם   10:6

 לֹא־שָׁתָה כִּי מִתְאַבֵּל עַל־מַעַל הַגּוֹלָה׃

Ezra 10:6   Then Ezra rose from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Johohanan son of Eliashib.  When he came there he did not eat bread and did not drink water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiled.

וַיַּעֲבִירוּ קוֹל בִּיהוּדָה וִירוּשָׁלִַם לְכֹל בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה לְהִקָּבֵץ יְרוּשָׁלִָם׃   10:7

Ezra 10:7   Then they made a sound pass throughout Judah and Jerusalem for all the children of the captivity to assemble at Jerusalem.

וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יָבוֹא לִשְׁלֹשֶׁת הַיָּמִים כַּעֲצַת הַשָּׂרִים וְהַזְּקֵנִים יָחֳרַם כָּל־רְכוּשׁוֹ וְהוּא יִבָּדֵל מִקְּהַל   10:8

הַגּוֹלָה׃

Ezra 10:8   And anyone who would not come in three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance would be forfeited and he would be isolated from the congregation of the captivity.

וַיִּקָּבְצוּ כָל־אַנְשֵׁי־יְהוּדָה וּבִנְיָמִן יְרוּשָׁלִַם לִשְׁלֹשֶׁת הַיָּמִים הוּא חֹדֶשׁ הַתְּשִׁיעִי בְּעֶשְׂרִים בַּחֹדֶשׁ   10:9

 וַיֵּשְׁבוּ כָל־הָעָם בִּרְחוֹב בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים מַרְעִידִים עַל־הַדָּבָר וּמֵהַגְּשָׁמִים׃

Ezra 10:9   Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered in Jerusalem for three days -- it was the ninth month on the twentieth of the month -- and all the people sat in the plaza of the house of God trembling over the matter and because of the rains.

וַיָּקָם עֶזְרָא הַכֹּהֵן וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם אַתֶּם מְעַלְתֶּם וַתֹּשִׁיבוּ נָשִׁים נָכְרִיּוֹת לְהוֹסִיף עַל־אַשְׁמַת יִשְׂרָאֵל׃   10:10

Ezra 10:10   And Ezra rose and said to them, “You have been unfaithful and have married foreign women, adding to the guilt of Israel.”

וְעַתָּה תְּנוּ תוֹדָה לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי־אֲבֹתֵיכֶם וַעֲשׂוּ רְצוֹנוֹ וְהִבָּדְלוּ מֵעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ וּמִן־הַנָּשִׁים הַנָּכְרִיּוֹת׃   10:11

Ezra 10:11   “So now give praise to the Lord, the God of your fathers, and do His will and separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the alien women.”

וַיַּעְנוּ כָל־הַקָּהָל וַיֹּאמְרוּ קֹול גָּדֹול כֵּן (כְּדִבְרֶיךָ) [כִּדְבָרְךָ] עָלֵינוּ לַעֲשֹׂות׃   10:12

Ezra 10:12   And the entire congregation responded, and they spoke a loud voice, “According to your words, it is upon us to do so.”

The word in the parentheses in this verse, translated as according to your words, is not an error in my opinion.  It seems perfectly valid in the plural form.  The correction in the brackets makes it singular (according to your word).  As far as I am concerned, the change is unnecessary.  I suspect the reason for the correction is to reflect the phrasing in v. 10:5.  And I view that as purely conjectural.

אֲבָל הָעָם רָב וְהָעֵת גְּשָׁמִים וְאֵין כֹּחַ לַעֲמוֹד בַּחוּץ וְהַמְּלָאכָה לֹא־לְיוֹם אֶחָד וְלֹא לִשְׁנַיִם   10:13

 כִּי־הִרְבִּינוּ לִפְשֹׁעַ בַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה׃

Ezra 10:13   “However, the people are many and it is the time of raining, and there is no strength to stand outside, and the work is not for one day or for two, as we have done much transgressing in this matter.”

יַעֲמְדוּ־נָא שָׂרֵינוּ לְכָל־הַקָּהָל וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר בֶּעָרֵינוּ הַהֹשִׁיב נָשִׁים נָכְרִיּוֹת יָבֹא לְעִתִּים מְזֻמָּנִים וְעִמָּהֶם   10:14

 זִקְנֵי־עִיר וָעִיר וְשֹׁפְטֶיהָ עַד לְהָשִׁיב חֲרוֹן אַף־אֱלֹהֵינוּ מִמֶּנּוּ עַד לַדָּבָר הַזֶּה׃

Ezra 10:14   “Let our princes stand now for the entire congregation and  let all who are in our cities who have married foreign women come in fixed times, and with them the elders of each city and its judges, until the heat of the ‘anger’ of our God is turning from us as far as to this matter.”

אַךְ יוֹנָתָן בֶּן־עֲשָׂהאֵל וְיַחְזְיָה בֶן־תִּקְוָה עָמְדוּ עַל־זֹאת וּמְשֻׁלָּם וְשַׁבְּתַי הַלֵּוִי עֲזָרֻם׃   10:15

Ezra 10:15   Indeed Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah stood on behalf of this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai, the Levite, helped them.

This verse is difficult to translate and to understand.  My translation differs pretty much from almost all others among the numerous popular bibles.  Most of them, with few exceptions, have something like this for their translation:  “Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jeheiah son of Tikvah stood against this, and Meshullam and Shabbethai, the Levite, helped them.”  Maybe two or three bibles have the following translation, which is close to mine:  “Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the  son of Tikvah were employed about this matter: and Meshullam and  Shabbethai the Levite helped them.”  Now what does my translation say that these others do not?  For one, to arrive at my translation I assumed these four men were rather important in the community, and their concurrence meant something.  It’s highly unlikely that these four men conducted the whole of the procedure or even oversaw it.  There were just too many cities to cover.  It’s also unlikely that the first Hebrew word should mean only (rather than indeed) and the ninth word mean against (rather than on behalf), because it seems that Ezra would not have reported this when their sole “objection” was ignored, as it was.  In addition, the ninth word, l[, is almost never used in this sort of context.  It is usually found when it refers to a physical against, such as against a wall (rather than as a principal or argument against an idea or procedure).  Finally, the translation were employed in the second quote is a wild deviation from the meaning of the term.  Moreover, the Hebrew is in the active form, not the passive, so was employed is inappropriate.

וַיַּעֲשׂוּ־כֵן בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה וַיִּבָּדְלוּ עֶזְרָא הַכֹּהֵן אֲנָשִׁים רָאשֵׁי הָאָבוֹת לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם וְכֻלָּם בְּשֵׁמוֹת וַיֵּשְׁבוּ   10:16

בְּיוֹם אֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הָעֲשִׂירִי לְדַרְיוֹשׁ הַדָּבָר׃

Ezra 10:16   And the children of the captivity did thus.  So Ezra the priest, men of the heads of households for the house of their fathers, and all of them, by names, separated themselves, and they sat down on the first day in the tenth month to consider the matter.

וַיְכַלּוּ בַכֹּל אֲנָשִׁים הַהֹשִׁיבוּ נָשִׁים נָכְרִיֹּות עַד יֹום אֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשֹׁון׃   10:17

Ezra 10:17   And they were finished with all the men who had married foreign women during the first day in the first month.

The operation took exactly two months.  It started toward the end of the rainy season in Israel and finished just before the spring harvest.

וַיִּמָּצֵא מִבְּנֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים אֲשֶׁר הֹשִׁיבוּ נָשִׁים נָכְרִיֹּות מִבְּנֵי יֵשׁוּעַ בֶּן־יֹוצָדָק וְאֶחָיו מַעֲשֵׂיָה וֶאֱלִיעֶזֶר   10:18

 וְיָרִיב וּגְדַלְיָה׃

Ezra 10:18   And it was found, from the sons of the priests who had married foreign women:  From the sons of Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brethren, Maaseiah and Eliezer and Jarib and Gedaliah.

וַיִּתְּנוּ יָדָם לְהוֹצִיא נְשֵׁיהֶם וַאֲשֵׁמִים אֵיל־צֹאן עַל־אַשְׁמָתָם׃   10:19

Ezra 10:19   And they gave their hand to put out their wives, and being guilty, a ram of the flock for their offense.

The phrase they gave their hand probably means they made an oath.

וּמִבְּנֵי אִמֵּר חֲנָנִי וּזְבַדְיָה׃   10:20

Ezra 10:20   And from the sons of Immer, Hanani and Zebadiah.

וּמִבְּנֵי חָרִם מַעֲשֵׂיָה וְאֵלִיָּה וּשְׁמַעְיָה וִיחִיאֵל וְעֻזִיָּה׃  10:21

Ezra 10:21   And from the sons of Harim, Maaseiah and Elijah and Shemaiah and Jehiel and Uzziah.

וּמִבְּנֵי פַּשְׁחוּר אֶלְיוֹעֵינַי מַעֲשֵׂיָה יִשְׁמָעֵאל נְתַנְאֵל יוֹזָבָד וְאֶלְעָשָׂה׃  10:22

Ezra 10:22   And from the sons of Pashhur, Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.

וּמִן־הַלְוִיִּם יוֹזָבָד וְשִׁמְעִי וְקֵלָיָה הוּא קְלִיטָא פְּתַחְיָה יְהוּדָה וֶאֱלִיעֶזֶר׃  10:23

Ezra 10:23   And from the Levites, Jozabad and Shimei and Kelaiah (he is Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer.

וּמִן־הַמְשֹׁרְרִים אֶלְיָשִׁיב וּמִן־הַשֹּׁעֲרִים שַׁלֻּם וָטֶלֶם וְאוּרִי׃  10:24

Ezra 10:24   And from the singers, Eliashib.  And from the porters, Shallum and telem and Uri.

וּמִיִּשְׂרָאֵל מִבְּנֵי פַרְעֹשׁ רַמְיָה וְיִזִּיָּה וּמַלְכִּיָּה וּמִיָּמִן וְאֶלְעָזָר וּמַלְכִּיָּה וּבְנָיָה׃   10:25

Ezra 10:25   And from Israel:  From the sons of Parosh, Ramiah and Izziah and Malchijah and Mijamin and Eleazar and Malchijah and Benaiah.

וּמִבְּנֵי עֵילָם מַתַּנְיָה זְכַרְיָה וִיחִיאֵל וְעַבְדִּי וִירֵמוֹת וְאֵלִיָּה׃  10:26

Ezra 10:26   And from the sons of Elam, Mattaniah, Zechariah, and Jehiel and Abdi and Jeremoth and Elijah.

וּמִבְּנֵי זַתּוּא אֶלְיוֹעֵנַי אֶלְיָשִׁיב מַתַּנְיָה וִירֵמוֹת וְזָבָד וַעֲזִיזָא׃  10:27

Ezra 10:27   And from the sons of Zattu, Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, and Jeremoth, and Zabad, and Aziza.

וּמִבְּנֵי בֵּבָי יְהוֹחָנָן חֲנַנְיָה זַבַּי עַתְלָי׃  10:28

Ezra 10:28   And from the sons of Bebai, Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai, Athelai.

וּמִבְּנֵי בָּנִי מְשֻׁלָּם מַלּוּךְ וַעֲדָיָה יָשׁוּב וּשְׁאָל (יְרֵמֹות) [וְרָמֹות]׃  10:29

Ezra 10:29   And from the sons of Bani, Meshullam, Malluch, and Adaiah, Jashub, and Sheal, and Ramoth.

The prefix to the name Ramoth in the parentheses should be a vav, meaning and, not a yad.  The correction is in the brackets.

וּמִבְּנֵי פַּחַת מוֹאָב עַדְנָא וּכְלָל בְּנָיָה מַעֲשֵׂיָה מַתַּנְיָה בְצַלְאֵל וּבִנּוּי וּמְנַשֶּׁה׃  10:30

Ezra 10:30   And from the sons of Pahath-moab, Adna and Chelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, and Binnui, and Maasseh.

וּבְנֵי חָרִם אֱלִיעֶזֶר יִשִּׁיָּה מַלְכִּיָּה שְׁמַעְיָה שִׁמְעוֹן׃  10:31

Ezra 10:31   And of the sons of Harim, Eliezer, Ishijah, Malchijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon,

בִּנְיָמִן מַלּוּךְ שְׁמַרְיָה׃  10:32

Ezra 10:32   Benjamin, Malluch, Shemariah.

מִבְּנֵי חָשֻׁם מַתְּנַי מַתַּתָּה זָבָד אֱלִיפֶלֶט יְרֵמַי מְנַשֶּׁה שִׁמְעִי׃  10:33

Ezra 10:33   From the sons of Hashum, Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh, Shimei.

מִבְּנֵי בָנִי מַעֲדַי עַמְרָם וְאוּאֵל׃  10:34

Ezra 10:34   From the sons of Bani, Maadai, Amram, and Uel,

בְּנָיָה בֵדְיָה (כְּלָהַי) [כְּלוּהוּ]׃  10:35

Ezra 10:35   Benaiah, Bedeiah, Cheluhu,

The name Cheluhu is misspelled in the parentheses.  The correction is in the brackets.

וַנְיָה מְרֵמֹות אֶלְיָשִׁיב׃  10:36

Ezra 10:36   Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib,

מַתַּנְיָה מַתְּנַי (וְיַעֲשֹׂו) [וְיַעֲשָׂי]׃  10:37

Ezra 10:37   Mattaniah, Mattenai, and Jaasai,

וּבָנִי וּבִנּוּי שִׁמְעִי׃  10:38

Ezra 10:38   and Bani, and Binnui, Shimei,

וְשֶׁלֶמְיָה וְנָתָן וַעֲדָיָה׃  10:39

Ezra 10:39   and Shelemiah, and Nathan, and Adaiah,

מַכְנַדְבַי שָׁשַׁי שָׁרָי׃  10:40

Ezra 10:40   Machnadebai, Shashai, Sharai,

עֲזַרְאֵל וְשֶׁלֶמְיָהוּ שְׁמַרְיָה׃  10:41

Ezra 10:41   Azarel, and Shelemiah, Shamariah,

שַׁלּוּם אֲמַרְיָה יוֹסֵף׃  10:42

Ezra 10:42   Shallum, Amariah, Joseph.

מִבְּנֵי נְבֹו יְעִיאֵל מַתִּתְיָה זָבָד זְבִינָא (יַדֹּו) [יַדַּי] וְיֹואֵל בְּנָיָה׃  10:43

Ezra 10:43   From the sons of Nebo, Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, and Joel, Benaiah.

The name Jaddai is misspelled in the parentheses   The correction in the brackets replaces the vav with a yad.

כָּל־אֵלֶּה (נָשְׂאּיּ) [נָשְׂאוּ] נָשִׁים נָכְרִיֹּות וְיֵשׁ מֵהֶם נָשִׁים וַיָּשִׂימוּ בָּנִים׃   10:44

Ezra 10:44   All of these had taken foreign wives, and there were women from them and they had brought children.

As opposed to the error in the preceding verse, the word in the parentheses should have a vav suffix in place of the yad.  The correction is in the brackets.

Next, I count only 109 men in above list of names.  Because of this, I doubt that this list represents the entire number who married foreign women.  This probably amounts to less than five percent of all the returnees.  Would this entirely long chapter be utterly devoted to reporting such a relatively insignificant matter?  Insignificant not from the point of view of the serious nature of this transgression, but insignificant because of the small number apparently involved!  Does it deserve such an entire chapter?  Few other examples of this sort of thing, if any, appear in the bible.  We are told about miracles in just two or three to at most ten verses, great battles in maybe ten to fifteen verses.  I think Ezra could have reported this without names, and just stated how many were involved.  Did he simply want to record the names for the sake of completeness and for posterity?  Maybe.  We’ll never know.

 

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