Read Ezra 10:1-44. How did Ezra and the leaders tackle the issue of intermarriage?
Together, the whole assembly decided to send the foreign wives away. Amazingly, even those who married them agreed with the plan, except for the four men mentioned by name in Ezra 10:15. The Jews promised to send their spouses away, and it took three months for the plan to be carried out. In the end, 111 Jewish men sent their wives away (Ezra 10:18-43).
Interestingly, the last verse (Ezra 10:44) states that some of these mixed marriages already had children. Sending away the mothers from families with children doesn’t seem rational or even right to us. However, we must remember that this was a unique time where God was starting over with the Jewish nation, and, in a sense, they with Him. Fully following God required radical measures.
The specific words used in Ezra 10:11, Ezra 10:19 for “separate yourself” (badal) and “put away” (yatza’) are not used anywhere else in the Scriptures for divorce. Ezra would have known the terminology regularly used for divorce, but he chose not to use it. Thus it is apparent that Ezra did not consider the marriages valid after it was discovered that they were in violation of the Torah command. In other words, the marriages were nullified because they were contrary to the law. The process was dissolution of invalid marriages. However, we are not given information on what happened to those wives and children and what impact this action had on the community. According to the custom of that time, the former husbands would have taken care of the transfer of their former wives and their children. The wives normally would have gone back to their native fathers’ homes.
Over time, however, some Jewish men once again began to marry unbelievers, and perhaps some even returned to the wives they sent away. The fleeting nature of the solution can be attributed to human nature and our up-and-down cycle of commitment to God. Even those of us who consider ourselves strong believers have to admit that we have gone through periods of lesser dedication to God when our walk with Him could have accurately been described as wanting. Unfortunately, humanity struggles with putting God first.
|What has been your experience with times of “lesser dedication to God”? What have you learned from those experiences?|