Ezra 10

These small group studies of Ezra contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, teaching points, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Ezra 10 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

I. Ezra leads the people in prayer and confession (1)
II. Shecaniah offers a plan (2-4)
III. Ezra gets a commitment from the leaders and calls a grand assembly (5-8)
IV. A plan was adopted to deal with this matter city by city (9-15)
V. Ezra appointed leaders to look into and hold people responsible to obey the plan (16-17)
VI. A list of the offending leaders (18-44)

I. Ezra leads the people in prayer and confession (1)

Discussion Questions

Do you remember what we learned about true confession in the last chapter?
What is the connection between confession and weeping/prostrating himself?
While Ezra was praying there, what was happening around him?
What can we learn about leadership from this?

Cross-References

Verses on Leadership:

Proverbs 11:1
Isaiah 30:21
Numbers 27:17

Teaching Points

1. Review confession and leadership from Ezra 9. True confession requires sorrow (weeping) as well as humility (prostrating). Ezra’s good example in leadership was a rallying point for all the people. He set them an example on what attitude to have towards sin. Because he was grieved over it, they were too.

II. Shecaniah offers a plan (2-4)

Discussion Questions

Was Shecaniah one of the offenders (see verse 26 for some of his family members)?
What was his plan?
What can we learn from his example of speaking out?
Do you think it was important that this plan came from the people and not directly from Ezra?
Knowing that 6 of his family members were offenders, what may have been going through Shecaniah’s mind, and how might that have influenced him not to speak up?
Do you agree that there was hope for Israel in spite of what they had done?
Is there hope for us if we sin? What hope do we have when we sin?
What was Shecaniah’s solution?
Why make a covenant with God instead of just agreeing together to do it or doing it on their own?
What do you think of his solution?
Was it the right choice to divorce these women?
What is God’s view of divorce?
What was God’s view of these marriages?
What lessons can we learn from this predicament?
Do you think this was Ezra’s responsibility as Shecaniah claimed? Why or why not?

Cross-References

Exodus 23:2 – Do not follow a crowd to do evil.
Psalm 130:1-8 – On God’s forgiveness
Psalm 103:12 – God has taken our sins away from us as far as the East is from the West.
2 Chronicles 29:10 – Make a covenant with God so that His anger would turn away.
Romans 15:13, Psalm 39:7 – God is the God of hope.

On divorce:

Romans 7:2-3
Mallachi 2:14-16
Matthew 19:3-11

Teaching Points

1. Ezra finally gets some help. Shecaniah speaks out offering a plan to deal with this problem. If you look at verse 26 you will notice that 6 of his family members were involved in this sin, including his own father. For this reason it would have been hard for him to speak out. He may have sympathized with the sinners or felt pressure from his family to be quiet. Yet he knew that sin must be dealt with even among those close to him. The fact that his family members were doing this, made his proposal more difficult and highlights his boldness. It is worthwhile to note that he did not follow his family to do evil, but instead spoke out against it. The application for us is not join in wrongdoing just because people close to us are doing it. Instead of joining them, we should seek to encourage them a way more perfect.

2. He starts off admitting the unfaithfulness of the people. Notice that he, like Ezra, used the personal pronouns “we” and “us” even though it appears that he personally hadn’t committed this sin. He takes responsibility as a fellow Israelite and fellow family member of those who had sinned.

3. He also recognized that there was hope. This is one of the most amazing and exciting truths in the Bible. No matter how deep a hole we are in, God’s grace is big enough enough to help us out of it. No matter how lost we are, He can find us. Like the father of the prodigal sin, he is always waiting to forgive us, to welcome us back into His loving arms. He doesn’t take the first (or second, or 100th) opportunity to punish us for our sins. He could have wiped out Israel long ago (and been completely justified in doing it) for their evil. But He didn’t. He is patient and merciful. Is there some sin that has been plaguing you for years? Some bad habit you just can’t get rid of? There is hope! God is willing to forgive and show mercy to you. But we are responsible to come to Him for that forgiveness and change our ways.

4. His proposal was to make a covenant with God and divorce the women and put away the children from these relationships. Let’s take a look at this proposal.

A. The first part is the make a covenant with God. This is an excellent place to begin. This would show that they recognized their culpability. They were admitting their wrongdoing and making a vow to God “fix” it. This shows that they realized their sin was primarily against God.

B. The second part is a drastic step to solve this problem and not without controversy. This was not a “pretty” plan. It was not an easy plan. It would be ugly and messy. Divorce is always ugly and that would be amplified many times over because of the sheer number of them. As bad as it was to send away the wives, it would be many times even more difficult to send away the children of these marriages who were completely innocent parties. Then why do this? Let’s look at this issue in detail:

1. First we need to know God’s view of divorce. The biblical view of divorce is VERY different from the view in the world. Culture tells us that divorce is an acceptable option when the two sides just cannot resolve their differences. People fall in love and then after a while this “love” grows cold and they “fall out” of love. Love is seen as something that comes and goes and people will make the excuse that “I can’t help it.” They don’t decide to not love the person anymore, it “just happens.” When this random anti-love bug strikes, the couple feels justified in getting a divorce. They often offer the excuse that it is not fair to the kids or their spouse to put them through a marriage that doesn’t have that spark anymore. Money is a leading cause of divorce. Finding a younger and more attractive partern is another. Amazingly I read recently that arguments over housework is one of the leading causes of divorce. Although when people get married they make vows, these vows are cast aside as soon as difficulty comes. This view of divorce is a stark contrast with the Bible. Read cross-references. God’s plan has always been one man and one woman for life, literally until death do them part. See Genesis 2:24. Mallachi tells us that God hates divorce. Jesus went even further to say that divorce and remarriage is adultery. He did give one possible exception, which is the infedility of one partner. Bible scholars debate whether there is any basis for divorce, but it is reasonable to conclude that there is only one and that is infedility. When we look at the whole context of Scripture, we know that we should forgive even seventy times seven times. So this clause should not be considered a reason to pull the trigger on a marriage after one mistake by the spouse. A godly spouse should forgive again and again. Normally a person who is brazenly committing adultery without repenting will divorce the Christian anyway, at which point the Christian should let the person go (1 Corinthians 7).

2. If God has this view of divorce, then why did Ezra agree with this plan? I can think of two reasons.

A. God hates divorce, but God also hates their sin of getting married to pagan people who would lead them astray from God. Although it is not often a good practice to rank sins, this case could be the exception. Basically the people got themselves into a serious dilemna. There were two bad choices with no good way out. Bad choice number 1 equals staying married to these people. The result would likely be disastrous in that a huge part of the remnant would gradually fall away from God. Bad choice number 2 is to immediately end these relationships. This would cause some collateral damage (specifically the children), but was a necessary step to ensure the spiritual purity of the nation. There is an important lesson here. The lesson is that our sin can lead us into situations from which there is no good way out. Remember that God did not led them into this dilemna. He warned them against it. Their own sinful choices led them into it. Can you think of other examples where our sin leads us into dilemnas? In Exodus we saw how a person’s bad financial choices could lead them to sell themselves or even worse, a child. By far the best solution is to obey God on the front side. If you do, you will avoid these types of “lesser of two evil” choices.

B. We should also keep in mind the fragile state of the remnant. There was a small remnant of people who returned to Jerusalem. They were unprotected (there were no walls). They were few in number. Their faith was volatile. God had already been judging them for their sins. Another deliberate and prolonged rebellion against God could be disastrous. So my conclusion about this issue is that desperate times call for desperate measures. This narrative account SHOULD NOT be used a justification for any believer to get a divorce. Instead we should look at the didactic teaching passages in the Bible for guidelines on this and view this as an extreme situation that called for an extreme solution.

3. He said that it was Ezra’s responsibility. This was not because Ezra had committed this sin. It was because Ezra was the leader of the people and therefore it fell upon him to find a solution and deal with the problem.

III. Ezra gets a commitment from the leaders and calls a grand assembly (5-8)

Discussion Questions

After his prayer and confession, what was Ezra’s first step to deal with this?
Why did he make them take an oath? What benefit was their in everyone taking the oath together?
Why was Ezra fasting? What can we learn from this about the purposes of a fast?
Why did Ezra call everyone to Jerusalem?
What was the punishment for ignoring this summons? Who agreed on/suggested this punishment? Why was it important that Ezra have the support of the leaders?

Cross-References

Deuteronomy 23:21-23, Numbers 30:2 – Do not break an oath.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-6 – Pay your vows to God quickly without delay.

Teaching Points

1. Ezra required all the people, starting with the leaders and Levites (the groups most culpable because of their leadership positions) to take an oath that they would follow through with this plan. This bound them before God to change their ways or face the direct judgment from God for breaking their oath. It also bound them before each other. After making the public oath, no one could go back and say “I didn’t agree with this solution.”

2. One of the key messages we can get from this chapter is the message of mutual accountability. This is one instance where they all agreed upon the same course of action and would help to hold each other accountable to follow through.

3. Ezra continued in fasting and grieving.

4. Next a proclamation was made to call an assembly of ALL the male exiles. Therefore those taking the oath in verse 5 were probably limited to those in Jerusalem. The penalty for failing to appear was the complete loss of one’s property. Ezra was given the authority by the king to punish anyone who disobeyed. See Ezra 7:26. The rest of the elders and leaders agreed on this course of action. We see that throughout the whole process there is actually an amazing amount of unity. It was commendable that Ezra led in such as a way as to promote unity. It was also commendable that the people came together in unity of purpose to change their ways and repent. But I believe the true reason for this unity is that God gave it to them.

IV. A plan was adopted to deal with this matter city by city (9-15)

Discussion Questions

How would you describe the people’s attitude?
What rebuke and correction did Ezra give to the people?
How did the people respond? Were they willing to divorce these foreign wives?
What was their plan for accomplishing this? Was this a reasonable plan? Why or why not?

Cross-References

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – God’s Word is profitable for rebuke and correction.
Ephesians 4:15 – Speak the truth in love.
Proverbs 27:5, 1 Timothy 5:20 – Rebuke those who sin.

Teaching Points

1. The people gathered together within the three days time. It was a heavy rain (and it was also the cold season). This rain was not a coincidence. God brought it, perhaps as a visible sign of the dark nature of their sin. This rain contributed to their bodies actually shaking. The other cause was the guilt they felt over the sin and the knowledge that this sin would cost them dearly. You can almost view a child who has been caught sinning and his father calls him into the room. He gingerly goes into the room and is visibly shaking with fear. Our sin should actually make us feel like that. We should feel like that not just when we are caught, but always knowing that God sees everything we have done.

2. Ezra gets up to teach the people. Interestingly, he doesn’t give a long speech. There could be several reasons for this. It could be his entire talk was not recorded. This is fairly likely. Another reason could be that the people already knew all about the problem and proposed plan. Another could be that several phrases was enough since the people did know what they had done was wrong. Regardless, Ezra takes his position of leadership seriously. He directly rebukes them for their unfaithfulness. He tells them to confess. And then he gives them the plan for how they can repent and turn back to God. We can learn here about the importance of directly confronting sin (and not tolerating it as they had done in the past.) We also learn that true confession requires a change in action. It is not enough to know that we have done wrong. We must not keep doing it.

3. To their credit, when confronted with this sin, the people repented and resolved to deal with it. They proposed a plan which would allow them (under the leadership of their elders from their own city) deal with this. Each cities’ offenders would appear one group at a time in Jerusalem to verify that they had went through with the plan to put away these pagan women. Once again we see the principle of mutual accountability. They would do together. Two is better than one and several hundred or several thousand is even better! While it looks like this plan delays it, it is true that they couldn’t actually resolve this issue from Jerusalem. They were called their to make a decision then they needed to go back to carry it out. While the text doesn’t mention it, it is also likely that during this time they made provision for the futures of these divorced women and the children.

4. There were a few people who disagreed. It is not clear whether they disagreed with the plan tyo divorce the pagan wives or if they disagreed with this specifica proposal of delay. Either way, most of the people agreed upon this solution and it was adopted. It is pretty amazing that only 3 people voiced any opposition!

V. Ezra appointed leaders to look into and hold people responsible to obey the plan (16-17)

Discussion Questions

How did Ezra try to ensure that all the people did in fact stick to this plan and carry through their plans to repent?
Is there any lessons here on how to deal with sin? On leadership? On accountability? On repentence?

Cross-References

On accountability:
Galatians 6:1-5
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Luke 17:3

Teaching Points

1. Ezra wanted to make sure the people kept their word. In keeping with the principle of accountability he appointed some leaders to make sure that all the people who had committed this sin resolved it. He didn’t want a few people to slip through the cracks, which could later give the people an excuse to do the same thing again or even call back their pagan wives.

VI. A list of the offending leaders (18-44)

Discussion Questions

Who were the first people mentioned in the list of offenders?
Do you believe this list is exhaustive? Why or why not?
Why did Ezra mention these people by name?

Teaching Points

1. Because this list only includes 113 men and verse 13 says that “many people” had this problem and that therefore it would take some time to deal with it, it is reasonable to assume that this list is not exhaustive. If it is not complete, then it is probably a list of just the leaders of the people.

2. The very first group mentioned were descendants of the High priest who returned with Zerubbabel at the first return. That high priest, Joshua, was a good spiritual leader who helped the people fulfill their mission to rebuild the temple. Now we see that his descendants sinfully married with pagan women. They failed in their duties as leaders to set a good example. It is also another reminder that we must raise our children properly and not just assume they will follow God as we do.

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