Ezra and Nehemiah

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Ezra and Nehemiah

Ezra and Nehemiah were against foreign marriages because it was forbidden in God’s laws. The Israelites had been taken captive in a foreign land, but there were those who remained. The kings of Persia were merciful to them, and they did not die. These two leaders felt compelled to honor the laws of God. God had forbidden intermarriage because that land was corrupt and the people had sinned against Him. Since the Israelites were the chosen nation, they were not supposed to interact with the people they met on that land. Unfortunately, the Israelites disobeyed God and married people from Babylon. When Ezra was informed about violation of God’s laws, he was devastated. He even tore his clothes and fell down to plead with God for His forgiveness. He considered people arrogant and unfaithful because they were left behind. God had chosen a few people to be remnants, but now they were seen unworthy of that favor.

As the leader of the chosen people, Ezra stood in the gap and pleaded to God on behalf of the people. He felt terrible because the Israelites had been taken into exile because of their sins. This judgment from God was to make them repentant and renew their commitment to God. They made it worse by intermarrying with foreigners. During Ezra’s prayer of repentance, he did several actions. As a sign of sorrow and mourning, he tore his tunic and cloak. Showing sorrow is an important part of intercession because it shows one is truly honest with God. The prayer lasted for a long time. He spent many hours beseeching God to forgive the people. Long hours of prayer show how he labored interceding for the people. When he prayed, his hands were spread out and he was kneeling down as a sign of humility. In his prayer, he told God that he could not look up because he was ashamed of the people’s sins. He was respectful to God because, in his prayers, he did not dare to make any petitions. He felt the people were not worthy of any favors from God. All he did was to thank God for his mercy.

Both Nehemiah and Ezra applied similar solutions to intermarriage problems. All those who had foreign wives had to send them away with their children. The rest of the people joined Ezra in praying for their forgiveness. They cried bitterly since they also felt remorseful about their actions. In fact, one of them confessed having violated God’s laws. A covenant was made between God and the Israelites. Ezra was going to lead the making of the covenant, according to God’s counsel. All the Israelites took an oath to do what they had resolved. Afterwards, Ezra headed to Jehohanan’s room and continued to fast. This was because he was still mourning. Later all the Israelites were gathered and they agreed not to associate themselves with Babylonians again. Those guilty of intermarriage were judged before elders and judges. Those from the priesthood lineage who had intermarried, paid a fine of a ram and were instructed to send away their wives.

In the New Testament, Paul advocates mixed marriages. They should only happen between people who are believers. If one becomes a non-believer, then he or she should separate from the other. I am in support of mixed marriage in our society. They enhance co-existence and integration. When people from different communities marry, those communities will live peacefully. It is a convenient way of getting rid of racial discrimination and ethnicity. In both New and Old Testament, divorce is highly discouraged. Only in very special circumstances are they allowed. For instance, when the Israelites intermarried with foreigners, they had to divorce them. Another reason that allows divorce is infidelity in marriages. The Bible permits divorce if such a case happens. However, married couples are advised to highly consider forgiving before resulting to divorce. Those who are forgiven should reform and avoid repeating the mistakes in the future.

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