The mixed marriages problem (Neh 13:23-13:27)

“In those days also I saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod. They could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke the language of various peoples. I contended with them. I cursed them. I beat some of them. I pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying.

‘You shall not give your daughters to their sons,

Or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.

Did not King Solomon of Israel sin?

On account of such women

Among the many nations there was no king like him.

He was beloved by his God.

God made him king over all Israel.

Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin.

Shall we then listen to you?

Shall you do all this great evil?

Shall you act treacherously against our God?

Shall you marry foreign women?’”

Nehemiah saw that they were marrying women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab, which was strictly forbidden. The children were speaking forms of Aramaic and not Hebrew. Nehemiah was very proactive. He cursed them, beat them, and pulled out their hair. This was no simple admonition. This was physical punishment. He made them take an oath to God not to give their daughters to these foreign sons or take their daughters as sons. He cited the example of King Solomon, about how powerful he was, yet he sinned by taking foreign women. Do you want to do the same? They would act against God treacherously by marrying foreign women. It seems they were more afraid of foreign women than foreign men.

 

Marriages with foreigners (Ezra 9:1-9:4)

“After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said. ‘The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations. They were intermingling with the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons. Thus the holy seed has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. In this faithlessness the officials and leaders have led the way.’ When I heard this, I tore my garments and my mantle. I pulled hair from my head and beard. I sat appalled. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered round me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice.”

Once they were settled, a new problem arose. The returning Jews from the exile were marrying the locals who had stayed behind, the hated “people of the land.” Not only the Jews in general but also the priests, the Levites, the officials, and the leaders were involved in marriages with non-Jewish people. Some of them were not Jews but the hated list of the usual suspects, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. Now this had not been a problem for Moses or King Solomon since they married non-Jewish wives. The fear as usual was that the female wives would want to worship their gods rather than Yahweh. Thus these wily females would lead astray the poor weak Jewish men into false worship. This had been a problem in the northern area of Israel before the captivity. The new post-exilic group wanted a pure race of Jewish people. They did not want the holy seed mixed with “the people of the land.” When Ezra found out about this, he was really upset. He tore his clothes and pulled his hair out. As he said in the first person singular, “I was appalled.”