“There were found among the descendents of the priests those who had married foreign women. There were Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib, and Gedaliah, who were the descendents of Jeshua son of Jozadak and his brothers. They pledged themselves to send away their wives. Their guilt offering was a ram of the flock for their guilt. There were the descendents of Immer, Hanani and Zebadiah. There were the descendents of Harim, Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel, and Uzziah. There were the descendents of Pashhur, Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad, and Elasah.”
These priests had to offer a ram as guilt or sin offering. There were 4 groups of priests consisting of about 16 listed priests who had married foreigners. They pledged to send their wives away to some unknown place.
“Then the returned exiles did as Ezra asked. Ezra the priest selected men, heads of families, according to their families, each of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to examine the matter. By the first day of the first month they had come to the end of all the men who had married foreign women.”
Ezra selected the heads of the families to go through their families to see how many people had foreign wives. It took about 3 months to finish off this process, from the 1st day of the 10th month to the 1st day of the 1st month. In a strange sort of way there is no indication of happened to these foreign women. Where were they sent? What happened to their children? Instead this book ends with the listing of names without any indication that anything happened to these men who sent their wives and children away.
“While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel. The people wept bitterly. Shecaniah son of Jehiel, of the descendents of Elam, addressed Ezra. ‘We have broken faith with our God. We have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore now let us make a covenant with our God to send away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God. Let it be done according to the law. Take action, for it is your duty! We are with you! Be strong and do it!’”
Ezra continued his praying, but a group of people gathered around him. This writing is back at the third person rather than a first person account as earlier. Here it says they were from Israel, but he was in Jerusalem and the Israelites had not returned with him, just the men of Judah. Everyone seemed to be crying. Shecaniah was one of the people who had returned with Ezra as in chapter 8 of this book. He convinced Ezra that he had to do something about this situation. It seemed simple enough. He had a plan. They would send away all their foreign wives and their children. It might be a difficult practical matter, but they wanted to do it according to the Mosaic Law as in Deuteronomy. This was a kind of wake up call to Ezra to get up, stop crying, and do something.