“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.
“They made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the returned exiles that they should assemble at Jerusalem. If anyone did not come within three days, by order of the officials and the elders, all their property should be forfeited. They themselves would be banned from the congregation of the exiles. Then all the people of Judah and Benjamin assembled at Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. All the people sat in the open square before the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain.”
Somehow these people in Jerusalem had the authority to issue a proclamation demanding that everyone in Judah and Jerusalem had to come for this great assembly in Jerusalem. For the people in Jerusalem this was no problem. However, if the others from Judah did not come their property would be confiscated and they would be banned from the exiled group. There is no mention of any other Israelites. This was strictly a Judah move. They all gathered on 9/20 of that year. They were trembling in the open square before the Temple because of this matter, plus the rain since this apparently was the rainy season.
“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.”