“If the peoples of the land bring in merchandise or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. We will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.”
They would do no business on the Sabbath. They would keep holy the Sabbath, which was Saturday. They would not buy from the peoples of the land any grain or merchandise on the Sabbath or holy days. They would forgo crops on the 7th year, the Sabbath year. Finally, they would forgive debts. This was based on Leviticus, chapter 25. This was the beginning of the new Sabbath day regulations.
“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.