Online Bible Commentary
Ezra 9:1 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, "The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. 2 They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness." 3 When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled…6 and prayed: "O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. (NIV)
The Israelites of Ezra’s group had returned to Judah in 458 B.C. from their exile in Babylon. After worshiping, the first news to come to Ezra was that the Israelite men had intermarried foreign wives (vv.1-2). Ezra was devastated by this news, and went into mourning (v.3). Later, he turned to God and prayed for forgiveness of the sins of his people (v.4).
This passage, and others like it, are often misinterpreted. The misinterpretation claims that intermarriage of races is a sin. It is not a sin. Not here, or anywhere else, does the Bible teach this. The sin of the Israelite men was the sin of marrying idolaters, women who worshiped another god. It took a little more than six months for Ezra to force the separation upon all who had married these idolaters.
The Israelites’ sin was not in taking foreign wives for themselves. Their sin was marrying women who worshiped a different god. Both the New and Old Testaments teach against this practice. The New Testament commands believers: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14).
The danger of this practice is that the unbelievers, the wives in this case, would turn their husbands away from God. Ezra recognized the power that wives have over their husbands. He remembered all the kings of Judah that had been turned away from the worship of God, and turned to the worship of idols, by their wives. He remembered that this was the sin that got them exiled in the first place. Ezra wanted to guard against history repeating itself. His methods, separation of the marriages, may seem harsh, but the stakes were high.
Today, the stakes are just as high. When we marry someone outside of our faith the consequences can be disastrous. We can be turned away from our faith, and thus turned away from eternity in Heaven. Our children also may lose out on eternity in Heaven. The stakes are too high for us to gamble with this practice. As Ezra insisted, we need to separate ourselves from this relationship before it is too late.
Whether someone worships a different god, or no god, he or she is still an “unbeliever”, one who does not believe in the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is the Holy Trinity, the belief that God has revealed Himself through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Protestants and Catholics believe in the Holy Trinity. Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses do not. Christians believe in the Holy Trinity.
So, this passage calls for Christians to marry Christians. It matters not the color of that Christian. God looks at the heart, not at the outside. God’s plan is for two Christians to marry, a man and a woman. God never changes and the definition of His marriage will never change. God created the sanctity of marriage. What God has made, man can not undo.