There are difficult passages in the Bible– ones that, on the surface, don’t seem to square with ones we find in other places. One of these passages is in the book of Ezra. In Ezra 10, Ezra the priest has read the law that he found in the temple and has come across a problem– the exiles from Israel had transgressed the law of God in regards to marrying foreign women. God wanted Israel to stay pure and only to marry other Israelites. Some of the captives even had children with these foreign women. What to do?
Ezra and the priests decide that all those who had married foreign wives must put them away, or divorce them. If they had children, they should be put away as well. This would be an arduous task, and they expected it to take some time to be pure again.
What is the lesson?
Israel seems to finally have understood that the reason for their exile was their inability to follow the commands that God laid out. This time, when Israel was confronted with a command of Scripture, they were concerned about what God would think about what they already had done in the past and immediately set out to make it right. This is true repentance, and one cannot fault them for wanting to show God how serious they were about following what they knew to do to the letter.
What is not clear
But this is where it gets murky for me. In a few cases we get the history without getting the commentary. What I mean from that is that we never see God comment that this is what He would preferred to have done or not. We see that there’s a recognition of the fault, that they pray and fast about it, and that they carried it out, but chapter 10 of Ezra ends with an accounting of what they did and no comment from God.
This leaves us to extrapolate a whole bunch of different possible scenarios and doesn’t allow for us to use this as dogmatic statement on divorce and remarriage and what God thinks about it.
Let’s be very careful when we think through difficult passages to determine whether the actions were tolerated because of the heart behind it or whether actions in the Bible are instructive to us. This is key to correct Biblical interpretation– understanding the context and rightly teaching the Word of Truth.