Ezra 9:15
O LORD God of Israel, you are righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before you in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before you because of this.
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Ezra 9:15. O Lord, thou art righteous — A just and holy God, who hatest, and wilt infallibly punish, sin and sinners. Or, thou art merciful, for the Hebrew word here rendered righteous, often signifies merciful. Notwithstanding all our sins, thou hast not utterly destroyed us, but left us a remnant; for we remain yet escaped — Not entirely destroyed, not punished as we deserved. Behold, we are before thee in our trespasses — We are here in thy presence, and so are all our sins; we are arraigning ourselves before thy tribunal, acknowledging thee to be just if thou destroy us. For we cannot stand before thee — In judgment, as that word is often used; we must needs fall and perish at thy presence. 9:5-15 The sacrifice, especially the evening sacrifice, was a type of the blessed Lamb of God, who in the evening of the world, was to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Ezra's address is a penitent confession of sin, the sin of his people. But let this be the comfort of true penitents, that though their sins reach to the heavens, God's mercy is in the heavens. Ezra, speaking of sin, speaks as one much ashamed. Holy shame is as necessary in true repentance as holy sorrow. Ezra speaks as much amazed. The discoveries of guilt cause amazement; the more we think of sin, the worse it looks. Say, God be merciful to me sinner. Ezra speaks as one much afraid. There is not a surer or saddler presage of ruin, than turning to sin, after great judgments, and great deliverances. Every one in the church of God, has to wonder that he has not wearied out the Lord's patience, and brought destruction upon himself. What then must be the case of the ungodly? But though the true penitent has nothing to plead in his own behalf, the heavenly Advocate pleads most powerfully for him.Some take "righteous" to mean here "kind" or "merciful." Others give it the more usual sense of "just," and understand the full meaning of the passage to be, "Thou art righteous, and hast punished us, because of our sin, the contraction of forbidden marriages, so that we are a mere remnant of what was once a great people." Ezr 9:5-15. Prays to God.

5-15. I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God—The burden of his prayer, which was dictated by a deep sense of the emergency, was that he was overwhelmed at the flagrant enormity of this sin, and the bold impiety of continuing in it after having, as a people, so recently experienced the heavy marks of the divine displeasure. God had begun to show returning favor to Israel by the restoration of some. But this only aggravated their sin, that, so soon after their re-establishment in their native land, they openly violated the express and repeated precepts which commanded them to extirpate the Canaanites. Such conduct, he exclaimed, could issue only in drawing down some great punishment from offended Heaven and ensuring the destruction of the small remnant of us that is left, unless, by the help of divine grace, we repent and bring forth the fruits of repentance in an immediate and thorough reformation.

Thou art righteous; a just and holy God, who dost hate, and wilt infallibly punish, sin and sinners. Or, thou art merciful, as appears from hence, that notwithstanding all our sins, thou hast not utterly destroyed us, but left a remnant of us. The Hebrew word here rendered righteous, is oft used for merciful; as is well known to all the learned.

For we remain yet escaped; or, though we remain, &c., i.e. though thou hast yet spared us in part, yet thou art righteous, and therefore wilt certainly punish and destroy us according to our deserts, if we do not repent us, and reform this great wickedness.

We are before thee in our trespasses; we are here in thy presence, and so are all our sins; we are arraigning ourselves before thy tribunal, acknowledging ourselves to be vile offenders, and thee to be just, if thou destroy us.

We cannot stand before thee, to wit, in judgment, as that word is oft used, as Psalm 130:3; compare Psalm 1:5; we must needs fall and perish at thy presence, as the phrase is, Psalm 9:3. Because of this; because of this our great guilt, and the aggravations of it. O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous,.... And would appear to be so, should Israel be entirely cut off, and utterly consumed for their iniquities:

for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day; that they remained yet escaped out of captivity, and escaped the wrath and vengeance of God, was not owing to any deserts of theirs, but to the grace and mercy of God, who had not stirred up all his wrath, as their sins deserved:

behold, we are before thee in our trespasses; to do with us as seems good in thy sight; we have nothing to plead on our behalf, but cast ourselves at thy feet, if so be unmerited favour may be shown us:

for we cannot stand before thee because of this; this evil of contracting affinity with the nations; we cannot defend ourselves; we cannot plead ignorance of the divine commands; we have nothing to say for ourselves why judgment should not be passed upon us; we leave ourselves in thine hands, and at thy mercy.

O LORD God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we {h} remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this.

(h) He shows that God is just in punishing his people, and yet merciful in preserving a residue in whom he shows favour.

15. The prayer ends in expression of complete surrender. There is no excuse to plead. The nation stands in its sin in the presence of the perfect God, and awaits the sentence of ‘righteousness’.

O Lord God of Israel] R.V. O LORD, the God of Israel. See on Ezra 1:3. The prayer had begun ‘O my God’ (Ezra 9:6). It ends, O Lord the God of Israel. The thought of his nation overmastered the supplicant.

thou art righteous] This must not be softened down as if it were ‘thou art gracious’. The words are an acknowledgement of the perfect justice of God’s dealings with Israel in the past. The next sentence ‘for we are left a remnant’ is not uttered in gratitude for the mercy which spared ‘a remnant’, but is added to express the greatness of the catastrophe, which had carried off the whole nation except ‘a remnant’. And yet the visitation had been just. The prayer of Ezra (?) in Nehemiah 9 has a very similar phrase, Nehemiah 9:33 ‘Howbeit thou art just (çaddîq) in all that is come upon us; for thou hast done truly, but we have done wickedly’. Thou art righteous (çaddîq), and we who are left ‘a remnant’ have failed to profit by the righteous judgement of the past. God is called ‘righteous’ in reference to the ‘fixed and unalterable rule of truth and goodness’. Cf. Nehemiah 9:8; 2 Chronicles 12:6; Psalm 119:137; Psalm 129:4; Psalm 145:7. (See Cheyne on Psalm 7:17.)

as it is this day] Cf. Ezra 9:7.

we are before thee] i.e. arraigned as it were before thy judgement seat. Ezra was praying ‘before the house of God’ (Ezra 10:2).

in our trespasses] R.V. in our guiltiness. See on Ezra 9:7. Fresh guilt has been added to the old. There is nothing to plead in extenuation. Nor had there been in the past. Righteous as Jehovah was, He had granted ‘a remnant’: now the guiltiness of the remnant seemed to merit its extinction.

for we cannot stand before thee because of this] R.V. for none can stand before thee because of this. None, for all Israelites, innocent as well as guilty, are bound up together in that responsibility for the nation’s guilt. Cf. Psalm 76:7 ‘And who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?’ Psalm 130:3 ‘If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?’ Nahum 1:6 ‘Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger?’ The Spirit alone gives the power to ‘stand before’ God and to hear His word. Ezekiel 2:1-2.

because of this] See note on Ezra 8:23, Ezra 10:2 : i.e. on account of this last sin, in which the people have once more offended their God.Verse 15. - Thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped. Righteousness, in its widest sense, includes mercy; and so the meaning here may be, "Thou art good and gracious; of which thy having spared us is a proof;" or tsaddik may have its more usual sense of "just," and Ezra may mean to say, "Thou art just, and therefore hast brought us to the low estate in which we are to-day, and made us a mere remnant." We are before thee in our trespasses. We are here, in thy presence; here, before thy holy place (Acts 10:1); sinners, with all our sins upon us, confessing our guilt; for we cannot stand before thee - we cannot boldly stand up and face thee ("Who shall, stand in thy sight when Thou art angry? Psalm 76:7), because of this our heinous transgression, for which there is no excuse.

"And now for a little moment there has been mercy from the Lord our God, to leave us a rescued remnant, and to give us a nail in His holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage." He calls the short interval between their release from captivity by Cyrus, and the time when he is speaking, רגע כּמעט, a little moment (comp. Isaiah 26:20), in comparison with the long period of suffering from the times of the Assyrians (comp. Nehemiah 9:32) till the reign of Cyrus. פּליטה, a rescued remnant, is the new community delivered from Babylon, and returned to the land of their fathers. In proportion to the numerous population of former days, it was but a remnant that escaped destruction; but a remnant which, according to the predictions of the prophets, was again to grow into a large nation. A foundation for this hope was given by the fact that God had given them "a nail in the place of His sanctuary." The expression is figurative. יתד is a nail or peg struck into the wall, to hang any kind of domestic utensils upon; comp. Isaiah 22:23, etc. Such a nail was the place of God's sanctuary, the temple, to the rescued community. This was to them a firm nail, by which they were borne and upheld; and this nail God had given them as a support to which they might cling, and gain new life and vigour. The infinitive clauses following, להאיר and לתתּנוּ, are dependent upon the preceding infinitives להשׁאיר and ולתת, and state the purpose for which God has given a nail in His house to this remnant. That our God may enlighten our eyes, i.e., may bestow upon us new vitality; comp. Psalm 13:4. Suffering and misfortune make the eyes dim, and their light is quenched in death: the enlightened or beaming eye is an image of vital power; comp. 1 Samuel 14:27, 1 Samuel 14:29. מחיה לתתּנוּ is not to be translated, ut daret nobis vivificationem, the suffix to לתתּנוּ being not dative, but accusative. The literal rendering is: that He may make us a slight reviving. מחיה, the means of supporting life, restoration to life; see on 2 Chronicles 14:13. Ezra adds מעט; for the life to which the community had attained was but feeble, in comparison with a vigorous social life. Their deliverance from Babylon and return to the land of their fathers was, so to speak, a revival from death; compare the embodiment of this figure in Ezekiel's vision, Ezekiel 37:1-14 : they were, however, still in a state of vassalage, and had not yet regained their independence. This thought is further carried out in Ezra 9:9 : "For we are bondmen, yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy to us before the kings of Persia; so that they have given us a reviving to build up the house of our God, and to repair its ruins, and have given us a wall about us in Judah and Jerusalem." They who have returned to Jerusalem and Judah are still bondmen, for they are yet under the Persian yoke; but God has disposed the kings of Persia so to favour them as to give them a reviving, to enable them to rebuild the house of God. Cyrus and Darius had not merely permitted and commanded the building of the temple, but had also furnished them with considerable assistance towards the carrying out of this work; comp. Ezra 1:3, etc. Ezra 6:7-9. The suffix in חרבתיו alludes to אלהים בּית. The words of the last sentence are figurative. גּדר means the wall of a vineyard, the wall or fence built for its protection (Isaiah 5:2, Isaiah 5:5). Hence the wall, or enclosure, is an image of protection from the incursions and attacks of enemies. Such a wall has been given them in Judah and Jerusalem by the kings of Persia. "The meaning is not that they possess a place defended by walls (perhaps, therefore, the temple) in Jerusalem and Judah, but that the Persian kings have given to the new community a safe dwelling-place (or the means of existence), because the power of the Persian empire secures to the returned Israelites continued and undisturbed possession of the city and the land." (Bertheau.)

After this statement concerning the divine favour, Ezra next sets himself to describe the conduct of his countrymen with respect to the mercy extended to them.

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