[reaction to OYB’s August 8-10 readings]
For two readings in a row we have OT & NT passages that line up remarkably well. Ezra is grief stricken because of the report he receives about the remnant of the Hebrew people that has returned to the promised land. That is,
“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. 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.”
Ezra 9:1-2. Similarly, a disturbing report has reached Paul, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud!” 1 Corinthians 5:1-2. (Remember, it was still common for a man to take multiple wives, so this is not necessarily incest. Cf. “Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel[Israel=Jacob] heard of it.” and “Reuben, you are my firstborn, . . . [but] you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.” Gen. 35:21, 49:3-4.)
Most troubling for me are the solutions that Ezra and Paul come up with. Actually, Ezra accepts the solution proposed by the repentant transgressors.
“We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”
Ezra 10:1-4 (emphasis added). Really? Just dispose of those families because they don’t carry sufficient Hebrew blood. (As we’ve noted before Ruth, in King David’s line, is a Moabite!) Paul similarly forgets Jesus’ teaching by specifically reject his practice of eating with sinners. “I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” 1 Corinthians 5:11. Full context for Ezra & Paul.
There are two layers to these scriptures. First is whether the alleged sin addresses the underlying fears of losing the culture and degrading oneself. Second is whether throwing people away is the right way to do it. I say no on both counts. So sue me. (Actually, that’s the sixth chapter of Corinthians.)