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It was on this day in 456 B. C. that Ezra gathered all of the assembled inhabitants of Jerusalem  and urged them to purge the community of all foreign elements, including putting away their pagan wives. It’s recorded for us in Ezra 10:9-11:

“It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, ‘You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.’”

Taking strange or foreign wives has always been an issue for Israel. Going back to the patriarchs,  we see that Abraham and Isaac were adamant that their sons should not marry the daughters of the land. However, we know that the firstborn son of Isaac, Esau, twice married Canaanite women and took a third wife from the daughters of Ishmael. Nevertheless, God’s people were commanded not to do this. 

Centuries later, as Israel prepared to enter Canaan, God told them not to allow their daughters or their sons to marry the inhabitants of the land (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). However, as history records for us, that’s exactly what eventually happened. Even Solomon, arguably the greatest king of Israel, married multiple times, having many foreign wives. 1 Kings 11:1-4 says this: 

“But King Solomon loved many foreign women, … from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” 

Solomon’s transgression led directly to the eventual division of the kingdom into North and South. This breakup led, ultimately, to the exile of the Northern Kingdom and most likely had some negative effect on the Kingdom of Judah and the destruction of the Temple. Solomon, who was supposedly the wisest of all men, ended up embracing foreign wives.

Scripture makes this point: the prohibition against marrying foreigners was not due to race, language or even culture, necessarily. It was because of their gods. He knew that if there was a close relationship with those who worship other gods, eventually, rather than pulling the heathen out of the mire of paganism, the pagans would pull God’s people down into the mire with them.

The Adversary has always used this tactic going back to the Garden and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He takes something that appears good and that looks beautiful to seduce God’s people away from the truth. Consider the sin of Baal-Peor: The beautiful women of Midian and Moab lured the sons of Israel into a pagan feast and ritual, and debauchery. The enemy of our souls has always used things or persons that appear to be good, who appear to be beautiful to attract us. But all of that supposed goodness and beauty is intended to conceal an evil intent.

His tactic has not changed. He still uses things that have the appearance of good in order to hide his evil scheme. So in these days of “social justice,”“tolerance” and “coexistence,” let’s heed the words of Ezra and separate ourselves from things that, though they might be beautiful to look upon, carry death within them. This statement should not be misconstrued as an endorsement to divorce your spouse; nothing could be further from the truth. It is a charge to all believers to divorce themselves from things that would turn their hearts away from their heavenly Father. We are called to be a set apart people and this we must be. 

Shalom.

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