The only word that can describe today's scene is "brutal". The Israelite exiles returning from their Persian captivity commit an unspeakable offense- they intermarry with the people of the land to which they have returned! Now, don't get confused here- this had nothing to do with "race" per-se. It had everything to do with rebelling (once again) against God's clear proscription. As Ezra confesses the sin of the people in prayer to God, he paints a clear picture of the problem:
Ezra 9:10 “But now, our God, what can we say after this? For we have forsaken the commands 11 you gave through your servants the prophets when you said: ‘The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its peoples. By their detestable practices they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other. 12 Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance.’
Instead of following God's command, the returning exiles rebelled against it! What an affront to God! You would think that after 70 years in the "penalty box" of captivity, the people of Israel would have known better than to rebel again against God! It truely is a wonder that God didn't vaporize them all at that moment! And to make matters even worse (if that were possible) it was the leaders of the exiles, the priests themselves, who led in this sin!
But that wasn't all! There was now a REAL practical problem to be dealth with- the need for purification of the community. You see, it wasn't going to be enough to "feel bad" about this mess- the "mess" itself needed to be dealt with! The only real solution was a brutal one- deport the foriegn wives and children from among the people of Israel!
A great convocation was held among the people (fittingly in the rain). It was almost unanimously decided that the wives and children involved in this rebellion would be sent away- BRUTAL!
Ezra 10:9 Within the three days, all the men of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of God, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain. 10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. 11 Now honor[i] the Lord, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.”
And so they did.
What we are left with is an ugly picture. Most people would look at it and blame God for His "intolerance" and "lack of inclusion". But the fact of the matter was simple- this was the fault of the people themselves! The pain of the resulting separations was the high price of rebellion against God. The only ones to blame were the ones who did the crime!
The people of Ezra's day are not unlike those of our day. Commiting crimes against God (sins) and suffering the consequences- only to blame God for the pain. Fortunately for the community of the exiles- most of them knew where the resposibility lay and embraced the consequences of their sin without blame shifting to God. They really repented! How much better had they not sinned in the first place!
REMEMBER: Every sin has a price tag dangling from it, and it is always TOO EXPENSIVE!