Ezra continues to be mundane before it becomes infuriatingly awful. So… yea?
The titular Ezra finally shows up. In the reign of Artaxerxes, Ezra is dispatched by the king to go and take more gold and silver offerings to Jerusalem for use for worship and sacrifices. It shouldn’t be assumed that Artaxerxes was converted, but rather that the Persian Empire had a very pragmatic view of religion. They wanted to be on the relatively good side of any deities a subject people might worship.
Ezra is also given the power to enforce Jewish religious law on the land and punish transgressors up to the death penalty for failing to adhere to the Jewish law.
So Ezra and a bunch of other Jewish leaders go from Persian and Babylon to Jerusalem.
Here’s a list of the people travelling with Ezra.
Ezra arranges his travel entourage and holds a fast to ask God for a safe journey because he was embarrassed to ask the king for a detachment of troops to guard them from bandits because Ezra had told the king that God would protect them.
So they fast, then they set out and don’t run into any bandits and arrive in Jerusalem and rest for three days before invoicing the king’s gifts to the Temple and consecrating them to the service of Yahweh.
Everyone kills some animals for God, as you do, I guess.
Some of the leaders come to Ezra:
Leaders: Hey, some of the Jewish guys are getting married to foreigners and engaging in some race mixing.
Ezra tells them to stop being so racist and that as long as everyone converts to the Jewish religion and puts away idols and false gods from among them, it’s super cool…ha, just kidding, Ezra totally freaks out about mixing the pure Jewish genes with the polluted foreigners.
So Ezra is a bit of a drama queen and sits in silence as everyone gathers around him, then he prays aloud to the crowd, I mean… to Yahweh and says, “Oh Lord, I am ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you. Our fathers f’ed up badly, so you made bad things happen to us. But then you were gracious and stopped letting bad things happen to us and let us come back to Israel. But now we’ve sinned against you because you told our ancestors not to marry heathen devil foreigners and we have. We’re totally evil. And you’re probably going to kill us… because we engaged in interracial marriage… because yes, this is apparently a horrible thing in this book… Amen.”
So one of the guys who married a foreign girl comes up to Ezra as he’s crying and throwing himself on the ground like a super drama queen, and says, “Dude… what if we divorce our icky foreign wives and disown our icky half-breed children and send them away for God?”
And Ezra says, “Sure. That’ll work.”
Not “That’s monstrous!” or “That’s evil!” or “God hates divorce!” or “It’s your bloody children, you unloving asshat!”
Ezra (and by proxy God) says, “Sure. That’s fine. Swear an oath that you’ll do it.”
Now everyone gather together and sing, “Jesus loves the little children… except the heathen devil foreigners…”
So Ezra and the Levites oversee the divorce and banishment of the foreign wives and the children of these relationships. It takes three months for them to be done with it, but finally, Israel is racially pure, I guess, and those women and their children are out in the streets, but that’s their problem for having the audacity to be sold to (or fathered by) the wrong guy, I guess.
And to further shame the guys who engaged in interracial marriages, here’s a list of the “gross sinners.”
Takeaway lesson: If your religion demands that you abandon your wife and your children, you’re doing it wrong.
Takeaway lesson 2: Ezra is a dick.