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5.26.2005    |    Ezra the racist?
Ezra prophesied at the time of the restoration of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. One of his themes is to keep the "race" of Israel pure and free from the taint of abominations. From Ezra 9, we read of his lament in reaction to this report to Ezra:
The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. 2For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race[offspring] has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.
Is this merely old-fashioned hatred of the "other", of miscegenation as moderns would understand the term? In short, is this dismay by Ezra racism, plain and simple?

Absolutely not. The entire notion of a covenantal people, Israel, chosen by God, had nothing to do with the social construct that we now call "race." Back then, and until well into modern times, the word "race" was simply another way of designating a tribe, and later, collections of tribes that coalesced into nations. As in, the English "race," or the German "race." On the contrary, the Israelites were, from the very beginning, a conglomeration of varied tribes.

Also from the very beginning, the Lord's covenant with the people of Israel demanded total fealty to the One True God. None others to be worshipped or tolerated, at least among the people of Israel. When Israel strayed from this simple precept, as it often did, they were sharply chastised by a wrathful God. As were many of Israel's enemies -- for the crime of denying God by worshipping idols, or of forcing the Israelites to worship idols.

The fear of mixing the blood of Israel with that of outsiders was the fear that this would lead to Israel's again falling away from God, and breaking the first commandment. The crux of the matter was perhaps best expressed in Psalm 106:
35but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
The lesson? Ezra, and, throughout the Bible, all of Israel, is not expressing racism by stating that they are the chosen people. They are stating what the covenant at Mt. Sinai, dictated by God, told them: You shall have no other gods before me.


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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.