Chapter ten of Ezra presents us with an interesting ethical problem.
Israel’s main problem throughout her history has not been idolatry or faithlessness. Israel’s problem has been her integration, assimilation, and syncretism with her non-Israelite neighbors. Remember, for example, that she wanted a king so she could be “like the nations” around her. In doing so, she rejected God as king. In her desire to be like and accepted by her pagan neighbors and friends, she left the ways of God for the ways and subsequent ethics of those friends.
This comes to prominence in a specific way in chapter nine when we discover that Israel has been inter-marrying with the non-Israelite people of the land. Deuteronomy 7:3 specifically forbade these unions. But now that they were made, what was to be done?
The solution is not specified in scripture, and though a solution is offered in Ezra 10, there is nothing there to suggest that this is God’s solution.
A temptation arises just here to approve of what was done, but the careful reader should note that God gives no such approval. In the whole enterprise, God is silent. So are we to use this text as an example for us today? If someone marries “out of the faith,” or someone has a spouse who makes it difficult to live in the faith, does this passage provide precedent to approve of divorce?
No. It only tells us what Ezra and the leaders did in trying to deal with a spiritually debilitating problem. The results were horrible. Homes broken up. Women and children shuffled into poverty. To keep the marriage however was to invite continual apostasy. What to do?
I think the real lesson here is this: When people decide to do what God has told them not to do, the consequences are always disastrous and there is no good way to fix the problem. You do the best you can, but no solution will be a good one. Better to stay on the right course in the first place.