Verse 1, 2 – Marrying a foreign wife was not always forbidden. Joseph and Moses both had a foreign wife. Bu,t intermarrying local Canaanite groups were forbidden. This was so that they wouldn’t teach detestable things to the Hebrews (Deuteronomy 20:18). Since the time of judges, Israelite men had married pagan women and then adopted their religious practices (Judges 3:5-7). The reasons not to do this were strictly spiritual. A person who married a pagan believer was inclined to adopt that person’s pagan beliefs and practice. Until the Israelites were willing to stop this practice, idolatry remained a constant problem.
The New Testament says that believers should “not be yoked together with” unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). Faith always becomes an issue and there is no unity. Those who ignore this principle usually live to regret it.
Verse 3 – Ezra’s response to this was repenting and mourning.
Verses 5-15 – Ezra’s prayer confessed the sins of the people. He recognized: (1) sin is serious, (2) no one sins without affecting another, (3) that he was not sinless, although he didn’t have a pagan wife, (4) that God’s love and mercy spared the nation when they had done nothing to deserve it. It’s easy for us today not to identify sin for what it truly is in a world that considers sin inconsequential. How fortunate we are that God gives us mercy and grace rather than only justice.