Agreeing to get rid of all these wives and their children. Ezra 9:2-3
Ezra faced a huge problem with the returning exiles: many of them intermarried with local women (we're not told that Jewish women married local men.) Ezra ripped his clothes and tore his beard out in repentance and led the exiles in a renewal of the covenant. What that meant was divorcing the foreign women--getting rid of those wives and their children.
The God who hates divorce demanded it.
I have been impressed in reading the Old Testament with new eyes this year, to see how much the message stays the same, even those laws that I find boring as I read them.
This one is different. Paul outlined the principles governing "mixed marriages" between believers and non-believers. The nonbeliever held the key. As long as they wanted to remain in the marriage, they should stay. If the nonbeliever wanted to leave, they should release. Both men and women were given the same instructions.
The reason? The unbelieving spouse "shares" in the holiness of the believer. If they let the unbeliever go, s/he might return. Also, their children benefit. They are included in God's "spiritual purposes."
The very reason why Jews were to only marry other Jews: to maintain the holiness of a people obedient to God's covenant.
Is the difference as simple as genetics? No one is born a Christian but children of a Jewish mother are considered Jews.
Of course, old covenant or new, God was our hearts to be circumcised and devoted to God. It's always been about relationship. But two different routes to reach that relationship.
Of course, the old covenant relies a great deal on the imagery and meaning of the routines of everyday life. In the opening scene of Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye talks about "Tradition." I can't find the exact words, but he says something along the lines "what we eat, how we wear clothes, where we sleep." Only a wife committed to maintaining those traditions could successfully pass them on to her children. Not keeping the covenant meant separating not only the unbelieving wife, but also the husband and children, from the full blessing of the covenant.
But aren't those same things present in the marriage of a Christian and an unbeliever? Not in the same way, of course, but . . .
Or does the question even exist anywhere except in my mind? Ezra was fighting the first step in a slippery slope that led to the exile in the first place. Paul was addressing the subject of marriage in general. Married or single? Married to an unbeliever? How about the children?
Again, one of those puzzling questions. Pray for our children, that they will marry someone who shares their faith!