Ezra was shocked at the returned exiles’ sin—marrying pagan women and worshipping their gods within years of returning from Babylon. Even the Levites were involved. It was as if the Jews had learned nothing from their exile.
It was a cold, wet, winter day when Ezra called the people to assemble and confront their sin:
Ezra 10:9 Within three days, all the people of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. This took place on December 19, and all the people were sitting in the square before the Temple of God. They were trembling both because of the seriousness of the matter and because it was raining.
What a wretched scene: Israel’s men, shivering and soaked from the pouring rain in a Jerusalem winter, their guilt hanging over them like the rain clouds.
When Ezra instructed them to divorce their pagan wives, the cold and wet were still on their minds:
Ezra 10:12-14 Yes, you are right; we must do as you say! … This isn’t something that can be done in a day or two, for many of us are involved in this extremely sinful affair. And this is the rainy season, so we cannot stay out here much longer. Let our leaders act on behalf of us all. Let everyone who has a pagan wife come at a scheduled time, accompanied by the leaders and judges of his city, so that the fierce anger of our God concerning this affair may be turned away from us.