This section records the journey of Ezra and many Jews to Jerusalem as commanded by the king. Ezra makes the frank admission: “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer” (8:22f). They arrived safely and were aided by the local officials in response to the king’s command.
Chapter 9 deals with the sin of the people who were intermarrying with the local people and taking on their despicable practices as a result. Ezra expresses his dismay at this sinfulness because they have seemingly not learned anything from the exile. The whole group gathered and a decision was made to put away the foreign wives. The problem was quite widespread and chapter 10 concludes with a lengthy list of those engaged in this practice. This seems harsh by our standards especially in light of 1 Corinthians 7 but it seems that the very survival of the people was at stake.