Shecaniah is not a household name but it was common in ancient Israel. At least a half dozen people are named Shecaniah in the Old Testament. This unknown Bible leader teaches deep and abiding lessons that every Christian can learn from. You want to know this man. The passage is brief but says much about Shecaniah.
“While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. 2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” Then Ezra arose and made the leading priests and Levites and all Israel take oath that they would do as had been said. So they took the oath.” (Ezra 10:1-4).
Ezra had just returned from Babylonian captivity(1) and the people had celebrated their return with offerings made to Jehovah. Indeed it was a great day and the future of Jerusalem look bright.
But sin was discovered. Many of the Israelites, including priests and their leaders had married women of the surrounding pagan nations. Such marriages were specifically not allowed by God (Exodus 34:11; Deuteronomy 7:3).
Ezra begins to weep and grieve. He cries for forgiveness and the people are drawn to him. It is then that Shecaniah speaks.
Four quick points about Shecaniah:
- Shecaniah had the courage to speak up. Perhaps others were waiting to see what plan would be offered. We need strong Christians who will step up and lead. Although Ezra was weeping and confessing the people’s sins it was Shecaniah that actually gave voice to the plan to separate from the foreign spouses.
- Shecaniah stood with God. His plan was wholly God-centered. It didn’t matter what anyone else, indeed he spoke quickly and before considering what others may have thought. For Shecaniah it was all about obeying God.
- Shecaniah encouraged God’s priest. Ezra was despondent and may have felt the weight of the entire nation upon his shoulders. Shecaniah helped pick him up and encourage him to do the right thing. Preachers today need encouragement from those they minister too. We need many Shecaniah’s to build us up.
- Shecaniah did not fear doing the right thing. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “It is always the right time to do the right thing.” That’s true, but it is not easy. In Ezra’s case it meant separating men and women who had been married for years. It was painful but required in order to be obedient to God. Sometimes we know the right thing to do but fear holds us back. Let is be more like Shecaniah.
This particular Shecaniah fades from the pages of Scripture after this one encounter but he leaves behind an important legacy for believers of all ages. Be encouraged by his strength. Take courage from his courage and stand for what is good.
- The original captivity had been under the Babylonians but the Persian Empire had arisen and at this time had been the captors of Judah.(↩)