The major concern of intermarriage was presented to Ezra, who reacted with strong grief and disappointment. He petitioned God to help the people avoid punishment for these actions.
Ezra was approached by some of the local officials, who complained about the intermarriage between Israelites and other peoples of the land. They warned that the Canaanite practices were more abhorrent than those of past Israelite enemies such as the Moabites and Egyptians. When Ezra heard these concerns, he rent his garment and tore the hair from his head and beard. Others were likewise concerned over the people’s trespassing the words of God.
At the time of the evening sacrifice, Ezra made a public confession of the people’s guilt. He acknowledged that because of their sins, they were taken captive into exile. Yet he also praised God for preserving them and returning them to Jerusalem, where they could again worship at His temple. Ezra also realized that if they did not resolve the problem of intermarriage, then new consequences could arise.
The concern of either gender intermarrying with non-Israelites expressed in verse 12 is unusual. Most other biblical texts condemn foreign wives rather than foreign husbands.