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(1-28) The sealers of the covenant.
(1) Zidkijah.—Probably, Zadok the scribe (Nehemiah 13:13), Nehemiah’s secretary. (Comp. Ezra 4:8.)
(2) Seraiah.—The family name of the high-priestly house to which Ezra and Eliashib belonged, one of whom—probably Ezra—affixed its seal.
(8) These were the priests.—That is, the names of the priestly families. (Comp. Nehemiah 12:1-6.)
(9) And the Levites.—Five of these family names are traceable (Ezra 2:40; Ezra 8:19; Nehemiah 7:43).
(14) The chief of the people.—Some of the names are personal, some belong to families, some represent places, and some are independent. Comparing the list with Ezra 2:0, we find that years had added to the number of the houses.
(28) All they that had separated themselves.—If these meant proselytes from heathenism, this verse would be a perfect description of the constituents of the people. But we have no record as yet of a recognised body of such proselytes; and the word “separated” is the same as we find, with another meaning, in Nehemiah 9:2. Moreover, the following verses show that the covenant bears specially in mind the danger to God’s law arising out of commerce with the heathen.
Having understanding.—Children who could intelligently take the oath were included.
(28-39) The points of the covenant.
(29) They clave to their brethren.—It was a union of the people as such, and sprang from a deep national conviction.
Entered into a curse, and into an oath.—The oath assumed the obligation; the curse imprecated the penalty of violation. (Comp. Deuteronomy 29:12.)
(31) Or on the holy day.—On the great festivals, equally with the Sabbath days of rest.
Leave the seventh year.—The Sabbatical year naturally follows; in it the ground should be left untilled.
The exaction of every debt.—The “Lord’s release” of the seventh year (Deuteronomy 15:2).
(32) Also we made ordinances for us.—The covenant proceeds now to certain new regulations and resumption of neglected duties.
To charge ourselves.—Origin of that annual rate for the general service of the Temple which afterwards was raised to a half shekel (Matthew 17:24). The more ancient half shekel of the law was only an occasional tax (Exodus 30:13).
(34) As it is written in the law.—Leviticus 6:12 prescribes that the fire on the altar should be kept burning by wood. But here we have the origin of the “feast of the wood-offering”—a special day, subsequently substituted for the “times appointed year by year.” The lot determined the order in which the various classes should supply the wood.
(35) And to bring.—Following “we made ordinances” (Nehemiah 10:32). The various firstfruits are specified according to the Mosaic law, which made this expression of natural piety an obligation; and the minuteness of the specification implies that neglect had crept in.
(36) The firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle.—Similarly collocated in Numbers 16:15-16; but there the cattle are defined as “unclean beasts,” thus distinguished from “the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks.” The latter were to be brought to “the priests that minister” for sacrifice; the former were, with the sons, to be redeemed by money, according to the priests’ valuation.
(37) To the chambers of the house of our God.—To the store-chambers, minutely described as they were of old in 1 Kings 6:0, Hezekiah appears to have added formerly a treasure-house for the tithes, referred to in the next verse (2 Chronicles 31:11).
In all the cities of our tillage.—Agricultural towns, so called here with reference to the fruits of the earth, which were deposited first in certain selected places.
(38) The son of Aaron.—Consult Numbers 18:22-26, which gives the reason for the distinction, here so marked, between the priest, the son of Aaron, and the Levites, the children of Levi. A priest was present when the tithes were gathered in the Levitical cities, to secure their own “tithe of the tithe,” which then the Levites carried to Jerusalem.
(39) Shall bring.—The priests themselves were exempted from the care of gathering the tithes.
We will not forsake the house of our God.—Both the pledge and the violation of it in the sequel are explained by Nehemiah 13:11-14.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Nehemiah 10". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29