Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 13

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever;

On that day. This was not immediately consequent on the dedication of the city wall and gates, but after Nehemiah's return from the Persian court to Jerusalem, his absence having extended over a considerable period. The transaction here described probably took place on one of the periodical occasions for the public reading of the law, when the people's attention was particularly directed to some violations of it which called for immediate correction. There is another instance afforded, in addition to those which have already fallen under our notice, of the great advantage resulting from the public and periodical reading of the divine law. It was an established provision for the religious instruction of the people, for diffusing a knowledge and a reverence for the sacred volume, as well as for removing those errors and corruptions which might, in the course of time, have crept in. The Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever. This by no means implied the exclusion of proselytes from either of these nations from the privileges of worshipping the true God in Israel, but only that they could not be incorporated into the Israslitish kingdom, nor united in marriage relations with that people (Deuteronomy 23:3-4). This appeal to the authority of the divine law led to a dissolution of all pagan alliances (Nehemiah 9:2; Ezra 10:3).

Verse 2

Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.

Separated from Israel all the mixed multitude, [ `eereb (H6154)] - the motley mass of foreigners with whom the Jews had contracted alliances. The word occurs first in reference to the Egyptians who accompanied them at the departure from Egypt (Exodus 12:38, and Leviticus 22:10-11).

Verse 4

And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah:

Before this. The practice of these mixed marriages, in open neglect or violation of the law had become so common, that even the pontifical house, which ought to have set a better example, was polluted by such an impure mixture.

Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of ... our God - the particular chamber or cell at the Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of ... our God - the particular chamber or cell at the gates, where all things pertaining to the temple service were kept.

Was allied unto Tobiah. This person was the high priest (Nehemiah 12:28; also Nehemiah 3:1), who, by virtue of his dignified office, had the superintendence and control of the apartments attached to the temple. The laxity of his principles, as well as of his practice, is sufficiently apparent from his contracting a family connection with so notorious an enemy of Israel as Tobiah. But his obsequious attentions had carried him much further; because, to accommodate so important a person as Tobiah on his occasional visits to Jerusalem, Eliashib had provided him a splendid apartment in the temple. The introduction of so gross an impropriety can be accounted for in no other way than by supposing that, in the absence of the priests and the cessation of the services, the temple was regarded as a common public building, which might in the circumstances, be appropriated as a palatial residence.

Verse 5

And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king:

But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem. Eliashib-concluding that, as Nehemiah had departed from Jerusalem and, on the expiration of his allotted term of absence, had resigned his government, he had gone not to return-began to use great liberties, and, there being none left whose authority or frown he dreaded, allowed himself to do things most unworthy of his sacred office, and which, though in unison with his own irreligious character, he would not have dared to attempt during the residence of the pious governor. Nehemiah resided 12 years as Governor of Jerusalem, and having succeeded in repairing and re-fortifying the city, he, at the end of that period, returned to his duties in Shushan.

In the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon. (See the note at Ezra 6:22.) How long he remained there is not expressly said, but "after certain days," which is a Scripture phraseology for a year or a number of years, he obtained leave to resume the government of Jerusalem; and, to his deep mortification and regret, found matters in the neglected and disorderly state here described. Such gross irregularities as were practiced-such extraordinary corruptions as had crept in-evidently imply the lapse of a considerable time. Besides, they exhibit the character of Eliashib, the high priest, in a most unfavourable light; for while he ought, by his office, to have preserved the inviolable sanctity of the temple and its furniture, his influence had been directly exercised for evil; especially, he had given permission and countenance to a most indecent outrage-the appropriation of the best apartments in the sacred building to a pagan governor, one of the worst and most determined enemies of the people and the worship of God. The very first reform Nehemiah, on his second visit, resolved upon, was the stopping of this gross profanation; and the chamber which had been polluted by the residence of the idolatrous Ammonite was, after undergoing the process of ritual purification (Numbers 15:9), restored to its proper use-a storehouse for the sacred vessels.

Verses 7-9

And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 10

And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.

And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them. The people, disgusted with the malversations of Eliashib or the lax and irregular performance of the sacred rites, withheld the tithes, so that the ministers of religion were compelled for their livelihood to withdraw to their patrimonial possessions in the country; the temple services had ceased; all religious duties fallen into neglect; and the money put into the sacred treasury squandered in the entertainment of an Ammonite pagan, an open and contemptuous enemy of God and his people.

The return of the governor put an end to these disgraceful and profane proceedings. He administered a sharp rebuke to those priests, to whom the management of the temple and its services was committed (Eliashib not being mentioned, it is probable that he had died), for the total neglect of their duties, and the violation of the solemn promises which they had made to him at his departure. He rebuked them with the serious charge of having not only withheld from men their dues, but of having robbed God, by neglecting the care of His house and service. And thus, having roused them to a sense of duty, and incited them to testify their godly sorrow for their criminal negligence by renewed devotedness to their sacred work, Nehemiah restored the temple services, by recalling the dispersed Levites to the regular discharge of their duties, while the people at large, perceiving that their contributions would be no longer perverted to improper uses, willingly brought in their tithes as formerly. Men of integrity and good report were appointed to act as trustees of the sacred treasures, and thus order, regularity, and active service re-established in the temple.

Verses 11-14

Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 15

In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals.

In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine-presses on the sabbath. The cessation of the temple services was necessarily followed by a public profanation of the sabbath, and this had gone so far that labour was carried on in the fields, and fish brought to the markets, on the sacred day. Nehemiah took the decisive step of ordering the city gates to be shut, and not to be opened, until the Sabbath was past; and in order to ensure the faithful execution of this order, he stationed some of his own servants as guards, to prevent the introduction of any commodities on that day. On the merchants and various dealers finding admission refused them, they set up booths outside the walls, in hopes of still driving a traffic with the peasantry, but the governor threatened, if they continued, to adopt violent measures for their removal. For this purpose a body of Levites was stationed as sentinels at the gate, with discretionary powers to protect the sanctification of the Sabbath.

Verses 16-23

There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 24

And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people.

Could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people - a mongrel dialect, imbibed from their mothers, together with foreign principles and habits.

Verse 25

And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.

Cursed, [ 'ªqalleem (H7043)] - reproached them bitterly.

Smote ... and plucked off their hair. To cut off the hair of offenders seems to be a punishment rather disgraceful than severe; yet it is supposed that pain was added to disgrace, and that they tore off the hair with violence, as if they were plucking a bird alive.

Verses 26-30

Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 31

And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits.

Remember me, O my God, for good. This prayer for the divine blessing, which Nehemiah frequently ejaculated and wrote, was an expression of his ardent wish or his desire to have the apostate priests punished, and his own zealous services acknowledged and rewarded, according to the spirit of the old dispensation. How long Nehemiah lived and governed after these important reformations, the sacred history does not inform us; and Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 11: ch. 5:, sec. 8) says no more than that he had attained an advanced age at his death.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Nehemiah 13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/nehemiah-13.html. 1871-8.
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