NEHEMIAH CHAPTER 13
Upon the reading of the law separation is made between Israel and the mixed multitude, Nehemiah 13:1-3. Nehemiah, at his return to Jerusalem, causeth the chambers to be cleansed. Nehemiah 13:4-9. He restoreth and reformeth the offices of the priests and Levites in the house of God, Nehemiah 13:10-14; and seeing the violation of the sabbath, he contendeth with the nobles of Judah, Nehemiah 13:15-18. He shutteth the gates, and setteth a watch at them, Nehemiah 13:19-22. The punishment of marrying with strange wives, Nehemiah 13:23-28. Nehemiah’s prayer, Nehemiah 13:29-31.
On that day; not now presently after the dedication of the wall, and gates, and city, but upon a certain day, as that phrase is very commonly used in Scripture without any relation to the time or things mentioned next before it, to wit, when Nehemiah was returned again from the Persian court to Jerusalem, from which he had been absent for some considerable time, in which some errors and abuses had crept in, which now he endeavours to remove.
In the audience of the people; partly because it was not only the priests’, but also the people’s, duty to study and understand God’s law and their own duty; and partly that the people hearing that this was the express mind and will of the great God, might the more willingly yield to the following duties, some of which were attended with difficulty, and required self-denial.
Should not come into the congregation of God, i.e. not be incorporated into the commonwealth of Israel, nor be joined with any Israelite in marriage relation, as appears from Nehemiah 13:3; that practice being a plain comment upon this law. But of this and the next verse, See Poole "Deuteronomy 23:3", See Poole "Deuteronomy 23:4".
i.e. All the heathenish people with whom they had contracted alliances. See Nehemiah 9:2 Ezra 10:3.
Eliashib the priest; the high priest, Nehemiah 3:1, or some other priest so called, there being divers Eliashibs in or about this time, Ezra 10:6,24,27,36, though the first seems most probable, by comparing this verse with Nehemiah 13:28, and with Nehemiah 12:10,11.
The oversight of the chamber, i.e. of the chambers, as appears from the following verse, and from Nehemiah 13:9, where it is called chambers, and from the nature of the thing, the high priest having the chief power over the house of God, and all the chambers belonging to it. The singular number for the plural.
Allied unto Tobiah, the Ammonite, and a violent enemy to God’s people. So this is noted as a great blemish to Eliashib, and as the cause of his other miscarriage, noted Nehemiah 13:5.
He had prepared for him a great chamber; by removing the things which were in it, and uniting divers small chambers into one, and furnishing it for thee use of Tobiah when he came to Jerusalem; whom he seems to have lodged there that he might have more free and secret communication with him, this being in a place where the people might not come.
All this time was not I at Jerusalem; and Eliashib took the occasion of my absence to do these things, supposing that I would no more return thither.
Came I unto the king, to wit, from Jerusalem; where he had been once and again.
After certain days, Heb. in the end of days, or of a year, as that word oft signifies.
It grieved me sore, that so sacred a place should be polluted by one who in many respects ought not to have come there, being no priest, a stranger, an Ammonite, and one of the worst of that people; and that all this should be done by the permission and order of the high priest, who by his office should have punished and reformed these things in others.
They cleansed the chambers, by such means and rites as were then usual in such cases. See Numbers 19:9.
The portions of the Levites had not been given them; which might be either,
1. From this corrupt high priest Eliashib, who took their portions, as he did the sacred chambers, to his own use, or employed them for the entertainment of Tobiah, and his other great allies. Or.
2. From the people, who either out of covetousness reserved them to themselves, contrary to their own solemn agreement and covenant, Nehemiah 10:37; or were so offended at Eliashib’s horrid and manifest abuse of sacred things, that they abhorred the offering and service of God, as others did upon a like occasion, 1 Samuel 2:17, and therefore neglected to bring in their tithes, &c., which they knew would be perverted to bad uses.
Were fled every one to his field; to his possession in the country, being forced to do so for a livelihood.
I sharply reproved those priests to whom the management of these things was committed, for neglect of their duty, and breach of their late solemn promise.
Why is the house of God forsaken? you have not only injured men in withholding their dues, but you have occasioned the neglect of God’s house and service.
I gathered them together to Jerusalem, from their several country possessions, in which they were dispersed.
Set them in their place; restored them to the exercise of their office.
Partly out of the respect which they had to Nehemiah, and to his command; and partly because they saw they would be applied to their proper uses, and not abused, as they had been.
Zadok the scribe; the ecclesiastical scribe, who was to keep the accounts of the receipts and disbursements.
They were counted faithful; by common fame, and the consent of those who knew them. Such he now sought out the more diligently, because he had late experience of the perfidiousness of the former trustees.
To distribute unto their brethren, according to their several families, as the law had prescribed.
Concerning this: what I have done with an upright heart for thy house and service be pleased graciously to accept, and remember for my good, according to thy promise.
I protested against the action, and admonished them to forbear it.
Which brought fish, which they might take in the sea near Joppa, or bring from Tyre to Joppa by sea, and thence to Jerusalem, which was but a small journey.
In Jerusalem, the holy city, where God’s house and presence was, and where the great judicatories of the nation were. So this is added as an aggravation of their sin, that this was done with manifest contempt both to God and men.
The nobles of Judah, i.e. their chief men and rulers; whom he chargeth with this sin, because though others did it, it was by their countenance or connivance, and they should and might have punished and restrained it.
All this evil upon us; which you so well and sadly remember, that I need not tell you the particulars.
When the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark; which was about sun-setting, by reason of the mountains which were round about and near Jerusalem, Psalms 125:2.
Some of my servants set I at the gates, out of a diffidence in those to whom the keeping of the gates was committed.
I will lay hands on you; I will punish you, and seize your goods. For this was a temptation to covetous or needy Jews, that lived in or near the city, to steal opportunities of buying their commodities, which then they might do with more advantage.
That they should cleanse themselves; partly because the work they were now set upon, though common in its nature, yet was holy in design of it, and had respect unto the sabbath; and partly because the day in which they were to do this was the sabbath day, for the observation whereof they were obliged to prepare and purify themselves.
Keep the gates; either,
1. The gates of the temple. But a particular command was superfluous in that case, because it was their constant work and charge to do this, both sabbath days and every day. Or rather,
2. The gates of the city; for of them he spake last, Nehemiah 13:19; and not daring to trust the common porters of these gates, not being able always to employ his men in that work, he committeth the charge of them for the present season, and upon the sabbath days, to the Levites, to whom the care of sanctifying the sabbath did properly belong.
According to the greatness of thy mercy; whereby he intimates, that though he mentioned his good works as things wherewith God was well pleased, and which he had promised to reward, yet he neither did nor durst trust to their merit or his own worthiness; but when he had done all, he judged himself an unprofitable servant, and one that needed God’s infinite mercy and indulgence to pardon all his sins, and particularly those infirmities and corruptions which adhered to his good deeds.
Ashdod; a city of the Philistines, 1 Samuel 5:1,2, &c.
Which their mothers instilled into them, together with their principles and manners.
Cursed them, i.e. caused them to be excommunicated and cast out of the society and privileges of God’s people. This and the following punishments were justly inflicted upon them, because this transgression was contrary both to a very plain and express law of God, and also to their own late solemn covenants and promises, of which see Ezr 10 Ne 10:30.
Smote certain of them, i.e. I caused to be beaten with stripes, according to the law, Deuteronomy 25:2, those whose faults were most aggravated by their quality or other circumstances; to whom he added this punishment over and besides the former.
Plucked off their hair, or, shaved them. The hair was an ornament and ensign of liberty among the eastern nations; and baldness was a disgrace and token of slavery and sorrow. See Isaiah 3:24 Isaiah 15:2 Jeremiah 48:37 Ezekiel 29:18.
Shall we then hearken unto you? shall we justify our action by permitting or not punishing it? God forbid.
Joiada; said by Josephus to be that Manasses who by Sanballat’s interest procured liberty to build the Samaritan temple in Mount Gerizim; to which those priests who had married strange wives, or been otherwise criminal, betook themselves, and with or after them others of the people in the same or like circumstances.
I chased him from me, i.e. from my presence and court, and from the city and temple, and all the privileges of the priesthood, and from the whole congregation and church of Israel, whereof I am a member.
That covenant made between me and his progenitors for themselves and their posterity, whereby I promised to give them an everlasting priesthood, Numbers 25:12,13, and they covenanted with me that they would faithfully and holily execute that sacred function according to the rules which I gave them, whereby, among other things, they were enjoined to keep themselves pure from all unlawful marriages, and from all other things which might pollute them or the priesthood.
For the wood-offering and the first-fruits; and particularly I took care for these things, because they had been lately neglected.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Nehemiah 13". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany