Nehemiah is the record of one of the name Nehemiah who was sent by king Artaxerxes from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild some of the wall of Jerusalem, and some of the buildings therein. The temple had been built earlier. But it may, at the time of the going of Nehemiah, have been in need of some repairs because of the enemies of the Jews in the area. Artaxerxes was the king who had a few years earlier sent Ezra to take over the matter of setting judges in the land, and teaching the people the laws of the LORD God of Israel. Apparently this did not meet with such great approval among the people of the area.
(Verses 1 through 3) The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah, and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
A delegation of the Jews had come from Jerusalem to Babylon. And Nehemiah met with them. Then he asked them concerning the welfare of the rest of the Jews that were in the province of Judah.. They gave him such a report of the afflictions of that remnant, that he was very much disturbed. Even the walls of Jerusalem had been broken down, and the gates burned. So they were without protection from their enemies.
(Verses 4 through 11) And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, and said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love Him and observe His commandments: let Thine ear now be attentive, and Thine eyes open, that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thy servant, which I pray before Thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel Thy servant, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against Thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against Thee, and have not kept Thy commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which Thou commandedst Thy servant Moses. Remember, I beseech Thee, the word that Thou commandedst Thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: but if ye turn unto Me, and keep My commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set My name there. Now these are Thy servants, and Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy great power, and by Thy strong hand. O LORD, I beseech Thee, let now Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant, and to the prayers of Thy servants , who desire to fear Thy name: and prosper, I pray Thee, Thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.
The report Nehemiah received from these men affected him so heavily that, he sat down, and wept. And he continued for an undisclosed number of days fasting and praying to the God of heaven. He also gives us the text of his prayer. His first request is that the LORD will hear his prayer and his confession of the sins of both himself and his fathers. This points out to us that when the LORD has sent judgments upon us for our disobedience, it is not just for the sins of one. Instead, there, no doubt are others also involved therein, and especially our fathers, or forerunners: but this does not diminish our personal culpability in the matter. So he confesses that both he and his fathers have sinned: and the LORD has justly brought upon them this calamity. Nevertheless he prayed that the LORD would remember His promise to those who repented of their sin, and confessed to Him, and turned back to Him in their hearts. Then he prayed that the LORD would “grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” The phrase, “this man,” refers to king Artaxerxes, because he was himself the cupbearer for the king. And he would have to have his permission before he could even hope to be permitted to begin the project he wanted to take up.
(Verses 1 through 8) And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year if Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing but sorrow of the heart. Then I was very sore afraid, and said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant hath found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it. And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Moreover I said unto the king, if it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; and a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.
Nehemiah was so sad because of this news he had received from those who came from Judah, that he could not even keep up a cheerful appearance in the presence of the king. so one day as Nehemiah was serving the king, Artaxerxes noticed his sad look, and asked him what was his trouble. History informs us that this king was not the easiest person in the world to get along with: but Nehemiah prayed to the LORD to help him, and he told the king that his sadness was due to the conditions of Jerusalem and the hardships of the Jews who lived there. Then the king asked Nehemiah what he would request that the situation might be improved. So Nehemiah asked Artaxerxes to send him to Jerusalem to make the necessary repairs to the city, and to some buildings therein. The LORD so moved the king that he granted Nehemiah’s request.
(Verses 9 through 16) Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel. So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days, And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put it in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass, Then I went up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.
Nehemiah’s arrival was a little disconcerting to Sanballat and Tobiah, because they did not want anyone seeking the welfare of the Jews. Nevertheless he reported to them when he arrived, and he also gave them the letters which Artaxerxes had sent to them by him. Then he went on to Jerusalem. After he had been there for three days, he went out at night;; and made inspection of all the walls of Jerusalem which had been thrown down. He kept his nighttime survey a secret from everyone except the few men who went with him. He had made his preliminary examination of the walls of the city, and so was ready to begin his actual construction.
(Verses 17 through 20) Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the walls of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem.
As soon as Nehemiah told the rest of the Jews in Jerusalem the result of his survey, they were ready to begin building up the walls again. So he told them about the mission upon which the king had sent him. And this seemed to give them more determination to get started upon the work. But when their enemies heard about it, they ridiculed them, and taunted them, even asking if they were preparing to rebel against the king. So Nehemiah answered them and told them that the God of heaven would cause them to prosper, but those who were ridiculing them had no part in the city of Jerusalem.
(Verse 1) Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.
Even the high priest and his brethren the priests, took hold of the building project, and built a section of the wall with its gates.
The remainder of this chapter is simply a listing of the various groups who worked on this project, and the identification of the sections of the wall where each group worked.
(Verses 1 through 6) But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. Hear, O our God, for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity. And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before Thee: for they have provoked Thee to anger before the builders. So we built the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.
Sanballat and his servant Tobiah were the leaders of the enemies of Nehemiah and the Jews. And when they heard that the Jews were working in earnest on the wall of Jerusalem, they began to ridicule their efforts. For they were trying to discourage them as much as possible. They had been ordered by the king of Babylon to leave them alone, and not hinder them in their work. But they thought that they could ridicule them and their work, and delay them without actually attacking them. So they began to say that their wall was so weak that a fox, just by passing by would knock it down. This was, of course, a little discouraging to the Jews. But Nehemiah prayed to the LORD for His help, and they continued building, and with greater effort.
(Verses 7 through 12) But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah , and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, and conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. And it came to pass, that the Jews which dwelt by them said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.
Sanballat, Tobiah, and all those who were with them were so set against having the Jews build the walls of Jerusalem, that the more that was built, the more angry they became. So they all banded together in a conspiracy against the Jews, and did everything they could to stop them. It was so discouraging to the laborers that those who were to clear away the rubbish were working so slowly that the builders began to complain because of the build-up of rubbish. The enemies of the Jews held a great assembly in which they made their plans for stopping the work altogether; but the Jews who lived near to them reported to those at Jerusalem what their enemies had decided, such as the ambushes that were to be set for them.
(Verses 13 through 18) Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be ye not afraid of them: remember the LORD Which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to naught, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.
Nehemiah was the one the king had sent to Judah to be in command of this project. And he writes this in first person. He was the one who gave the commands that organized this work force into an ancient version of what we, in World War II days called the C. Bs. or “Seabees.” Every workman carried his weapon as well as his working tool. And thus they continued the work. Nehemiah kept one near himself with a trumpet at all times, that he might sound the alarm at any time when an enemy might be sighted.
(Verses 19 through 23) And I said unto the nobles, and to the elders, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye hither unto us: our God shall fight for us. So we laboured in the work: and half of them held spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared. Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour in the day. So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one pit them off for washing.
The situation became so dangerous that the people were given orders that when they heard the trumpet sound, they were to gather quickly to the place where it had sounded. Nehemiah promised them that the LORD would fight for them; and, evidently, He did. They remained dressed at all times except while they were washing their clothes, so that they would be ready to fight if necessary. Nevertheless the danger of the situation was not permitted to stop the work. It went on as fast as the people could carry it on.
(Verses 1 through 5) And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live, Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought into bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.
No doubt, in addition to the danger in which the Jews at Jerusalem had to face daily, there was also a great shortage of food, because the people were not able to carry on their common activities of making a living, as they had formerly done. There were s few among them that still had some wealth. And instead of helping their poor neighbors as the LORD had by Moses commanded them, they were loaning money, and charging usury on the loans, which is against the commandments of God. They had even gone so far as to demand that their poor neighbors sell their children to them as bond servants, which the LORD had told them they were never to do. So there was a great cry raised by those who had been so mistreated.
(Verses 6 through 13) And I was very angry when I heard their cry and their words. Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them. And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer. Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies? I likewise, and my brethren might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury. Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, and the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them. Then said they, We will restore it them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise. Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise.
Nehemiah was very angry at the rich Jews who had been mistreating their poor brethren. So he called them all together and gave them a short lecture concerning what they ought to do. Then they all agreed with him, and took an oath to do exactly as he had instructed them. And they fulfilled their promise and their oath.
(Verses 14 through 19) Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor. But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bear rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God. Yea, I also continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work. Moreover there were at my table an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that are about us. Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine: yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people. Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.
It seems a little unclear whether Nehemiah is telling us concerning how he has supported himself, and been no expense to the people, and then ends with his prayer as set forth in verse 19, or whether he is trying in his prayer through the whole to lay before the LORD how well he has treated the people, in refusing to be burdensome upon them. In either case, he does give a comparison between his conduct and that of the governors who had preceded him. It seems that he had quite a feast every day; but when we consider how many ate at his table, it doesn’t show up to be so much.
(Verses 1 through 4) Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) that Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.
Sanballat and his friends knew that the king of Babylon had sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem to do the work he was doing. So they were afraid to make open war against him. But they thought that if they could get him to come down to one of their villages, they could privily do away with him, and, perhaps, not suffer the wrath of Artaxerxes. But Nehemiah did not fall for their trap, though they tried four times to get him to come to them.
(Verses 5 through 9) Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together. Then sent I unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart. For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
After failing five times to get Nehemiah to come down to one of his villages, Sanballat tried one more approach. He wrote a letter to Nehemiah telling that Gashmu, one of Sanballat’s friends was accusing Nehemiah of building the wall of Jerusalem so that he could rebel against Babylon, and that this was what was going to be reported to the king. Nehemiah answered him, and told him that he knew that this was all a lie, and had been dreamed up by Sanballat himself. However such a threat did cause Nehemiah some fear. But he prayed to the LORD that He would strengthen him to continue the work.
(Verses 10 through 14) Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee. And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in. And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God think Thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.
Sanballat and Tobiah had even corrupted the prophets, and hired one of them to speak a prophecy concerning the assassination of Nehemiah. Which prophecy he would not obey, and which he found to be only an effort to make him be afraid. So he prayed unto the LORD, that He would look upon these prophets as well as upon Tobiah and Sanballat, and deal with them according to their works.
(Verses 15 through 19) So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was of our God. Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them. For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.
So the wall was finally finished in spite of all the interruptions and hindrances. No doubt, it seemed much longer to those who built it, but it only took fifty-two days to build it. All their enemies were very much put down when they heard that it was finished, for they had vowed to never let that happen. But since it was the work of the LORD God of Israel, there was nothing they could do to prevent it. Nehemiah tells us that there were some very unholy family alliances between the nobles of Judah and Tobiah one of their greatest enemies. And because of these ties, they were constantly trying to make Nehemiah afraid by reporting to him what Tobiah said: and they also told Tobiah what Nehemiah said.
(Verses 1 through 4) Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed, that I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many. And I said unto them, Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house. Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded.
Having finished the building of the wall and the setting up of the gates. Nehemiah began the organization of the administration of the city of Jerusalem. Since the city was large in area, but had only a few people, and a few houses, it was necessary that men be appointed to be watchers over the city, as well as gatekeepers. Nehemiah put the managing of the city into the hands of his brother Hanani, and another man, Hananiah. He told them to not open the gates of Jerusalem until the sun was hot in the morning, And while the gates were barred, and the people were standing by, they were to appoint the watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Apparently none who lived outside the city could be appointed to a watch.
(Verses 5 through 7) And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein, These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city; who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.
The LORD moved Nehemiah to take a census of the people , and list them by their genealogy. As he was preparing for this, he found a book, or register, of the genealogy of those who had come up in the first group of those returning from the captivity. And from verse 8 through verse 60, Nehemiah gives us the names and the number of all these, listed according to their genealogy.
(Verses 61 through 65) And these were they which went up also from Telmelah, Telharesha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer: but they could not shew their father’s house, nor their seed, whether they were of Israel. The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred forty and two. And of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai which took one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite to wife, and was called after their name. These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. And Tirshatha said unto them, that they should nor eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim.
As can be seen, these were some who had, for one reason or another, failed to properly keep the record of their genealogy. Notice that this group includes some of the priests, even some who were descended from David’s old friend, Barzillai. But because of their failure to prove genealogically their descent, they were put out of the office of priest. They could have no more portion in the holy things of the LORD until a priest should arise who could use the Urim and Thummim in his determining of judgment.
(Verses 66 through 69) The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and three score, beside their manservants and their maidservants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and they had two hundred forty and five singing men and singing women. Their horses, seven hundred thirty and six: their mules, two hundred forty and five: their camels, four hundred thirty and five: six thousand seven hundred and twenty asses.
This is simply a record of the total number of the Jews who were gathered back to Judah and were able to prove their genealogy. And it also lists their numbers of servants and working animals. Otherwise, there seems to be no need of commentary concerning it.
(Verses 70 through 73) And some of the chief fathers gave unto the work. The Tirshatha gave to the treasure a thousand drams of gold, fifty basins, five hundred and thirty priests’ garments. And some of the chief of the fathers gave to the treasure of the work twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand and two hundred pound of silver. And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand pound of silver, and threescore and seven priests’ garments. So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.
Thus he tells us how much gold, silver, how many basins, and how many priests’ garments were given by the leaders, and the people. And, evidently, all this was completed by the seventh month, and all the people were back in their respective places.
(Verses 1 through 8) And the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shama, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand, and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
This is the first mention, in this book, of Ezra the priest, who was sent by the king thirteen years before this, that he might appoint judges in the land, and establish, as the law of the land, the law of his God. We do not know why Nehemiah has not previously mentioned him. But now he comes forth, with the book of the law of the LORD in his hand, to read it to all the people gathered together here. Notice that this congregation was made up of men and women, and children old enough to hear with understanding that which was read. There had been a pulpit of wood built, that the reader might be lifted above the congregation that all would be able too see, as well as hear him. Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, and when he did, all the people stood up. He opened his reading by “blessing” (praising) the LORD. And when he did, all the people said “Amen, Amen,” and lifted up their hands, and bowed their heads, in worship of the LORD God. There were also certain ones of the Levites who stood by, and explained to the people the law, so that they could understand it. So the book was not only read, but its contents were also taught to the people.
(Verses 9 through 12) And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.
After the reading and the explanation of the law to the people, they were very much saddened, because they had broken the laws of the LORD. But the Levites and the priests, who had been explaining the law to the people, told them that this was not the time to be sorrowful about anything, but a time to rejoice that they had now been taught the law; and this day should be counted a day of great rejoicing. It was a day holy to the LORD. It may be that an exaggerated interpretation of this is the basis for the “Fat Tuesday,” which is observed by some, even today. The people were commanded to be happy, and greatly rejoice. But they were not told to completely abandon themselves to desires of the flesh. The law of the LORD was still in force; but they were to rejoice in the LORD for having brought to them the reading and explanation of the law, as had been done that day.
(Verses 13 through 15) And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law. And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
No doubt, during the captivity, the Jews had not been allowed to observe all the feast days prescribed in the law. And after the seventy years of neglect, they had even forgotten that such were commanded. So, as the law was read, and explained to them, they were ready to make a great effort to follow all its commandments. When they found the commandments concerning the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, and realized that this was the time for it to be observed, they were ready to prepare for it.
(Verses 16 through 18) So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days, and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner.
This seems clear enough without further comment. However one thing is brought out in verse 17 that might be somewhat surprising, even to Bible readers, unless they have particularly noticed this verse. That fact is that “since the days of Joshua (‘Jeshua’) the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so.”
(Verses 1 through 3) Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.
On the twenty-fourth day of the month, all the children of Israel were dressed in sackcloth, and had put dirt upon themselves, and were also fasting. In this manner they separated themselves from all strangers, and stood together to confess their sins and the sins of their fathers. For one quarter of the day they stood in their places and listened to the reading of the book of the law of the LORD their God. Then for a quarter of the day they confessed their sins, and worshipped the LORD.
(Verses 4 through 11) Then stood up upon the stairs, of Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto the LORD their God. Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. Thou, even Thou, art LORD alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and Thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth Thee. Thou art the LORD the God, Who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham; and foundest his heart faithful before Thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed Thy words; for Thou art righteous: and didst see the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry at the Red sea; and shewedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land: for Thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them. So didst Thou get Thee a name, as at this day. And Thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst on the dry land; and their persecutors Thou threwest into the deeps, as a stone into the mighty waters.
The children of Israel are here praising the LORD for his wonderful mercies to their fathers. They started with His blessings to Abram, and have continued through the wonderful deliverance of Israel from the Egyptians, even to His making them a dry path through the Red sea, and His destruction of the Egyptians there.
(Verses 12 through 17) Moreover Thou leddest them in the day by a cloudy pillar, and in the night by a pillar of fire, to give them light in the way wherein they should go. Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: and madest known unto them Thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses Thy servant: and gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which Thou hadst sworn to give them. But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to Thy commandments, and refused to obey, neither were mindful of Thy wonders that Thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.
As their prayer continues on, they declare that the LORD even led their fathers with a cloudy pillar by day, and a pillar of fire by night, that they might see even when traveling by night. He taught them concerning His sabbath, He brought forth for them water from the rock, fed them with bread from heaven, and promised that He would be with them, and would enable them to go into the land of Canaan, and take possession of it. But they still rebelled against Him, and appointed themselves a captain to lead them back into the bondage of Egypt. Yet the LORD, because of His great mercy forgave them, and showed them great kindness.
(Verses 18 through 25) Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; yet Thou in Thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness, the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go. Thou gavest also Thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not Thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst. Yea, forty years didst Thou sustain them in the wilderness, so that they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not. Moreover Thou gavest them kingdoms and nations, and didst divide them into corners: so they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan. Their children also multipliedst Thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which Thou hadst promised to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it. So the children went in and possessed the land, and Thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they took strong cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells digged, vineyards, and oliveyards, and fruit trees in abundance: so they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in Thy great goodness.
In this segment of their prayer, they praise the LORD for His wonderful blessings all the way from the time of their turning away from Him, and making the golden calf, to His bringing them into the land of Canaan, and giving them possession of the kingdoms therein.
(Verses 26 through 30) Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against Thee, and cast Thy law behind their backs, and slew Thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to Thee, and they wrought great provocations. Therefore Thou deliveredst them into the hand of their enemies, who vexed them: and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto Thee, Thou heardest from heaven; and according to Thy manifold mercies Thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest, they did evil again before Thee: therefore leftest Thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto Thee, Thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst Thou deliver them according to Thy mercies; and testifiedst against them, that Thou mightest bring them again unto Thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto Thy commandments, but sinned against Thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear. Yet many years didst Thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by Thy Spirit in Thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest Thou them into the hands of the people of the lands.
In spite of all the wonderful mercy the LORD showed Israel, every time they began to prosper, they would turn away from the LORD, and try to follow their own sinful way. Yet, when they got into serious trouble, they would cry unto the LORD, and he would forgive their iniquities, and shew them His mercy again. And this continued on for generation after generation. And the story did not end at this return from captivity. Today some of the children of Israel have been gathered back home to their land. But they still have not been finally re-gathered, and settled in their land. They are even at this hour involved in a war with their neighbor, that may, possibly, be leading up to the great battle wherein the LORD Himself shall take hold of the battle, and work out their final deliverance. For that we can only wait. It will come at His appointed time: and no man knows when that will be.
(Verses 31 through 35) Nevertheless for Thy great mercies’ sake Thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for Thou art a gracious and merciful God. Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, Who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before Thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all Thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day. Howbeit Thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for Thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly: neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, , nor our fathers kept Thy law, nor hearkened unto Thy commandments and Thy testimonies, whereunto Thou didst testify against them. For they have not served Thee in their kingdom, and in Thy great goodness that Thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which Thou gavest before them, neither turned away from their wicked works.
Here the children of Israel, in their prayer, acknowledge that the LORD is just in all the troubles He has brought upon them. Their fathers had continued their practice of calling upon the LORD in their times of trouble, and forsaking Him just as soon as He delivered them from the hardships. They confess that their fathers have not kept the laws and testimonies of the LORD, And neither have their princes, their kings, nor their priests. So all they can ask for is the mercy of the LORD.
(Verses 36 through 38) Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that Thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it: and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom Thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress. And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; our princes, Levites, and priests seal unto it.
Thus they wound up their prayer, making their complaint to the LORD that they were in very great distress, but confessing that it was because of their sin. So they set forth to make a covenant with the LORD. They say it will be a sure covenant, both declared by word, and written; and sealed by their princes, Levites, and priests. Since they have already declared, in verse 34, “Neither have our kings, our princes, nor our fathers, kept Thy law, nor hearkened unto Thy commandments and Thy testimonies, wherewith Thou didst testify against them,” why would they think this covenant to be any more sure?
The first twenty seven verses of this chapter give the names of the princes, the priests, and the Levites, who sealed this covenant. It might be of some interest to a Jew to read this and see if he could make any headway in tracing the genealogy of these. But it would be of very little profit for anyone else.
(Verses 28 through 31) And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding; they clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His judgments and His statutes; and that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons; and if the people of the land bring ware or victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.
In addition to those who sealed, or signed, the covenant which the Jews had made, the others all agreed to cleave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into an oath to keep all the law of God, and a curse upon any who did not keep it. Then they began to spell out the various things that they would not do, and those that they would do. All these items are set forth in the law itself, and can be found in more detail elsewhere.
(Verses 32 through 37) Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God; for the shewbread, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law: And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD. Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God. And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.
It seems that these ordinances they made for themselves were considered as clarifications of certain items of the law which they had already covenanted to keep. All of them have to do with their supplying of the things needed for the continual operation of their system of sacrifices and offerings, and for their paying their tithes, as was commanded by the LORD in His law.
(Verses 38 and 39) And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house. For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God.
Thus they have made themselves ordinances to point out exactly how they shall handle all the ingathering of all that they are required to contribute to the house of God, to the priests, and to the Levites.
(Verses 1 and 2) And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots. To bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities. And the people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.
Apparently, most of the people preferred to dwell in other cities of the region; but as is noted earlier concerning Jerusalem, “Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded.” (Ch. 7, v. 4) So, apparently this lottery for one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem was for the purpose of hastening the building up of, and the maintenance of the city. The people blessed, or praised those who “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.” The remainder of this chapter is primarily devoted to showing where different groups, by families, settled in the country, and how many there were in the various family groups. So we shall pass it with no further comment.
Verses 1 through 43 give the re-organization of the priests and the Levites for their service in the work of the house of God, and shows them as they were arranged for the celebration of a great day of sacrifices and offerings.
(Verses 44 through 47) And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited. And both singers and the porters kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son. For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God. And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified holy things unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified them unto the children of Aaron.
By the ordinances the children of Israel had passed, and the re-organization they had accomplished among the priests and the Levites, they had brought everything concerning these back to the manner that was ordered by David and Solomon.
(Verses 1 through 3) On that day they read 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; because they met not the children of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing. Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.
Verse 1 seems to mean that on the very day when the children of Israel were making their sacrifices, and praising the LORD, is the day when they were reading in the book of the law, and found the prohibition against the Ammonites and Moabites, which they had been disregarding. However, they immediately set forth to separate the mixed multitude from them. It is a little unclear, as to whether this is the same incident recorded by Ezra, or a new one. It seems likely to be the same one, because when Ezra discovered this, as he recorded it, he immediately set about to correct it. And he goes more into detail concerning it. And in Chapter twelve we are informed that he is still on the scene. So he probably would not have allowed it to recur. There are many things in this book which make it very difficult to take its chronology as accurate.
(Verses 4 through 9) And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah: and he 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. 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: 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. And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering, and the frankincense.
There is no way to connect the chronology of events as set forth by Nehemiah with those recorded by Ezra. In fact, it is rather difficult to keep the events set forth by Nehemiah in anything like chronological order. This has been noticed, and argued about by many learned scholars with no final agreement among them. It seems that Ezra and Nehemiah made two trips each to Jerusalem, but not together, nor at the same times. So in each account things are set forth that may, or may not, be the same events. And it is possible that enough time elapsed between the visit of one, and the visit of the other, that the situation could have changed. It seems hardly likely that Ezra would have permitted such a situation as Nehemiah records here to take place while he was in Jerusalem. But Nehemiah declares that it was before he came to Jerusalem that this was going on. Tobiah was an Ammonite; but according to Nehemiah, he was occupying a great chamber in the house of God, which was prepared for him by Eliashib the priest; although the LORD had commanded that no Ammonite should ever enter the House of God. So Nehemiah dispossessed Tobiah by throwing out all his household goods, and having the chamber he had occupied cleansed. Then he brought into the apartment the vessels of the house of God, together with the meat offering and the frankincense, as it had been before.
(Verses 10 through 14) And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them; for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field. 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. Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries. And I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office was to distribute unto their brethren. Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.
Nehemiah found that the Levites that were the singers, and the workers in the temple, were not receiving their proper share of the tithes and offerings of the people, but were having to work their fields to make a living. This he soon set straight, and questioned why it was permitted to be so.. Then all Judah brought in their tithes, and they were stored in the treasuries, over which he appointed certain ones as treasurers. Then he prayed that the LORD would keep in remembrance his good deeds that he had done for the house of God.
(Verses 15 through 18) 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. 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. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.
In all the years since the people of Jerusalem and Judah had been carried captive to Babylon, the laws of the LORD had been ignored, and most likely forgotten until Ezra took the book of the law of Moses, and read it before the people, as recorded in chapter eight. So the people had fallen into the practice of ignoring the sabbath, just as they have in our day. Nehemiah noticed this, and began to correct it.
(Verses 19 through 22) And it came to pass when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath. And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Thy mercy.
Thus Nehemiah stopped the merchants from bringing their wares to Jerusalem to sell them on the sabbath. And he also stopped the people from doing any work on the sabbath. The LORD had ordered that there be “no kind of servile work” done on the sabbath. And Nehemiah took care of that matter for those of Jerusalem and Judah.
(Verses 23 through 27) In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: 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. 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 for your sons, or for yourselves. 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. Shall we then hearken to you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?
After all the other evils Nehemiah had found among the Jews at Jerusalem, he found the ultimate insult to the LORD. Some of the Jews had married women from the very nations that the LORD had forbidden them to give their daughters to, or take daughters from them for their sons, or themselves. He was so outraged at this that he even attacked some of them, physically, as well as verbally.
(Verses 28 through 31) And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him away from me. Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites. Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business; and for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.
Nehemiah does not give as much detail about the separating the Jews from the nations, and the putting away of the strange wives as does Ezra. But he claims that he cleansed them from all strangers. Then he prays again that the LORD remember him for good.