The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Nehemiah 10

Neh 10:1

Neh 10: After Ezra's prayer on behalf of the nation, in Neh 9, the people were prepared to seal the covenant with Yahweh, and to dedicate themselves to His service. Four groups sealed the covenants, presumably as representatives of the whole of the nation: (1) The governor: v 1; (2) the priests (the heads of 21 priestly families): vv 2-8; (3) the Levites (17 mentioned): vv 9-13; and (4) and the chief of the people (44 heads of other leading families): vv 14-27.

The phrases "house of our God" and "house of Yahweh" occur nine times in this chapter, emphasizing the importance of the work. The Levitical tithe (v 37) was apparently stored in some neighbouring Levitical city of Jerusalem. It was important to sustain the work of the restoration and development of the congregation by the donations from the people. The tithes that the Levites gave to the priests were of the tithes they received from the people (v 38). Thus was the work of Yahweh supported, and identified with the people.

"Neh 10 lists the names of those who, in response to the realisation of their sinfulness, put their names to the covenant promising to keep the law. Notice that Nehemiah is the first one who put his name to the covenant -- even though he had not sinned like the rest of the people... It would be so easy to stand aside from such a signing on the basis that one had not done anything wrong; however, Nehemiah signs first to mark his willingness to be involved with the people and to set an example" (PF).

"The summary of these two chapters goes like this: 'You are a great God who has done awesome things for us and our ancestors. But we have sinned against You and You were angry with us, but in Your mercy You have brought us back. Now we promise to reform our ways and put you first in our lives again. From now on we will do only the things that please You.' Do we say prayers like that? When we originally began our new life in Christ we probably prayed a similar prayer of praise, repentance and reformation. The question we need to ask ourselves is: how long did it last? Maybe you are one of those really good people who made the commitment once and have never looked back -- because you have stayed committed all the way through. Or maybe you are more like me, who find that we gradually get off track and need to have a big reform sometimes. Or maybe you are the type of person who has consciously reform for God every week or every day. For those of us in the last two groups, we need to work on our long-term commitment and keeping the promises we made consistently. But in all that, remember that God is still willing to forgive when we truly turn back to him" (RP).

Why is Ezra not mentioned as sealing the covenant? Probably because he was officiating at the ceremony -- in the place of the High Priest and as the representative of God Himself.

Why is Eliashib the High Priest not mentioned? Probably because he had turned away from Nehemiah's party. Were Eliashib and his followers responsible for the apostasy of Neh 13? See Neh 3:1n.

THOSE WHO SEALED IT: That is, the covenant first mentioned in Neh 9:38.

Neh 10:28

TEMPLE SERVANTS: Or "Nethinim" (AV). They are said specifically to be those "whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites" (Ezr 8:20), thus indicating both their realm of activity and their historical origin. In most of the occurrences they are listed with and after the Levites (cf 1Ch 9:2; Ezr 7:7; Neh 7:73). Because of this reference to the activity of David and their being joined with Solomon's servants (Ezr 2:58; Neh 7:60; cf 1Ki 9:21) and the foreign names that they bear, it has been thought that they were foreigners, mostly captives of war, put into this service. For example, Mehunim (Ezr 2:50; Neh 7:52) may refer to those overcome by Uzziah (2Ch 26:7). Nephusim (Ezr 2:50; Neh 7:52) may refer to the Hagarite clan of Naphish (Gen 25:15; 1Ch 5:19). Because of the similarity of duty, some have sought their background in the Gibeonites, "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God" (Jos 9:23,27) and also in the Midianites (Num 31:30,47). The correlation is probably no more than that of similarity of service, not direct relationship. Whatever may be the roots of their origin, they were treated as part of the people of God, at least as proselytes (Neh 10:28...). They are mentioned by name in the OT in post-Exilic times. From Babylon 612 returned, 392 with Zerubbabel (Ezr 2:58: Neh 7:60) a count which includes "the children of Solomon's servants") and 220 with Ezra (Ezr 8:20) as "ministers for the house of our God" from the place Casiphia (Ezr 8:17) "in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king (Ezr 7:7). Like other sacred ministers, they were exempted from taxation (Ezr 7:24).

Neh 10:29

AND BIND THEMSELVES WITH A CURSE: Submission to the curse that God promised would come on those who did not keep His Word (Deu 28:15-68).

Neh 10:30

Marriage with the alien forbidden.

Neh 10:31

Observance of the Sabbath: cp Exo 20:10; Isa 58:13,14.

ANY HOLY DAY: Special feast days: Exo 12:16; Lev 16:29.


Neh 10:32

THE COMMANDMENT TO GIVE A THIRD OF A SHEKEL EACH YEAR FOR THE SERVICE OF THE HOUSE OF THE LORD: The Law had originally required 1/2 shekel (Exo 30:11-16). Perhaps this is additional, or perhaps the original 1/2 shekel was not necessarily continued for every year. Or perhaps the annual levy was reduced because the people were poor.

Neh 10:34

CAST LOTS: See 1Ch 24:5,7; 25:8,9; 26:13; Pro 18:18; Josh 14:1,2; Luke 1:9.

A CONTRIBUTION OF WOOD: Required for the burning of the sacrifices.

Neh 10:38

THE LEVITES ARE TO BRING A TENTH OF THE TITHES: The provision which the Levites gave to the priests: 10% of 10%, or 1% (Num 18:26-28).

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