The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Nehemiah 13

Neh 13:1

Neh 13: "At the end of Neh 12 Nehemiah had to report back to the court of Persia [v 6] concerning his ministry amongst his people. In that he was a remarkable type of the Lord Jesus. During his absence, deterioration had set in to the Brotherhood. The aged Ezra was absent or had died. The warning voice of Malachi had been heard, but little attention given to it. Marriage principles had been neglected, and terrible compromise had set in, so much so that the enemy Tobiah now occupied part of the temple premises! The ecclesia had become entangled with the world. After about twelve years, Nehemiah returned. He found a terrible apostasy had set in, and with customary vigour set about to cleanse the people. He first ordered a separation of the mixed multitude (vv 1-3). Then began a vigorous rebuke of Eliashib the priest, and Tobiah the apostate (vv 4-7). The temple chambers were cleansed (vv 8,9). Tithes and worship was restored (vv 10-12). Faithful officials were ordained (vv 13,14). Sabbath keeping was purified (vv 15-18). The gates of Jerusalem were closed against material activities (v 19). Nehemiah rebuked all those who traded on the sabbath (vv 20,21). Levites were appointed to guard the city gates (v 22). Mixed marriages were severely rebuked (vv 23-27). The son of Joiada was expelled from Jerusalem (v 28). Nehemiah's final prayer: an offering to Yahweh (vv 29-31). Typically, the millennium of pure royalty was revealed, and the Laodicean spirit was removed" (GEM).


Notice the similarities between the prophecy of Malachi and Neh 13. Malachi was the "messenger of the covenant" (Mal 3:1) ["Malachi" means "my covenant"!] -- who had reported to Nehemiah that the Jews in Jerusalem had forgotten the "covenant" (Neh 10:29-39) they had made with him, and with God:

The "covenant"
Nehemiah finds...
1. Non-payment of tithes
Mal 3:8
Neh 10:32, etc
Neh 13:9,10
2. Temple services largely cease
Mal 1:7,12,13
Neh 13:10
3. Violation of sabbath
Mal 3:14; 4:4
Neh 10:31
Neh 13:15
4. Marriage with aliens
Mal 2:11-16
Neh 10:30
Neh 13:23
5. Wood offering
Neh 10:34
Neh 13:31
6. Observance of firstfruits and firstborns
Neh 10:35,36
Neh 13:11,12


NO AMMONITE OR MOABITE SHOULD EVER BE ADMITTED INTO THE ASSEMBLY OF GOD: Discovery of the law that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever receive citizenship in Israel (Deut 23:3,4) led the leaders to exclude all foreigners from the restoration community (v 3).

Neh 13:2

OUR GOD, HOWEVER, TURNED THE CURSE INTO A BLESSING: No one can stand against God. The account of Balaam and Balak in Num 22-24 leaves us in no doubt (esp with Peter's comment in 2Pe 2:15) that Balaam's desire against God had been aroused, and that God intervened absolutely, in a way almost unprecedented: He influenced directly the words that Balaam spoke, so that he could not say what he wished.

Neh 13:4

ELIASHIB THE PRIEST HAD BEEN PUT IN CHARGE...: The enemy had walked right through the gates of Jerusalem with firing an arrow or slinging a stone. This was the end result of alien marriage.

Neh 13:6

ARTAXERXES KING OF BABYLON: Nehemiah could legitimately call Artaxerxes the king of Babylon in 539 BC. Artaxerxes was, of course, a Persian king, not one of the kings of the Babylonian Empire. However, in 539 BC Persia ruled Babylon.

Neh 13:7

...AND CAME BACK TO JERUSALEM: Nehemiah had returned to the palace after 12 years (Neh 2:6; 5:14), and afterward come back to Jerusalem a second time (Neh 13:6,7) -- possibly after hearing a report from the prophet Malachi (see table, v 1n). In bringing the report, Malachi was indeed "the messenger of the covenant" (Mal 3:1). And in returning to enforce the covenant again, Nehemiah became "the messenger of the covenant"!

HERE I LEARNED ABOUT THE EVIL THING ELIASHIB HAD DONE IN PROVIDING TOBIAH A ROOM IN THE COURTS OF THE HOUSE OF GOD: Eliashib was the high priest (Neh 3:1,20; 13:28). He was evidently a close relative of Tobiah, the Jewish Ammonite leader who had opposed Nehemiah's efforts to rebuild the walls (Neh 2:19; 6:1,17,18). Probably Eliashib cleaned out one of the temple storerooms and converted it into an apartment for Tobiah because he was an influential relative.

Neh 13:8

I WAS GREATLY DISPLEASED AND THREW ALL TOBIAH'S HOUSEHOLD GOODS OUT OF THE ROOM: Swift and decisive action. Nehemiah was very angry when he returned to Jerusalem and discovered this enemy of the faithful remnant living in the temple; so he threw him out.

With this incident Nehemiah set the example of his new approach to an unnecessarily close relationship with foreigners. The purity of religion had to be maintained at any cost. This was absolutely necessary if the small community, beset as it was with all the temptations of paganism, was to be prevented from reverting to a compromise with the neighboring nations and bringing their ancestral religion into danger.

These are very probably the last recorded circumstances and deeds of the OT: (1) The OT closes with the High Priest (an apostate) being disgraced, and probably driven out of the Temple, along with his friends. (2) The NT begins with the birth of Jesus Christ, the true "High Priest", as well as the true "Temple of God"!

Neh 13:10

Vv 10-14: The revival of tithing. Because the people had failed to bring their tithes to the temple the Levites had to abandon their service in the temple to provide for their own physical needs. This failure may have resulted in rooms standing vacant for Tobiah to occupy as well. In response to Nehemiah's reprimands, and Malachi's preaching, the people began to tithe again (Mal 3:8-10). Thus far all of Nehemiah's reforms, following his return to Jerusalem, involved temple service. V 14 records his prayer in view of these reforms (cp Neh 5:19).

Neh 13:13

Vv 13,14: Faithful and responsible men are appointed.

THESE MEN WERE CONSIDERED TRUSTWORTHY: Examples of faithfulness in service: Samuel (1Sa 3:20); David (1Sa 22:14); the temple overseers (2Ki 12:15); the workers (2Ch 34:12); Hananiah (Neh 7:2); Abraham (Neh 9:8); the treasurers (Neh 13:13); Daniel (Dan 6:4); Timothy (1Co 4:17); Epaphras (Col 1:7); Tychicus (Col 4:7); Onesimus (Col 4:9); Paul (1Ti 1:12); Moses (Heb 3:2,5); Gaius (3Jo 1:5); Jesus Christ (Rev 1:5); Antipas (Rev 2:13).

Cp Luk 16:10; 2Ch 31:12.

Neh 13:15

Vv 15-22: Sabbath-keeping is reintroduced.

Neh 13:16

MEN FROM TYRE WHO LIVED IN JERUSALEM...: Gentile sabbath-breakers were inducing Jewish disobedience.

Neh 13:19


Neh 13:22

REMEMBER ME FOR THIS ALSO, O MY GOD, AND SHOW MERCY TO ME ACCORDING TO YOUR GREAT LOVE: And He will! " 'They will be mine,' says the LORD Almighty, 'in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him' " (Mal 3:17).

Neh 13:23

Vv 23-27: Alien marriage is condemned.

Neh 13:25

Very severe discipline. The OT equivalent of Jesus cleansing the Temple.

AND PULLED OUT THEIR HAIR: A form of punishment (cf Isa 50:6), and a public disgrace (2Sa 10:4).


Neh 13:28

ONE OF THE SONS OF JOIADA SON OF ELIASHIB THE HIGH PRIEST WAS SON-IN-LAW TO SANBALLAT THE HORONITE. AND I DROVE HIM AWAY FROM ME: This was especially bad since he was the grandson of the high priest, and priests were to marry only Jewish virgins (Lev 21:14).

Joiada's son Manasseh fled to Sanballat of the Samaritans. This man built a rival temple, and set up a rival worship. There were Samaritans in the land even as late as Christ's time (cp John 4:1,2,14). They were a mixed race, mainly of Gentile descent (2Ki 17:24-32). Their temple was destroyed in 129 BC -- it was a ruin when Christ spoke (John 4; this is described in LB 477). There are Samaritans in Israel to this very day (HVM 159-165; LB 477).

Neh 13:29

Vv 29-31: Yahweh, the Memorial God -- the God who REMEMBERS!

Neh 13:30

Vv 30,31: These vv summarize Nehemiah's reforms after he returned to Jerusalem, namely those described in this chapter. How long Nehemiah remains in Jerusalem is unknown. He behaves as though he still has the power of a Persian governor.
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