Nehemiah 13:1-31


I.    Verse 1-3, 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; {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. {3} Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.

I.    The separation "on that day" - the day of dedication.

A.  Book of Moses - probably the Pentateuch, but we know they read Deut. 23:3,4.

1.   Before all the people - This is a very good thing.  All the people hear exactly the same thing.

2.   We would do well to read the Bible daily.

B.   Obedience - It's good to read, but better to read and then obey.  It does no good just to read, if we're not going to obey what we read.


The downfall of Israel.

The breaking of their covenant with God.


II.   And before this: Refers to before the dedication (12:17-13:3).  I believe the sequence of events goes something like this:

1.   13:4 - And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah: Eliashib allied to Tobiah the Ammonite (a man of "good works", Neh. 6:19.)

a.   "And before this" refers to before reading that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of the Lord.

b.   Eliashib became friends with Tobiah before the public reading, baning the Ammonite and the Moabite.

c.   The reading of the Word of God didn't change his mind about who his friends were.

d.   This shows us that this priest wasn't influenced by the Word of God.

e.   Notice some other things:

2.   3:1 -

a.   Eliashib led the other priests to build the sheep gate.

1.   3:20,21 - Eliashib didn't take care of repairing the wall near his own house (like the other people did).

2.   Baruch earnestly repaired another piece (after he had finished his original piece) and Meremoth finished up that section of the wall (his second piece).

3.   It's always best to take care of things at home before taking care of public things.

b.   His name doesn't appear in chapter 8-11 which describes the real revival, the making of the covenant and the dedication of the wall and temple (12:27-13:3).

c.   His name appears in 12:10 in a genealogy of the priests.

d.   His name appears in 12:22,23 in a list of the Levites of that time.

3.   The story seems to be of a high priest that is not spiritual.  His interest in rebuilding Jerusalem as a great city involves only a physical side.  Therefore, he didn't participate in the spiritual celebrations.

a.   In 11:15-18, a description of the Levites is given.  Eliashib doesn't appear, but Shabbethai and Jozabad (the chief of the Levites) have the oversight of the outward business of the temple and Mattaniah is principle to begin to give thanksgiving in prayer.  Shouldn't Eliashib the high priest (See Neh. 13:28 for proof that Eliashib was High Priest) led in these things?

b.   13:1-3 - On the day of dedication, when Israel separated herself from the Ammonite and Moabite because God said to, it's likely Eliashib refused to disassociate himself from Tobiah.  Since Eliashib had a Levi wife and no outward show of dispute, nobody knew the depth of his rebellion against God, although there was some doubt cast on his spirituality since he wasn't mentioned as being involved in the dedication of the temple and wall.

c.   Nehemiah 13:28 - One of Eliashib's daughters had married the son of Sanballat the Horonite.  Eliashib's continued association with heathens caused his children to marry into that family.

d.   See my notes on Nehemiah 6:17-19 for another mixed marriage.

e.   These kinds of "personal compromises" is what eventually destroyed Israel's spiritually.

f.    It is not enough for Nehemiah (or a pastor of a church) to be spiritual, the individual Israelites (or the individual members of a church) must be spiritual.

4.   13:6-9, 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: {7} 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. {8} And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. {9} 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. The next event was probably Nehemiah returning to Shushan as he promised (2:6).

5.   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.  The next step (preparing a great chamber for Tobiah in the house of God) is a gradual one of step by step decay and distrust.  The people desired to do right, but their high priest let them down by not standing against some things he ought to stand against.  (In his personal life.)  It was only a short while until the people stopped supporting the priesthood (compare 12:44) and started rebelling against God.  (Why should they keep themselves pure when their leaders are impure?)

6.   Nehemiah's return after 10-12 years absence (compare 13:6 and 2:1) found Tobiah living in the temple and Eliashib's grandson married to Sanballat's daughter.

a.   A sad commentary is that we never find Eliashib seeing his error or asking forgiveness.  We do find the son in law so cocksure of himself, or at the very least being so thickheaded (unspiritual), perhaps ignorant of any spiritual error, that Nehemiah chased him away!  (13:28 - He apparently had enough "brass" to approach Nehemiah!)

b.   Therefore, the problem is one of secret spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12).

A.  Verse 5 - Great chamber.

1.   Not a small place.

2.   Evidently took up much space and was splendid.

B.   The chamber was supposed to be dedicated to the Lord.

1.   Instead, this man is "dedicated to the Lord".  (I speak in jest!)

2.   There is no place to store the substance for the real workers.

C.   Nehemiah's reaction.

1.   Grief - Because such a substitute as this should be made by such a man as the High Priest.

2.   Cast household stuff out.

a.   He didn't destroy it, or sell it, or give it away. He has respect to the proper ownership, but not for the place it was in.

b.   Didn't mention whether Tobiah, or Eliashib was present or not.  I don't think Nehemiah would have cared.  But note, the reaction of Eliashib or Tobiah isn't recorded.  It doesn't make any difference how wicked people feel.  What does matter is that the truth is proclaimed.  (This will help us in our lives today.)

3.   Cleansed the chambers - They not only cleaned the chambers, but anointed them to sanctify them for the Master's use.

4.   Brought the proper vessels and offerings into the proper place.  NOTE: Eliashib could have reasoned that since there wasn't very much offered to the Lord and supplied to the priests, they might as well make good use of the temple area and allow Tobiah residence.  He didn't think the proper thing to do was increase the offerings to the Lord (hence to the priests).  If we would provide the vessels, God will fill them.

a.   I Kings 17:16 - Elijah and widow and son - Barrel wasted not, cruse of oil didn't fail.

b.   John 2:6,7 - Jesus changed the water into wine: MEN supplied the water, and the vessels!

c.   Let us offer ourselves to God and let Him fill us.


III. Verse 10-31.  The other parts of the covenant broken.

A.  Some comments about the day in which we live.

1.   We are living in days like Nehemiah lived in.  The book of Nehemiah is the next to last book in the Old Testament (in chronological order).  Malachi is the last book.  The covenant made with God in Nehemiah 10 is a "last ditch" effort to restore Jerusalem and Israel to the true worship of God.  This effort failed.  When Christ came, about 450 years later, He was rejected by the Jews as a nation.

2.   Today, many are turning to the Lord with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him.  It won't be long before this church age closes with the rapture.  Israel will once more becomes the central force of God's blessings upon this world.

3.   Let us each take warning and heed the "signs of the times" glaring at us from an exceeding wicked world.

B.   Verse 10-14, {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. Part 5 of the covenant is broken.  (See chapter 10, IV., E.)

1.   The people that should be working in the temple had stopped and gone to work.

a.   This is necessary.  They must provide for their families.

b.   There is nothing wrong with a pastor working if his church cannot supply his needs.  If a church will not supply his needs, he still must work for his family.

1.   I Tim. 5:8 - If any provide not for his family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.

2.   This is true for all - laity or pastor.

2.   Verse 11 - 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. Nehemiah contended with the rulers, not the priests.  God will do the same.  Preachers should preach God's Word.  Those in the proper position should enforce what God's Word says.

3.   Set them in their place - It takes a man of strong knowledge and conviction to be a strong leader.

4.   Verse 12 - Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.  All Judah brought their tithe - The problem was not with the common people (it very seldom is), but with the leadership.  The common people were eager to help if they were led in the right direction.

5.   Verse 13 - 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.  He put faithful men over the offerings.  Even in a time of rebellion and moving away from God, there are faithful people.  Remember Elijah and the 7,000 faithful he knew nothing of?

6.   Verse 14 - 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. A desire to be remembered for good deeds.  So our desire should be.

C.   Verse 15-22 - Part 4 of the covenant is broken (chapter 10, IV., D.)

1.   Verse 15,16 - {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. {16} 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. People working and buying and selling, (forgetting God)  (Luke 17:28 - buying and selling in Lot's day.)

2.   Verse 17 - 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? Contended with the nobles, not with the priests.  See comments on II. A. 2. (See II, B. 7)

3.   Verse 18 - 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.  The reason for the first judgment will be the reason for another judgment. So it is today.  God is the same and will hold us accountable to Him.

4.   Verse 19 - And it came to pass, that 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. Nehemiah had the doors shut and nobody stopped him.  In their heart, most of the people knew Nehemiah was right.

5.   Verse 20 - So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. Some people are slow to learn, or they sit around waiting for the smallest hint of giving in so they can continue sinning.

6.   Verse 21 - 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. A little "encouragement" from Nehemiah sends them on their way.

a.   Rom. 12:3,4 - The only power some folks understand is the power of force.

b.   We will not attempt to judge or justify Nehemiah for the severity of this action, for the threat of physical violence and the actual carrying out of physical violence.  (13:25)  According to his own prayer, he felt God led him to such extreme measures.  Would to God, preachers today would show the courage of Nehemiah, at least in the pulpit.  It should make a difference in this hell bound world.

7.   Verse 22 - 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. The Levites cleanse (sanctify) themselves and stand and do right.  He did not reprove them for supplying for their families instead of keeping the gates.  But now that they have their living supplied, they should leave their fields and continue stedfast in the work of God.

D.  Verse 23-28 - The third part of the covenant is broken (chapter 10, IV., C)

1.   Verse 23-25 - {23} In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: {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. {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. Interfaith marriage causes children that don't understand.  This leads to a real hodgepodge of religion, like we have today.

2.   As concerning Nehemiah's roughness see III, B, 6.

3.   Verse 25 -

a.   Contended with them - A heated discussion between Nehemiah and those who had done wrong.

b.   Cursed them - Pronounced God's judgment on them.  Showed them in the form of God's judgments the final outcome of their sins.

c.   Smote certain of them - Deut. 25:2 - The public beating of those who committed public sins, thus causing others to sin.

d.   Plucked off their hair - Ezra 9:3 - Ezra plucked off his own hair while Nehemiah plucked out theirs.  Different people react to situations differently.

4.   Verse 26,27 - {26} 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. {27} Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives? If this sin would cause the wisest man whoever lived to fall, wouldn't we fall too?

5.   Verse 28 - 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 from me. Eliashib's grandson who had married Sanballat's (2:10) daughter apparently approached Nehemiah with some "logical explanation" of sinfulness, or he was stupidly standing in the way (showing a total ignorance of his wickedness).  Nehemiah chases him away.

a.   This young man had never been taught how to marry correctly.  He probably did not know about or understand Nehemiah's concern.  He probably had very little true religion himself - all of this can in some measure go directly to his grand dad.

b.   Grandparents - don't give in to those grand children.  Their lives depend on you.

c.   Josephus says this young man is Manasseh, who (being chased from Nehemiah) went to his father in law (Sanballat).

1.   He build a temple on Mt. Gerizem and made Manasseh the High Priest.  Mt. Gerizem is located in Samaria.  This action started the false religion the woman at the well talked about, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain".

2.   Lesson: The time is about 450 B. C.  The woman at the well lived about 480 years later.  The sins we commit or the things we start will last a long time and effect many people.  Be careful -- We can be a part of many people going to either heaven or hell!!

E.   Conclusion (verse 29-31).

1.   Verse 29 - Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites. Nehemiah, for all his violence against the people that sinned, did not bring a railing accusation (Jude 9), against Eliashib the High Priest.

a.   David would not speak a word against the Lord's anointed.  In the Old Testament, the anointed, whether king or priest, stood in the place of God.  To speak against the anointed was to speak against God.

b.   I Tim. 5:19 - Today, men of God are protected from "casual" accusation.  In the New Testament, the pastor doesn't stand in the place of God, but is a representative of God.  The preacher/pastor is still in a place of authority, and shouldn't be spoken against lightly.  This is why two or three witnesses must be present to any disagreement with a preacher/pastor.  A person of equal rank does have the privilege of publicly exposing public sins, see Galatians 2:11-21 where Paul publicly exposed Peter's separation from the Gentiles because he was afraid of the Jews.  May God help us to not defile ourselves before God and the people.

c.   Remember them - That God would judge their wickedness righteously.  There might be some who wouldn't understand that it is a very fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, Heb. 10:31.  Men might receive a small measure of pleasure from chastising a preacher/pastor, but when God judges that individual, it is done in righteousness, and the results are far reaching.  Remember, the person that chastises God's man will himself be chastened by God.  They have three reasons for God's judging:

1.   They have defiled the priesthood - that special people with special qualifications.  They do not abide by the qualifications of the priesthood.

2.   They have forsaken the covenant of the priesthood - That they would obey the laws set down by God that they might bear the iniquity of the people, and be a good example for the people to follow.

3.   And of the Levites - that priestly tribe that would forsake this world for the benefits of the world to come.  That would represent Christ and His holy life to sinners.  They no longer represent Christ, for they have become like the world.  They no longer present a holy life to the world, for they are now living like the world.

2.   Verse 30,31 - {30} Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business; {31} And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

a.   Everything placed in order.

b.   Cleansed - Evidently Nehemiah did exactly what he said.  The people that were not of God's Israel left.  One great problem with churches today is that strangers dwell in her midst.  Strangers to the Son of God.  Those people will never be holy no matter how much good preaching they get.

3.   Remember me, O my God, for good - May we have fruit that will bear record that our prayer is true.