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Nehemiah 13:1 On that day- This could mean just "at that time", but it may refer to the day of the dedication of the wall (Neh. 12:27) when they brought the Levites to Jerusalem. But the Levites were the teachers of the people. The fact they were not living in Jerusalem because tithes hadn't been given them meant that there was little teaching of God's word, with the result that the masses were Biblically ignorant.

They read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that an Ammonite and a Moabite should not enter into the assembly of God forever- As noted above, it seems there was a huge Biblical ignorance, partly due to the Levites not teaching the people. They "found written" what they ought surely to have been aware of.

Nehemiah 13:2 Because they didn’t meet the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, to curse them; however our God turned the curse into a blessing-
The interpretation or additional comment was added by the Levites as they read the law, as a kind of midrash. See on :1. The turning of curse into blessing was what had been the intended result of Judah's exile; the intention was that they would return and articulate with God in reestablishing His Kingdom in Israel with all the attendant blessings.

Nehemiah 13:3 It came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude-
This reads as if they heard what they hadn't realized before in God's law, and then obeyed it immediately. The idea isn't that they threw these foreigners out of the territory of Judah, but rather that they didn't allow them to participate in the signs of covenant relationship (as in Neh. 9:2).

The accounts of Judah’s separation from the surrounding peoples reads similarly to that of the purges from idolatry during the reign of the kings. They separated / purged, and then, within a few years, we read of them doing so again. Initially, the exiles separated from the peoples of the land (Ezra 6:21); by Ezra 9:1 they are in need of separating again; and by Ezra 10:11 likewise; then they separate (Ezra 10:16), only to need another call to separation by the time of Nehemiah 9:2; 13:3. They obviously found it extremely difficult to be separated from the surrounding world unto God’s law (Nehemiah 10:28). There was a powerful logic- either separate from the world around, or be separated from the people of God (Ezra 10:8). It’s a separation- one way or the other.

Nehemiah 13:4 Now before this-
This may refer to the "this" of :6, the interval between Nehemiah's first and second rulerships in Jerusalem.

Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the rooms of the house of our God, being allied to Tobiah- The same high priest of :28 and Neh. 3:1. His name is significantly absent from the list of those who signed the covenant of purity in Neh. 10. The alliance (s.w. Ruth 2:20) to Tobiah was presumably through marriage of a family member; Tobiah had married a daughter of Shecaniah; and his son Jehohanan had married a daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. Both Shecaniah and Meshullam are mentioned in Neh. 3:20,30 as high ranking priests.


Nehemiah 13:5 had prepared for him a great room, where before they laid the meal offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the wave offerings for the priests-
This "great room", LXX "treasury", was the storehouse and vault for all the valuable things. As explained on :8, Tobiah turned this into his own private residence. The tithes were effectively given to him and not to the Levites; and so this discouraged people from paying them, and the Levites left Jerusalem to farm land which could give them subsistence food. And so the great potentials of Ez. 40-48, where the holiness of the temple chambers is emphasized, were all precluded from fulfilment.

Nehemiah 13:6 But in all this, I was not at Jerusalem; for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king: and after certain days asked I leave of the king-
Whilst Nehemiah writes this to clear himself of any wrong doing, it is also a tacit admission that the reforms and such spirituality as there was were due to his sole influence. Without his personal presence, the people returned to their usual sins.

Nehemiah 13:7 When I returned to Jerusalem-
"Returned" is literally "came". When Nehemiah speaks of them having been redeemed by Yahweh’s “strong hand” (Neh. 1:10), he is using the language of Is. 40:10, regarding how Yahweh would come to Zion and save Israel from Babylon and restore them to the land “with strong hand”. Nehemiah saw the prophecy could have been fulfilled then. The way Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2; Neh. 7:5-7), Ezra (Ezra 7:8; 8:32) and Nehemiah (Neh. 2:11; 13:7) are described as ‘coming to Jerusalem’ may hint that they could have fulfilled this coming of Yahweh to Zion; they could have been Messianic figures (Neh. 2:11; 13:7).

And understood the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing him a room in the courts of God’s house- Tobiah the Ammonite was given a chamber in the temple for him to use as an office for undermining God’s people (Neh. 13:7). This precluded the fulfilment of the restoration prophecies. There were to be “holy chambers” in the temple for the Levites (Ez. 46:19 and very often in Ezekiel 40-48). The uncircumcised Gentiles were not to be brought into the sanctuary (Ez. 44:7). It was God’s intention that when Judah returned from Babylon, the uncircumcised would not come into Zion (the temple), and the Kingdom would be established (Is. 52:1,11). There was to be no Canaanite in the house of Yahweh (Zech. 14:21).

Nehemiah 13:8 it grieved me severely-
Hearts that bleed will feel not only for the world, but for our brethren too. Think of Nehemiah: "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 (Neh. 13:8). His grief led him to discipline Tobiah. Grief should likewise be the motive for ecclesial discipline today (as in 1 Cor. 5:2). The same word is translated "sad" in Neh. 2:3: "Why should not my countenance be sad [grieved], when the city, the place of my fathers sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?". The King observed that his "sorrow of heart" was written all over his face, even though he was trying to conceal it. His sadness for His weak people was engraven in His body language. It could not be hidden, even though he became as it were a fool for Christ’s sake.

Therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the room- He had created a large room out of the temple chambers, and had made it the treasury; and yet he himself lived there. It's rather like a bank manager declaring his own private home as the money storage vault for the bank. Clearly there was an element of corruption involved. "Household stuff" is the same phrase as in the common term "vessels of the house" of Yahweh (e.g. 2 Chron. 24:14). He had made Yahweh's house his house. See on :11.

Nehemiah 13:9 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the rooms; and there brought I again the vessels of God’s house, with the meal offerings and the frankincense-
But there is no mention of the tithes being brought back there (cp. :5) because they were not being paid. This was an attempt to cleanse the temple to try to obey the principle that the house of the restored Kingdom was not to be profaned (Ez. 44:7). But Judah profaned the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:17,18), and profaned the temple by their marriage with Gentiles and their “weariness” with the temple ordinances (Mal. 1:12; 2:10,11). They got bored with the things of the Kingdom, and so they had no part in it. And so the possibility of the fulfilment of Ez. 40-48 was precluded despite Nehemiah's efforts.

Nehemiah 13:10 I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them; so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled everyone to his field-
I suggested on :5 that this was because Tobiah was keeping them for himself. The priests returned to mind their own fields because the tithes weren’t paid to them, and so this precluded the fulfilment of the restoration prophecy of Jer. 31:14: “And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness".

Is. 62:12 had prophesied that "They shall call them The holy people, The redeemed of Yahweh: and you shall be called Sought out, A city not forsaken". But Nehemiah’s record concludes on this negative note that Judah had forsaken Zion. Nobody wanted to live in Jerusalem because of the persecution there; the Levites even went and lived outside it where they had “fields”, because they weren’t given their tithes. Lots had to be drawn to get people to live there (Nehemiah 11:1). It became a ghost town, when it should have been inhabited as a town without walls for the multitudes of returned exiles joyfully dwelling there (Zechariah 2:5). It was God’s intention that ten men (a reference to Israelites of the ten tribes?) would take hold of the skirts of a Jew (i.e. one of Judah) and come with him to worship in the new temple (Zechariah 8:23). But in fact the opposite happened. So few wanted to live in Jerusalem, that the rulers had to cast lots to force one in ten Jews to go and live in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 11:1). And the ten tribes didn’t really unite with Judah, but went off and got lost in the Gentile world.

Nehemiah 13:11 Then I contended with the rulers and said, Why is God’s house forsaken?-
I suggested on :8 that Tobiah had effectively turned God's house into his own house. The people had allowed this to happen, thinking that loyalty to Tobiah was better than strict loyalty to Yahweh. They vowed not to forsake the house of their God, and yet Nehemiah concludes with the record that this is exactly what they did (Neh. 10:39; 13:11). Nehemiah was heartbroken that the temple was “forsaken”, because the “Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field” because the tithes weren’t paid to them. Thus they had precluded the fulfilment of the restoration potential of Jer. 33:18: “Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually”.

I gathered them together, and set them in their place- GNB interprets this as meaning "I brought the Levites and musicians back to the Temple and put them to work again". With the tithes no longer going to Tobiah, they went to the Levites.


Nehemiah 13:12 Then brought all Judah the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the treasuries- This can be read positively, or negatively, in that perhaps the hint is that there were tithes of other things which ought to have been brought, but weren't.

Nehemiah 13:13 I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah. Next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah; for they were counted faithful, and their business was to distribute to their brothers-
This was instead of the tithes coming to the treasury, which Tobiah had made his personal home; and the obvious implication is that he had not been faithful in these things. Effectively this was a rejection of Eliashib the high priest who had previously been over the treasuries (:4). The corruption of the high priest meant that again, the potentials of the high priest in Zechariah's prophecies were being disallowed.

Nehemiah 13:14 Remember me, my God, concerning this, and don’t wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its observances-
Nehemiah seems to have been personally fearful of his own salvation, concluding by throwing himself upon God's grace in :22. He was very works oriented, and it could be that he wrote up his memoirs or autobiography in this book almost to as it were remind God of all his good works. This at best is a spiritually immature attitude. Or we could assume that he here understood that although salvation is by grace, in that we all receive the same penny of salvation no matter how hard we work; it is all the same true that the nature of our eternity will reflect our works. And therefore he asks that his works be remembered. For this principle is true; who we shall eternally be is a reflection of our works in this life. We now in this tiny fraction of eternity are molding the nature of our eternity. Which is a truth to live by absolutely every moment.

Nehemiah asks for his good deeds not to be blotted out just as he asks for the sins of the Samaritan opposition not to be blotted out (Neh. 4:5). He clearly had a legalistic mindset, where good and bad deeds as it were balance each other out. He had not clearly grasped the idea of salvation by pure grace which was offered to sinners who accepted the new covenant which the exiles were being invited to accept.

Nehemiah 13:15 In those days I saw in Judah some men treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day in which they sold food-
Isaiah repeatedly stated that the surrounding nation would come to Zion and share in her joy. Ex. 23:12 had commanded that the Gentile who lived with Israel must keep the Sabbath. If the Jews had not done their pleasure on the Sabbath, then the Messianic Kingdom could have come (Is. 58:13,14). But instead the Gentiles who lived around Jerusalem traded with the Jews on the Sabbath (Neh. 13:16 RSV), they intermarried, and Israel / Zion was not a city set on a hill to enlighten the surrounding world; because they preferred to be influenced by the world around them, rather than vice versa.

Is. 65:21 had prophesied that "They shall build houses and inhabit them themselves; and they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit". But very few houses were built in Zion, because the people preferred to live on their farms, in their cieled houses, outside the city (Nehemiah 7:4). They planted vineyards, but sold the fruit to others- on the Sabbath. Jer. 31:5 had prophesied of the restoration: Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy its fruit”. They did this at the restoration, but became so obsessed with treading out the grapes that they did it even on the Sabbath, and thereby disallowed the fulfilment of the Kingdom  prophecies which were dependent upon them keeping the Sabbath (Is. 58:13).

Nehemiah 13:16 There also lived men of Tyre therein, who brought in fish and all kinds of wares, and sold on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem-
The prophesied abundance of fertility in the land, according to the restoration prophecies, would have removed the need or even attraction of buying delicacies from Gentiles. But they were not interested in obeying the restoration prophecies nor making them come about, and so they were prone to these temptations to trade in luxuries on the Sabbath.


Nehemiah 13:17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah and said to them, What evil thing is this that you do, and profane the Sabbath day?-
The wealthier nobles were particularly involved because it was luxury items such as fish (:16), wine and figs (:15) which were being traded. Judah profaned the Sabbath (:18), and profaned the temple by their marriage with Gentiles and their “weariness” with the temple ordinances (Mal. 1:12; 2:10,11). They got bored with the things of the Kingdom, and so they had no part in it. For the house of the restored Kingdom was not to be profaned (Ez. 44:7).

Nehemiah 13:18 Didn’t your fathers do thus, and didn’t our God bring all this evil on us, and on this city? Yet you bring more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath-
Here and in :26, Nehemiah appeals to historical precedent as a reason not to repeat mistakes. This is how the Bible, which is largely history, becomes a living word to us. The breaking of the Sabbath is repeatedly listed as a major reason for the exile (Jer. 17:21-27; Ez. 20:13; 22:8,26); the land had to lay desolate 70 years to enjoy the Sabbaths she had been denied by such disobedience ( Lev. 26:34,43). This emphasis is perhaps because the Sabbath taught the rejection of all trust in human works, and total faith and trust in God's saving grace. Thus the Sabbath became a unique sign between God and His people; to desecrate it was to deny His grace.

Nehemiah 13:19 It came to pass that, when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut, and commanded that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. I set some of my servants over the gates, so that no burden should be brought in on the Sabbath day-
An indication that Nehemiah could have been a Messiah figure is to be found in Mal. 1:10 RV, which laments that even if one man could be found to shut the temple doors properly, then God’s pleasure would have returned to Israel. It was Nehemiah who shut the doors (Neh. 13:19- i.e. organized the temple services?), but presumably the implication is that he didn’t continue as required.


“The people of the land” hung around the gates of the city on the Sabbath in order to do some trading of goods. By allowing this, the Jews precluded the fulfilment of Ez. 46:3: “Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the LORD in the Sabbaths and in the new moons”. Is. 60:10 had prophesied that "Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you". The reality was that the walls were built from a motive not of glorifying Zion in fulfilment of prophecy, but for defence against the Gentiles.  But the gates had to be shut to keep the Gentiles out, lest they yet further corrupted the Jews who were eager to trade with them on the Sabbath rather than convert them to the God of Israel. Instead of bringing their goods through the gates to lay before Yahweh, they brought in their goods to sell to His people in trade. But returned Judah didn’t act as a nation of priests, the food the Gentiles brought in to Zion was to be sold for profit to the Jews. They failed to be a missionary nation, and rather were mere trading / economic partners on an equal footing [cp. the church today?]. The prophecy that the gates would be always open will now only come true in the future Kingdom of God on earth (Rev. 21:25,26).

Due to the Jews’ abuse of the Sabbath and their refusal to believe Yahweh would be the promised wall of protecting fire to them, the gates could not be open continually, and had to be shut at night (Neh. 7:3; 13:19). And Antiochus quite soon after Nehemiah’s time destroyed them [which shows how the spirituality involved in what we do, e.g. the building of the wall, is the essential thing, rather than the achievement of anything in itself]. The implication of the prophecies about Zion’s open gates was that whosoever would could then come at any time to seek Yahweh. But men were potentially turned away from Him, and His Kingdom not realized... just because greedy, materialistic Jews wanted to have a few more coins in their pocket as a result of their trading on the Sabbath. And so with us, our meanness, our disabling of adverts to be placed, preaching to be done... by our selfishness, our desire to have more than we need to cover us in the case of any eventuality, all this effectively shuts up the Kingdom against men. If the Pharisees could do just this, it is possible for us to do it. The salvation of others has been delegated into our hands.

Nehemiah 13:20 So the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside of Jerusalem once or twice-
The impression we get from here and :21 is that Nehemiah alone scared these people away; again we sense that there was little real spirituality amongst the returned exiles, and Nehemiah was a singular force in reforming things.

Nehemiah 13:21 Then I testified against them and said to them, Why do you stay around the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time on, they didn’t come on the Sabbath-
"I will lay hands..." again suggests as on :20 that Nehemiah alone was threatening action. He appears to have had no significant group of spiritual supporters in the community of returned exiles, again reflecting how the great potentials of the restoration prophecies weren't fulfilled.

Nehemiah 13:22 I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day-
They were to "come" and live in Jerusalem, abandoning the lands they were farming for themselves. This was perhaps why the Levites needed reminding here to keep the Sabbath. The majority of those who did return, only did so in order for purely personal benefit- of having their own house and land. They ‘went up’ to the land, but not to Zion. With reference to Is. 40:9, "get up to the high mountain” of Zion, Hag 1:7-9 exhorted them: “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. Ye looked for much [i.e. they expected the promised Kingdom blessings], and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house”. Their focus was on their own lands and farms rather than the glory of Zion. They stood related to the things of God’s kingdom, but never ventured beyond their own personal self-interest. They would not accept that God manifestation rather than human salvation and pleasure was the essential purpose of their God.

Remember me, my God, for this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your loving grace- Nehemiah was inspired by Samson (Jud. 16:28 = Neh. 13:22,31), implying that despite his tendency to judgmentalism and self-righteousness, he did also appreciate his own desperate weakness and need for grace- perhaps because he finally recognized his self-righteousness.

Nehemiah 13:23 In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab-
The Jews who returned from exile were not spiritually strong. These Gentile peoples had perhaps been moved into Palestine by the Babylonians, or came there to trade.

Nehemiah 13:24 And their children spoke half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people-
This would imply that the Jewish men had married women whose language they didn't understand. There is also the implication that only speaking broken Hebrew was counted as not speaking Hebrew. This language issue would have precluded them from hearing the law of Moses explained or hearing the history of Israel read.

Nehemiah 13:25 I contended with them and cursed them, and struck certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons, or for yourselves-
To have hair plucked off was if Nehemiah was trying to force them to repent; but we cannot force repentance in others, even if we try to force them to go through the external motions of it, in this case, the plucking off of hair as repentance for marriage out of the faith. Ezra rends his clothes and plucks off his hair, as if he has married out of the Faith (Ezra 9:4 cp. Neh. 13:25; likewise the Lord received the same sinner's treatment, Is. 50:6). Jeremiah too speaks as if he has committed Israel's sins; Moses' prayer for God to relent and let him enter the land was only rejected for the sake of his association with Israel's sins (Dt. 3:26). The Lord would have meditated upon the way righteous men had taken upon themselves the sins of their people.

Nehemiah 13:26 Didn’t Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations was there no king like him that was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless foreign women caused even him to sin-
Here and in :18, Nehemiah appeals to historical precedent as a reason not to repeat mistakes. This is how the Bible, which is largely history, becomes a living word to us. And this was the tragedy of the children of the intermarried Jews being unable to read or hear Hebrew; this history wouldn't be available to them. The power of women is here emphasized, as if unbelieving wives are as it were stronger than all the special love of God poured out upon a man. This stands in stark contrast to the prevailing culture, which viewed women as powerless and the man as supremely dominant in a marriage. God's continual warning about the influence of wives is actually a deconstruction of this; and the Jewish men who married Gentile women likely believed in their cultural views of women more than they did God's word. They assumed those women were powerless to influence them. God's word accords far more value and meaning to every human person, including Gentile females.

Nehemiah 13:27 Shall we then listen to you to do all this great evil, in breaking covenant with our God in marrying foreign wives?-
See on :26. Perhaps the nobles had made some official statement that marrying Gentile women was acceptable, and Nehemiah is saying that this should not be listened to. Or perhaps he was saying that their example in marrying these women was effectively a voice beckoning others to do likewise, which should be ignored. For in marital and moral matters, the voice of example is indeed very loud. This verse is in my view the strongest single argument against marriage out of the faith, because it seems to state that in this case, these men would be breaking covenant with Yahweh by marrying those not in that covenant.

Nehemiah 13:28 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 himself was connected by marriage with Tobiah. We have presented here the apostasy of the high priestly family. They had broken covenant with God (:27) and yet were the spiritual leaders of the returned exiles. We are given the impression of deep corruption of the people. This man was chased from Nehemiah, perhaps meaning he was not allowed any place in the leadership.

Nehemiah 13:29 Remember them, my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites-
LXX "for their false connection with the priesthood". The son of Joiada who had married Sanballat's Gentile daughter therefore had no connection with the priesthood, in God's eyes. The "covenant of the priesthood" was "everlasting" (Num. 25:13), just as the old covenant was; but it was eternal from God's side. The fact is that the Levites broke the eternal covenant by their sins. We may query whether Nehemiah's request that their sins be "remembered" was in fact in harmony with God's way of not wishing to "remember" sin against people. And even if He does, why would Nehemiah ask Him to do so? It seems another indication of a somewhat legalistic and judgmental attitude in Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 13:30 Thus I cleansed them from all foreigners, and appointed duties for the priests and for the Levites, each one in his work-
The cleansing seems to have involved making the spiritual leadership break up from their foreign wives. But the idea here may also be that despite the apostasy of the leadership, Nehemiah organized the ordinary priests and Levites to get on with the Lord's work- which is a lesson for us all when spiritual leadership goes wrong morally, or becomes dysfunctional.

Nehemiah 13:31 And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the first fruits-
It was this humble service, which was supposed to be the work of the Nethinim, which nobody much wanted to do. Ezra had had huge problems getting any Levites to come to Jerusalem to do such menial work. Nehemiah had already tried to sort out who would gather firewood in Neh. 10:34; but clearly it remained an abiding problem. As it is to this day; for there are very few real 'workers' amongst the people of God.

Remember me, my God, for good- This repeated and even desperate request to be remembered for good in the last day was perhaps what influenced the penitent thief to ask the same of the dying Lord Jesus.