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Nehemiah the Insecure (Nehemiah 13)

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CHAPTER 13 Nov.25 
The Mixed Multitude Separated from Israel
On that day 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, 2because 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. 3It came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude. 
Nehemiah Makes Other Changes
4Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the rooms of the house of our God, being allied to Tobiah, 5had 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. 6But 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. 7When I returned to Jerusalem, and understood the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing him a room in the courts of God’s house, 8it grieved me severely: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the room. 9Then 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. 10I 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. 11Then I contended with the rulers and said, Why is God’s house forsaken? I gathered them together, and set them in their place. 12Then brought all Judah the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the treasuries. 13I 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. 14Remember 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. 
Abuses of the Sabbath
15In 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. 16There 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. 17Then I contended with the nobles of Judah and said to them, What evil thing is this that you do, and profane the Sabbath day? 18Didn’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.
The Sabbath Sanctified
19It 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. 20So the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside of Jerusalem once or twice. 21Then 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. 22I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day. Remember me, my God, for this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your loving grace. 
Foreign Influences Removed
23In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: 24and 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. 25I 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. 26Didn’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. 27Shall we then listen to you to do all this great evil, in breaking covenant with our God in marrying foreign wives? 28One 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. 29Remember them, my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites. 30Thus I cleansed them from all foreigners, and appointed duties for the priests and for the Levites, each one in his work; 31and for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the first fruits. Remember me, my God, for good.


13:1 Their ignorance of God’s word seems amazing (cp. 8:17). This may partly be because in an illiterate society, access to God’s word depended upon the few literate ones reading it and faithfully explaining it to them. We note that despite ignorance of parts of God’s word, and thereby disobedience to them (and sins of ignorance were still counted as sins), God still accepted them. This shouldn’t lead us to personal complacency, but to tolerance and patience with those who are disobedient to and even ignorant of parts of God’s word.
13:7-9 In the restored Kingdom, 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). Yet Tobiah the Ammonite was given a chamber in the temple for him to use as an office for undermining God’s people. All this wasted potential is so tragic; and if it is to us who read from such a great distance in time and understanding, how much more was it for God. We can therefore sense His eagerness to work with us who have vowed to be His new Israel and become the seed of Abraham through baptism (Gal. 3:27-29). 
13:8 It grieved me severely- Hearts that bleed will feel not only for the world, but for our brethren too. 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 2:3. 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. Instead of being naggingly critical of our brethren, there should be this genuine grief.
13:17,18 The house of the restored Kingdom was not to be profaned (Ez. 44:7); but Judah profaned the Sabbath 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.
13:19 Is. 60:10,11 had foretold: “And the sons of strangers shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister unto you [as happened in the decree of Cyrus]...Therefore your gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night”; and then as Ez. 43 had also described, “I will glorify the house of My glory” (Is. 60:7). But 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 (see too 7:3). 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 wished 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 towards God’s word, 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.  
13:19,20 Ez. 46:3 had predicted that “The people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the Yahweh in the Sabbaths and in the new moons”. But encouraged by the materialism of the Jews, “the people of the land” hung around the gates of the city on the Sabbath in order to do some trading of goods. Petty materialism was one factor which led even to Christ’s betrayal; and it so easily does so time and again in the lives of God’s children.
13:27 Nehemiah stridently criticized Israel for yet again marrying Gentiles. He described their action as "breaking covenant with our God in marrying strange wives"; the Levites likewise "defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood" (:29) by their marriages. Marriage out of the Faith is this serious; it is a breaking covenant with God.