Dave Burnette's Commentary

Nehemiah Chapter 13

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Nehemiah
Date Penned: (445-432 BC)
Overview:  The Return of the 3rd Group of Jewish Exiles (c 1-13)
Theme: Reforming the People (c 8-13)
Message: Foreigners Are Expelled (1-31)

Nehemiah 13 Commentary 

(13:3) Ammonites and Moabites -  "All the mixed multitude" refers to the Ammonites and Moabites, two nations who were bitter enemies of Israel (13:1). God's law clearly stated that these two peoples should never be allowed in the temple (Deuteronomy 23:3-5). This had nothing to do with racial prejudice, because God clearly loved all people, including foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:18). He allowed foreigners to make sacrifices (Numbers 15:11-16), and he desires all nations to know and love him (Isaiah 42:6). But while God wants all to come to him, he warns believers to stay away from those bent on evil (Proverbs 24:1). The relationships established between Jews and pagans had caused the captivity of God's people in the first place. In their celebration and rededication, they had to show they were serious about following God's law.

(13:6-7) Nehemiah Returns to Babylon - Nehemiah had to return to Babylon in 433 BC, 12 years after he had arrived in Jerusalem. Either he was recalled by Artaxerxes or he was fulfilling an agreement to return. It is not known exactly how long he remained in Babylon, but when he returned to Jerusalem (13:7), he found that one of his major opponents in rebuilding the wall, Tobiah, had been given his own room at the temple. Tobiah was an Ammonite (4:3) and thus forbidden to enter the temple. Eliashib, the priest, was a relative of Tobiah, so Tobiah used his influence to get this special room. Nehemiah 2, 4, and 6 tell about Tobiah's opposition to Nehemiah and Nehemiah's appropriate action.

(13:10) Supporting the Ministry of the Church -  Because the Levites were no longer supported, they had returned to their farms to support themselves, neglecting their temple duties and the spiritual welfare of the people. Spiritual workers and ministers deserve their pay, and their support ought to be enough to care for their needs. They shouldn't have to suffer (or leave) because believers don't adequately support them.

(13:16) Tyre - Tyre was a large Phenician city and port on the Mediterranean Sea.

(13:17) Observing the Sabbath - God had commanded the Israelites not to work on the Sabbath but rather to rest in remembrance of Creation and the Exodus (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15). The Sabbath rest, lasting from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, was to be honored and observed by all Jews, servants, visiting foreigners, and even farm animals. Jerusalem's busy Sabbath trade directly violated God's law, so Nehemiah commanded that the city gates be shut and traders be sent home every Friday afternoon as the Sabbath hours approached.

(13:24) Ashdod and Ammon - Ashdod was on the Mediterranean coast, in the region controlled by the Philistines. Ammon and Moab were across the Jordan to the east. These nations were hated by those who knew Israel's history.

(13:25) Disobedience After Nehemiah's Departure - Nehemiah was filled with righteous indignation at the blatant way the Jews were breaking God's laws and disregarding the covenant they had reaffirmed such a short time before (10:30; see also Ezra 

10:3). The people had promised not to allow their children to marry pagans. But during Nehemiah's absence, the people had been intermarrying, breaking their solemn covenant agreement with God. Nehemiah's severe treatment of these people shows the contrast between his great faithfulness to God and the people's neglect, disobedience, and disloyalty.

(13:26) Nehemiah Teaches the People - Nehemiah used the example of Solomon's mistakes to teach his people. If one of the greatest kings of Israel could fall because of the influence of unbelievers, others could too. Nehemiah saw this principle in Solomon's example: Your gifts and strengths won't be of much benefit if you fail to deal with your weaknesses. Although Solomon had been a great king, his marriages to foreign women had brought tragedy to the whole kingdom. A tendency to sin must be recognized and dealt with swiftly; otherwise, it may overpower you and bring you down. One important reason to read the Bible is to learn from the mistakes of God's people.

(13:31) For Good -  "Remember me . .. for good" means "look favorably on me for all that I have done.'

(13:31) Principles from Nehemiah - Nehemiah's life story provides many principles of effective leadership that are still valid today: (1) Have a clear purpose and keep evaluating it in light of God's will. Nothing prevented Nehemiah from staying on track. (2) Be straightforward and honest. Everyone knew exactly what Nehemiah needed, and he spoke the truth even when it made his goal harder to achieve. (3) Live above reproach. The accusations against Nehemiah were empty and false. (4) Be a person of constant prayer, deriving power and wisdom from your contact with God. Everything Nehemiah did glorified God. Leadership appears glamorous at times, but it is often lonely, thankless, and filled with pressure to compromise values and standards. Nehemiah was able to accomplish a huge task against incredible odds because he learned that there is no success without risk of failure, no reward without hard work, no opportunity without criticism, and no true leadership without trust in God. This book is about rebuilding the wall of a great city, but it is also about spiritual renewal--rebuilding a people's dependence on God. When we take our eyes off God, our lives begin to crumble. ancient societies had toward women. Respect between men and women comes from mutual regard and appreciation for each other as people created in God's image, not from legal pronouncements or orders. Many societies and cultures still do not recognize this today. Forced obedience does not encourage the love and respect wives and husbands should have for each other.


Dave Burnette's Life Application

Living a Successful Christian Life

 Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue in the book of Nehemiah with Chapter 13 and we see the foreigners expelled, people supporting the Levites, a re-institution of the Sabbath, and Nehemiah opposing marriage to heathens. In looking at this chapter and the complete book of Nehemiah we can make so many applications in our relationship with the Lord. From Worship to Prayer, to Giving, to Living, we see a road map for a successful Christian life. Many people have questions on how to live a Christian life and the answers are all in the Bible. How about you? Do you see the application of Scriptures to live a successful Christian Life? Let us learn from our text today, the book of Nehemiah, and the complete Bible to understand how to live a successful Christian life.   


Nehemiah 13

Nehemiah 13

 1On 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;

 2Because 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.

 3Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.

 4And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah:

 5And 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.

 6But 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:

 7And 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.

 8And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff to Tobiah out of the chamber.

 9Then 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.

 10And 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.

 11Then 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.

 12Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.

 13And 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.

 14Remember 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.

 15In 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.

 16There 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.

 17Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?

 18Did 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.

 19And 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.

 20So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.

 21Then 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.

 22And 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.

 23In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab:

 24And 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.

 25And 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.

 26Did 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.

 27Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?

 28And 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.

 29Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites.

 30Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business;

 31And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.