Upon the reading of the law, separation is made from the mixed multitude, 1-3. Nehemiah, at his return, causes the chambers to be cleansed, 4-9. He reforms the offices in the house of God, 10-14; the violation of the sabbath, 15-22; and the marriages with the strange wives, 23-31.
1 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 forever, 2 Because they did not meet the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Baalam against them, so that he would curse them—but 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.
4 And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied to Tobiah. 5 And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where they formerly laid the food-offerings, the frankincense, the vessels, the tithes of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, the singers, and the gatekeepers, and the offerings of the priests. 6 But in all this time I was not at Jerusalem. For in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I came to the king, and after some days I obtained leave of the king. 7 And I came to Jerusalem and discerned the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah in preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8 And it grieved me greatly; therefore, I cast all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. 9 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers. And I brought there again the vessels of the house of God, with the food-offering and the frankincense.
10 And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, for the Levites and the singers who did the work had each fled to his field. 11 Then I contended with the rulers, and said, "Why is the house of God forsaken?" Then I assembled them and set them in their place. 12 Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil to the treasuries. 13 And I made treasurers over the treasuries: Shelemiah the priest, 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 accounted faithful, and their office was to distribute to their brothers. 14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for its offices.
15 In those days I saw in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, bringing in sheaves, and lading donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day. And I testified against them in the day in which they sold provisions. 16 Also men of Tyre dwelt therein who brought fish and all manner of wares and sold on the sabbath to the children of Judah, even in Jerusalem. 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? 18 Did your fathers not do so, and did our God not bring all this evil upon us and upon this city? Yet you bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath."
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 until after the sabbath. And I set some of my servants at the gates, so that there should be no burden brought in on the sabbath day. 20 And the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 Then I testified against them, and said to them, "Why do you lodge in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you." From that time forth they no longer came on the sabbath. 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 your mercy.
23 In those days I also saw Jews who had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab. 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. 25 And I contended with them, cursed them, smote some of them, plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, "You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters to your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did Solomon king of Israel not sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him who was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women even caused him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying foreign wives?" 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 away from me. 29 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites.
30 Thus I cleansed them from all strangers and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, each in his business, 31 And for the wood-offering, at times appointed, and for the first-fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.
Matthew Henry Commentary - Nehemiah, Chapter 13[➚]