Nehemiah, having finished what he undertook for the fencing and filling
of the holy city, returned to the king his master, who was not willing
to be long without him, as appears
But, after some time, he obtained leave to come back again to
Jerusalem, to redress grievances, and purge out some corruptions which
had crept in in his absence; and very active he was in reforming
several abuses, which here we have an account of.
I. He turned out from Israel the mixed multitude, the Moabites and
With a particular indignation, he expelled Tobiah out of the lodgings
he had got in the court of the temple,
II. He secured the maintenance of the priests and Levites to them more
firmly than it had been,
III. He restrained the profanation of the sabbath day, and provided for
the due sanctification of it,
IV. He checked the growing mischief of marrying strange wives,
|The People's Attention to Their Duty.
||B. C. 444.|
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 for
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.
4 And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of
the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah:
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.
6 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.
It was the honour of Israel, and the greatest preservation of their
holiness, that they were a peculiar people, and were so to keep
themselves, and not to mingle with the nations, nor suffer any of them
to incorporate with them. Now here we have,
I. The law to this purport, which happened to be read on that day,
in the audience of the people
on the day of the dedication of the wall, as it should seem, for with
their prayers and praises they joined the reading of the word; and
though it was long after that the other grievances, here mentioned,
were redressed by Nehemiah's power, yet this of the mixed multitude
might be redressed then by the people's own act, for so it seems to be,
Or, perhaps, it was on the anniversary commemoration of that day, some
years after, and therefore said to be on that day. They found a
law, that the Ammonites and Moabites should not be naturalized, should
not settle among them, nor unite with them,
The reason given is because they had been injurious and ill-natured to
the Israel of God
had not shown them common civility, but sought their ruin, though they
not only did them no harm, but were expressly forbidden to do them any.
This law we have, with this reason,
II. The people's ready compliance with this law,
See the benefit of the public reading of the word of God; when it is
duly attended to it discovers to us sin and duty, good and evil, and
shows us wherein we have erred. Then we profit by the discovery when by
it we are wrought upon to separate ourselves from all that evil to
which we had addicted ourselves. They separated from Israel all the
mixed multitude, which had of old been a snare to them, for the
mixed multitude fell a lusting,
These inmates they expelled, as usurpers and dangerous.
III. The particular case of Tobiah, who was an Ammonite, and to whom,
it is likely, the historian had an eye in the recital of the law
and the reason of it,
For he had the same enmity to Israel that his ancestors had, the spirit
of an Ammonite, witness his indignation at Nehemiah
and the opposition he had given to his undertakings,
1. How basely Eliashib the chief priest took this Tobiah in to be a
lodger even in the courts of the temple.
(1.) He was allied to Tobiah
by marriage first and then by friendship. His grandson had married
Probably some other of his family had married Tobiah's, and (would you
think it?) the high priest thought the alliance an honour to his
family, and was very proud of it, though really it was his greatest
disgrace, and what he had reason to be ashamed of. It was expressly
provided by the law that the high priest should marry one of his own
people, else he profanes his seed among his people,
And for Eliashib to contract an alliance with an Ammonite, a
servant (for so he is called) and to value himself upon it,
probably because he has a wit and a beau, and cried up for a fine
was such a contempt of the crown of his consecration as one would not
wish should be told in Gath or published in the streets of Ashkelon.
(2.) Being allied to him, he must be acquainted with him. Tobiah, being
a man of business, has often occasion to be at Jerusalem, I doubt upon
no good design. Eliashib is fond of his new kinsman, pleased with his
company, and must have him as near him as he can. He has not a room for
him stately enough in his own apartment, in the courts of the temple;
therefore, out of several little chambers which had been used for
store-chambers, by taking down the partitions, he contrived to make one
great chamber, a state-room for Tobiah,
A wretched thing it was,
[1.] That Tobiah the Ammonite should be entertained with respect in
Israel, and have a magnificent reception.
[2.] That the high priest, who should have taught the people the law
and set them a good example, should, contrary to the law, give him
entertainment, and make use of the power he had, as overseer of the
chambers of the temple, for that purpose.
[3.] That he should lodge him in the courts of God's house, as if to
confront God himself; this was next to setting up an idol there, as the
wicked kings of old had done. An Ammonite must not come into the
congregation; and shall one of the worst and vilest of the
Ammonites be courted into the temple itself, and caressed there?
[4.] That he should throw out the stores of the temple, to make room
for him, and so expose them to be lost, wasted, and embezzled, though
they were the portions of the priests, merely to gratify Tobiah.
Thus did he corrupt the covenant of Levi, as Malachi complained
at this time,
Well might Nehemiah add
But all this time was not I at Jerusalem. If he had been there,
the high priest durst not have done such a thing. The envious one, who
sows tares in God's field, knows how to take an opportunity to do it
when the servants sleep or are absent,
The golden calf was made when Moses was in the mount.
2. How bravely Nehemiah, the chief governor, threw him out, and all
that belonged to him, and restored the chambers to their proper use.
When he came to Jerusalem, and was informed by the good people who were
troubled at it what an intimacy had grown between their chief priest
and their chief enemy, it grieve him sorely
that God's house should be so profaned, his enemies so caressed and
trusted, and his cause betrayed by him that should have been its
protector and patron. Nothing grieves a good man, a good magistrate,
more than to see the ministers of God's house do any wicked thing.
Nehemiah has power and he will use it for God.
(1.) Tobiah shall be expelled. He fears not disobliging him, fears not
his resentments, or Eliashib's, nor excuses himself from interposing in
an affair that lay within the jurisdiction of the high priest; but,
like one zealously affected in a good thing, he expels the intruder, by
casting forth all his household stuff. He did not seize it for his own
use, but cast it out, that Tobiah, who it is probable was now absent,
when he came again, might have no conveniences for his reception there.
Our Saviour thus cleansed the temple, that the house of
prayer might not be a den of thieves. And thus those that
would expel sin out of their hearts, those living temples, must throw
out its household stuff and all the provision made for it, strip it,
starve it, and take away all those things that are the food and fuel of
lust; this is, in effect, to mortify it.
(2.) The temple stores shall be brought in again, and the vessels of
the house of God put in their places; but the chambers must first
be sprinkled with the water of purification, and so cleansed, because
they had been profaned. Thus, when sin is cast out of the heart by
repentance, let the blood of Christ be applied to it by faith, and then
let it be furnished with the graces of God's Spirit for every good
||B. C. 434.|
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.
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
12 Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new
wine and the oil unto the treasuries.
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.
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
Here is another grievance redressed by Nehemiah.
I. The Levites had been wronged. This was the grievance: their
portions had not been given them,
Perhaps Tobiah, when he took possession of the store-chambers, seized
the stores too, and, by the connivance of Eliashib, converted them to
his own use. The complaint is not that they were not collected from the
people, but that they were not given to the Levites, and the Levites
were so modest as not to sue for them; for the Levites and singers
fled every one to his field. This comes in as a reason either,
(1.) Why their payments were withheld. The Levites were non-residents:
when they should have been doing their work about the temple, they were
at their farms in the country; and therefore the people were little
inclined to give them their maintenance. If ministers have not the
encouragement they should have, let them consider whether they
themselves be not accessory to the contempt they are under, by the
neglect of their business. Or rather,
(2.) It is the reason why Nehemiah soon perceived that their dues had
been denied them, because he missed them from their posts. "Where are
the singers" (said Nehemiah); "why do not they attend according to
their office, to praise God?" "Why, truly, they have gone every one to
his country seat, to get a livelihood for themselves and their families
out of their grounds; for their profession would not maintain them." A
scandalous maintenance makes a scandalous ministry. The work is
neglected because the workmen are. It was not long since the payment of
the salaries appointed for the singers was put into a very good method
and yet how soon did it fail for want of being looked after!
II. Nehemiah laid the fault upon the rulers, who should have taken care
that the Levites minded their business and had all due encouragement
therein. This is required from Christian magistrates, that they use
their power to oblige ministers to do their duty, and people to do
theirs. Nehemiah began with the rulers, and called them to an account:
"Why is the house of God forsaken?
Why are the Levites starved out of it? Why did not you take notice of
this and prevent it?" The people forsook the Levites, which was
and then the Levites forsook their post in the house of God. Both
ministers and people who forsake religion and the services of it, and
magistrates too who do not what they can to keep them to it, will have
a great deal to answer for.
III. He delayed not to bring the dispersed Levites to their
places again, and set them in their stations (as the word
A Levite in his field (clericus in foro--a minister keeping the
market) is out of his station. God's house is his place, and there
let him be found. Many that are careless would do much better than they
do if they were but called upon. Say to Archippus, Take heed to thy
IV. He obliged the people to bring in their tithes,
His zeal provoked theirs; and, when they saw the Levites at their work,
they could not for shame withhold their wages any longer, but honestly
and cheerfully brought them in. The better church-work is done the
better will church-dues be paid.
V. He provided that just and prompt payment should be made of the
Levites' stipends. Commissioners were appointed to see to this
and they were such as were accounted faithful, that is, had
approved themselves so in other trusts committed to them, and so had
purchased to themselves this good degree,
1 Timothy 3:13.
Let men be tried first and then trusted, tried in the less and then
trusted with more. Their office was to receive and pay, to distribute
to their brethren in due season and due proportions.
VI. Having no recompence (it is a question whether he had thanks) from
those for whom he did these good services, he looks up to God as his
Remember me, O my God! concerning this. Nehemiah was a man much
in pious ejaculations; on every occasion he looked up to God, and
committed himself and his affairs to him.
1. He here reflects with comfort and much satisfaction upon what he had
done for the house of God and the offices thereof; it pleased him to
think that he had been any way instrumental to revive and support
religion in his country and to reform what was amiss. What kindness any
show to God's ministers, thus shall it be returned into their own
bosoms, in the secret joy they shall have there, not only in having
done well, but in having done good, good to many, good to souls.
2. He here refers it to God to consider him for it, not in pride, or as
boasting of what he had done, much less depending upon it as his
righteousness, or as if he thought he had made God a debtor to him, but
in a humble appeal to him concerning his integrity and honest intention
in what he had done, and a believing expectation that he would not be
unrighteous to forget his work and labour of love,
Observe how modest he is in his requests. He only prays, Remember
me, not Reward me--Wipe not out my good deeds, not
Publish them, Record them. Yet he was rewarded and his good
deeds were recorded; for God does more than we are able to ask. Note,
Deeds done for the house of God and the offices of it, for the
support of religion and the encouragement of it, are good deeds. There
is both righteousness and godliness in them, and God will certainly
remember them, and not wipe them out; they shall in no wise lose their
|The Charge Respecting the Sabbath.
||B. C. 434.|
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.
17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto
them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the
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.
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.
20 So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged
without Jerusalem once or twice.
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.
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.
Here is another instance of that blessed reformation in which Nehemiah
was so active. He revived sabbath-sanctification, and maintained the
authority of the fourth commandment; and a very good deed this was for
the house of God and the offices thereof, for, where holy time is
over-looked and made nothing of, it is not strange if all holy duties
be neglected. Here is,
I. A remonstrance of the abuse. The law of the sabbath was very strict
and much insisted one, and with good reason, for religion is never in
the throne while sabbaths are trodden under foot. But Nehemiah
discovered even in Judah, among those to whom sabbaths were given for a
sign, this law wretchedly violated. His own eyes were his informers.
Magistrates who are in care to discharge their duty aright will as much
as may be see with their own eyes, and accomplish a diligent
search to find out that which is evil. To his great grief it
appeared that there was a general profanation of the sabbath, that holy
day, even in Jerusalem, that holy city, which was so lately dedicated
1. The husbandmen trod their wine-presses and brought home their corn
on that day
through there was an express command that in earing-time, and in
harvest-time, they should rest on the sabbaths
because then they might be tempted to take a greater liberty, and to
fancy that God would indulge them in it.
2. The carriers loaded their asses with all manner of burdens,
and made no scruple of it, though there was a particular proviso in the
law for the cattle resting
and that they should bear no burden on the sabbath day,
3. The hawkers, and pedlars, and petty chapmen, that were men of Tyre,
that famous trading city, sold all manner of wares on the
and the children of Judah and Jerusalem had so little grace as to buy
of them, and so encourage them in making our Father's day a day of
merchandise, contrary to the law of the fourth commandment, which
forbids the doing any manner of work. No wonder there was a
general decay of religion and corruption of manners among this people
when they forsook the sanctuary and profaned the
II. The reformation of it. Those that are jealous for the honour of God
cannot bear to see his sabbath profaned. Observe in what method this
good man proceeded in his zeal for the sabbath.
1. He testified against those who profaned it,
He not only expressed his own dislike of it, but endeavoured to
convince them that it was a great sin, and showed them the testimony of
the word of God against it. He would not punish it till he had laid
open the evil of it.
2. He reasoned with the rulers concerning it, took the nobles of Judah
to task, and contended with them,
The greatest of men are not too high to be told of their faults by
those whose proper office it is to reprove them; nay, great men should
be, as here, contended with in the first place, because of the
influence they have upon others.
(1.) He charges them with it: You do it. They did not carry
corn, nor sell fish, but,
[1.] They connived at those that did, and did not use their power to
restrain them, and so made themselves guilty, as those magistrates do
who bear the sword in vain.
[2.] They set a bad example in other things. If the nobles allowed
themselves in sports and recreations, in idle visits and idle talk, on
the sabbath day, the men of business, both in city and country, would
profane it by their worldly employments, as more justifiable. We must
be responsible for the sins which others are led to commit by our
(2.) He charges it upon them as an evil thing, for so it is, proceeding
from a great contempt of God and our own souls.
(3.) He reasons the case with them
and shows them that sabbath breaking was one of the sins for which God
had brought judgments upon them, and that if they did not take warning,
but returned to the same sins again, they had reason to expect further
judgments: You bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the
sabbath. Thus Ezra concluded, If we again break thy
commandments, wilt not thou be angry with us till thou hast consumed
3. He took care to prevent the profanation of the sabbath, as one that
aimed only at reformation. If he could reform them, he would not punish
them, and, if he should punish them, it was but that he might reform
them. This is an example to magistrates to be heirs of restraint, and
prudently to use the bit and bridle, that there may be no occasion for
(1.) He ordered the gates of Jerusalem to be kept shut from the evening
before the sabbath to the morning after, and set his own servants
(whose care, courage and honesty, he could confide in) to watch them,
that no burdens should be brought in on the sabbath day, nor late the
night before, nor early in the morning after, lest sabbath time should
be encroached upon,
Those that came in to worship in the courts of the temple were no doubt
admitted to pass and repass, but none that came to sell goods;
they were forced to lodge without the city
where no doubt they wished the sabbath were gone, that they might sell
(2.) He threatened those who came with goods to the gates, who pressed
hard for entrance, telling them that, if they came again, he would
certainly lay hands on them
and this deterred them from coming any more. Note, If reformers will
but put on resolution, more may be done towards the breaking of bad
customs than they can imagine. Vice connived at is indeed a daring
thing, and will bid defiance to counsel and reproof; but it may be made
cowardly, and will be so when magistrates make themselves a terror to
it. The king that sits on the throne of judgment scatters away all
evil with his eyes.
(3.) He charged the Levites to take care about the due sanctifying of
the sabbath, that they should cleanse themselves in the first place,
and so give a good example to the people, and that they should
some of them come and keep the gates,
Because he and his servants must shortly return to court, he would
leave this charge with some that might abide by it, that not only when
he was present, but in his absence, the sabbath might be sanctified.
Then there is likely to be a reformation, in this and other respects,
when magistrates and ministers join their forces. The courage, zeal,
and prudence of Nehemiah in this matter, are here recorded for our
imitation; and we have reason to think that the cure he wrought was
lasting; for, in our Saviour's time, we find the Jews in the other
extreme, over-scrupulous in the ceremonial part of
4. He concludes this passage with a prayer
in which observe,
(1.) The petitions: Remember me (as the thief on the cross,
Lord, remember me); that is enough. God's thoughts to us ward
are very precious,
He adds, Spare me. So far is he from thinking that what he had
done did properly merit a reward in strict justice that he cries
earnestly to God to spare him, as Jeremiah
Take me not away in thy long-suffering
Correct me not in anger, and
Be not a terror to me. Note, The best saints, even when they do
the best actions, stand in need of sparing mercy; for there
is not a just man that doeth good and sinneth not.
(2.) The plea: According to the greatness (or multitude) of
thy mercies. Note, God's mercy is what we must depend upon, and not
any merit of our own, when we appear before God.
|The Dismissal of Strange Wives.
||B. C. 434.|
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.
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?
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.
29 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the
priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the
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.
We have here one instance more of Nehemiah's pious zeal for the
purifying of his countrymen as a peculiar people to God; that was the
thing he aimed at in the use of his power, not the enriching of
himself. See here,
I. How they had corrupted themselves by marrying strange wives. This
was complained of in Ezra's time, and much done towards a reformation,
But, when the unclean spirit is cast out, if a watchful eye be not kept
upon him, he will re-enter; so he did here. Though in Ezra's time those
that had married strange wives were forced to put them away, which
could not but occasion trouble and confusion in families, yet others
would not take warning. Nitimur in vetitum--we still lean towards
what is forbidden. Nehemiah, like a good governor, enquired into
the state of the families of those that were under his charge, that he
might reform what was amiss in them, and so heal the streams by healing
1. He enquired whence they had their wives, and found that many of the
Jews had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab
either because they were fond of what was far-fetched or because they
hoped by these alliances to strengthen and enrich themselves. See how
God by the prophet reproves this,
Judah has dealt treacherously, and broken covenant with God, the
covenant made in Ezra's time with reference to this very thing; he has
profaned the holiness of the Lord by marrying the
daughter (that is, the worshipper) of a strange god.
2. He talked with the children, and found they were children of
strangers, for their speech betrayed them. The children were
bred up with their mothers, and learned of them and their nurses and
servants to speak, so that they could not speak the Jews' language,
could not speak it at all, or not readily, or not purely, but half
in the speech of Ashdod, or Ammon, or Moab, according as the
country was which the mother was a native of. Observe,
(1.) Children, in their childhood, learn much of their mothers.
Partus sequitur ventrem--they are prone to imitate their
(2.) If either side be bad, the corrupt nature will incline the
children to take after that, which is a good reason why Christians
should not be unequally yoked.
(3.) In the education of children great care should be taken about the
government of their tongues, that they learn not the language of
Ashdod, any impious or impure talk, any corrupt communication.
II. What course Nehemiah took to purge out this corruption, when he
discovered how much it had prevailed.
1. He showed them the evil of it, and the obligation he lay under to
witness against it. He did not seek an occasion against them, but this
was an iniquity to be punished by the judge, and which he must by no
means connive at
"Shall we hearken to you, who endeavour to palliate and excuse
it? No, it is an evil, a great evil, it is a transgression against
our God, to marry strange wives, and we must do our utmost to put a
stop to it. You beg that they may not be divorced from you, but we
cannot hearken to you, for there is no other remedy to clear us from
the guilt and prevent infection."
(1.) He quotes a precept, to prove that it was in itself a great sin;
and makes them swear to that precept: You shall not give your
daughters unto their sons, &c., which is taken from
When we would reclaim people from sin we must show them the sinfulness
of it in the glass of the commandment.
(2.) He quotes a precedent, to show the pernicious consequences of it,
which made it necessary to be animadverted upon by the government
Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? The falls of
great and good men are recorded in order that we may take warning by
them to shun the temptations which they were overcome by. Solomon was
famous for wisdom; there was no king like him for it; yet, when he
married strange wives, his wisdom could not secure him from their
snares, nay, it departed from him, and he did very foolishly. He was
beloved of God, but his marrying strange wives threw him out of God's
favour, and went near to extinguish the holy fire of grace in his soul:
he was king over all Israel; but his doing this occasioned the loss of
ten of his twelve tribes. You plead that you can marry strange wives
and yet retain the purity of Israelites; but Solomon himself could not;
even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Therefore let him
that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall when he runs upon
such a precipice.
2. He showed himself highly displeased at it, that he might awaken them
to a due sense of the evil of it: He contended with them,
They offered to justify themselves in what they did, but he showed them
how frivolous their excuses were, and argued it warmly with them. When
he had silenced them he cursed them, that is, he denounced the
judgments of God against them, and showed them what their sin deserved.
He then picked out some of them that were more obstinate than the rest,
and fit to be made examples, and smote them (that is, ordered
them to be beaten by the proper officers according to the law,
to which he added this further mark of infamy that he plucked off
their hair, or cut or shaved it off; for it may so be understood.
Perhaps they had prided themselves in their hair, and therefore he took
it off to deform and humble them, and put them to shame; it was, in
effect, to stigmatize them, at least for a time. Ezra, in this case,
had plucked off his own hair, in holy sorrow for the sin; Nehemiah
plucked off their hair, in a holy indignation at the sinners. See the
different tempers of wise, and good, and useful men, and the divers
graces, as well as divers gifts, of the same Spirit.
3. He obliged them not to take any more such wives, and separated those
whom they had taken: He cleansed them from all strangers, both
men and women
and made them promise with an oath that they would never do so again,
Thus did he try all ways and means to put a stop to this mischief and
to prevent another relapse into this disease.
4. He took particular care of the priests' families, that they might
not lie under this stain, this guilt. He found, upon enquiry, that a
branch of the high priest's own family, one of his grandsons, had
married a daughter of Sanballat, that notorious enemy of the Jews
and so had, in effect, twisted interests with the Samaritans,
How little love had that man either to God or his country who could
make himself in duty and interest a friend to him that was a sworn
enemy to both. It seems this young priest would not put away his wife,
and therefore Nehemiah chased him from him, deprived him,
degraded him, and made him for ever incapable of the priesthood.
Josephus says that this expelled priest was Manasseh, and that when
Nehemiah drove him away he went to his father-in-law Sanballat, who
built him a temple upon Mount Gerazim, like that at Jerusalem, and
promised him he should be high priest in it, and that then was laid the
foundation of the Samaritans' pretensions, which continued warm to our
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain. When Nehemiah had thus
expelled one that had forfeited the honour of the priesthood he again
posted the priests and Levites every one in his business,
It was no loss to them to part with one that was the scandal of their
cloth; the work would be done better without him. When Judas had gone
out Christ said, Now is the Son of Man glorified,
Here are Nehemiah's prayers on this occasion.
(1.) He prays, Remember them, O my God!
"Lord, convince and convert them; put them in mind of what they should
be and do, that they may come to themselves." Or, "Remember them to
reckon with them for their sin; remember it against them." If we take
it so, this prayer is a prophecy that God would remember it against
them. Those that defile the priesthood despise God, and shall be
lightly esteemed. Perhaps they were too many and too great for him to
deal with. "Lord" (says he), "deal thou with them; take the work into
thy own hands."
(2.) He prays, Remember me, O my God!
The best services done to the public have sometimes been forgotten by
those for whom they were done
therefore Nehemiah refers it to God to recompense him, takes him for his
paymaster, and then doubts not but he shall be well paid. This may well
be the summary of our petitions; we need no more to make us happy than
this: Remember me, O my God! for good.