- The Israelites are separated from the mixt multitude, verse 1-3.
- Nehemiah cleansed the chambers of the temple, verse 4-9.
- He recovers and secures the portion of the priests and Levites, verse 10-14.
- Contends with the nobles concerning the sabbath, and takes care for the due observance of it, verse 15-22.
- Restrains them from marrying strange wives, verse 23-31.
That day - Not presently after the dedication of the wall and city, but upon a certain day, when Nehemiah was returned from the Persian court to Jerusalem, from which he had been absent for some considerable time, in which some errors and abuses had crept in. Not come - Not be incorporated into the common-wealth of Israel, nor be joined with any Israelite in marriage.
Multitude - All the heathenish people with whom they had contracted alliance.
Eliashib - The high-priest. Chamber - Of the chambers, the high-priest having the chief power over the house of God, and all the chambers belonging to it. Tobiah - The Ammonite, and a violent enemy to God's people.
Prepared - By removing the things out of it, uniting divers small chambers into one, and furnishing it for the use of Tobiah when he came to Jerusalem: whom he seems to have lodged there, that he might have more free communication with him.
But, &c. - Eliashib took the occasion of my absence to do these things. Came I - From Jerusalem; where he had been once and again.
Grieved me - That so sacred a place should be polluted by one who in many respects ought not to come there, being no priest, a stranger, an Ammonite, and one of the worst of that people; and that all this should be done by the permission and order of the high-priest.
Not given - Which might be either, 1. from this corrupt high-priest Eliashib, who took their portions, as he did the sacred chambers, to his own use, or employed them for the entertainment of Tobiah, and his other great allies. Or, 2. from the people, who either out of covetousness reserved them to themselves, contrary to their own solemn agreement, or were so offended at Eliashib's horrid abuse of sacred things, that they abhorred the offering and service of God, and therefore neglected to bring in their tithes, which they knew would be perverted to bad uses. Fled - To his possession in the country, being forced to do so for a livelihood.
Contended - I sharply reproved those priests to whom the management of those things was committed, for neglect of their duty, and breach of their late solemn promise. Why, &c. - You have not only injured men in with-holding their dues, but you have occasioned the neglect of God's house and service. Gathered - To Jerusalem from their several country possessions. Set - Restored them to the exercise of their office.
Bought - Out of the respect which they had to Nehemiah, and because they saw they would now be applied to their proper uses.
Faithful - By the consent of those who knew them. Such he now sought out the more diligently, because he had experience of the perfidiousness of the former trustees.
Jerusalem - The holy city, where God's house was; and where the great judicatories of the nation were. So this is added as an aggravation of their sin, that it was done with manifest contempt of God and man.
Nobles - Their chief men and rulers; whom he charges with this sin, because though others did it, it was by their countenance or connivance: probably too by their example. If the nobles allowed themselves in recreations, in idle visits and idle talk on the sabbath day, the men of business would profane it by their worldly employments, as the more justifiable of the two.
At the gates - Out of a diffidence in those, to whom the keeping of the gates was committed.
Cleanse - Because the work they now were set upon, though common in its nature, yet was holy in design of it, and had respect unto the sabbath: and, because the day in which they were to do this was the sabbath-day, for the observation whereof they were obliged to purify themselves. Gates - The gates of the city; not daring to trust the common porters, he commits the charge of them upon the sabbath-days, to the Levites, to whom the care of sanctifying the sabbath did properly belong. Mercy - Whereby he intimates, that though he mentioned his good-works, as things wherewith God was well-pleased, and which he had promised to reward, yet he neither did, nor durst trust to their merit, or his own worthiness, but, when he had done all, he judged himself an unprofitable servant, and one that needed God's infinite mercy to pardon all his sins, and particularly those infirmities and corruptions which adhered to his good deeds.
Cursed - Caused them to be excommunicated and cast out of the society of God's people. This and the following punishments were justly inflicted upon them, because this transgression was contrary both to a plain law of God, and to their own late solemn covenants. Smote - I caused to be beaten with stripes, according to the law, Deuteronomy 25:2, such whose faults were most aggravated; to whom he added this punishment over and above the former. Plucked off - Or, shaved them. The hair was an ensign of liberty among the eastern nations; and baldness was a disgrace, and token of slavery and sorrow.
And one, &c. - Said by Josephus to be that Manasses, who by Sanballat's interest procured liberty to build the Samaritan temple in mount Gerizim; to which those priests who had married strange wives, or been otherwise criminal, betook themselves, and with, or after them, others of the people in the same or like circumstances. Chased - From my presence and court, from the city and temple, and from the congregation and church of Israel.
For good - This may well be the summary of our petitions. We need no more to make us happy but this.