King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Nehemiah 13

Nehemiah turns out the mixed multitude. (1-9) Nehemiah’s reform in the house of God. (10-14) Sabbath-breaking restrained. (15-22) The dismissal of strange wives. (23-31)

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Nehemiah turns out the mixed multitude

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 ever;

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 to 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.

Nehemiah’s reform in the house of God

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 their place.

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 offices thereof.

Sabbath-breaking restrained

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 sabbath day?

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.

The dismissal of strange wives

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 Levites.

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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. That day, is often used for an indefinite time. H. — It is not probable that all this happened when the walls were dedicated. After that event, Nehemias rather went to court, and remained there about ten years. During his absence, many abuses crept in, which he endeavoured to remedy, (v. 7.) perhaps on the solemn day of tabernacles, when the law had been read. — Ever, (Deut. xxiii. 3.) so as to marry. C.

Ver. 3. Stranger. Heb. hereb, “mixture,” (H.) infidel women and their offspring.

Ver. 4. Over this things, &c. Or, he was faulty in this thing, or in this kind. Ch. — He was the source of all this evil. Heb. “and before this Eliasib,” &c. It is probable that he was a different person from the high priest, (Usher) who had married his grandson to the daughter of Sanaballat, the intimate friend of Tobias. C. — The latter was a persecutor, and prefigured heretics, as Nehemias did our Saviour, who drove traffickers out of the temple. V. Bede in Esd. L. iii. 19. W.

Ver. 5. He. Eliasib, or Tobias. The original is also ambiguous. Eliasib probably permitted Tobias to furnish himself apartments in the temple, where, by law, he was not allowed to enter. Hence the priests, being deprived of their support, were forced to retire. C. — Tobias rented the apartments, and was steward of the priests’ revenues. T.

Ver. 6. Days. Prefixed (C. ii. 6.) I asked. Heb. “was required to attend by the king,” for about ten years. After which period, I returned and found such disorders. Some believe that Nehemias had been at Babylon, a long while before the 32d year of the king.

Ver. 8. And I. Nehemias acted as governor, and performed the duty which the high priest neglected. C.

Ver. 9. Storehouses, which had been profaned by the presence of a pagan. M. — Sacrifice. Heb. mincha, “offerings of flour, fruits, and liquors,” which were kept in the storehouses, as well as frankincense. Eliasib had caused these things to be removed, to make place for Tobias. C.

Ver. 10. Country. Heb. “field,” that he might cultivate it, (H.) and get food. M.

Ver. 11. Pleaded. Accusing them of treachery, in not opposing the wicked attempt. — Have we. He placed himself in the number of the guilty, in order to soften the reproach. Sept. &c. C. — “Why is the house of God forsaken?” Prot.

Ver. 14. And his. Heb. “its offices,” and for the good of the sacred ministers. H.

Ver. 15. Treading. Syr. and Arab. “travelling.”

Ver. 16. Tyrians. Who had established themselves there, for the sake of commerce, though the chosen people ought to have kept them at a great distance, for fear of seduction. C.

Ver. 18. Fathers. Though warned by Jeremias, xvii. 21. M.

Ver. 19. At rest. People travelling no longer. C. — Heb. “shaded, or in the dark.” Before Friday night on, the sabbath commenced, and then the gates were shut. H. — On the. Heb. “before the sabbath.” M.

Ver. 21. On you. To punish you, (C.) for thus endeavouring to tempt the people. H.

Ver. 22. Gates. The Levites would more conscientiously discharge their duty, (M.) and restrain the people, so that they might keep the day holy. H.

Ver. 23. Azotus. In the country of the Philistines.

Ver. 24. Half. In the same family, some spoke the Philistine (Vatable) or Phenician language: others the Hebrew; which, though it resembled the other very much, was still sufficiently distinct to be noticed. The children might also speak a jargon, composed of both languages. It is probable that, at this time, many of the common people spoke the Chaldee language, so that it was necessary to interpret pure Hebrew to them. C. viii. 8.

Ver. 25. Curse, or excommunicated them, (C.) the guilty parents. H. — Shaved. Heb. and Sept. “plucked off their hair,” by the roots, for greater torment. Sometimes quicklime was then sprinkled on the head, (C.) as adulterers were treated at Athens. Schol. Aristoph. — King Artaxerxes changed this punishment, and ordered that his officers should be forbidden to wear the tiara instead. Domitian caused the hair and beard of Apollonius to be shaven. Philost. iii. 14. C. — That they. Heb. “Ye shall not,” &c.

Ver. 27. Also be. Heb. “hearken unto you;” (Prot. H.) or “Have ye not heard the evils which fell upon our fathers (C.) for doing all?” &c. H.

Ver. 28. One. Manasses, brother of Jaddus. Joseph. xi. 8. — Sanaballet, noted for his enmity towards the Jews. C. vi. 1. He obtained leave of Alexander to build the famous temple on Garizim, for this son-in-law. He must have been 150 yeas old when Alexander laid siege to Tyre, A. 3672. Esdras and Nehemias were noted for their great age. Yet some would suppose that there were tow of the name of Sanaballet; and Josephus says that the one in question was appointed governor of Samaria by Darius, the last king of the Persians. This opinion is adopted by Usher, A. 3972. T. &c. — But there is still a difficulty to know whether it be necessary. C. — From me. In revenge he set up an opposition altar. H. — He had contracted a marriage, which was unlawful for all, and entailed degradation upon priests.

Ver. 31. Wood. Conformably to the regulations mentioned, C. x. 34. C. — Good. A just man may confidently beg for a reward. W. — Amen, is not found in Heb. &c. The Holy Spirit records the praises of Nehemias. Eccli. xlix. 15. His political and moral virtues must ever assign him an exalted rank among the true Israelites. Like Jesus Christ, he rebuilt Jerusalem, reformed the nation, was the mediator of a new covenant, defended the rights of the priesthood and of all the people. C.