Reading of the Law; separation from the heathen; tithes given; Sabbath-breaking forbidden; mixed marriages condemned
During Nehemiah's absence, the Israelites' worship of God and the Sabbath observance were neglected. Intermarriage with Canaanite idol worshipers was common. Nehemiah again came . . . to the king, and after certain days obtained . . . leave (permission) of the king: And . . . came to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 13:6-7). He was grieved over the people's disregard of the Law and took firm action to return the nation to God. On that day (that the walls were dedicated) they read in the Book of Moses . . . therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever (13:1).
The greatest evils had been committed by those who held the highest positions of spiritual leadership. Eliashib the priest . . . was allied (through marriage) to Tobiah (an Ammonite). . . . And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite (13:4,28). Other priests had also married Canaanite women.
Added to these sins, Nehemiah understood . . . the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber (room) in the courts of the House (Temple) of God (13:7). This was not only forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 23:3-4), but Tobiah formerly had opposed Nehemiah's work in rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:10,19; 4:3-8; 6:17-19). Nehemiah cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber (room). . . . and. . . . contended . . . with the rulers, and said, Why is the House (Temple) of God forsaken? (13:8-9,11). The reason was obvious. The nobles of Judah had violated the Law by marrying heathen women and consequently had defiled the priesthood (13:29).
Nehemiah continued his reformation while facing much opposition. He warned the people concerning marriage with the Canaanites: You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take their daughters to your sons. . . . Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? . . . him did outlandish (foreign, unbelieving) women cause to sin (13:25-26). Like Nehemiah we too can make a difference in our world by taking a firm stand for what God says is right. He was mightily used of God because he knew the Scriptures and refused to compromise.
Draw near to God. . . . Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded (doubters) (James 4:8).
Reprinted from Bible Pathway International, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Used with Permission.