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;
On that day - Or, "at that time," as in Nehemiah 12:44.
The entire Pentateuch is probably meant by "the Book of Moses".
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.
Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.
A separation like that made by Ezra, some 20 years previously Ezra 10:15-44, seems to be intended. The pagan wives were divorced and sent back, with their offspring, to their own countries.
And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah:
The relations of Eliashib, the high priest Nehemiah 3:1, with Tobiah and Sanballat will account for the absence of any reference to him either in Nehemiah 8-10, or in Nehemiah 12:27-47.
The chamber - The entire outbuilding, or "lean-to," which surrounded the temple on three sides 1 Kings 6:5-10.
Allied - i. e, "connected by marriage." Tobiah was married to a Jewess Nehemiah 6:18, who may have been a relation of Eliashib; and his son Johanan was married to another Nehemiah 6:18, of whom the same may be said.
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.
The offerings of the priests - i e "the portion of the offerings assigned for their sustenance to the priests."
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:
Artaxerxes king of Babylon - See Nehemiah 1:1. Compare Ezra 6:22, where Darius Hystaspis is called "king of Assyria."
After certain days - Or, "at the end of a year," which is a meaning that the phrase often has Exodus 13:10; Leviticus 25:29-30; Numbers 9:22. Nehemiah probably went to the court at Babylon in 433 B.C., and returned to Jerusalem 432 B.C.
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.
And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber.
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.
The chambers - The "great chamber" assigned to Tobiah Nehemiah 13:5 contained, it would seem, more than one apartment.
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.
etc. During Nehemiah's absence there had been a general falling away, and there was danger of a complete national apostasy.
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.
I gathered them together - Nehemiah gathered the Levites from their lands, and reinstated them in their set offices.
Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.
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.
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.
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.
The desecration of the Sabbath is first brought into prominence among the sins of the Jewish people by Jeremiah Jer 17:21-27. It could not but have gained ground during the captivity, when foreign masters would not have allowed the cessation of labor for one day in seven. On the return from the captivity, the sabbatical rest appears to have been one of the institutions most difficult to re-establish.
In the day - Some render, "concerning the day."
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.
Friendly relations subsisted between the Phoenicians and the Jews, after the captivity Ezra 3:7. It was, however, a new fact, and one pregnant with evil consequences, that the Tyrians should have established a permanent colony at Jerusalem. Its influence on the other inhabitants weakened the hold of the Law upon men's consciences, and caused it to be transgressed continually more and more openly.
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?
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.
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.
The gates were closed at the sunset of the day before the Sabbath; since the Sabbath was regarded as commencing on the previous evening.
So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.
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.
The lodging of the merchants with their merchandise just outside Jerusalem during the Sabbath, marked their impatience for the moment when they might bring their wares in. This was thought by Nehemiah to be unseemly, and to have an irreligious tendency.
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.
I commanded the Levites - At first Nehemiah had employed his own retinue Nehemiah 13:19 in the work of keeping the gates. He now assigned the duty to the Levites, as one which properly belonged to them, since the object of the regulation was the due observance of the Sabbath.
In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab:
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.
The speech of Ashdod - The Philistine language, which was akin to that of Egypt.
According to the language of each people - The children spoke a mixed dialect - half-Philistine, half-Hebrew.
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.
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.
Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?
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.
Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites.
Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business;
The wards - Rather, "the offices or observances." Nehemiah's arrangement is probably that described in Nehemiah 11:10-22.
And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.