Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
1Now those that sealed [and on the sealed documents] were Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah [i.e., Zedekiah] 2Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3, 4, 5Pashur, Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, Harim, 6Meremoth, Obadiah, Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah: these were the priests. 9And the Levites: both Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10and their brethren, Shebaniah, Hodijah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11Micha, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12, 13, 14Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, Hodijah, Bani, Beninu. The chief of th 15, 16people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zatthu, Bani, Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, Adonijah, 17, 18Bigvai, Adin, Ater, Hizkijah [i.e., Hezekiah], Azzur, Hodijah, Hashum, 19, 20, 21Bezai, Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, Meshezabeel, 22, 23, 24Zadok, Jaddua, Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, Hoshea, Hananiah, Hashub, Hallohesh, 25Pileha, Shobek, Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26and Ahijah, Hanan, Anan, 27Malluch, Harim, Baanah.
28And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinim, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters every one having knowledge and having understanding; 29they clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by [the hand of] Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes; 30And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters 31for our sons: And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the Sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the Sabbath or on the holy day: and that we would leave [i.e., leave the land to lie untilled] the seventh 32year and the exaction [loan] of every debt [hand]. Also [And] we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God; 33for the shewbread [the bread of arrangement], and for the continual meat-offering, and for the continual burnt-offering of the Sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin-offerings, to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. 34And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood-offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law: 35And to bring the first-fruits of our ground, and the first-fruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD: 36also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that 37minister in the house of our God: and that we should bring the first-fruits [beginning] of our dough [groats], and [of] our offerings [oblations], and [of] the fruit of all manner of trees, of [new] wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes [perhaps, and they the Levites pay tithes] in all the cities of our tillage [service]. 38And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take [perhaps, pay] tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes [tithe] unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into 39[belonging unto] the treasure house. For the children [sons] of Israel and the children [sons] of Levi shall bring the offering [oblation] of the corn, of the new wine, and [of] the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
1 Nehemiah 10:31. וּמשָּׂא כָל־יָד [or וּמַשָּא] וְנִטַּשׁ אתהַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִית. The ellipsis is to be filled from Ex. 23:11. וְּהַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּשְׁמְטֶנָּה וּנְטַשְׁתָּהּ, where the pronoun refers to אֶרֶצ of the preceding verse.
2 Nehemiah 10:37. הַמְעַשְׂריִם here and בַּעְשֵׂר in Nehemiah 10:38. (Piel part. and Hiph. inf. of עָשַׂר), if we follow the analogy of Deut. 14:22, and 26:12, must refer to the paying and not to the receiving tithes.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Nehemiah 10:1–8. Because of these twenty-three names fifteen are supposed to be found in the list (Nehemiah 12:1–7) of the priests who came with Zerubbabel in the preceding century, it is held by many that this list contains only family names, and that these families were represented by descendants in the signing, Ezra, for example, signing for his ancestor Seraiah. But as we find Nehemiah in the list, and also the very Levites (Nehemiah 10:9–13), who individually stood upon the stairs on the 24th of Tisri (Nehemiah 9:4, 5), it is better to suppose that the similarity of the names is accidental, and that family names only occur in the list of the people, Nehemiah 10:14–27, if even there. The only alternative is harsh in two features: first, that the Levites on the stairs should be called, in a plain historical statement, by their family names; and secondly, that family names and personal names should be so strangely mixed. Moreover, it is to be noted that the family names of chap. 7 and of Ezra 2. are not all repeated here. We have abundant evidence of the very common use of the same names among the Israelites, and a theory, which that fact will explain, seems the easier one here.
Nehemiah 10:9–27. See above note.
Nehemiah 10:28. The rest of the people,i.e., besides the chiefs given in Nehemiah 10:14–27. The word rest (Heb. shear) seems to carry its force to the other classes enumerated, to wit, the rest of the priests, etc.; that is, besides those enumerated. Every one having knowledge and having understanding.—This evidently qualifies the general phrase before it. Not all the rest, but those who had knowledge and understanding, joined their brethren in the reform.
Nehemiah 10:29. Clave to their brethren, their nobles.—That is, to their brethren, the chiefs above mentioned. Commandments,etc.—See on Nehemiah 9:13, 14.
Nehemiah 10:31. We would leave the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.—The verb natash (leave) here seems to have a pregnant meaning. We would leave fallow the land each seventh year (comp. Exod. 23:11), and remit at that time (lit.) the debt of every hand. See Deut. 15:2.
Nehemiah 10:32. The third part of a shekel.—This tax, thus first laid, became afterward a half shekel. (See Matt. 17:24, where the Greek is didrachma,i.e., a half shekel.) The half shekel tax of Ex. 30:13 is another matter, not an annual tax, but ransom money to be taken at a census as a mark of the Lord’s ownership.
Nehemiah 10:33. The shew-bread.—Heb. lehem hammaareketh (bread of arrangement). The older phrase is lehem happanim (bread of the face). The continual meat-offering.—Heb. minhath hattamidh.—The continual burnt-offering.—Heb. olath hattamidh. So the shew-bread is called lehem hattamidh (Num. 4:7). So called as oft-recurring in distinction from the occasional offerings. Here, as we see, the offerings are those of each day, of the sabbaths, and of the new moons.—The set feasts are mentioned separately with lamedh (for).
Nehemiah 10:34. For the wood-offering.—Heb. kurban haetzim. The feast of the wood-offering (Josephus, B. J., II. 17, 6) on the 14th of Ab arose from this institution of Nehemiah. It was the day when those assigned to the duty brought in the wood for the altar. (See Lev. 6:12)
Nehemiah 10:35. The first fruits of all fruits of all trees.—See Lev. 19:24 and comp. Deut. 26:2.
Nehemiah 10:36. The first born of our sons.—That is, by bringing redemption-money, as ordered in Numb, 18:15, 16. Cattle.—Heb. behemoth. Here unclean beasts, as contrasted with the herds and flocks below. These were also redeemed. (See Num. l. c.)
Nehemiah 10:37. First fruits of our dough (groats or ground meal).—See Num. 15:20. Offerings—i.e., all special offerings. Chambers.—Heb. lishcoth. The cells or chambers in the courts of the temple. Might have the tithes.—Many read might pay tithes, anticipating the statement of the next verse. Tillage.—There may be a reasonable doubt whether anodhah ever means tillage, unless, as in 1 Chron. 27:26, it is qualified by another noun. It may mean here “service” in the relation of servants to God, as elsewhere. To suppose that the cities of work or service must mean the country towns, is scarcely credible.
Nehemiah 10:38. To the chambers, Into the treasure house.—Rather, to the chambers of the treasure house, one of the buildings in the temple area. The tithe of the tithes belonged to the priests (Num. 18:26–28), the children of Aaron.
HISTORICAL AND ETHICAL
1. The natural leaders of a people are largely responsible for the people’s conduct. The priests, Levites, and chiefs, the nobles of the nation readily find a following. Nehemiah, as Tirshatha, puts his own name first to the solemn reform-document, and then he causes the nobles to set their names to the instrument. A reform begun the other way in the lower circles of society is apt to degenerate into the excesses of revolution. The healing Salt should be thrown in at the sources of the streams, if the waters are to be cured.
2. The points specially indicated, wherein the reform was most pressing, are (1) marriage alliances, (2) Sabbath-observance, (3) usury, (4) temple-taxes of the third part of a shekel, of first-fruits and of tithes. On these points we may believe the people had been especially remiss. They were the points where their covetousness would operate to undermine their piety, and thus the integrity of the commonwealth. Was not that, which has become a distinctive trait of the Israelitish race, already in Nehemiah’s time beginning to develop itself?
3. When a people grow remiss in the support of religious privileges, the foundations of society are shaken: The moral tone of any people can only be cultivated and sustained by systematized methods, for natural depravity must take advantage of the lack of discipline, and prove too strong for morality. Religion, in any true and high sense, is an exotic, and must be tenderly cared for in this sin-grown earth. The zeal of Nehemiah and other reformers for the thorough establishment of religious rites is a wise example to all who come after them. Where the state cannot enforce such a result, public opinion can be made.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Nehemiah 10:1. To what the consideration of the Lord’s faithfulness to the covenant leads us: 1) To penitence and conversion which shows itself through obedience. 2) To faith—particularly in the fact that the Lord always keeps His covenant with us, and that it is only necessary that we on our part should confirm and maintain it. 3) To hope that the Lord will set us free, and evermore aid us to the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Nehemiah 10:31, 32. The principal duties of the congregation and its members: 1) To keep themselves unspotted, and particularly separated from the world. 2) To practice communion with the Lord, and especially in the way that is beneficial to us in this mortal state. BEDE: Porro sabbatismus orationum ac devotionis nostrœ, in qua vacamus a temporalibus agendis, ut œternitatis gaudia dulcius gustare mereamur, recte diei septimo adsignatur quia futurœ quietem vitœ ac beatœ laudationis imitatur: sed diem sabbathi alienigenœ quœrunt profanare, cum terrcnœ cogitationes in tempore nostrœ orationis importune nos conturbant, et memoria sive delectatione temporalium rerum ab amore intimo nituntur extrahere.—Imponunt asinis vinum, uvas et ficus et omne onus, et inferunt in Hierusalem, cum oblectamentis carnalibus stultos animi nostri motus onerantes, per hœc et hujus modi tentamenta quietem nostri cordis deo debitam violare conantur. Comp. Nehemiah 13:15.
Nehemiah 10:33–40. The tasks to which each member of the congregation must submit himself. 1) The offerings which must be made directly to the Lord for the erection of His buildings, expenses of the service, etc. 2) The doing that which assists the servants of the Lord. STARKE: My God! I remember that I too made a covenant with Thee at my baptism. I beseech thee seal the same also in me, and give me in my heart the pledge, the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:21, 22; 2 Cor. 5:5). We must not only ourselves have a Christian zeal for true religion, but also incite others to it, and admonish them (Heb. 10:24; Ps. 49:2). Marriages with the godless are displeasing to God, and dangerous (1 Tim. 2:14). Nothing must be so near to us that it withdraws us from the service of God.
Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah,