Nehemiah 10:31
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 the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.
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(31) Or on the holy day.—On the great festivals, equally with the Sabbath days of rest.

Leave the seventh year.—The Sabbatical year naturally follows; in it the ground should be left untilled.

The exaction of every debt.—The “Lord’s release” of the seventh year (Deuteronomy 15:2).

Nehemiah 10:31. And if the people of the land — The heathen; bring ware or victuals on the sabbath day to sell, we would not buy it — They not only would not sell goods themselves for gain on that day, but they would not encourage the heathen to sell by buying of them, no, not victuals, under pretence of necessity, but would buy in their provisions for their families the day before. They that covenant to keep all the commandments of God, must particularly covenant to keep the sabbath holy. For the profanation of this is a sure inlet to all manner of profaneness. Or on the holy day — That is, on days of rest from labour, such as the passover, the first and seventh day of unleavened bread, Exodus 12:16, the feast of trumpets, Leviticus 23:25, and others. And that we would leave the seventh year — Let the land rest from ploughing or tilling in that year, and leave the fruit of it, which grew of itself, for the poor, as the law required. See the margin. And the exaction of every debt — Would remit, in that year, the debts owed by the poor. The Hebrew משׂא כל יד, masse cal jad, is literally, the burden of every hand. Debts may be so called, because they are commonly contracted or confirmed by a bill, declaration, or promise, given under the debtor’s hand. Or the meaning is, as in Isaiah 58:6, that they engage to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break off every yoke.

10:1-31 Conversion is separating from the course and custom of this world, devoting ourselves to the conduct directed by the word of God. When we bind ourselves to do the commandments of God, it is to do all his commandments, and to look to him as the Lord, and our Lord.Bring ware ... on the sabbath day - Compare Nehemiah 13:16, where this desecration of the Sabbath is shown to have commonly taken place.

Leave the seventh year ... - i. e., "let the land rest in the sabbatical year" (margin reference) and give up the "pledge-taking" Nehemiah 10:2-10.

Ne 10:29-39. Points of the Covenant.

29-37. to observe and do all the commandments, &c.—This national covenant, besides containing a solemn pledge of obedience to the divine law generally, specified their engagement to some particular duties, which the character and exigency of the times stamped with great urgency and importance, and which may be summed up under the following heads: that they abstain from contracting matrimonial alliances with the heathen; that they would rigidly observe the sabbath; that they would let the land enjoy rest and remit debts every seventh year; that they would contribute to the maintenance of the temple service, the necessary expenses of which had formerly been defrayed out of the treasury of the temple (1Ch 26:20), and when it was drained, given out from the king's privy purse (2Ch 31:3); and that they would make an orderly payment of the priests' dues. A minute and particular enumeration of the first-fruits was made, that all might be made fully aware of their obligations, and that none might excuse themselves on pretext of ignorance from withholding taxes which the poverty of many, and the irreligion of others, had made them exceedingly prone to evade.

That we would leave the seventh year, i.e. leave the land at rest from ploughing or tilling it in that year, according to God’s command, Exodus 23:10,11 Le 25:4.

The exaction of every debt, Heb. hand: debts are called hands, because they are commonly contracted or confirmed by a bill under the hand of the debtor.

And if the people of the land bring ware,.... Any thing to be sold, any sort of goods, that being sold might be taken away, as the word signifies:

or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell; anything to make food of; wheat or barley, as Aben Ezra interprets it; the same word is rendered corn; see Gill on Genesis 42:1; to sell which was not lawful on the sabbath day, see Amos 8:5

that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day; any festival, as the feast of the passover, pentecost, and tabernacles:

and that we would leave the seventh year: the ground untilled in that year, the vines unpruned, and the fruits of the earth, which sprung of themselves, for the poor to gather, Leviticus 25:4,

and the exaction of every debt; that they would not demand the payment of any debt on the seventh year, as the law required they should not, Deuteronomy 15:2.

And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, {f} that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.

(f) Which nonetheless they broke soon after, Ne 13:15.

31. Prohibition of Traffic on the Sabbath; and Observance of Sabbatic Year

people] R.V. peoples. ‘The peoples of the land (’ammey haârec̣) are the heathen dwellers in the land. The title ‘the people of the land’ (’am haârec̣) was used in later days of the unlearned multitude ‘which knoweth not the law’ (John 7:49).

ware] The Hebrew word occurs only here in the O.T. (LXX. ἀγορασμούς, Vulg. ‘venalia’).

on the sabbath day] The prohibition is not found in so many words in the Pentateuch. But it represents the natural expansion of the command to keep the Sabbath holy. Pollution would most easily be contracted by the interchange of wares with the heathen.

Complete abstention from such occupation was the only safeguard for the purity of the people, as well as for the observance of the Sabbath as a day of rest, cf. Nehemiah 13:15. This abstention was practised in the kingly period in respect of the sabbath and the new-moon days. Amos 8:5, ‘When will the new moon be gone that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat?’

on the holy day] R.V. on a holy day. The days set apart to be observed as ‘holy-days’ are described in Numbers 28, 31.

That these were to be observed as ‘days of rest,’ and were thus on the same footing with the Sabbath-days argues the acquaintance of the writer with the Levitical Law of the Priestly Code.

leave] R.V. forgo. The same word that is used in Exodus 23:11 for ‘let lie fallow.’ LXX. ἀνήσομεν.

the seventh year] See Exodus 23:10-11, ‘And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the increase thereof; but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest (marg. ‘release it’) and lie fallow.’ This observance of the Sabbatic year is not referred to in the Deuteronomic Law which only speaks of it as the year of release from debt (Deuteronomy 15). But the Priestly Law in Leviticus 25:2-7 enters with some minuteness into the agricultural ‘rest’ of the seventh year. This regulation was not, for practical reasons, scrupulously carried out; its neglect is the subject of rebuke, Leviticus 26:34-35; Leviticus 26:43; 2 Chronicles 36:21. It seems to have been observed in later times, cf. 1Ma 6:49; 1Ma 6:53; Jos. Ant. xi. 8. 6, xiii. 8. 1, &c. Tacitus, who is prejudiced against the Jews, attributes the custom to national laziness, Hist. Nehemiah 10:4.

and the exaction of every debt] This is a technical expression taken from Deuteronomy 15:2, and constitutes the expansion, for the requirements of a more developed time, of the principle laid down in the agricultural Law of the Sabbatic Year (Exodus 23). By a common error it has been supposed that debts were on this year altogether remitted. The analogy of the ‘fallow’ land shows that the debts remained, but were not exacted; payment was ‘hung up’ for a whole year. Some render ‘the exaction of every man’s pledge.’ The versions are literal, LXX. ἀπαίτησιν πάσης χειρός. Vulg. ‘exactionem universae manus.’ The remission of ‘the exaction of debt’ on the seventh or Sabbatic year is found in the Deuteronomic, but not in the Levitical Laws. The covenant to which the Israelites were now subscribing did not rest on a Levitical code alone, but recognised the authority of other portions of the Pentateuch.

This is one indication among others that the Law, which Ezra administered, contained substantially all the component parts of our Pentateuch, though not necessarily every item, as we now have it, in each component part.

Verse 31. - If the people of the land bring ware ... on the sabbath. If the heathen of this region will insist on bringing their wares into our cities and offering them for immediate sale on the sabbath, we Jews bind ourselves not to deal with them on that day. Subsequently, Nehemiah carried out more stringent regulations (Nehemiah 13:15-22). Or on the holy day. Rather, "or on a holy day." The people bind themselves to abstain from trade not only on the sabbath, but on any holy day. That we would leave the seventh year. By "leaving the seventh year," leaving the lands untilled every seventh or sabbatical year is meant. This precept of the law had been frequently neglected during the times of the monarchy, and its neglect was one of the sins which the captivity was expressly intended to punish (2 Chronicles 36:21). It now appears that after the return the precept had been again disobeyed. The exaction of every debt. Literally, "the pledge of every hand." Compare Nehemiah 5:2-13, and note that, notwithstanding Nehemiah's curse and the people's assent to it (ver. 13), the practice of lending upon pledge had recommenced. Nehemiah 10:31(Nehemiah 10:30-33)

All the members of the community acceded to the agreement thus signed by the princes of the people, and the heads of the priests and Levites, and bound themselves by an oath to walk in the law of the Lord, and to separate themselves from the heathen.

Nehemiah 10:29

And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the door-keepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, all who had knowledge and understanding, held with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into an oath and curse, etc. מצזיקים is the predicate of the subjects in Nehemiah 10:29 : they were holding with their brethren, i.e., uniting with them in this matter. "The rest of the people, the priests," etc., are the members of the community, exclusive of the princes and heads of the priestly and Levitical orders. The Nethinim, to whom belonged the servants of Solomon (see rem. on Ezra 2:43.), were probably also represented in the assembly by the heads of the Levites. To these are added all who had separated themselves, etc., i.e., the descendants of those Israelites who had been left in the land, and who now joined the new community; see rem. on Ezra 6:21. The connection of נבדּל with אל־תּורת is significant: separated from the heathen to the law of God, i.e., to live according thereto; comp. Ezra 6:21. Not, however, the men only, but also women and children of riper years, acceded to the covenant. כּל־יודע מבין, every one knowing, understanding (מבין and יודע being connected as an asyndeton, to strengthen the meaning), refers to sons and daughters of an age sufficient to enable them to understand the matter. אדּרריהם, their nobles, is connected in the form of an apposition with אחיהם, instead of the adjective האדּירים. The princes and the heads of the community and priesthood are intended. באלה בּוא, to enter into an oath, comp. Ezekiel 17:13. אלה is an oath of self-imprecation, grievous punishments being imprecated in case of transgression; שׁבוּעה, a promissory oath to live conformably with the law. We hence perceive the tenor of the agreement entered into and sealed by the princes. Non subscripsit quidem populus, remarks Clericus, sed ratum habuit, quid-quid nomine totius populi a proceribus factum erat, juravitque id a se observatum iri. Besides the general obligation to observe all the commandments, judgments, and statutes of God, two points, then frequently transgressed, are specially mentioned in Nehemiah 10:31 and Nehemiah 10:23. In Nehemiah 10:31 : that we would not give our daughters to the people of the lands, etc.; see rem. on Ezra 9:2. In Nehemiah 10:32 : that if the people of the land brought wares or any victuals on the Sabbath-day to sell, we would not buy if of them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and would let the seventh year lie, and the loan of every hand. The words וגו הארץ עמּי are prefixed absolutely, and are afterwards subordinated to the predicate of the sentence by מהם. מקּחות, wares for sale, from לקח, to take, in the sense of to buy, occurs only here. מהם נקּח, to take from them, i.e., to buy. קדשׁ יום beside שׁבּת means the other holy days, the annual festivals, on which, according to the law, Numbers 28 and 29, no work was to be done. To the sanctification of the Sabbath pertained the celebration of the sabbatical year, which is therefore named immediately afterwards. The words השׁ את־השּׁנה נטשׁ, to let the seventh year lie, i.e., in the seventh year to let the land lie untilled and unsown, is an abbreviation taken from the language of the law, Exodus 28:10. כל־יד משּׁא also depends upon נטּשׁ. This expression (משּׁא, not משּׂא, being the reading of the best editions) is to be explained from Deuteronomy 15:2, and means the loan, that which the hand has lent to another; see rem. on Deuteronomy 15:2.

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