Nehemiah 13:1
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;
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(1-3) Reform as to mixed marriages.

(1) On that day.—Probably the season of the Feast of Tabernacles, as before. But portions were selected to be read.

They read in the book of Moses.—“It was read” in the Pentateuch, and specially Deuteronomy 23. This is introduced for the sake of the action taken, and the history is given in brief, with a striking and characteristic parenthesis of Nehemiah’s own concerning the curse turned into a blessing.

Therein was found written.—What to the people generally was not known.

For ever.—No Ammonite or Ammonite family could have legal standing in the congregation, “even to their tenth generation;” and this interdict was to last “for ever.” It virtually though not actually amounted to absolute exclusion.

(3) The mixed multitude.—For the “mixed multitude,” or Ereb, which plays so prominent a part in Jewish history, see on Exodus 12:38. The process here was that of shutting out heathens who were in the habit of mingling with the people in the services. In Nehemiah 9 it was, as we saw, the people’s separation from the practices and spirit of the heathen.

Nehemiah 13:1. On that day they read in the book of Moses — Not upon the day of the dedication of the wall and city, but upon a certain day, when Nehemiah was returned from the Persian court to Jerusalem, from which he had been absent for some considerable time, during which some errors and abuses had crept in. After his return, it seems, he continued the public reading of the law at stated times, probably on the great festivals, when all the people met together, (such as those mentioned chap. 8.,) upon some day of which that portion of Scripture was read (Deuteronomy 23:3) which forbids the admission of the Ammonites and Moabites into the congregation of the Lord. The meaning of which phrase is, not that they were prohibited from attending divine worship in the court of the Gentiles, and in their synagogues, but from being admitted to the privileges of Jews, and becoming one body with them by intermarriages. “None of the house of Israel, of either sex, were to enter into marriage with any Gentile, of what nation soever, unless they were first converted to their religion; and even in that case, some were debarred from it for ever, others only in part, and others again only for a limited time. Of the first sort, were all of the seven nations of the Canaanites. Of the second sort, were the Moabites and the Ammonites, whose males were excluded for ever, but not their females. And of the third sort, were the Edomites and Egyptians, with whom the Jews might not marry till the third generation. But with all others who were not of these three excepted sorts, they might freely make intermarriages, whenever they became thorough proselytes to their religion. At present, however, because, through the confusions which have since happened in all nations, it is not to be known who is an Ammonite, an Edomite, a Moabite, or an Egyptian, they hold this prohibition to have been long out of date, and that now any Gentile, as soon as proselyted to their religion, may immediately be admitted to make intermarriages with them.” See Dodd, and Prid. Con., Ann. 428.13:1-9 Israel was a peculiar people, and not to mingle with the nations. See the benefit of publicly reading the word of God; when it is duly attended to, it discovers to us sin and duty, good and evil, and shows wherein we have erred. We profit, when we are thus wrought upon to separate from evil. Those that would drive sin out of their hearts, the living temples, must throw out its household stuff, and all the provision made for it; and take away all the things that are the food and fuel of lust; this is really to mortify it. When sin is cast out of the heart by repentance, let the blood of Christ be applied to it by faith, then let it be furnished with the graces of God's Spirit, for every good work.On that day - Or, "at that time," as in Nehemiah 12:44.

The entire Pentateuch is probably meant by "the Book of Moses".


Ne 13:1-9. Upon the Reading of the Law Separation Is Made from the Mixed Multitude.

1. On that day—This was not immediately consequent on the dedication of the city wall and gates, but after Nehemiah's return from the Persian court to Jerusalem, his absence having extended over a considerable period. The transaction here described probably took place on one of the periodical occasions for the public readings of the law, when the people's attention was particularly directed to some violations of it which called for immediate correction. There is another instance afforded, in addition to those which have already fallen under our notice, of the great advantages resulting from the public and periodical reading of the divine law. It was an established provision for the religious instruction of the people, for diffusing a knowledge and a reverence for the sacred volume, as well as for removing those errors and corruptions which might, in the course of time, have crept in.

the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever—that is, not be incorporated into the Israelitish kingdom, nor united in marriage relations with that people (De 23:3, 4). This appeal to the authority of the divine law led to a dissolution of all heathen alliances (Ne 9:2; Ezr 10:3).Upon the reading of the law separation is made between Israel and the mixed multitude, Nehemiah 13:1-3. Nehemiah, at his return to Jerusalem, causeth the chambers to be cleansed. Nehemiah 13:4-9. He restoreth and reformeth the offices of the priests and Levites in the house of God, Nehemiah 13:10-14; and seeing the violation of the sabbath, he contendeth with the nobles of Judah, Nehemiah 13:15-18. He shutteth the gates, and setteth a watch at them, Nehemiah 13:19-22. The punishment of marrying with strange wives, Nehemiah 13:23-28. Nehemiah’s prayer, Nehemiah 13:29-31.

On that day; not now presently after the dedication of the wall, and gates, and city, but upon a certain day, as that phrase is very commonly used in Scripture without any relation to the time or things mentioned next before it, to wit, when Nehemiah was returned again from the Persian court to Jerusalem, from which he had been absent for some considerable time, in which some errors and abuses had crept in, which now he endeavours to remove.

In the audience of the people; partly because it was not only the priests’, but also the people’s, duty to study and understand God’s law and their own duty; and partly that the people hearing that this was the express mind and will of the great God, might the more willingly yield to the following duties, some of which were attended with difficulty, and required self-denial.

Should not come into the congregation of God, i.e. not be incorporated into the commonwealth of Israel, nor be joined with any Israelite in marriage relation, as appears from Nehemiah 13:3; that practice being a plain comment upon this law. But of this and the next verse, See Poole "Deu 23:3", See Poole "Deu 23:4".

On that day,.... Not when the wall of the city was dedicated, nor quickly after; for it cannot be thought that people should be so corrupted so soon as this chapter shows; but when Nehemiah had governed them twelve years, and had been at Babylon, and was returned again, as appears from Nehemiah 13:6, compared with Nehemiah 2:1,

they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; for from the time of the reading of the law by Ezra, Nehemiah 8:1 it became a custom to read the law publicly:

and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of the Lord; that is, be admitted to marry with any of the people of Israel; See Gill on Deuteronomy 23:3.

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;
1–3. Separation from the mixed multitude

1. On that day] See note on Nehemiah 12:44.

they read] Literally ‘it was read,’ without any intimation that the Levites were the readers.

the book of Moses] A short form for that which is found in Nehemiah 8:1, ‘the book of the law of Moses.’

that the Ammonite and the Moabite] The passage which had excited attention was doubtless Deuteronomy 23:3-6, which opens with the following prohibition, ‘An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of the Lord for ever.’

come into the congregation] R.V. enter into the assembly. It is important that the words of Deuteronomy should be adhered to in the quotation: and ‘assembly’ (qahal) not ‘congregation’ (êdah) is the word generally used by the Deuteronomist.Verse 1. - On that day. See Nehemiah 12:44. The phrase seems to mean, in Nehemiah, "About that time." They read in the book of Moses. It is uncertain whether this was a casual reading, like that of Ezra's, recorded in Nehemiah 8:1-8, or whether it was the prescribed reading (Deuteronomy 31:11) at the time of the feast of tabernacles. Therein was found written. See Deuteronomy 23:3-5. It seems to be implied that the nation at large had no knowledge of the law, except that which they derived from the occasional public reading of the Pentateuch, or portions of it. Copies of the law were extremely scarce; and even if an ordinary Jew possessed one, he would not have been able to understand it (comp. above, Nehemiah 8:8). After this insertion of the names of the persons who composed the procession, the description of the route it took is continued. From "upon the wall, towards the dung-gate (Nehemiah 12:31), it passed on" to the fountain-gate; and נגדּם, before them (i.e., going straight forwards; comp. Joshua 6:5, Joshua 6:20; Amos 4:3), they went up by the stairs of the city of David, the ascent of the wall, up over the house of David, even unto the water-gate eastward. These statements are not quite intelligible to us. The stairs of the city of David are undoubtedly "the stairs that lead down from the city of David" (Nehemiah 3:15). These lay on the eastern slope of Zion, above the fountain-gate and the Pool of Siloam. לחומה המּעלה might be literally translated "the ascent to the wall," as by Bertheau, who takes the sense as follows: (The procession) went up upon the wall by the ascent formed by these steps at the northern part of the eastern side of Zion. According to this, the procession would have left the wall by the stairs at the eastern declivity of Zion, to go up upon the wall again by this ascent. There is, however, no reason for this leaving of the wall, and that which Bertheau adduces is connected with his erroneous transposition of the fountain-gate to the place of the present dung-gate. לחומה המּעלה seems to be the part of the wall which, according to Nehemiah 3:19, lay opposite the המּקצוע הנּשׁק עלת, a place on the eastern edge of Zion, where the wall was carried over an elevation of the ground, and where consequently was an ascent in the wall. Certainly this cannot be insisted upon, because the further statement דויד לבית מעל is obscure, the preposition ל מעל admitting of various interpretations, and the situation of the house of David being uncertain. Bertheau, indeed, says: "ועד in the following words corresponds with מעל before דויד לבית: a wall over the house of David is not intended; and the meaning is rather, that after they were come as far as the wall, they then passed over the house of David, i.e., the place called the house of David, even to the water-gate." But the separation of מעל from דויד לבית is decidedly incorrect, ל מעל being in the preceding and following passages always used in combination, and forming one idea: comp. Nehemiah 12:31 (twice) and Nehemiah 12:38 and Nehemiah 12:39. Hence it could scarcely be taken here in Nehemiah 12:37 in a different sense from that which it has in Nehemiah 12:31 and Nehemiah 12:38. Not less objectionable is the notion that the house of David is here put for a place called the house of David, on which a palace of David formerly stood, and where perhaps the remains of an ancient royal building might still have been in existence. By the house of David is meant, either the royal palace built (according to Thenius) by Solomon at the north-eastern corner of Zion, opposite the temple, or some other building of David, situate south of this palace, on the east side of Zion. The former view is more probable than the latter. We translate לבית ד מעל, past the house of David. For, though לחומה מעל must undoubtedly be so understood as to express that the procession went upon the wall (which must be conceived of as tolerably broad), yet למגדּל מעל, Nehemiah 12:38, can scarcely mean that the procession also went up over the tower which stood near the wall. In the case of the gates, too, ל מעל cannot mean over upon; for it is inconceivable that this solemn procession should have gone over the roof of the gates; and we conclude, on the contrary, that it passed beside the gates and towers. Whether the route taken by the procession from the house of David to the water-gate in the east were straight over the ridge of Ophel, which ran from about the horse-gate to the water-gate, or upon the wall round Ophel, cannot be determined, the description being incomplete. After the house of David, no further information as to its course is given; its halting-place, the water-gate, being alone mentioned.

The route taken by the second company is more particularly described. - Nehemiah 12:38 and Nehemiah 12:39. "And the second company of them that gave thanks, which went over against, and which I and the (other) half of the people followed, (went) upon the wall past the tower of the furnaces, as far as the broad wall; and past the gate of Ephraim, and past the gate of the old (wall), and past the fish-gate, and past the tower Hananeel and the tower Hammeah, even to the sheep-gate: and then took up its station at the prison-gate." למואל (in the form with א only here; elsewhere מול, Deuteronomy 1:1, or מוּל), over against, opposite, sc. the first procession, therefore towards the opposite side, i.e., to the left; the first having gone to the right, viz., from the valley-gate northwards upon the northern wall. וגו אחריה ואני (and I behind them) is a circumstantial clause, which we may take relatively. The order of the towers, the lengths of wall, and the gates, exactly answer to the description in Nehemiah 3:1-12, with these differences: - a. The description proceeds from the sheep-gate in the east to the valley-gate in the west; while the procession moved in the opposite direction, viz., from the valley-gate to the sheep-gate. b. In the description of the building of the wall, Nehemiah 3, the gate of Ephraim is omitted (see rem. on Nehemiah 3:8). c. In the description, the prison-gate at which the procession halted is also unmentioned, undoubtedly for the same reason as that the gate of Ephraim is omitted, viz., that not having been destroyed, there was no need to rebuild it. המּטּרה שׁער is translated, gate of the prison or watch: its position is disputed; but it can scarcely be doubted that המּטּרה is the court of the prison mentioned Nehemiah 3:25 (המּטּרה חצר), by or near the king's house. Starting from the assumption that the two companies halted or took up positions opposite each other, Hupfeld (in his before-cited work, p. 321) transposes both the court of the prison and the king's house to the north of the temple area, where the citadel. בּירה, βᾶρις, was subsequently situated. But "this being forbidden," as Arnold objects (in his before-cited work, p. 628), "by the order in the description of the building of the wall, Nehemiah 3:25, which brings us absolutely to the southern side," Bertheau supposes that the two processions which would arrive at the same moment at the temple, - the one from the north-east, the other from the south-east, - here passed each other, and afterwards halted opposite each other in such wise, that the procession advancing from the south-west stood on the northern side, and that from the north-west at the southern side of the temple area. This notion, however, having not the slightest support from the text, nor any reason appearing why the one procession should pass the other, it must be regarded as a mere expedient. In Nehemiah 12:40 it is merely said, the two companies stood in the house of God; and not even that they stood opposite each other, the one on the north, the other on the south side of the temple. Thus they may have stood side by side, and together have praised the Lord. Hence we place the prison-gate also on the south-eastern corner of the temple area, and explain the name from the circumstance that a street ran from this gate over Ophel to the court of the prison near the king's house upon Zion, which, together with the gate to which it led, received its name from the court of the prison. Not far from the prison-gate lay the water-gate in the east, near which was an open space in the direction of the temple area (Nehemiah 8:1). On this open space the two companies met, and took the direction towards the temple, entering the temple area from this open space, that they might offer their thank-offerings before the altar of burnt-offering (Nehemiah 12:43). Besides, the remark upon the position of the two companies (Nehemiah 12:40) anticipates the course of events, the procession following the second company being first described in Nehemiah 12:40-42. At the end of Nehemiah 12:40 the statement of Nehemiah 12:38 - I and the half of the people behind - is again taken up in the words: I and the half of the rulers with me. The סגנים are, as in Nehemiah 12:32, the princes of the congregation, who, with Nehemiah, headed the procession that followed the company of those who gave thanks. Then followed (Nehemiah 12:41) seven priests with trumpets, whose names are given, answering to the sons of the priests with trumpets (Nehemiah 12:36) in the first procession. These names are all met with elsewhere of other persons. These were succeeded, as in Nehemiah 12:36, by eight Levites - eight individuals, and not eight divisions (Bertheau). And the singers gave forth sound, i.e., of voices and instruments, - whether during the circuit or after the two companies had take their places at the temple, is doubtful. The president of the Levitical singers was Jezrahiah.

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