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). Nehemiah 13:1Public reading of the law, and separation from strangers. - Nehemiah 13:1. At a public reading of the law, it was found written therein, that no Ammonite or Moabite should come into the congregation of God, because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam to curse them, though God turned the curse into a blessing. This command, found in Deuteronomy 23:4-6, is given in full as to matter, though slightly abbreviated as to form. The sing. ישׂכּר relates to Balak king of Moab, Numbers 22:2., and the suffix of עליו to Israel as a nation; see the explanation of Deuteronomy 23:4.
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