Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said to them, What evil thing is this that you do, and profane the sabbath day?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)That ye do.—The nobles, in the absence of Nehemiah, had been responsible, and the sin is charged upon them. The appeal supposes their familiarity with the express prediction of Jeremiah and its literal fulfilment (Jeremiah 17:27).Nehemiah 13:17. Then I contended with the nobles — Their chief men and rulers; whom he charges with this sin, because, though others committed it, it was done by their countenance or connivance, probably by their example: and if these nobles had exercised their authority, the people durst not have done as they did. If magistrates, nobles, and people in the higher ranks of life, allow themselves in recreations, in idle visits and idle talk on the sabbath day, men of business will profane it by their worldly employments, as the more justifiable practice of the two.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.
15-22. In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine-presses on the sabbath—The cessation of the temple services had been necessarily followed by a public profanation of the Sabbath, and this had gone so far that labor was carried on in the fields, and fish brought to the markets on the sacred day. Nehemiah took the decisive step of ordering the city gates to be shut, and not to be opened, till the Sabbath was past; and in order to ensure the faithful execution of this order, he stationed some of his own servants as guards, to prevent the introduction of any commodities on that day. On the merchants and various dealers finding admission denied them, they set up booths outside the walls, in hopes of still driving a traffic with the peasantry; but the governor threatened, if they continued, to adopt violent measures for their removal. For this purpose a body of Levites was stationed as sentinels at the gate, with discretionary powers to protect the sanctification of the Sabbath.The nobles of Judah, i.e. their chief men and rulers; whom he chargeth with this sin, because though others did it, it was by their countenance or connivance, and they should and might have punished and restrained it. 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?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)17. Then I contended] cf. Nehemiah 13:11.
the nobles of Judah] A different word (ḥorim) from that used for the rulers in Nehemiah 13:11.Verse 17. - Then I contended with the nobles. In the desecration of the sabbath, as in the non-payment of tithes, the nobles were the chief offenders, being at once luxurious and latitudinarian. They desired the freshest food for their feasts, and encouraged both foreigners and natives to break the law for the gratification of their carnal appetites. Nehemiah 2:16), to see that the tithes, etc., were regularly brought to the house of God. Hence Nehemiah rebukes them by asking: Why is the house of God forsaken? i.e., through the non-delivery of the dues. On נעזב, comp. Nehemiah 10:39. This rebuke made the impression desired. Nehemiah assembled the Levites and set them in their place (comp. Nehemiah 9:3; 2 Chronicles 30:16; 2 Chronicles 35:10), i.e., he brought them back to the performance of their official duties, and (Nehemiah 13:12) all Judah (the whole community) brought the tithe of the corn, etc., into the store-chambers of the temple; comp. Nehemiah 10:38. 2 Chronicles 11:11.
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