Nehemiah 13:29
Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) Remember them.—This priestly violation of law is committed to God alone for punishment.

And of the Levites.—God chose the tribe of Levi for Himself, specially the house of Aaron, and every priest was to be “holy to the Lord (Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 21:8). This was “the covenant of the priesthood;” though there may be an undertone of reference to the great covenant in Nehemiah 10.

Nehemiah 13:29. Remember them, O my God — Convince them of sin, and bring them to repentance; put them in mind of what they should be and do, that they may come to themselves. Or, remember them to reckon with them for it, and punish them according to their deserts. If we consider the words in this light, the prayer is a prediction that God would remember it against them. Because they have defiled the priesthood — God required greater purity in the priests than in other Israelites, and in the high-priest especially, who might marry none but a virgin of his own people, Leviticus 21:6-14; and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites — There was a covenant with Phinehas (Numbers 25.) of an everlasting priesthood, which they had violated, because the covenant was mutual, binding them to observe the laws of the priesthood, as God engaged himself to preserve them in their office. What covenant was made with the Levites does not appear, but it is likely the meaning is, they dishonoured the whole tribe of Levi, who were set apart for divine ministries.

13:23-31 If either parent be ungodly, corrupt nature will incline the children to take after that one; which is a strong reason why Christians should not be unequally yoked. In the education of children, great care should be taken about the government of their tongues; that they learn not the language of Ashdod, no impious or impure talk, no corrupt communication. Nehemiah showed the evil of these marriages. Some, more obstinate than the rest, he smote, that is, ordered them to be beaten by the officers according to the law, De 25:2,3. Here are Nehemiah's prayers on this occasion He prays, Remember them, O my God. Lord, convince and convert them; put them in mind of what they should be and do. The best services to the public have been forgotten by those for whom they were done, therefore Nehemiah refers himself to God, to recompense him. This may well be the summary of our petitions; we need no more to make us happy than this; Remember me, O my God, for good. We may humbly hope that the Lord will remember us and our services, although, after lives of unwearied activity and usefulness, we shall still see cause to abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes, and to cry out with Nehemiah, Spare me, O my God, according to the greatness of they mercy.The speech of Ashdod - The Philistine language, which was akin to that of Egypt.

According to the language of each people - The children spoke a mixed dialect - half-Philistine, half-Hebrew.

25. cursed them—that is, pronounced on them an anathema which entailed excommunication.

smote … and plucked off their hair—To cut off the hair of offenders seems to be a punishment rather disgraceful than severe; yet it is supposed that pain was added to disgrace, and that they tore off the hair with violence as if they were plucking a bird alive.

That covenant made between me and his progenitors for themselves and their posterity, whereby I promised to give them an everlasting priesthood, Numbers 25:12,13, and they covenanted with me that they would faithfully and holily execute that sacred function according to the rules which I gave them, whereby, among other things, they were enjoined to keep themselves pure from all unlawful marriages, and from all other things which might pollute them or the priesthood.

Remember them, O my God,.... The priests, and punish them: because they have defiled the priesthood; by marrying strange wives, and rendering themselves unfit to officiate in it:

and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites; made with Levi, Aaron, and Phinehas, see Numbers 24:11, of the corruption of which, complaint is made, Malachi 2:4.

Remember them, O my God, because they have {n} defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites.

(n) Punish them according to their sin and the evil example they have given to the rest of the people contrary to their calling.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
29. Remember them] Here in a bad sense.

because they have defiled] R.V. marg. ‘Heb. for the defilings of’. The word so rendered occurs only here. It is from the same root as the word ‘Goel,’ which explains the confusion of the LXX. ἐπὶ ἀγχιστείᾳ τῆς ἱερατείας.

the priesthood … the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites] Joiada’s son, not being high-priest, did not himself fall under the marriage law of the high-priest, Leviticus 21:13-15. But as a possible successor to the office, his marriage with Sanballat’s daughter violated the spirit of the Law. ‘The covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites’ seems to mean the peculiar relation of the priests and the Levites as holy, set apart for the special service of God, and as representatives of the whole people. It is possible that Nehemiah’s words relate not to the offence of an individual, but to the shame accruing to the whole priesthood in the fact that renegade priests had founded a rival Jehovah worship on Mt Gerizim, among the hated Samaritans. The expression is very similar to that in Malachi 2:8, ‘But ye are turned aside out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble in the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.’ For ‘the covenant of the priesthood,’ cf. Deuteronomy 33:8-11, Malachi 2:1-8 will form an excellent commentary upon Nehemiah’s earnest denunciation.

Verse 29. - They have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites. We look in vain for any distinct "covenant" which the priestly order broke by allying itself with the heathen, or indeed for any special law forbidding the priests to take heathen wives, which was not equally binding upon laymen. But Nehemiah feels that every sin is worse in a priest than in one who is not a priest; that a priest who contracts a pollution "pollutes the priesthood;" and that there is a tacit covenant by which priests and Levites bind themselves to holiness of life more absolutely and definitely than others. Nehemiah 13:29Nehemiah acted with greater severity towards one of the sons of Joiada the high priest, and son-in-law of Sanballat. He drove him from him (מעלי, that he might not be a burden to me). The reason for this is not expressly stated, but is involved in the fact that he was son-in-law to Sanballat, i.e., had married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite (Nehemiah 2:10), who was so hostile to Nehemiah and to the Jewish community in general, and would not comply with the demand of Nehemiah that he should dismiss this wife. In this case, Nehemiah was obliged to interfere with authority. For this marriage was a pollution of the priesthood, and a breach of the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. Hence he closes the narrative of this occurrence with the wish, Nehemiah 13:29, that God would be mindful of them (להם, of those who had done such evil) on account of this pollution, etc., i.e., would punish or chastise them for it. גּאלי, stat. constr. pl. from גּאל, pollution (plurale tant.). It was a pollution of the priesthood to marry a heathen woman, such marriage being opposed to the sacredness of the priestly office, which a priest was to consider even in the choice of a wife, and because of which he might marry neither a whore, nor a feeble nor a divorced woman, while the high priest mighty marry only a virgin of his own people (Leviticus 21:7, Leviticus 21:14). The son of Joiada who had married a daughter of Sanballat was not indeed his presumptive successor (Johanan, Nehemiah 12:11), for then he would have been spoken of by name, but a younger son, and therefore a simple priest; he was, however, so nearly related to the high priest, that by his marriage with a heathen woman the holiness of the high-priestly house was polluted, and therewith also "the covenant of the priesthood," i.e., not the covenant of the everlasting priesthood which God granted to Phinehas for his zeal (Numbers 25:13), but the covenant which God concluded with the tribe of Levi, the priesthood, and the Levites, by choosing the tribe of Levi, and of that tribe Aaron and his descendants, to be His priest (לו לכהנו, Exodus 28:1). This covenant required, on the part of the priests, that they should be "holy to the Lord" (Leviticus 21:6, Leviticus 21:8), who had chosen them to be ministers of His sanctuary and stewards of His grace.

Josephus (Ant. xi. 7. 2) relates the similar fact, that Manasseh, a brother of the high priest Jaddua, married Nikaso, a daughter of the satrap Sanballat, a Cuthite; that when the Jewish authorities on that account excluded him from the priesthood, he established, by the assistant of his father-in-law, the temple and worship on Mount Gerizim (xi. 8. 2-4), and that many priests made common cause with him. Now, though Josephus calls this Manasseh a brother of Jaddua, thus making him a grandson of Joiada, and transposing the establishment of the Samaritan worship on Gerizim to the last years of Darius Codomannus and the first of Alexander of Macedon, it can scarcely be misunderstood that, notwithstanding these discrepancies, the same occurrence which Nehemiah relates in the present verses is intended by Josephus. The view of older theologians, to which also Petermann (art. Samaria in Herzog's Realenc. xiii. p. 366f.) assents, that there were two Sanballats, one in the days of Nehemiah, the other in the time of Alexander the Great, and that both had sons-in-law belonging to the high-priestly family, is very improbable; and the transposition of the fact by Josephus to the times of Darius Codomannus and Alexander accords with the usual and universally acknowledged incorrectness of his chronological combinations. He makes, e.g., Nehemiah arrive at Jerusalem in the twenty-fifth year of Xerxes, instead of the twentieth of Artaxerxes, while Xerxes reigned only twenty years.

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