Nehemiah 13:4
And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah:
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(4-9) The scandal of the high priest.

(4) Eliashib the priest, having the oversight.—Probably the high priest of Nehemiah 3:1, whose office alone would not have given him control over the chamber:” that is, the series of chambers running round three walls of the Temple. He “was allied unto Tobiah,” but in what way is not stated.

Before this.—That is, before the return of Nehemiah; indeed, there is a suspicious absence of Eliashib’s name throughout the high religious festivities of the preceding chapters.

Nehemiah 13:4. And before this — That is, before this separation was made; Eliashib the priest — The high-priest, (Nehemiah 3:1,) or some other priest so called, there being divers persons of this name in or about this time, though the first seems most probable; having the oversight of the chamber — Of the chambers, (Nehemiah 13:9,) the high-priest having the chief power over the house of God, and all the chambers belonging to it; was allied unto Tobiah — The Ammonite, and a violent enemy to God’s people. He had suffered his grandson to marry Sanballat’s daughter, who was the fast friend of Tobiah, and the great enemy of the Jews. This is mentioned as a great blot on Eliashib’s character, and the cause of his other miscarriages, noticed Nehemiah 13:5. We read also in Ezra 10:18, that several of the priests had married strange wives; and, among the rest, some of the sons of the high-priest.

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.The relations of Eliashib, the high priest Nehemiah 3:1, with Tobiah and Sanballat will account for the absence of any reference to him either in Nehemiah 8-10, or in Nehemiah 12:27-47.

The chamber - The entire outbuilding, or "lean-to," which surrounded the temple on three sides 1 Kings 6:5-10.

Allied - i. e, "connected by marriage." Tobiah was married to a Jewess Nehemiah 6:18, who may have been a relation of Eliashib; and his son Johanan was married to another Nehemiah 6:18, of whom the same may be said.

4, 5. before this—The practice of these mixed marriages, in open neglect or violation of the law, had become so common, that even the pontifical house, which ought to have set a better example, was polluted by such an impure mixture.

Eliashib the priest … was allied unto Tobiah—This person was the high priest (Ne 13:28; also Ne 3:1), who, by virtue of his dignified office, had the superintendence and control of the apartments attached to the temple. The laxity of his principles, as well as of his practice, is sufficiently apparent from his contracting a family connection with so notorious an enemy of Israel as Tobiah. But his obsequious attentions had carried him much farther; for to accommodate so important a person as Tobiah on his occasional visits to Jerusalem, Eliashib had provided him a splendid apartment in the temple. The introduction of so gross an impropriety can be accounted for in no other way than by supposing that in the absence of the priests and the cessation of the services, the temple was regarded as a common public building, which might, in the circumstances, be appropriated as a palatial residence.

Eliashib the priest; the high priest, Nehemiah 3:1, or some other priest so called, there being divers Eliashibs in or about this time, Ezra 10:6,24,27,36, though the first seems most probable, by comparing this verse with Nehemiah 13:28, and with Nehemiah 12:10,11.

The oversight of the chamber, i.e. of the chambers, as appears from the following verse, and from Nehemiah 13:9, where it is called chambers, and from the nature of the thing, the high priest having the chief power over the house of God, and all the chambers belonging to it. The singular number for the plural.

Allied unto Tobiah, the Ammonite, and a violent enemy to God’s people. So this is noted as a great blemish to Eliashib, and as the cause of his other miscarriage, noted Nehemiah 13:5.

And before this,.... Before the above law was read, and observed and acted upon:

Eliashib the priest; whom some take to be a common priest; so Bishop Usher (a); but he seems rather to be the high priest, by comparing it with Nehemiah 13:28,

having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God; which has led some to the notion of his being a common priest; but chamber may be put for chambers, and those for the whole house or temple, which the high priest had the greatest concern in, and oversight of:

was allied to Tobiah; the servant and Ammonite, an inveterate enemy of the Jews, Nehemiah 2:10, having married a daughter of Shecaniah, and his son a daughter of Meshullam, who were both priests, and so as it seems related to Eliashib, Nehemiah 6:18.

(a) Annal. Vet. Test. p. 200.

And before {b} this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was {c} allied unto Tobiah:

(b) That the separation was made.

(c) He was united with Tobiah the Ammonite the enemy of the Jews.

4. And before this] R.V. Now before this. Clearly the date referred to is that of Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem after his residence at the court described in Nehemiah 13:6-7. We may assume that Nehemiah’s Memoirs embraced the whole interval of twelve years. The Compiler, however, makes no extract from the intervening portion. The words ‘before this’ have therefore no reference to the events of the preceding verses; their retention only shows the exactness with which the extract is reproduced.

Eliashib the priest] There is scarcely any reason to doubt that this is the same as ‘Eliashib the high-priest’ mentioned in Nehemiah 13:28, and in Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:20, whose name occurs in the priestly lists (Nehemiah 12:10; Nehemiah 12:22). That he is here called ‘the priest,’ and in Nehemiah 13:28, ‘the high-priest,’ constitutes a certain objection against the identification. On the other hand the incident which here connects ‘Eliashib the priest’ with Tobiah is of so similar a character to that which associates ‘Eliashib the high-priest’ in alliance with Sanballat (Nehemiah 13:28), that it is most natural to suppose the same person is denoted.

The full title is not, as some fancifully suggest, withheld out of respect for the office which was so degraded. It is more probable that Nehemiah is recording the fact that ‘the priest who was appointed over the chambers of the house of God’ happened in this instance to be the high-priest himself: perhaps having been appointed to this duty before his succession to the high-priestly office, he still retained the charge. Again, it may be remembered that in old times ‘the priest’ was the customary title of the high-priest.

If the same as the high-priest, it has been remarked that his name does not appear in chap. 10 among those that signed the covenant. It is however somewhat hazardous to conclude, as commentators have generally done, that he must therefore have refused his signature and have openly opposed the policy of Nehemiah. The names in chap. 10 are most of them the names of houses, and the high-priest’s name is probably represented in the mention of ‘Seraiah.’

having the oversight of] R.V. who was appointed over.

the chamber] R.V. the chambers. Marg. ‘Heb. the chamber’. The singular does not give the right meaning. Eliashib in order to dispose of ‘a great chamber’ to Tobiah, must have had all the Temple chambers under his charge. The proposal to read the plural ‘chambers’ (lishkôth) instead of the singular ‘chamber’ (lishkath) is probably right. See Nehemiah 13:9.

The versions give quite an erroneous turn to the passage; LXX. οἰκῶν ἐν γαζοφυλακίῳ, Vulg. ‘præpositus in gazophylacio.’

was allied] R.V. being allied. A relationship by marriage is intended by this expression, which is the same as that rendered in Ruth 2:20, ‘The man is nigh of kin to us.’

In the LXX. ἐγγίων and Vulg. ‘proximus,’ the idea of local vicinity misapprehends the original. We are not told the exact relationship of Tobiah to Eliashib. But in Nehemiah 6:17, it appears that he had married a daughter of Shecaniah; and that his son Jehohanan had married a daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. Both Shecaniah and Meshullam are names mentioned in Nehemiah 3:20; Nehemiah 3:30; and the probability is that they were priests of high rank. It is natural to derive Tobiah’s alliance to Eliashib from his connexion with one or both of these families.


Ch. Nehemiah 13:4-9.

  His Vindication of the Sanctity of the Temple.

Nehemiah 13:10-14.

  His Provision for the Maintenance of the Levites.

Nehemiah 13:15-22.

  His Measures to uphold the Observance of the Sabbath.

Nehemiah 13:23-29.

  His Action against Mixed Marriages.

Nehemiah 13:30-31.

  His Concluding Words.

4–31. Nehemiah’s memoirs resumed

4–9. An incident twelve years later: Eliashib’s concession of a chamber in the Temple to Tobiah, and its purification by Nehemiah. For Nehemiah’s action and the necessity for it, cf. Malachi 2:1-9.

Verse 4. - Eliashib the priest. It is questioned whether the high priest of Nehemiah 3:1 is meant, and noted that the expression used - "the priest"- does not always designate "the high priest" (see ver. 13); but the important charge said to have been assigned to him, the alliance with so great a man as Tobiah, and the important step taken, the assignment to a heathen of a residence within the temple precincts, imply a man of high authority, and suit better with the high priest than with any one of lower rank. Moreover, the fact that Eliashib's leanings were towards the enemies of Nehemiah accounts for his disappearance from the history from Nehemiah 3:1 to Nehemiah 13:4. Having the oversight. Literally, "being set over" - perhaps by Nehemiah, who seems to have claimed the appointment to all offices about the temple which were not purely spiritual. (see Nehemiah 12:44; Nehemiah 13:13). Of the chamber. The word "chamber" (lishkah) is here used in a collective sense of the entire building containing the many "chambers" or "treasuries" of Nehemiah 12:44; Nehemiah 13:9, 12, 13. Was allied unto Tobiah. Karob, the word translated "allied," means "a relation," either by blood or marriage. In the present case the relationship must have been by means of a marriage. Nehemiah 13:4Nehemiah, on his return to Jerusalem, reforms the irregularities that had broken out during his absence. - Nehemiah 13:4-9. While Nehemiah was at Babylon with King Artaxerxes, Eliashib the high priest had given up to his relative, Tobiah the Ammonite (Nehemiah 2:10; Nehemiah 4:3, and elsewhere), a large chamber in the temple, i.e., in the fore-court of the temple (v. 7), probably for his use as a dwelling when he visited Jerusalem (see rem. on v. 8). On his return, Nehemiah immediately cast all the furniture of Tobiah out of this chamber, purified the chambers, and restored them to their proper use as a magazine for the temple stores. מזּה לפני, before this (comp. Ewald, 315, c), refers to the beforementioned separation of the ערב from Israel (Nehemiah 13:3). Eliashib the priest is probably the high priest of that name (Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 12:10, Nehemiah 12:22). This may be inferred from the particular: set over (he being set over) the chambers of the house of our God; for such oversight of the chambers of the temple would certainly be entrusted to no simple priest, though this addition shows that this oversight did not absolutely form part of the high priest's office. For נתן, in the sense of to set, to place over, comp. 1 Kings 2:35; the construction with בּ instead of על is, however, unusual, but may be derived from the local signification of בּ, upon, over. Ewald and Bertheau are for reading לשׁכת instead of the sing. לשׁכּת, because in Nehemiah 13:5 it is not הלּשׁכּה that is spoken of, but a large chamber. לשׁכּת may, however, be also understood collectively. Eliashib, being a relation of Tobiah (קרוב like Ruth 2:20), prepared him a chamber. The predicate of the sentence, Nehemiah 13:4, follows in Nehemiah 13:5 with ויּעשׂ, in the form of a conclusion following the accessory sentence of the subject. How Tobiah was related to Eliashib is nowhere stated. Bertheau conjectures that it was perhaps only through the circumstance that Johanan, the son of Tobiah, had married a daughter of Meshullam ben Berechiah (Nehemiah 6:18), who, according to Nehemiah 3:30, was a priest or Levite, and might have been nearly related to the high priest. "A great chamber," perhaps made so by throwing several chambers into one, as older expositors have inferred from Nehemiah 13:9, according to which Nehemiah, after casting out the goods of Tobiah, had the chambers (plural) cleansed. The statement also in Nehemiah 13:5, that there (in this great chamber) were aforetime laid up not only the meat-offerings (i.e., oil and flour, the materials for them), the incense, and the sacred vessels, but also the tithe of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, and the heave-offerings of the priests, seems to confirm this view. This tenth is designated as הלויּם מצות, the command of the Levites, i.e., what was apportioned to the Levites according to the law, the legal dues for which משׁפּט is elsewhere usual; comp. Deuteronomy 18:3; 1 Samuel 2:13. The heave-offering of the priest is the tenth of their tenth which the Levites had to contribute, Nehemiah 10:39.
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