In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab:…
(a lesson for the young). Beside the forsaking of the house of the Lord consequent on the neglect to pay tithes, and the disregard of the sabbath, Nehemiah had to lament another grave evil which had grown up during his absence in Persia. In these verses we have -
I. A CASE OF ALARMING DEFECTION. "In those days" of his return some of the Jews had married "wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab" (ver. 23). Ezra had encountered the same evil, and vehemently and vigorously resisted it (Ezra 9., 10.). But it had broken out again, to the sorrow and dismay of the faithful leader and "governor." It was an alarming defection because
(1) it was an act of downright disobedience. God had said by Moses, "Thou shalt not make marriages with them (foreigners); thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son" (Deuteronomy 7:3 and ver. 25). The Divine law was therefore deliberately and openly defied. What but the Divine anger could they expect to reap? More especially when so prominent a man as a grandson of the high priest had wrought this sin in the eyes of the whole people, thereby "defiling the priesthood" (ver. 29). And because
(2) it was surely conducting to fatal consequences. The great, the main mission of the Jewish nation was to be a sanctified or separate people unto the Lord, to preserve his name and truth intact; but the result of these marriages was a mongrel race, speaking a corrupt language: "their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod (Philistia), and could not speak in the Jews' language" (ver. 24). Not only would their national language be corrupted, but their national morals and religion too: they were on that downward course which led Solomon himself, "beloved of God" as he was (ver. 26), to sin and sorrow. The purity of their faith and the integrity of their national morality were seriously at stake.
II. AN INSTANCE OF VIGOROUS CORRECTION. Nehemiah
(1) contended with the delinquents (ver. 25). He expostulated and reasoned with them (vers. 26, 27); he also
(2) solemnly invoked condemnation and suffering on them in the event of impenitence: he "cursed them" (ver. 25); he even
(3) caused some of them to be punished with bodily chastisement: he "smote certain of them" (ver. 2,5); he
(4) summarily dismissed the high priest's grandson: "I chased him from me (ver. 28); he
(5) caused them to put away the strange wives and to take an oath not to continue the offence (vers. 25, 30). Nehemiah felt that the danger was so deadly that not only energy and vigour, but even vehemence and passion, were justified in putting it away. It wrought in him "indignation,... vehement desire,... zeal,... revenge," that his countrymen might "be clear in this matter" (2 Corinthians 7:11). Here is a very serious lesson for the young. They who are members of the Church of Christ find themselves, like these Jews at Jerusalem, under a temptation to an unholy alliance. The Church and the world are very closely intermingled, locally. They meet in the same street, in the same shop, under the same roof. They who would not choose to associate intimately with those that are servants of sin and sources of evil, come involuntarily into contact with companions who are devoid of Christian principle, but who are by no means wanting in other attractions. It may be personal beauty, or charm of disposition, or fascination of manner, or wealth, or some other worldly advantages which appeal to tastes and ambitions that are net of the highest order Here is temptation to intimate friendship or even to lifelong alliance. But let the young remember what is
(1) the will of Christ concerning them. Is there not an application we should make to ourselves in the injunction of the apostle, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers"? (2 Corinthians 6:14). And is there not an inference to be drawn from the same writer to our conduct when he speaks of marrying "in the Lord"? (1 Corinthians 7:39). It is surely not his will that one who has taken his vows upon him should enter into closest and even lifelong intimacy with another who has no interest in his truth, no love for himself. Let them also remember what are
(2) the inevitable consequences. The result to themselves must be spiritual decline, So was it with Solomon, leading him to the verge of utter ruin, if not over the edge, and into the gulf of it; so has it been with many thousands of the children of men. The result to others is moral and spiritual deterioration. The children "speak half in the speech of Ashdod" (ver. 24): they inevitably catch something of the tone and strain of both parents. Their spirit and their language, themselves and their life, will not attain to perfect purity; they will bear about with them the mark of worldliness. The consequences of such union are evil, and they are irreparable. The choice of our intimate friends and of our one lifelong companion is much too lightly regarded. On our wisdom or folly here hangs our weal or our woe for life, and the future of others too, even of those in whom we shall be most deeply interested. If there be one step which, more than any other, should be taken with profound and protracted care, with devout and religious thoughtfulness, it is this step of choosing our friends, most particularly the friend of the heart and for the life. If we let humour speak on this subject, as we commonly do, it should only be on sufferance. We should make it speedily retire, that sound sense, and solemn consideration, and religious duty may utter their voice, and be obeyed. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: