Separation from Aliens. 1 On that day they were reading aloud to the people from the Book of Moses, and there it was found written: “No Ammonite or Moabite should ever be allowed to enter the assembly of God, 2 since they had not come to welcome the Israelites with food and water, but they rather hired Balaam to curse them, even though our God turned the curse into a blessing.” 3 When the people heard the law, they excluded from Israel all those of foreign descent.
Reform in the Temple. 4 However, before this, the priest Eliashib,[b] who had been appointed to be in charge of the chambers of the house of our God and who was a close associate of Tobiah, 5 had provided for Tobiah a large room in which previously had been stored the grain offerings, the incense, the temple vessels, the tithes of grain, wine, and oil prescribed for the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests.
6 All this took place when I was away from Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes of Babylon, I had gone to consult the king. Sometime later, however, I asked the king for permission to leave, 7 and after I returned to Jerusalem, I learned about the evil thing that Eliashib had done on behalf of Tobiah in providing him with a room in the courts of the house of God.
8 I was extremely displeased, and in retaliation I threw all of Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. 9 After that, I gave orders for the room to be purified, and also commanded that the utensils of the house of God be replaced, along with the grain offering and the frankincense.
10 In addition I discovered that the Levites had not been receiving the portions that had been assigned to them. As a result of this, the Levites and the singers who had been conducting the services had all withdrawn to their farms.[c] 11 Then I remonstrated with the magistrates, demanding: “Why has the house of God been neglected?” After that, I summoned back the Levites and once again stationed them at their posts.
12 Then all Judah once again brought the tithes of grain, wine, and oil to the storehouses. 13 As supervisors of the storehouses I appointed Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah, one of the Levites, and, as their assistant, Hanan, the son of Zaccur, son of Mattaniah, since they were regarded as faithful, and their duty was to make the distributions to their kinsmen.
14 Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out from your memory the good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and its observances.
15 Sabbath Observances. In those days I observed men in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and also bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on their donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs, and every other kind of merchandise into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. I warned them not to sell food on that day. 16 In addition, Tyrians who resided in Jerusalem were also bringing in fish and every other kind of merchandise and selling it to the Judahites on the Sabbath.
17 Therefore, I rebuked the nobles of Judah, saying to them: “What is this evil thing you are doing in profaning the Sabbath? 18 Is not this exactly what your ancestors did, with the result that our God has brought all this misery down upon us and upon this city? And now you are adding to the wrath that is befalling Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”
19 When the evening shadows were falling on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I gave orders for the doors to be shut, and I further directed that they were not to be opened again until the Sabbath was over. Furthermore, I stationed some of my attendants at the gate to ensure that no merchandise would be brought in on the Sabbath day.[d]
20 On one or two occasions the merchants and dealers in goods of all kinds spent the night outside Jerusalem, 21 until I warned them, saying: “Why are you spending the night in front of the city wall? If you ever do so again, I will not hesitate to lay hands on you.” From that time on, they did not return on the Sabbath. 22 Then I ordered the Levites to purify themselves and to act as guards at the gates, in order that the Sabbath day would be kept holy.
Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and have mercy on me in accordance with your great love and mercy.
23 Mixed Marriages. In those days also I saw Jews who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, but none of them could speak the language of the Jews.
25 Thereupon I reprimanded them and I cursed them, beat some of them and pulled out their hair, and I made them swear in the name of God: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons or to take away any of their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves.
26 “Did not King Solomon of Israel sin because of such women? Among all the nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Yet even he was led into sin[e] by foreign women. 27 Must we now hear that you have committed this very grave offense, breaking faith with our God by marrying foreign women?”
28 One of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of the high priest Eliashib, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. I drove him from my presence.
29 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priests and the Levites.
30 Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I drew up the regulations for the priests and the Levites, defining the duties of their office. 31 I also provided for the deliveries of wood at specific times and for the firstfruits.
Remember this in my favor, O my God.
- Nehemiah 13:1 After Nehemiah had returned to his post at the court of Persia, many abuses crept into the Jewish community. He returns for the express purpose of repressing these abuses.
- Nehemiah 13:4 Eliashib: an enemy of Nehemiah (see 6:1).
- Nehemiah 13:10 Among the abuses that Nehemiah encountered was the failure of the people to support the priests, who had to suspend worship in order to support themselves by farming.
- Nehemiah 13:19 The Sabbath begins at dusk of the preceding day.
- Nehemiah 13:26 Led into sin: by using the legendary King Solomon as an example of the perils of marrying an unbeliever, Nehemiah reinforced his warning against intermarriage.