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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Nehemiah 13

 

 

Verse 1

Nehemiah 13:1 On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God for ever;

Ver. 1. On that day] That great fast day, Nehemiah 9:1-2, &c. Or, after Nehemiah’s return from the court of Persia, Nehemiah 13:6, so the most expound it.

They read in the book of Moses] viz. In Deuteronomy 23:3, called by the Rabbis Sepher tochechoth, the book of rebukes, or of instructions, upon conviction.

And therein was found written] Perquam durum est (so it might seem to Ammonites and Moabites), sed ita lex scripta est, The law was perpetual and indispensable; a sign of great wrath.

That the Ammonite and the Moabite] Lot’s by-blows and the Church’s constant enemies.

Into the congregation of God] i.e. Assemblies of God’s people, whether sacred or civil, unless proselyted.


Verse 2

Nehemiah 13:2 Because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them, that he should curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing.

Ver. 2. Because they met not the children of Israel] A bare omission of observance subjected them to divine vengeance. As God requiteth the least courtesy done to his people, be it but a cup of cold water; so he repayeth the least discourtesy, or but neglect of them, to whom the glorious angels are ministering spirits, and may not think themselves too good to serve them, Hebrews 1:14.

But hired Balaam against them] With the rewards of divination, Numbers 22:7, the wages of wickedness, 1:11, 2 Peter 2:15, which he greedily ran after; and not so much as roving at God, made the world his standing mark, till he had got a sword in his guts.

Howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing] So he did the pope’s curse to Queen Elizabeth, and before her, to Luther. Quo magis illi furunt, eo amplius precedo, saith he in a certain epistle; the more they rage and ban me the more I proceed and prosper. The pope excommunicated him, the emperor proscribed him, &c. Omnium animi tum erant arrecti, quid illa Caesaris et pontificis fulmina essent effectura. All men’s minds were then set an end, and stood on tip-toes, as it were, to see what would be the issue, saith mine author (Scultet. Annal.). A wonderful work of our God surely, and worthy to be chronicled! Luther is conveyed out of the way by the Elector of Saxony for ten months, till he would be hid no longer. Meanwhile Pope Leo dieth, the Emperor Charles V is first called into Spain to suppress seditions there, and afterwards is so busied in his wars with the French king, that he hath no leisure to look after Luther. After this, when the French king was beaten by the emperor, and carried prisoner into Spain, he was released and sent home again, upon the condition that the emperor and he should root out the Lutheran heresy, as they called it. But our God broke their designs, and turned this curse also into a blessing. For the French king returning home, and conceiving that the conditions that he had yielded unto, to get off, were unequal, entereth into a league with the pope and the State of Venice against the emperor. The pope, that he might cover his false dealing with the emperor, sends abroad his Bull and therein calleth knave first. The emperor, on the other side, complaineth of the pope’s malice and double-dealing, exhorteth him to peace, and concludeth that it were fitter for them to unite against the Lutherans. And when he could prevail nothing by writing, he abolished his authority throughout all Spain, sends his armies against him under the duke of Bourbon, claps him up prisoner in St Angelo, proclaims open war against the French, &c. So that religion got ground, and all things fell out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel, Philippians 1:12. Let them curse thy Church, Lord, but do thou bless; when they arise, let them ever be ashamed; but let thy servants rejoice, and speed the better for their ill wishes. So be it, Psalms 109:28.


Verse 3

Nehemiah 13:3 Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.

Ver. 3. Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law] And were transformed into the same image therewith, by the Spirit of grace, who had made their flinty hearts to become fleshy, &c. We used to say, As hard hearted as a Jew. But they that relent not, repent not at the hearing of the word, are worse than these Jews; and it may be feared that the Lord hath a purpose to destroy them. "The law of the Lord," when but read only, "is perfect, converting the soul," Psalms 19:7, but woe to the irreformable, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

That they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude] Vulgus promiscuum, the rabble of strangers, wherewith this people were haunted and pestered from the very first, Exodus 12:38, Numbers 11:4. These, moved with miracles, removed with them out of Egypt, but for a mischief to them, for they drew them into sin then, as those here did also; and were, therefore, worthily put away, as the law required.


Verse 4

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:

Ver. 4. And before this] Before the commandment came as a lamp, and the law a light, {as Proverbs 6:23} causing a reformation. As toads and serpents grow in dark and dirty cellars, so do sinful disorders in ignorant places and persons.

Eliashib the priest] The high priest; but such a one as from whom profaneness went forth into all the land, Jeremiah 23:15. The sins of teachers are teachers of sins.

Having the oversight of the chamber] i.e. Of all the chambers of the temple, by virtue of his office; and, therefore, thought belike he might do what he wished with them (now in Nehemiah’s absence) without control.

Was allied unto Tobiah] A bitter enemy to God’s people, but sly and subtle, seeking to insinuate by alliance and letters of persuasion; such as Cardinal Sadolet wrote to the Genevenses, in Calvin’s absence, and Cardinal Lorraine to the Protestant princes of Germany, that he and his brethren, the Guises (those sworn swordmen of the devil), would embrace the reformed religion.


Verse 5

Nehemiah 13:5 And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded [to be given] to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests.

Ver. 5. And he had prepared for him a great chamber] Called chambers, Nehemiah 13:9, for he had laid many chambers into one, saith Junius, by taking down the partitions, and furnishing the same for his friend and ally Tobiah.


Verse 6

Nehemiah 13:6 But in all this [time] was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king:

Ver. 6. But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem] And thence it was that things grew so far out of order. So when Moses was gone into the mount, the people set up the golden calf; they turned aside quickly, saith God, Exodus 32:8. So were the Corinthians and Galatians so soon as St Paul’s back was but turned upon them, Galatians 1:6, Levitate prorsus desultoria. And so were these Jews, notwithstanding their better purposes, promises, covenants; yea, and beginnings of reformation. See Nehemiah 10:30.

And after certain days] Heb. At the end of days; that is, at a year’s end, as Vatablus and Genebrard expound it. No longer than a year was Nehemiah away from his government (to show his dutiful respect to his master, the king of Persia, and to negotiate for his nation), but all things were out of frame, so well had the devil and his instruments bestirred them. But Junius rendereth the text, exactis aliquot annis, certain years being past; and Lyra thus, at the end of his days, or of his life, when he now waxed old, he had a desire to go and reform things amiss at Jerusalem, and to die and lay his bones there. So likewise Funccius, the eighth year after his return to Artaxerxes, which was also the last year of his reign. And indeed one would wonder how in less than one year’s time things so well settled should be so far disjointed; but that the devil is οο πονηρος, the great troubler, and had by sin hurled, at first, confusion over the whole creation in an instant.


Verse 7

Nehemiah 13:7 And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God.

Ver. 7. And I came to Jerusalem] There was his heart before, Animus est ubi amat, non ubi animat (Aug. de Cir. Dei, 1.9, e. 16). No sooner, therefore, had he got his conge d’aller at court, but he flees to Jerusalem, as the doves do to their windows. Fugiendum est ad clarissimam patriam; ibi pater, ibi omnia, saith Plotinus, the philosopher: hasten we all to our heavenly home; there is all that heart can wish, &c. Nehemiah lacketh nothing, with Artaxerxes, Hadad with Pharaoh; yet, in any case, will go into his own country, 1 Kings 11:22. Rivers run into the sea, whence they came; the dove resteth not but upon the ark. Nescio qua natale solum dulcedine cunctos Ducit - (Ovid).

And understood not of the evil that Eliashib did] As Joseph brought his brethrens’ evil report to their father, Genesis 37:2, as the household of Chloe declared unto St Paul the contentions at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 1:11, so did some good souls this high priest’s miscarriages to Nehemiah, and that in an ordinance; not to disgrace him, but to reclaim him, and to free themselves from the guilt of a sinful silence.


Verse 8

Nehemiah 13:8 And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber.

Ver. 8. And it grieved me sore] Such was his zeal for God that he could not bear it; no more could Phineas those two naughty packs, nor Paul the idolatry of Athens, Acts 17:16, his spirit was moved, he was in a fit, yea, almost besides himself, as the word παοωξυνετο signifieth. This the mad world counteth madness, 2 Corinthians 5:13, but madness in this case is better than mopishness, and the true zealot may answer his adversaries as David did Michal, 2 Samuel 6:21, or as Basil did the threatening prefect, who told him that he was mad, Opto me in aeternum sic delirare, I wish I may be so mad to my life’s end.

Therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah] As a profane thing, not fit to be in so holy a place. True zeal, as fire, is active, and saith, Shall I budge, stop, or step back, because hoc Ithacus velit? remit my diligence for fear of a frown, loss, or mischief? Out of doors with this bondwoman and her son; down with this piece of grass, let Adonijah die, though Bathsheba intercede for him, &c.


Verse 9

Nehemiah 13:9 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense.

Ver. 9. Then I commanded] This was governor like: and blessed be he that hath a stomach for God, and will do his utmost for him, as occasion requireth. Of Nehemiah it might well be said, as Chrysostom doth of Peter, that he was like a man made all of fire, walking among stubble; or like Basil, who was said to be a pillar of fire; he was of such a masculine, disengaged, courageous disposition.

And they cleansed the chamber] The Levites did, with their legal rites and purifications, according to their office, which Nehemiah would not invade.

And thither brought I again] And so set things to rights, as our late reformers began happily to do; but Satan hath hitherto hindered them.


Verse 10

Nehemiah 13:10 And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given [them]: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.

Ver. 10. And I perceived] Heb. I took knowledge, and was soon sensible of it, as a great public mischief: for ad tenuitatem beneficiorum necessario sequitur socordia sacerdotum, lean benefits make leaden ministers (Panormit.). This the magistrate must look to, and provide that they may have the double honour that is due to them, of countenance and maintenance, 1 Timothy 5:17; or else religion will soon go to wreck.

That the portions of the Levites had not been given them] And why? because the high priest was so bad, and the Levites, therefore, thought to be little better. How apt are men to dispute God out of his own! How witty to save their purses! How ready to say, with William Rufus, The Church bread is sweet bread! and with Julian, the apostate, to take away the ministers’ maintenance, pretending conscience; for that too much living would be a burden to them; and who knows how Eliashib and his Levites may misemploy it?

For the Levites and singers, that did the work] And are, therefore, worthy of their wages, must have their honorary stipends, or cannot subsist; are not of the chameleon kind, to live by air; but, as harvest labourers, must have that which is good; as oxen that tread out the corn must have more than straw allowed them.

Were fled every one to his field] For stark need, in the fail of temple maintenance; they were glad to do as they might, and let their charge lie. Though tithes were not paid, yet they had some glebe land {A portion of land assigned to a clergyman as part of his benefice.} to live upon.


Verse 11

Nehemiah 13:11 Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place.

Ver. 11. Then contended I with the rulers] Who had let loose the golden reins of authority, and, by a passive ministry at least, suffered this sacrilege, whilst they bare the sword in vain, if they were not chief actors in it; as Luther complaineth of the rulers of his time, Nisi superesset spolium Aegypti quod rapuimus Papae, &c., If we had not some of the spoils of Egypt, pulled from the pope, all we ministers of the gospel might be famished; and this little that is left us is violently taken from us by the civil magistrate. Parishes and schools are polled and spoiled by them, as if they meant to starve us all. Thus Luther, and more to this purpose.

Why is the house of God forsaken?] By your slackness and covetousness, contrary to your covenant? Nehemiah 10:39.

And I gathered them together] i.e. The scattered Levites, that God’s service might be no longer intermitted, and his wrath thereby provoked. Thus Nehemiah, whatever his hand found to do, did it with all his might, Ecclesiastes 8:10; as David danced, Baruch builded, &c., he went throughly about his work.

And set them in their place] Heb. Made them stand in their standing, as if absque stationibus istis non staret mundus, without those standings the world could not stand.


Verse 12

Nehemiah 13:12 Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.

Ver. 12. Then brought all Judah] Then, when there was no other remedy. There must be a compulsory means, or ministers shall be poorly maintained. Quod si sustentandi essent de contributione populi, misere profecto et duriter viverent, saith Luther. If once they be brought to live upon the people’s benevolence, they shall have a poor life of it. Once, in times of Popery, there was need of a statute of Mortmain, providing that they should give no more to the Church. But now it is otherwise; these last and worst times have seen the springs of bounty, like Jordan, turned back; which heretofore did run so fresh and fast into the Church. Our statesmen have ministers’ maintenance now under debate; and much lifting there is by a levelling party (not without a Jesuit to help them) at tithes and college lands. The Lord direct our rulers; and preserve us out of the hands of those hateful harpies. {A fabulous monster, rapacious and filthy, having a woman’s face and body and a bird’s wings and claws, and supposed to act as a minister of divine vengeance.} (This was written July 30, A. D. 1653.)


Verse 13

Nehemiah 13:13 And I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them [was] Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office [was] to distribute unto their brethren.

Ver. 13. And I made treasurers] Nehemiah left nothing undone that might befit a vigilant and valiant governor. He was omnibus numeris absolutus, every way complete.

For they were counted faithful] A singular praise in persons intrusted, 1 Corinthians 4:2, Nehemiah 7:2, Numbers 12:7. Such men as these are now gone in pilgrimage (as one saith), and their return is altogether uncertain. When one desired to see Alexander’s treasures, he showed him not his wealth, but his friends. Nehemiah might have done the like by these faithful treasurers, precious pieces surely, rare and rich jewels.

And their office was] Heb. It was upon them. Duty is a debt, which, till it be discharged, a good heart cannot rest.

To distribute unto their brethren] To a treasure are required, 1. A laying in; 2. A lying hid; 3. A drawing out: so to a treasurer, that he receive readily, keep carefully, distribute prudently.


Verse 14

Nehemiah 13:14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.

Ver. 14. Remember me, O my God] See Nehemiah 5:19.

And wipe not out my good deeds] Forget not my labour of love: God requireth us to be his remembrancers, who yet needeth it not, Hebrews 6:10; there is a book of remembrance written before him, Malachi 3:16, and good Nehemiah would not be wiped out of that book, nor blotted out of the book of life, Revelation 3:5. That wretched monk died blasphemously who said, Redde mihi aeternam vitam quam debes, Give me heaven which thou owest me.

That I have done] Sure it is, saith Austin, that we do what good we do; but it is God alone who causeth us so to do. Say, therefore, Not unto us, Lord, not to us; but to thy name be the praise.


Verse 15

Nehemiah 13:15 In those days saw I in Judah [some] treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all [manner of] burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified [against them] in the day wherein they sold victuals.

Ver. 15. In those days saw I in Judah] He was centoculus, hundred eyed, and had his eye in every corner, to find out and redress abuses; wherein he was incessant and indefatigable. He chose rather to be counted a busy justice than a quiet gentleman.

Some treading winepresses on the sabbath day] These Jews were not so loose, but their posterity at this day are, in some respects, as much overstrict, as is elsewhere noted.

Dum vitant stulti vitium, in contraria currunt.

While they avoid foolish vices, they run in contrary ways.

And bringing in sheaves] As a work of necessity.

As also wine, grapes, and figs] As a work of mercy. So they would

plead likely. Sin and shifting came into the world together, no evil

wants its excuse; but the covering is too short, and God will wash

off that varnish with rivers of brimstone.

And all manner of burdens] They did not so much as keep

Sabbatum Asinorum, a sabbath of fools, a rest from servile

employments. See Jeremiah 17:21.

And I testified against them] i.e. I challenged them as

impious for so doing, and provokers of God’s wrath, traitors to the

state, Nehemiah 13:18. This should every man do in his place. A

certain Indian coming by, and seeing one of the New English profaning

the Lord’s day by felling of a tree, said to him, Thou much mached

man, that is, Thou very wicked man, What, break you God’s day?

knowest thou not that this is the Lord’s day in Massachusetts? that

is, in one of the English plantations so called.

In the day wherein they sold victuals] A practice too much in use

in this nation, till keeping of markets and fairs on the Christian

Sabbath was put down by authority; and especially by that late good

act for the sanctification of the Lord’s day, grossly broken in this

kind, under many of the bishops’ noses; yea, made a voider and

dunghill, for all refuse businesses.


Verse 16

Nehemiah 13:16 There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.

Ver. 16. There dwelt men of Tyre also] Phoenician merchants had their factors in Jerusalem.

And all manner of ware] Merchandise; for Tyre was a great market town, and famous for fishing, Ezekiel 27:1-36

And sold on the sabbath] Which they ought not to have done; for that was God’s market day, and not man’s.

Unto the children of Judah] Who were, therefore, worse than the Tyrians, because they ought to have been better; therefore wrath shall be upon the Jew first, and then upon the Gentile, Romans 2:10

And in Jerusalem] This holy city was become a harlot. Filthiness in a stew is nothing so odious as in a virgin; a nettle in a wilderness is not so unsightly as in a garden. In a land of uprightness to do wickedly is an aggravating circumstance, Isaiah 26:10.


Verse 17

Nehemiah 13:17 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?

Ver. 17. Then contended I with the nobles] Heb. With the white ones; that had white clothes, but black souls. The snow drift covers many a muck hill. See Nehemiah 13:11.

What evil thing is this that ye do] Or suffer others to do, at least, and are, therefore, worthily disgraced; as Moses also was for like cause, Exodus 16:28.

And profane the sabbath day?] As if it were a common day, and not God’s enclosure, holy and honourable. Should men thus rob God of his right, unmound his several, make false entry upon his freehold? Hath he not singled out this day for his own, as he did Israel out of all nations, the tree of knowledge out of all the trees of the garden, and out of all the world (which is his) the tenth? This is the day which the Lord hath made, &c., it is a day like that night, Exodus 12:42, to be kept holy unto the Lord; that day of the Lord which all his people must keep throughout their generations. To profane it or wound it is here called an evil thing with an accent, a wickedness with a witness.


Verse 18

Nehemiah 13:18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.

Ver. 18. Did not your fathers thus] And will ye abet and add to their wicked practices? Will ye needs espouse their sins, as a seed of serpents?

And did not our God bring all this evil upon us?] And that justly, because, Belshazzar like, though we knew all this, yet we rifted up ourselves against the Lord of heaven, as the horse that casteth his rider, and riseth up against him, Daniel 5:22-23. Hath ever any waxed fierce against God, and prospered? Job 9:4. Was not he that but gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day paid home with stones? Was there not for this very sin a fire kindled in the gates of Jerusalem, that devoured the palaces thereof? Jeremiah 17:27. Justly is he made an example that will not take example by others; and it is a sure both presage and desert of ruin not to be warned.

Yet ye bring more wrath] As if ye had a mind to wrestle a fall with the Almighty, and to try for mastery. But do ye provoke the Lord to anger? are ye stronger than he?


Verse 19

Nehemiah 13:19 And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and [some] of my servants set I at the gates, [that] there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day.

Ver. 19. When the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark] As it did early, because the mountains were around Jerusalem, Psalms 125:2.

Before the sabbath] That there might be a due preparation without interruption. At this day, in many cities where the Jews reside there is one goes about and proclaims the approaching of the Sabbath about half-an-hour before sunset the day before, that they may set all aside to sanctify it.

I commanded that the gates should be shut] And thereby all such occasions of profaning shut out.

And charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath] So King Edgar ordained that Sunday should be solemnized from Saturday, nine of the clock, till Monday morning here in this land, that God might surely have his due. The Jews of Tiberias began the Sabbath sooner than others. Those at Tsepphore continued it longer, adding de profane ad sacrum. of common to sacred time. Hence R. Jose wished that his portion might be with those of Tiberius, and ended it with those of Tsepphore (Buxtorf).

And some of my servants set I at the gates] To keep them carefully, and to prevent profanations. How the Athenians amerced those that came not to the assemblies on holy days, hurdling up all the streets, except them that led to the ecclesia, taking away all their saleable wares, &c., see Rous’s Archaeolog. Attic. p. 103.


Verse 20

Nehemiah 13:20 So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.

Ver. 20. So the merchants … lodged without Jerusalem] They would not easily be said, or take an answer, so desirous they were of some takings from the Jews. There is nothing in the world that is more pertinacious, and that cleaveth closer to a man, than a strong lust; say it be covetousness, wantonness, passionateness, or any the like, entreat it to be gone, as Naomi did Ruth, threaten it, as Abner did Asahel, or as Nehemiah did these merchants, you prevail nothing, till God comes and strikes a parting blow, &c.


Verse 21

Nehemiah 13:21 Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do [so] again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no [more] on the sabbath.

Ver. 21. Why lodge ye about the wall?] His care was also lest God should be dishonoured in the suburbs. A little fire warms but a little way off, when a great one casteth about its heat far and near. He feared also lest those within the walls, seeing them, might be tempted to wish themselves with them; as when Sulla, the Roman, lay before the walls of Athens, the citizens’ minds were with him, though their bodies were kept from him.

I will lay hands on you] I will lay you fast enough: be packing, therefore. The best way to be rid of sin is to threaten it, punish it, by the practice of mortification, to handle it roughly. We are not debtors to the flesh, Romans 8:12. We owe it nothing but stripes, nothing but the blue eye St Paul gave it, 1 Corinthians 9:27, υπωπιαζω.


Verse 22

Nehemiah 13:22 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and [that] they should come [and] keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, [concerning] this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.

Ver. 22. And I commanded the Levites] He might do it, as their governor. How then can Popish priests exempt themselves from the power of the civil magistrate? and say, as those shavelings did to our Henry II, when they lashed him on the bare till the blood followed, Domine, noli minari; nos enim de tali curia sumus, quae consuevit imperare regibus, et imperatoribus; that is, Sir, spare your threats; for we are of that high court of Rome which is wont to lord it over kings and emperors? Might he not have well replied, Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi; or rather, ye limbs of Antichrist?

Come and keep the gates] The temple gates, with - Procul hinc, procul este profani. Far off fro here, far off is to be the profane. In Greece the priest, at their solemn sacrifices, was wont to ask, τις τηδε, Who’s there? and the people were to answer, πολλοι τ αγαθοι τε παρεισι, Here are many, and those also good men.

To sanctify the sabbath day] By severing the precious from the vile; and seeing that all things were rightly carried by themselves and the rest.

Remember me, &c.] See Nehemiah 13:14.

And spare me] Meritum meum est misericordia Domini. Horreo quicquid de meo est, ut sim meus My service is the mercy of God. I shutter at whatever is from me, that is mine. (Bernard). Thomas Aquinas, lying on his death bed, and being about to receive the Lord’s supper, besought the Lord with tears that he would spare him according to his abundant goodness; and snatching up the Bible, he hugged it, and said, I believe all the contents of this blessed book. The like is reported of William Wickham, founder of New College, Oxon, and of Charles V, emperor, and some other wiser Papists.


Verse 23

Nehemiah 13:23 In those days also saw I Jews [that] had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, [and] of Moab:

Ver. 23. In those days saw I Jews] Outwardly, at least (as the apostle distinguishes, Romans 2:28), and that also was then a prerogative, Romans 3:1, and shall appear to be so again, when their long looked for conversion day is come, Romans 11:26.

That had married wives of Ashdod] Outlandish wives, and of another religion; and with these they cohabited, as the Hebrew word here importeth.


Verse 24

Nehemiah 13:24 And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people.

Ver. 24. And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod] They had a mixture of their mother’s both speech and spirit: the birth followed the belly, the conclusion followed the weaker proposition.

And could not speak in the Jews’ language] Though it were that of their fathers. Mothers are most about children, and have the greater advantage to perfume them, or poison them. But what mad fellows were those old Britons or Welshmen, who driven out of their own country by the Saxons, came into Little Britain in France; where, when they had married wives, they are said to have cut out their tongues, lest they should corrupt the language of their children! Hence the British or Welsh language remaineth still in that country.


Verse 25

Nehemiah 13:25 And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, [saying], Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.

Ver. 25. And cursed them] i.e. I denounced God’s heavy curse and vengeance upon them (according to that themselves had wished and entered into, Nehemiah 10:30), in case they repented not. This is nothing, then, in favour of our cursing men who are cursed men, &c.

And smote certain of them] So far was his heart enraged with a holy hatred of their sin, that he could not forbear them. So when Charles V had heard that Farnesius (General of the pope’s forces) had ravished certain ladies, he brake out into this speech (and was never in all his life observed to be more angry at anything), Si adesset impurus ille Farnesius, manu mea confoderem: Oh, if I had here that filthy fellow, I would slay him with mine own hand.

And made them swear by God] So they had done before, Nehemiah 10:29-30. But now, alas, they were all gone aside, they were altogether become filthy, they stank above ground, Psalms 14:3. He takes therefore another oath of them, &c.


Verse 26

Nehemiah 13:26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.

Ver. 26. Did not Solomon, king of Israel, &c.] Did not he deviate and prevaricate in his old age, shamefully turning from the Lord, who had appeared unto him twice? Did not his strange wives draw him to strange practices; insomuch as some have doubted about his salvation, and Bellarmine reckoneth him (but wrongfully) amongst reprobates?

Yet among many nations was there no king like him] For honour, pleasure, wisdom, and wealth, &c., the abundance he had of these drew out his spirits, and dissolved him. See Mark 10:23-25, 1 Timothy 6:9, Isaiah 39:1-2.

Who was beloved of his God] His corculum, his darling, his Jedidiah, 2 Samuel 12:25, but he did not reciprocate; his heart was disjointed and hung loose from the Lord, whom he grievously provoked by his sensuality and apostasy.

And God made him king over all Israel] Not by right of inheritance (for he was a younger brother), but by special designation. Yet he defied that throne whereunto God had so graciously advanced him; this was a great aggravation of his sin, 2 Samuel 12:7-8, Deuteronomy 32:12; Deuteronomy 32:19, Amos 2:9.

Nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin] And that most shamefully. Never was there a wiser man than Solomon; and never any saint fell into more foolish lusts. Job, who had the greatest adversity that ever man felt, fell much; but Solomon, who had the greatest prosperity that ever man saw, fell more.


Verse 27

Nehemiah 13:27 Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?

Ver. 27. To do all this great evil] Here are three articles in the Hebrew, importing the heinousness of this sin. See the like, Genesis 39:9.

To transgress against our God] No sin can be little, because it is a disloyalty (so the word signifieth) against so great a God, and his most holy law; a sacrilegious trespass.


Verse 28

Nehemiah 13:28 And [one] of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, [was] son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me.

Ver. 28. And one of the sons of Joiada] His grandson Manasses, brother to Jaddua the high priest, a vile apostate, and first author of that famous schism and deadly feud between the Samaritans and Jews, John 4:20 (Joseph. lib. xi.).

Was son-in-law to Sanballat] Who, to keep him to his wife, built a fair temple on Mount Gerizim, hard by the city of Sychem, and made Manasses chief priest thereof.

Therefore I chased him from me] I caused him to be excommunicated, and banished from amongst us.

Remember them, O my God] For evil, as me for good, Nehemiah 13:31, and in both remember the relation that is between thee and my soul. Woe be to those whom God’s people do thus turn over to him to be punished.

Because they have defiled the priesthood] Corruptio optimi pessima: as sweetest wine makes the sourest vinegar. A wicked priest is the worst creature upon earth.

And the covenant, &c.] {See Trapp on "Malachi 2:4"}


Verse 30

Nehemiah 13:30 Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business;

Ver. 30. Thus cleansed I them from all strangers] As from so much filth and rubbish. I made them either put away their strange wives, or quit their places. He did not raise a dust only, but not remove it, as Luther wittily saith of the cardinals and prelates, that met at Rome about reformation of the Church (Sleid. Com.). These he compared to foxes that came to sweep a house full of dust with their tails; and instead of sweeping it out, swept it all about the house, and made a great smoke for the while; but when they were gone, the dust all fell down again. Nehemiah made clean work, and so purged the priesthood, that he made it shine again, as the word here signifieth; the priests were (as Chrysostom saith all ministers should be), puriores coelo, clearer than the azured sky; and as those Nazarites, Lamentations 4:7, purer than snow, whiter than milk, &c.


Verse 31

Nehemiah 13:31 And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

Ver. 31. And for the wood offering] See Nehemiah 10:34-35.

Remember me, O my God, for good] See Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 13:15; Nehemiah 13:22. He brags not, but prays, producing his good deeds as testimonies of his sincerity, whereof he begs acceptance. And this is a sweet close of the Old Testament (say our last and largest annotations upon the Bible), for this was the last history and book thereof, though the Book of Esther be set after it. Malachi prophesied anon after the temple was built, as we see (saith Master Pemble) by his reproving of that sin, in corrupting the holy seed by marrying strangers. Sixtus Senensis placeth him as low as about five hundred years before Christ. Many of the ancients make him to be the same with Ezra. Nehemiah then, as it may seem, hath the honour of putting a perclose to the Old Testament; and he doth it with this short but pithy prayer, which he uttereth (as Luther used to pray), tanta reverentia, ut si Deo; et tanta fiducia, ut si amico; with so great reverence, as to God; and yet with so great confidence, as to his God, a God in covenant with him. "Remember me, O my God, for good." Fiat, Fiat. Let him do, let him do.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Nehemiah 13:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/nehemiah-13.html. 1865-1868.

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