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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Nehemiah 13

 

 

Verse 1

We here arrive to the close of Nehemiah's wise and pious government. The chapter relates several interesting circumstances. Nehemiah had returned to his master at Persia; and as it should seem, was permitted to visit Jerusalem a second time. He reforms certain abuses crept in during his absence; and particularly restores the sabbath to its original Sanctity.


Verses 1-3

The history of Moab's conduct to Israel, and the vile attempt of Balaam, we have Numbers 22:23-24. And the Lord's commands in consequence we have Deuteronomy 23:3-5. But added to these, the prohibition of alliances with the people of the land was among the distinguishing features of the Lord's covenant. God's people were to dwell alone, and not to be reckoned among the nations. Oh! how precious and blessed is it in all this to eye Jesus. I must not dismiss these verses without first taking notice how blessed the reading of the law was to the people. When they had heard of God's holy will, that the stranger should be separated from Israel, the people obeyed. See, my soul, how vastly important it is to have the word of the Lord read in our churches, in our houses, families and closets. Oh! blessed book of God, I would say, thou Holy Bible, the merciful epistle sent down from heaven; be thou my meditation all the day, and let mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I may be occupied in it. Oh! blessed Jesus, thou holy Lamb, who alone was found worthy to open the book, and loose the seals, do thou, Lord open to my soul all the wondrous things of thy law; and open my heart to the right apprehension of it, that I may separate all that is mixed, and corrupt in my heart, and cast it out.


Verses 4-9

It should seem very plainly from what is here said, that Nehemiah had returned to Persia, and now was come back to Jerusalem. During his absence Eliashib the High Priest, to his everlasting disgrace, from his alliance with Tobiah, had not only paid this open enemy of God and his church great respect, but had dared to desecrate the temple by giving him an apartment in it: and to make room for him had removed the things belonging to the temple service. What an awful character must have been this High Priest! Oh! how unlike thee, thou great High Priest of our God and of thy people! But stop, my soul; doth not every minister do the same, nay, if possible, worse than Eliashib, who substitutes falsehood for truth in the services of the sanctuary? Who teaches the people to accommodate Tobiahs of every description and character, instead of Christ. Alas! alas! what rubbish of anything, of nothing, of worse than nothing, is sometimes made to supply the place of Jesus, and his one-salvation, for poor perishing sinners. Oh! for the spirit given to Nehemiah to reform these abuses, to be poured out now, that an holy zeal might cast forth the false refuges of lies out of the Lord's chambers wherever they are found.


Verses 10-13

This forms an interesting passage, and makes a good lesson for the regulation of ministers with their people. Wherefore the Levites had fled, is not said. I should hope not because their stipend was kept back. And yet if they fled away, and in consequence the people then withheld it, the story tells much worse. In either case it is a sorry representation. Had the Levites kept up an eye to God, however ill their services were requited, God would have taken care that his servants should have been fed. Oh! what an huge volume of complaints is gone up before God, and the dreadful pages multiplying daily, of unfaithful ministers fleeing from their post like those Levites; fleecing, but not feeding their flocks; and taking wages, but giving no service. And on the other hand, how many of the people receiving their ministers labors, but not requiting them, except with ill-will: of all horrible accounts at the last day, surely this will be found the most tremendous!


Verse 14

I admire the frequent expression of Nehemiah in which he prays to be remembered. It is not said by way of heightening his labours; for let the Reader remark with me , he doth not ask for a reward, but only the Lord's remembrance of him. Sweetly, Lord Jesus, doth it suggest thy desire of being remembered by thy disciples, when in the holy supper thou didst provide a standing token for a memorial.


Verses 15-22

Reader! doth it not strike thy mind while reading this account of the profanation of the sabbath, that there is but too great a resemblance between the days of Nehemiah and the present, in this crying sin of our guilty land. Must not everyone say that will speak the truth, that there never was a period more alarmingly evil in this particular than the present. Oh! ye masters of families! parents of the rising generation! are ye not seriously concerned what judgments of the Lord may follow! and will ye not attempt a reform to prevent a sin big with the most awful evil, both as it concerns the present life and that which is to come. And oh! ye ministers of the sanctuary and faithful magistrates of the people, may the Lord encourage your hearts and hands to follow the bright example of Nehemiah, and to bring back the hallowed sabbaths of the Lord to their original sanctity. Nehemiah's prayer at the close of this passage for God's remembrance of him, sweetly explains the sense in which he looked for that remembrance; namely, in the greatness of divine mercy. And where is the greatness of God's mercy but in Jesus Christ.


Verses 23-31

Here we have recorded another instance of the zeal of Nehemiah in reforming abuses, both as it concerned the divine honor, and the people's happiness. Nothing could be more important than the preservation of God's people to themselves. The Lord by the prophet complained of this abuse. I had planted thee (said God) a noble vine, wholly a right seed; how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me. Jeremiah 2:21. And spiritually considered, did it not all along point to the undefiled union between Jesus and his church; - Jesus and his people? How sad a breach then was this ungracious alliance in God's Israel? And that even the sons of the Priests should be foremost in this degeneracy! Nehemiah closes his book with once more repeating his prayer, for the Lord's remembrance of him. And that blessed promise which God hath left upon record by his servant the prophet seems to be a sweet answer. The Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before him. And the Lord adds, and they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels. Malachi 3:16-17.


Verse 31

REFLECTIONS

BEHOLD, my soul! how God's people have been enjoined in all ages to keep separate from all others, and never to mingle with them, much less to form alliances with them, and learn their works. See then that thou art come out from among them and touch not the unclean thing. In God's original appointment the people of his dear Son dwell alone. They have a distinct mark and character, Given to Jesus. Purchased, redeemed, ransomed by Jesus. Regenerated by the spirit of Jesus, and set as a seal of the Spirit on Jesus hand, and in Jesus heart. Oh! then as one of the Lord's ransomed sinners may it be my portion thus to be known, and distinguished. Let no Tobiahs, no Sanballats, neither Ammonites nor Hanaanites be in my alliance. But oh! let me be found one with Jesus, united to my Lord: and Christ my Lord be formed in my heart, the hope of glory. And oh! for grace to be so known in reverencing the sabbaths of my Lord, the ordinances of Jesus, his word, the ministrations of his grace, and all his holy things. Lord, remember me for my good in all these, according to the greatness of thy mercies, in Jesus thy dear and ever blessed Son.

And now farewell, thou noble Tirshatha, thou magnanimous Nehemiah, thou great and faithful servant of the most high God! I pray for grace to imitate thy lovely example. And amidst all the opposition of the Sanballats and Tobiahs of the present day, may it be my happiness to be distinguished, as thou wert in thy generation, valiant for the truths sake; and only zealous to be approved before God.

But oh! Almighty God! thou who didst give to Nehemiah all he possessed of fortitude and grace in this blessed cause; to thee would I chiefly look, and while delighted with the history of the servant, recognize the hand of the Almighty Master; influencing, guiding, guarding, and giving success to Nehemiah in all! Yes! Holy Spirit! it is thou which hast in all ages raised up faithful servants, to be honoured instruments in thy almighty hand, for good to thy people. To thee, then, be all the praise and all the glory. I desire to bless thee for thy mercies to this great man, in giving him so distinguished a post in thy church. I desire to bless thee for causing his history to be handed down as an example to succeeding ages. And oh! Lord, grant that all may be blessed to bring glory to God, and happiness to thy people in Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be endless praise. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Nehemiah 13:4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/nehemiah-13.html. 1828.

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