January 6, 2016.
Reading: Nehemiah 11-13.
Background: Nehemiah 8-10.
Concepts and Connections.
Records of the returned exiles: This chapter serves as a record of the people who were chosen to live in Jerusalem after they had returned from exile. We see that the leaders of the people and then one in ten families were chosen by lot to make their dwelling place in Jerusalem. The people are listed by tribe and the numbers of the people who lived in Jerusalem. At the end of the chapter, the people who lived in villages outside of Jerusalem, but not in the city, are listed by name, keeping a record of the families and their land.
The priests, the wall and the temple: The first portion of this chapter is dedicated to making a record of the priests and the Levites who were in office or preforming duties at various times during the return of the exiles, the rebuilding of the temple and the rebuilding of the wall. The names are sectioned off by dates in which each of the sections served, i.e. those who came with Zerubbabel, in the days of Joiakim, etc.
After the records are made for the priests and the Levites, Nehemiah records the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, which had been his task. Note here the great joy and praise that accompanied this dedication, as there was loud singing and playing as they praised their God who had shown them favor to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. The priests and the Levites purified themselves, the leaders were assembled and two great choirs were made to give thanks to the Lord. Half of the officials went with one choir and half with the other, and the sound of rejoicing was so great that it was heard from far away. One that someday, the priests and the Levites were positioned in their places of service in the ministering of the temple just as was done before Babylonian captivity, in the days of David and Asaph. Finally, the Lord had led them back, and service in Jerusalem was set back to the way it was meant to be, in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah.
Quick apostasy and final reforms: This chapter opens with the reading of the book of Moses to the people. The people seemed to have gone through a great revival and been set back on track. However, Nehemiah returned to his office in the king’s presence for a period of time, and when he asked leave to come back to Jerusalem, he found great apostasy had swept in so quickly. Nehemiah records several of the great transgressions he found among the people when he returned to Jerusalem, each time rebuking them and then asking the Lord to remember him for his dedication to Him and correction of the people. First, he finds that Eliashib the priest had made a large chamber for Tobiah the Ammonite (see Nehemiah 2:10) in the house of the Lord. This was a transgression on two fronts, as no Ammonite was supposed to enter the house of the Lord, much less dwell therein, and the chamber was build where the storage for the portion of the Levites was supposed to be. Nehemiah gets very angry when he sees this and throws the household furniture of Tobiah out, ordering the chapter to be cleansed and the vessels to be brought back. Secondly, Nehemiah finds that the Levites were no longer being given their portion for their service in the house of the Lord, which was causing them to take on other jobs to support their families, thus neglecting the service of the house of the Lord. Nehemiah confronts the officials about this and appoints trustworthy treasurers over the storehouses. Third, he found the the people of God were doing work on the Sabbath, treading in the winepresses, loading donkeys, brining in heaps of grain, etc. He also found that foreigners who lived in the city, were trading and doing business with the children of God on the Sabbath. Nehemiah confronts the nobles and rebukes them for profaning the Sabbath, just as their fathers had. Thus, he shut the doors as it got dark on the Sabbath and sent all the foreign merchants away, commanding the Levites to purify themselves and guard the gates. Finally, he found that there were those who once again had taken foreign wives of Ashdod, Ammon and Moab and their children couldn’t even speak the language of Judah. Nehemiah violently reacts to this and reminds the people of their past, and how even Solomon was lead away by foreign women (see I Kings 11:1-8). He records a couple of names specifically that had desecrated the priesthood. With all this, Nehemiah returned and cleansed the people from their apostasy and reestablished the duties of the priests and Levites. He ends the book with a prayer to God to remember him because of his reforms.
Next Reading: Psalm 148-150.
Heed the word.