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Nehemiah

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©Dominic LaBelle

Chapter 13:23-31 (ESV)

Posted on November 18, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 13:23-31 (ESV) - In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?”

And one of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me. Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.

Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits.

Remember me, O my God, for good.

Question to consider: Do you think Nehemiah’s actions toward the people of Judah were justified? Why or why not?

In this final piece of Nehemiah’s epilogue, his frustration almost leaps out of the text. I don’t know how long he had been away from Jerusalem, but every single thing the people had vowed under oath regarding God’s Law, they had violated in his absence. My guess is that it had been a few years because not only had people gone back to marrying foreign wives, but they had children who were old enough to speak. Of course, they couldn’t speak Hebrew, for they had been taught the languages of the foreign women.

Even worse than the idea of taking oaths of obedience to God was forcing someone to do so under duress of further beating. Nehemiah’s statement about Solomon was correct. His sin began when he started taking wives from among the nations. I’m sure the union was rooted in politics since Solomon pursued peace for Israel. However, becoming one flesh with many women who worship other gods inevitably corrupts the heart of an individual— even someone as wise as Solomon. I’m thankful that Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes when he was an old man because his true wisdom only came in realizing that all the pursuits of worldly things were meaningless when compared with knowing the one true God.

Not surprisingly, Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, had married the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite. If Eliashib had no real faith in God, it stands to reason his son would follow after him and pursue worldly wealth over an abiding relationship with God.

Nehemiah’s zeal for the house of God was reminiscent of that of Jesus who also cleansed the temple. However, the big difference between the anger of Christ and that of Nehemiah was a perfect knowledge that those who made the temple unclean were hardened in their hearts to the point of declaring holy judgment. Once again, Nehemiah acted expediently and efficiently to clean the sin from the land, but his solution was temporary and entirely dependent on his ability to oversee and manage Israel.

While I do believe that the church exists as a corporate body of believers called out to love and serve God and their brothers and sisters in Christ, there is also a personal, relational element of faith that needs to exist for someone to persevere. A faith that is fed regularly through God’s means of grace and in fellowship with other believers is a sustaining faith.

Prayer

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for bringing about the fulfillment of Your holy line and Your sovereign will despite our continued failure to keep Your righteous commands. Thank You for clothing us in the righteousness of Christ, for we cannot stand before You without it. Amen.