Nehemiah 9-13

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

April 9, 2003

Introduction

The wall has been finished.  The people have gathered for the Feast of Trumpets where they had heard the Word taught to them and they learned that the joy of the Lord was their strength.  Several days later they came back to Jerusalem again to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.  They again are taught the Word every day.  It is now the end of the feast of Tabernacles and the people are ready for their time of repentance, turning from their sin.

Nehemiah 9

:1-3 Day of repentance

:1 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.

This is two days after the Feast of Tabernacles is complete.  It is not a special day commanded in the Law.  The people are apparently now taking the time to respond to all they’ve heard from God’s Word.  Earlier, Nehemiah had told the people not to be sad, but now is apparently the appropriate time.

:3 And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.

fourth part of the day – three hours

confessedyadah – to throw, shoot, cast; (Hithpael) to confess (sin); to give thanks

worshippedshachah – (Hithpael) to bow down, prostrate oneself

Part of the day they were taught from the Scriptures.

The other part of the day they confessed their sin and worshipped

Whereas the last time the people were together, they were encouraged to be joyful, here the people are gathered to deal with their sins.

:4-38 Prayer of confession

:4 …cried with a loud voice unto the LORD their God.

criedza‘aq – to cry, cry out

:5 …Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever

stand upquwm – to rise, arise, stand, rise up, stand up

Not all worship was done by bowing down on their face.  Here they stand.

:7 Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham;

Abram‘Abram – “exalted father”

Abraham‘Abraham – “father of a multitude”

God changed Abram’s name (Gen. 17:5).

He would become the “father of a multitude”, even though he only had one illegitimate son through his wife’s handmaid, Hagar.

:8 … madest a covenant …and hast performed thy words

covenant[email protected] – covenant, alliance, pledge

hast performedquwm – to rise, arise, stand, rise up, stand up; (Hiphil)  to cause to arise, raise; to raise, set up, erect, build; to raise up, bring on the scene; to raise up, rouse, stir up, investigate; to raise up, constitute; to cause to stand, set, station, establish; to make binding; to carry out, give effect to

Lesson

God keeps His promises

God’s promise to Abram seemed pretty “out there”.  Yet now they could look back and see that it all came true.
This is going to be a recurring theme through this prayer.  God is faithful.

:10 for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them

God knew that the Egyptians were mistreating His people.

:13  …gavest them right judgments, and true laws…

God gave His people the Law through Moses.

:15 …broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.

Paul tells us that the Rock that provided the water was Christ:

(1 Cor 10:4 KJV)  And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

It is interesting that during the Feast of Tabernacles there was a ritual where water was brought into the Temple court and poured out every day as a reminder of this “rock”.
Jesus stood up on the last day,
(John 7:37-39 KJV)  In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. {38} He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. {39} (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Lesson

More promises

God had made a promise to Abraham and God kept His promise.
Now God made another promise to His people that He would give them the land of Canaan.  He will keep His promise.

:17 …in their rebellion appointed a captain …thou art a God ready to pardon

appointed a captain – this was after the spies had come back from investigating the Promised Land and had reported on there being giants in the land.

(Num 14:4 KJV)  And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.

They got as far as deciding they wanted to go back, but didn’t get to go too much farther.

God kept His part of the deal, His people did not.

:18 Yea, when they had made them a molten calf

The Golden Calf – Exodus 32.

:19 Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness

Several times in the wilderness God could have abandoned His people, but He did not.

:20  Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them

When Moses had gathered seventy elders to help with the government responsibilities over the people, God put the Holy Spirit on the elders to help equip them for their duties.

(Num 11:25-29 KJV)  And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. {26} But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. {27} And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. {28} And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. {29} And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!

:21 …they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.

God’s kindness to a disobedient people.

:24 ..thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites

Once again, God keeps His promises. God is doing the work.

:26 slew thy prophets which testified against them …

Lesson

Don’t shoot the prophet

Sometimes we tend to get mad at the person who has the courage to tell us that we’ve got a problem.
It would be better if we paid attention and repented.

:27 …thou gavest them saviours…

saviours – the “judges”.  The cycle in the book of judges was the people disobeyed, God handed them over to their enemies, the people repented, God sent a man to save them, then they disobeyed again, and the cycle restarted.

This is one of the ideas behind the word “savior”.  A “savior” is one who saves his people from their enemies.  Jesus is our “Savior” because He has saved us from our sin and from Satan.

:29 (which if a man do, he shall live in them;)

This is a quote from the Law.

(Lev 18:5 KJV)  Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.

The idea is that if you obey the Law completely, you will have everlasting life.

(Rom 10:4-11 NLT)  For Christ has accomplished the whole purpose of the law. All who believe in him are made right with God. {5} For Moses wrote that the law's way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. {6} But the way of getting right with God through faith says, "You don't need to go to heaven" (to find Christ and bring him down to help you). {7} And it says, "You don't need to go to the place of the dead" (to bring Christ back to life again). {8} Salvation that comes from trusting Christ--which is the message we preach--is already within easy reach. In fact, the Scriptures say, "The message is close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart." {9} For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. {10} For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. {11} As the Scriptures tell us, "Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed."

The problem is that life cannot come from the Law because we are unable to keep it.  Instead, life comes from trusting in Jesus.

:30 Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.

forbearmashak – to draw (and lift out), drag along, lead along, drag or lead off, draw down; to proceed, march; to draw out, prolong, continue

God would send prophets through the years to warn the people to turn from their sins and follow God.

Eventually God let their enemies take them away – the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.

:32 let not all the trouble seem little before thee

(ICB) Do not let all our trouble seem unimportant in your eyes.

(NLT)  do not let all the hardships we have suffered be as nothing to you

:33 Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us

God has done right in bringing judgment.  They deserved it.

:37 And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins

Though they are back in the land, and the land is bringing forth great crops, but the profits are going to Persia.  they are ruled by foreign powers, the Persians.  This is because of their sins.

:38 And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it

They are renewing their promise to follow the Lord.

The contents of their promise will come in Nehemiah 10.  They are going to promise to keep the Law and serve the Lord.

Their leaders are all going to sign this covenant.

Lesson

Commit to Him

As a result of having heard God’s Word, the people are making choices.
They’re turning from their sins and choosing to follow the Lord.

Nehemiah 10

:1-27 The signers

:1-27 Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha…

sealedchatham – to seal, seal up, affix a seal

Nehemiah is the first to put his own signature on this contract with God.

vs. 1-8 – names of the priests that signed the contract.

vs. 9-13 – names of Levites that signed the contract.

vs. 14-27 – names of leaders of the people that signed the contract.

:28-39 The contract

:28 every one having knowledge, and having understanding;

The people who are mature enough to understand what they’re doing make a promise to God.

:30 And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons:

This was one of the areas that Ezra had been so grieved about when he first arrived in Jerusalem.

(Ezra 9:1-2 KJV)  Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. {2} For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.

Ezra ended up calling the nation together and asked those who had married foreign wives to divorce them.

:31 And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day …

Sabbath laws.

We’ll see more of this later.

:32 to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house

They made it a law for the people to pay for the upkeep of the Temple worship.

:35 And to bring the firstfruits of our ground…

They were required to give the firstfruits of all their produce to the Lord.

:36 Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle…

All the firstborn belonged to the Lord.  For animals this meant sacrificing them.  For children, this meant buying them back (redeeming them) from the Lord with an animal sacrifice.

:37 …and the tithes of our ground

tithes – a tenth of your income

:39  we will not forsake the house of our God.

They would not forsake the Temple by not bringing their offerings.

Nehemiah 11

:1-2 Populating Jerusalem

:1 …to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city

It looks as if they are tithing more than just crops or money.  It seems that they are giving a “tithe” of people to live in the city.

:2 And the people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.

It sounds like some people were chosen by casting lots while others willingly offered to live in the city.

This answers the problem raised in:

(Neh 7:4 KJV)  Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded.

:3-19 Jerusalem’s inhabitants

:3 Now these are the chief of the province that dwelt in Jerusalem

We are given a list of the people that would live in Jerusalem now that the walls had been finished.

vs. 4-6 the people from the tribe of Judah

vs. 7-9 the people from the tribe of Benjamin

vs. 10-14 the priests

vs. 15-18 the Levites, including worship leaders from the families of Asaph and Jeduthun (vs. 17)

vs. 19 the gatekeepers

:20-36 Where non-Jerusalem folks settled

vs. 24-30 the tribe of Judah

vs. 31-35 the tribe of Benjamin

Levites were scattered throughout all the towns (vs. 36)

Nehemiah 12

:1-26 Priests and Levites

We have another listing of priests and Levites, starting with those that came from Babylon with Zerubbabel and going through the times of Nehemiah and Ezra.

:27-43 The dedication of the wall

:27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places…with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps.

They put out a call for all the Levites to come to Jerusalem for the dedication of the wall.

It seems that the focus on bringing the Levites is because of their musical abilities.

:30 And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall.

purifiedtaher – to be clean, be pure; (Hithpael) to purify oneself; ceremonially; morally; to present oneself for purification

How did they “purify” the gates and the wall?  Probably by sprinkling sacrificial blood on it.

:31- The procession

:31-37 Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies of them that gave thanks, whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate:

It seems that what Nehemiah is describing is that the first group, led by Ezra, will start on the southwest corner of the wall down by the “dung gate” and proceeded east and then north toward the Temple.

:38-39 And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them, and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall, from beyond the tower of the furnaces even unto the broad wall;

The second group includes Nehemiah, and starts at the same place and heads north along the “broad wall” toward the Temple.

:43 so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.

Joy

:44-47 Treasurers and support

Nehemiah describes those who were in charge of collecting the tithes and offerings.  The money was distributed to the singers and the guards so they would stay on the job.

Nehemiah 13 – Nehemiah fixes things

:1-3 Laws concerning the mixed multitude

:1-3 On that day they read in the book of Moses …

This is found in:

(Deu 23:3-6 KJV)  An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: {4} Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee. {5} Nevertheless the LORD thy God would not hearken unto Balaam; but the LORD thy God turned the curse into a blessing unto thee, because the LORD thy God loved thee. {6} Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever.

This prohibition against Ammonites or Moabites goes back to the time of Balaam.
Balaam had been hired by the Moabites to put a curse on Israel, but instead of cursing them, all Balaam could do was to pronounce blessing on them.
When Balaam realized that God loved these people so much, he devised another way for them to fall.  He gave advice to the Moabites, telling them to have some of their young women entice the Israelite men into worshipping the Moabite gods through sexual relations.
Because of all this trouble, this law was given.

Lesson

God’s Word applies to life

I wonder if the people had never heard this before.  It’s a portion of Scripture that is going to be amazingly applicable to their situation.
I find it amazing how God’s Word seems to have the right answers at the right time.
(Heb 4:12 NLT)  For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are.
(2 Tim 3:16-17 NLT)  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. {17} It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.

:4-9 History of the problem, resolving it

:4 And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah:

The people had promised not to give their sons or daughters to the “people of the land” (Neh. 10:30).

Eliashib‘Elyashiyb – “God restores”.  He’s the high priest.  He’s been around awhile.  He was the one who had helped with the building of the wall (3:1).

TobiahTowbiyah – “Jehovah is good”; He was an Ammonite.

He was one of the guys who opposed the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

He had accused Nehemiah of rebelling against the Persians (Neh. 2:19)
He had ridiculed the work of the wall:
(Neh 4:3 KJV)  Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.
He had conspired to attack the city (Neh. 4:7-8)
He had been part of the conspiracy to get Nehemiah out of the city so they could kill him (Neh. 6:1-2)
He had hired false prophets to prophecy against Nehemiah and scare him (Neh. 6:12)
He was connected to some of the Jewish leaders through marriage (Neh. 6:17-19)
And now, he’s got this connection with the high priest and even moved into the Temple.

Lesson

If you can’t beat them, join them

Sometimes the enemy comes at us blatantly, with a full frontal assault.  But sometimes all he does is try to snuggle up to us and get us to compromise our values.

:5 And he had prepared for him a great chamber …

They had taken one of the chambers used for storing offerings in and given it to Tobiah.

:6 But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem

Nehemiah had gone back to Artaxerxes and was gone from Jerusalem for awhile.  The problem developed while he was gone.

Nehemiah had originally made his first journey to Jerusalem in the 20th year of Artaxerxes.  It appears he had stayed for twelve years before returning to Persia.

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

householdbayith – house

stuff[email protected] – article, vessel, implement, utensil

It almost sounds as if Tobiah had set up an apartment in the Temple.

: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.

cleansedtaher – to be clean, be pure

Lesson

Clean house

A picture of letting the enemy get a foothold in your life, allowing him to use things that are supposed to be dedicated to God.
Our minds are like storehouses.
I think that God would desire that we store things dedicated to Him in our minds.
Yet sometimes we allow the enemy to move in and set up house.

:10-14 Nehemiah restores tithing

:10 And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them …

Even though the people had promised to support the ministries of the Temple with their tithes and offerings (Neh. 10:38-39), this had not been happening.

:14 Remember me …

The people had either stopped tithing or had stopped supporting the Levites with their tithes.

Because of this, all the Temple staff had gone home and gotten jobs to pay the bills.

Lesson

Learning to give

Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to grow in their giving:
(2 Cor 8:7-9 ICB)  You are rich in everything--in faith, in speaking, in knowledge, in truly wanting to help, and in the love you learned from us. And so we want you to be rich also in this gift of giving. {8} I am not commanding you to give. But I want to see if your love is true love. I do this by showing you that others really want to help. {9} You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. You know that Christ was rich, but for you he became poor. Christ did this so that by his being poor you might become rich.
I think that here in America, we are a bit touchy when it comes to the subject of giving.

Illustration

The average charitable giving in the United States is 1.7 percent of adjusted gross income.  The average among Christians is 2.5 percent.

-- Ron Blue

In some places, people have learned to give.

Illustration

Dr. Hugh McKean of Chiengmai, Thailand, tells of a church of four hundred members where every member tithes. They receive a weekly wage of forty stangs (less than twenty cents] and their rice. Of this meager existence, each gives a tenth every week. Because of this, they have done more for Christ in Thailand than any other church. They pay their own preacher and have sent two missionary families to spread the gospel in a community cut off from the outside world. They are intensely interested in all forms of Christian work, especially work for unfortunates of every kind; and their gifts for this kind of work are large. They have not only accepted Christ, but, having found Him good, they are making Him known to others. Oh, by the way, this church of all tithers is also a church of all lepers--every person has leprosy.

:15-22 Fixing the Sabbath

:15  … on the Sabbath

They had made another promise to honor the Sabbath (Neh. 10:31).  They again had fallen back from their promise.

: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.

Lesson

The Sabbath was meant for Israel

The principal of resting one day out of seven is one that we all can benefit from.  God gave this example in the Creation, an example that all of mankind can benefit from.
But the setting aside of the Sabbath, Saturday, is something especially for Israel:
(Exo 31:13-17 KJV)  Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. {14} Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. {15} Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. {16} Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. {17} It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

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

These guys were camping outside the city, either selling stuff on Saturday or just waiting to be let in.

:21 …if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you

Nehemiah threatens to get tough.  Sometimes you have to do that.

:23-31 Fixing marriages

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

This is the same problem that has kept creeping up over and over.

Ezra had seen it creep in after arriving in Jerusalem.

It was part of the “covenant” that Nehemiah had led the people in (Neh. 10:30)

And now it’s back. Again.

:25 And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair

Lesson

Get tough

This isn’t too gentle.
I wonder sometimes if we don’t play it a little too easy on ourselves when it comes to dealing with sin.
Jesus seemed to recommend that we do whatever we needed to in order to stop:
(Mat 5:27-30 KJV)  Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: {28} But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. {29} And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. {30} And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

I’ve heard of some people literally cutting their hands off because of this verse.  I don’t think I’m trying to advocate that.

But I do think that Jesus is trying to make a graphic point.  Do whatever you have to in order to stop.

I think it might be tempting to say that we just shouldn’t be making promises to the Lord.  But I don’t think that’s correct.  I think we need to be sure to keep working at fulfilling our promises to the Lord, even if it means getting a little tough on ourselves.

: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.

Not only had Tobiah married into the leadership of the Jews, but now we see that Sanballat had done the same thing, even marrying into the family of the high priest.

:31 Remember me, O my God, for good.

Lesson

God will remember

God will remember all that we do and He will reward us for what we’ve done.
(Mat 25:21 KJV)  His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.