The Remnant in Jerusalem.

Chapter  1
Chapter  2
Chapter  3
Chapter  4
Chapter  5
Chapter  6
Chapter  7
Chapter  8
Chapter  9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13

Nehemiah 1.

1894 163 Ezra, as priest, gave us under the Holy Spirit the sacred relations of those that came back from Babylon to Jerusalem. Nehemiah, as one who in his position felt no less for God and His people in their low estate, was inspired to set out their civil condition. It is the more interesting as following up the labours of Ezra after no long interval and while Ezra was still zealous in the good work, as we may see in chap. 8. Both books attest the righteous government of God, which subjected His people to Gentile rule; both bear witness to His faithful goodness toward the faithful, whatever the circumstances of external ruin. There was as yet no such body as the church, no such link mutually as members one of another. They were kinsmen according to the flesh; they were Israelites; yet some without doubt born of God, not of Abraham's seed, but children, as the apostle distinguishes. And God has given us His word on their ways for our admonition, when we have to face a no less real ruin in Christendom, and need to test all we do or allow, as naming the Lord's name and bound to depart from unrighteousness. Faithful is the saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him; if we shall deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He abideth faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.

"The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. " Now it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace [or fortress], that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men out of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days; and I fasted and prayed before the God of heaven, and said, I beseech thee, O Jehovah, the God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments: let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee at this time, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, while I confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: yea, I and my father's house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye trespass, I will scatter you abroad among the peoples: but if ye return unto me, and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts were in the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to cause my name to dwell there. Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who delight to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. (Now I was cupbearer to the king.)" (vers. 1-11).

It was of God that Nehemiah felt so warmly the degradation of Jerusalem, as well as the affliction and reproach of the remnant there (vers. 2, 3). "And it came to pass, when I heard these words that I sat and wept, and mourned for days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of the heavens" etc. But he does not rise in his own prayer beyond Moses in his predictions; he does not plead the promises to the fathers; still less does he turn to the sovereign resource of the Messiah rejected but returning to raise all that fell in man's hands. But if looking for provisional mercy, he is careful in "confessing the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. We have acted very perversely against thee" etc.

When God abandoned apostate Judah, as Israel before, to the Gentiles, and pronounced the sentence of Lo-ammi (not-my-people)] He ceased to act as God of the earth, the Jehovah of His people; and as "God of the heavens" He granted for time world-empire to the four successive Gentile powers. See. Dan. 2

Therefore does Nehemiah vindicate God's ways in scattering Israel abroad among the peoples, because of their persistent trespasses and departure from Him, while he calls to mind the pledge on their repentance to gather them back to Jerusalem. And in faith of His word and proved work for His people, He beseeches for mercy "this day" "in the sight of this man" (vers. 9-11). Such was the great king when Nehemiah prayed to God, whatever might be his respect when he served as cupbearer to the king.

Nehemiah 2.

1894 179 In an evil day especially, prayer and humiliation are called for and blest.

"And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, when wine was before him, that I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. And the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? This is nothing else than sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid; and I said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire? Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven; and I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it. And the king said unto me (the queen also sitting by him), For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may let me pass through till I come unto Judah; and a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the castle which [appertaineth] to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me" (vers 1-8).

"Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letter. Now the king had sent with me captains of a force and horsemen. And when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard [of it], it grieved them exceedingly, that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel. So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God put into my heart to do for Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night by the valley gate, even toward the dragon's well, and to the dung gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the fountain gate and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall; and I turned back, and entered by the valley gate, and so returned. And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work. Then said I unto them, Ye see the evil case that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach" (vers. 9-18).

"And I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also of the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for the good [work]. But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of the heavens, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem" (vers. 19, 20).

It was some four months that Nehemiah had borne the burden of sorrow for God and His people and the place where His name was once set, never to be abandoned, though the day of glorious resumption still waits. No passing emotion was it, but groaning in hope: how to help at such a strait he knew not; especially as Ezra, so honoured twelve years before, seems to have been there, but powerless for this need and shame and grief. The hour of succour was at hand, through the intensity of his sorrow which God caused to reach the eye of his royal master, who enquired, learnt the secret, and answered graciously.

The atmosphere of an imperial court — of a heathen court — had not withered the faith of Nehemiah, any more than his love for the despised remnant. Why Nehemiah had not gone up with Ezra we know no more, than why Ezra so acquiesced in what filled the courtier at Chusan with deep concern for Jerusalem and the wretched estate of those who had returned. But this is certain that, as grace wrought in Joshua and his brethren and Zerubbabel and his brethren, who at once set up the altar for burnt offerings, and rested not till in the face of all discouragement the house of God was built and dedicated; and as later Ezra the priest, the scribe, was strengthened to go up from Babylon to cheer as well as cleanse the returned remnant when sadly declining; so now an unexpected aid was vouchsafed in one who was neither prince of David's house, nor a member of Aaron's, but in a highly confidential post before the great King. His heart was not there but in "the city, the house of my fathers' sepulchres," as he touchingly calls Jerusalem (ver. 3). And how beautiful his inward prayer to the God of heaven after the king asked his request before he made it known! (vers. 4, 5). Nor was he let go empty-handed, but receives letters to the governors intermediate, and to the keeper of the royal park for timber, as well as captains and horsemen.

No doubt, it was a humbling state of things, when a Gentile power ruled, a chastisement extreme of Israel's iniquity. This it was becoming to feel, yet looking to God above, Who heard and inclined the king's heart, instead of indulging the rebellious pride we see in the Pharisees afterwards.

We may note how much at first Nehemiah feels and acts alone. This was faith, not only when before the king, but even when he arrived at Jerusalem, and sought the welfare of the sons of Israel to the grief of their enemies (vers. 10-16). How often blessed movements begin with one man! His observations fully made, he speaks to his brethren accordingly, as well as of God s good hand upon him, and also the king's words (vers. 17, 18). And they were strengthened, spite of false friends — the worst foes, whose scorn, and evil imputation, Nehemiah answered by denying their title in Jerusalem (vers. 19, 20). How often the same resource would have settled questions in Christendom, raised by men of genius, learning, or rank, who had no more part or lot in the matter than the early intruder on whom Peter pronounced!

Nehemiah 3.

1895 195 Here we have a suggestive, refreshing, and instructive account of the work in detail, when God's servants arose to build the wall of Jerusalem.

"And Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; and sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Hammeah they sanctified it, unto the tower Hananel. And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri.

"And the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the bolts thereof, and the bars thereof. And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana. And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.

"And the old gate repaired Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the bolts thereof. And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite, and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon, and of Mizpah, which appertained to the throne of the governor beyond the river. Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths. And next unto him repaired Hananiah of the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem even unto the broad wall. And next unto them repaired Rephaiah the son of Hur, the ruler of half the district of Jerusalem. And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabneiah. Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab, repaired another portion, and the tower of the furnaces. And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Hallohesh, the ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, he and his daughters.

"The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the bolts thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits of the wall unto the dung gate.

"And the dung gate repaired Malchijah the son of Rechab, the ruler of the district of Bethhaccherem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, and the bolts thereof, and bars thereof.

"And the fountain gate repaired Shallun the son of Col-hozeh, the ruler of the district of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the bolts thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Shelah by the king's garden, even unto the stairs that go down from the city of David. After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, unto the place over against the sepulchres of David, and unto the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty men. After him repaired the Levites, Rehum the son Bani. Next unto him repaired Hashabiah, the ruler of half the district of Keilah, for his district. After him repaired their brethren, Bavvai the son of Henadad, the ruler of half the district of Keilah. And next to him repaired Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, another portion, over against the going up to the armoury at the turning [of the wall]. After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired another portion, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. After him repaired Meremoth the son of Hakkoz another portion, from the door of the house of Eliashib even to the end of the house of Eliashib. And after him repaired the priests, the men of the plain. After them repaired Benjamin and Hasshub over against their house. After them repaired Azariah the son of Maaseiah the son of Ananiah beside his own house. After him repaired Binnui the son of Henadad another portion, from the house of Azariah unto the turning [of the wall], and unto the corner. Palal the son of Uzai repaired over against the turning [of the wall], and the tower that standeth out from the upper house of the king, which is by the court of the prison. After him Bedaiah the son of Parosh repaired. (Now the Nethinim dwelt in Ophel, unto the place against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that standeth out.) After him the Tekoites repaired another portion, over against the great tower that standeth out, and unto the wall of Ophel.

"Above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his own house. After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his own house. And after him repaired Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the east gate. After him repaired Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, another portion. After him repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah over against his chamber. After him repaired Malchijah of the goldsmiths unto one house of the Nethinim, and of the merchants, over against the gate of Hammiphkad, and to the ascent of the corner. And between the ascent of the corner and the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants (vers. 1-32).

The earliest to undertake the work were the first in dignity as became them, the high priest and his brethren. They did not plead their holy charge to absolve them from the new duty, but applied themselves without delay: characteristically is it added, twice that they "sanctified" their work! It was combat. The next in order are to be remarked, because they belonged to Jericho; yet did they devote themselves to the work of Jerusalem. Nothing beyond his building attaches to Zaccur that follows.

Much fuller is the account of the work done by the sons of Hassenaah (or Senaah) for the fish gate on the north; next to whom repaired Meremoth, who is the first to be noticed again (ver. 21) for repairing another piece from the door to the end of the high priest's house. Of Meshullam and Zadok no more is mentioned than their work respectively. But the Tekoites appear not only here but again in ver. 27; and their zeal is the more pleasant to observe, as their nobles have the bar sinister of not putting "their necks to the work of their Lord." Compare Eph. 6:9, Col. 4:1. We may note that Tekoah was a dozen miles from Jerusalem.

The old gate was a little below in the west; and there we have the joint repair of Jehoiada and another Meshullam, whose work is fully described. Next to them wrought not only two, Melatiah and Jadon, with their local titles away from Jerusalem, but the men of Gideon and of Mizpah, "to the throne of the governor (pacha) on this side the river." Next, we hear of Uzziel, and then Hananiah, respectively of the goldsmiths and of the perfumers or apothecaries, who wrought as far as the broad wall on the west. It is interesting to read next of Rephaiah the son of Hur, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem; whereas next was Jedaiah repairing over against his house. Then come Hattush, and next Malchijah and Hasshub repaired another piece and the tower of the furnaces. Last in this group repaired Shallum, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem he and his daughters, a new and marked feature.

The valley gate in the S.W. was repaired by Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah, which was a town of Judah, and thus away from Jerusalem. Their work is carefully defined.

The dung gate was on the S.E. and repaired by Malchijah, son of Rechab, chief of the district of Beth-haccherem, near Tekoah; and here again grace shone.

So the fountain gate, a little north of that on the east, was repaired by Shallun, son of Col-hozeh, chief of the district of Mizpah; which as it figured before in ver. 7 does here in ver. 15, and again in ver. 19, toward the wall. After him appears a Nehemiah, son of Azbuk, chief of half the district of Beth-zur in the south of Judah. Then we are told of Levite labours, Rehum; and of Hashabiah, chief of the half district of Keilah, and of Bavvai in a similar position. Next, repaired Ezer, son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, a second piece as already noticed. After him we have Baruch, son of Zabbai, named with marked honour for "earnestly" repairing a second piece, after whom follows the Meremoth of ver. 4 again found zealous. Then the priests are mentioned, the men of the plain (or circle of the Jordan). These are followed by the repairs of Benjamin and Hasshub of Azariah, of Binnui, of Palal, and of Pedaiah; then the Tekoites, repairing again, are referred to; and once more the priests above them, every one over against his own house. Then follow Zadok, Shemaiah, Hananiah; then Hanun described as a sixth son of Zalaph for a second piece. Where were the five? Did none come but this one to glorify God in this work? Next, in ver. 30, we hear of Meshullam again (see ver. 4) repairing over against his chamber; and Malchijah of the goldsmiths over against the gate Miphkad, as the goldsmiths generally and the dealers repaired round to the sheep gate, whence the building began.

It is the counterpart in the O.T. to the early half of Rom. 16, and other scriptures of the New.

Nehemiah 4.

1895 210 In this world there is no work of God, earthly or heavenly, which does not rouse the rancorous opposition of the enemy. So it was at this time. Satan was ready by suited instruments to thwart; and faith is needed to discern God s will and do it fearlessly. It may be a lowly work, but this only the more tests the heart, which would be naturally attached to a brilliant effort. Only a single eye values and proves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God; and only in Christ do we see it sought uniformly and accomplished in perfection.

"And it came to pass that, when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and had great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, seeing they are burned? Now Tobijah the Ammonite [was] by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall break down their stone wall. Hear, O our God, for we are despised; and turn back their reproach upon their own head, and give them up to spoiling in a land of captivity. And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee; for they have provoked to anger before the builders. But we built the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto half thereof: for the people had a heart to work" (vers. 1-6).

It is well to note that, while hatred of God and His will is at the bottom, mockery is a common means. Nor is any means more open to the shallow or more effective with the vulgar. And we can see in scripture as in experience that what is high and holy lies peculiarly open to burlesque or raillery, where some have such absence of conscience as to indulge in it, and others too little to resent the impropriety. Those who here sit in the seat of the scornful had already shown their hostility in Neh. 2:10, 19, and were as persevering in evil as Nehemiah in good. They were really afraid now, but sought to veil fear under ridicule and insolence, and Tobijah "the slave" exceeded Sanballat. But despise the "feeble" Jews or the work as they may, Nehemiah turns to God, with that call for present earthly judgment which was according to the law, though it would seem that the translations which supply "Thee" go beyond the inspired record. It was rather to provoke the builders. The work in fact was but stimulated.

"And it came to pass that, when Sanballat, and Tobijah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem went forward, [and] that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth; and they conspired all of them together to come [and] fight against Jerusalem, and to cause confusion therein. But we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch over against them day and night, because of them. And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and [there is] much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come into the midst of them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. And it came to pass that, when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said so unto us ten times from all places whence they returned to us, I set in the lower parts of the space behind the wall, in the open places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, [who is] great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. And it came to pass from that time forth, half of my servants wrought in the work, and half of then) held the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the coats of mail; and the captains [were] behind all the house of Judah. They that builded the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that loaded, [every one] with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other held his weapon; and the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and [so] builded. And he that sounded the trumpet [was] by me. And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work [is] great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another: in what place soever ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us; our God shall fight for us. So we wrought in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared. Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and may labour in the day. So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, every one went with his weapon to the water" [or, "had his weapon on his right side," as another reading gives] (vers. 7-23).

The zeal with which the building went on spite of mockery drew out the rage of those and other adversaries, who differing among themselves conspired to hinder all of them coming together by force. They were "very wroth" and hoped to land the Jews in confusion by the threat of fighting. But the faithful Jews prayed and set watch day and night.

Nor was this the only trial. "Judah said, The strength of the burden-bearers faileth, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build at the wall." How humiliating! What! Judah, "as a lion's whelp" and "as a lioness," in the prophetic eye of Jacob. Even so was the sad fact seen now. No flesh shall glory. Timid counsels may seem prudent; but faith abhors distrust of God, once His will is known. The adversaries profit by any heed to them. Alas! Jews were not ashamed to be in their secrets and to report their designs to the faithful persistently, diligent only to discourage if they could with their tales and fears. But quiet looking to God raises above all fear of man. Nevertheless Nehemiah made a disposition of the people to meet any hostile essays, with the charge not to fear the foe, but to remember the Lord, and to fight for their brethren and families.

The measures taken quite disconcerted their adversaries; and as God had defeated their counsel, so did the people return all to the wall, each to his work. Only they shared: one half wrought, the other guarded under arms; but the builders, each of them had his sword on, and so pursued his task, so that all might fight in case of need, besides the work. The trumpeter was by Nehemiah's side, and would give due warning.

We too in the evil day have to "stand" and to "withstand." And as we have a better Captain to look to, so have we One able to make the trumpet give no uncertain sound. But we need courage as well as dependence. Our sufficiency is of God; and He never fails.

Nehemiah 5.

1895 227 But in face of this zeal, courage, and vigilance, there was sin and shame where it was least becoming. One can understand relaxation in captivity where no altar stood to the true and living God, and His people had no semblance of a position. It is affecting to see and experience the most grievous selfishness among those who boasted of a return to divine ground. This Nehemiah had now to face and meet as promptly in the unworthy leaders as he had taken efficacious measures against the adversaries.

"And there arose a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. For there were that said, We, our sons and our daughters, [are] many: let us get corn, that we may eat and live. There were also that said, We are mortgaging our fields, and our vineyards, and our houses: let us get corn, because of the dearth. There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king's tribute [upon] our fields and our vineyards. Yet now our flesh [is] as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and [some] of our daughters are brought into bondage [already]: neither is it in our power [to help it]; for other men have our fields and our vineyards. And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words. Then I consulted with myself, and contended with the nobles and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I held a great assembly against them" (vers. 1-7).

Usury was forbidden among the Israelites one with another, not as a thing in itself wrong, but as inconsistent with their exceptional standing and their relation as brethren after the flesh. They were at liberty to lend at interest to Gentiles, not to Jews; and if a Jew sold himself into servitude, at the seventh year he was set free, as land reverted to its true tenant at the jubilee. So did the law check and regulate a failing people on Jehovah's behalf. Alas! self governed the nobles and rulers in the land. And Nehemiah proved his moral courage as well as faith and love in detestation of their misconduct. He conferred not with flesh and blood. "I consulted with myself" is his remarkable language and made his remonstrance with themselves. He also set a great assembly against them.

"And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and would ye even sell your brethren, and should they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found never a word. Also I said, The thing that ye do [is] not good: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies? And I likewise, my brethren and my servants, might lend them money and corn on usury. I pray you, let us leave off this usury. Restore, I pray you, to them even this day their fields, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth [part] of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them. Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do, even as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise. Also I shook out my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not his promise; even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise" (vers. 8-13).

How solemn a reflection! The Jews in captivity put to shame the returned remnant in unselfish care for their brethren. No wonder that the statement of such a contrast silenced the guilty chiefs. Nehemiah could challenge investigation of himself and his servants; and this with such effect, that he called on them to cease ways so beneath Israel and to restore that very day what they had taken. The priests too were called to seal their promise with an oath taken by them; and Nehemiah imprecated God's judgment of delinquency, amidst the congregation's Amen and praise of Jehovah.

Indeed from Nehemiah's appointment as Pacha or governor, he and his brethren had not even eaten those twelve years the governor's bread. Far different had it been with his predecessors. How blessed where faith and love work thus to produce disinterestedness in matters of every day life!

"Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor. But the former governors that were before me were chargeable unto the people, and took of them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people; but so did not I, because of the fear of God. Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall; neither bought we any land; and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work. Moreover there were at my table of the Jews and the rulers an hundred and fifty men, besides those that came unto us from among the heathen that were round about us. Now that which was prepared for one day was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine: yet for all this I demanded not the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people. Remember unto me, O my God, for good, all that I have done for this people" (vers. 14-19).

This practical grace rising above law sprang from the fear of God. It was not mere Jewish clannishness or patriotism. It was saintly, and it recalls a greater than he, who maintained the Lord's ordinance for those that preach the gospel, yet did not use this right himself in the full spirit of the gospel he preached. It is lovely where such fruits adorn a righteous and holy walk; best of all, when the good works done attest, not merely nor so much the benevolence of the doers, but their light, their witness of Christ, shining before men, who on seeing this glorify, not them, but their Father Who is in heaven. There is ample room for doing good unto all men, and especially to the household of faith in their special need on passing through a hostile world. But the great lack among Christians is in the exercise of practical faith which the eye of man cannot appreciate, and the danger is of slipping into mere benevolence, of which a natural man is capable and views it with applause.

Nehemiah 6.

1895 243 It is a signal mercy when internal reproach is taken away, and oppression is made ashamed by grace. But the adversary is none the less active, and tries new methods when the old fail. Force had not succeeded: might not fraud avail?

"And it came to pass, when it was reported to Sanballat and Tobiah, and to Geshem the Arabian, and unto the rest of our enemies, that I had budded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein (though even unto that time I had not set up the doors in the gates); that Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? And they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner. Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; wherein was written, It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu saith [it, that] thou and the Jews think to rebel; for which cause thou buildest the wall, and thou wouldest be their king, according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together. Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart. For they all would have made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. But now, O God, strengthen my hands" (vers. 1-9).

The first design was a professedly amicable interview; but the friendship of the enemy is no more to be trusted than his hostile plans are to be feared. Nehemiah was on his guard and entitled to plead the great work he was doing. Solicited four times, he gave the same wise and resolute answer. Then came Sanballat's servant with an open letter which insinuated ambition in rebellion against the then Gentile power; which drew out a plain indignant denial with a reproof of the falsehood. All tended simply to renewed prayer.

"And I went unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee. And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being such as I, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in. And I discerned, and lo, God had not sent him: but he pronounced this prophecy against me: and Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this cause was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me. Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and also the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets that would have put me in fear" (vers. 10-14).

The next efforts were from within, the aim of which was to draw Nehemiah into fear and making the house of God a material refuge. But here again the pious chief detected the profane and unbelieving snare. He would no more go into the temple to save his life than he would cause the work to cease to which he was devoted. The "prophecy" of Shemaiah had no more weight than "the prophetess Noadiah," or "the rest of the prophets." Fear is the chief weapon of false religion, whatever its pretensions. But a single eye sufficed to keep Nehemiah clear of their influence. How sad to hear that Shemaiah was in touch with Tobiah and Sanballat! Here again relief is found in prayer.

"So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, when all our enemies heard thereof, that all the heathen that were about us feared, and were much cast down in their own eyes, for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God. Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them. For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arab; and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah to wife. Also they spoke of his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. [And] Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear" (vers. 15-19).

The work was brought to an end as happy for the returned Jews as mortifying to the ill-wishers of God and His people. "They perceived that this work was wrought of our God." This was one side; on the other a brisk correspondence was kept up between nobles of Judah and Tobiah, bound with them by more than one family tie to their sin and shame, and playing a treacherous part through it. The courage of faith is invaluable personally and in God's work. To our faith we need to furnish virtue (or courage) also.

Nehemiah 7.

1895 258 There is a day to which the inspiring Spirit looked onward, when it will be Jehovah building the house, and Jehovah keeping the city in a truer, fuller, sense, then even Solomon knew. Very little in comparison was that which Nehemiah was enabled to do in his day. All had been wrong in Israel, all out of course for the remnant, the Gentile was in power, the returned remnant to Jerusalem in weakness. Still it is a great thing, and always acceptable to God, whatever the circumstances, to do His will unpretentiously, and to be guided in the doing of it by His word. In vain otherwise do the builders labour, in vain the watchmen wake. Nehemiah was given to see the wall reared and to set up the doors. Thereon the necessary officers were set to their work. Sound doctrine needs also a sound mind; and this was eminently true of him who came from the court of Persia to care for his brethren in Jerusalem.

"And it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed, that I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem: for he [was] a faithful man, and feared God above many. And I said unto them, Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand on guard, let them shut the doors, and bar ye [them]: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house. Now the city was wide and large: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded" (vers. 1-4).

It was indeed a state of ruin; but the return was of God, and despair would have been as unworthy as presumption. Nehemiah yields to neither, but acts in the lowly condition with all due vigilance, and confides in faithful men like-minded with himself who would naturally care for their state, few as they were feeble and tried. His work and Ezra's were far different from that of a Moses or a Joshua, a David or a Solomon; but the Holy Ghost was pleased to give them both an imperishable place for their faith and love. How encouraging to us in the present anomalous condition of God's assembly! May we realize its true state by faith and know how to walk and serve accordingly.

Next, as having to do with a people in the flesh, order called for a careful consideration of birth-ties. "And my God put into my heart to gather together the nobles and the rulers, and the people for registration by genealogy. And I found a genealogical register of them that came up at the first; and I found written therein: these [are] the sons of the province that went up out of the captivity of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away, and who came again to Jerusalem, and to Judah every one to his city; those who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nahum, Baanah" (vers. 5-7). Even here is to be noticed Nahamani in addition to the eleven named in Ezra 2, for the rest are the same persons, though some be given with variations. So it is with those enumerated in the census after the twelve leaders. Substantially the lists agree. The gross amount in both is the same; yet the details singularly differ: how this is may not be so easy to decide. We know that numerals are peculiarly liable to corruption whether through the carelessness or temerity of copyists. For instance, in Ezra 2:5 the sons of Arah are 775, in Neh. 7:10 are 652; the sons of Pahath-moab and of Binuni are each 6 more in Nehemiah; the sons of Zattu 100 less; the sons of Bebai exceed by 5; and those of Azgad by 1100. And so one might point out variations throughout, as also in the singers, the sons of Asaph, and the porters, as well as a slight one in the number of the singing men and women. To set such frequent and marked difference down to clerical mistake is a hard saying, though Lord A. Hervey speaks of the ingenious corrections suggested with assurance. But it is another question to account for the varying statements satisfactorily; which must be left to those who, accepting the divine authority of scripture, have made this particular case a matter of conscientious and thorough research. The difference in the contributions also needs explanation, though this seems not so difficult. It is obvious that the totals of the servants, the houses, the males, and the ages, agree. How good it is for the heart to know that the living God takes a real interest not only in His people, but in all that is theirs! This at least is clear and simple, but of interest and moment to appropriate in practice.

Nehemiah 8.

1895 274 Interesting and consoling as the numbering of the people may be, in the new chapter we have far more. The sons of Israel were in their cities, few and feeble, yet in their right place after long sin and judgment but restoration in a measure. It was the seventh month, the pledge of which had been before blind or dim eyes for many years. Now there is a notable awakening for a little moment. "All the people gathered together as one man," and their simple-hearted desire was to hear the word of God. It was not Ezra who spoke to them, but they to Ezra, "to bring the book of the law of Moses, which Jehovah had commanded Israel." And very touching is the divine account of their zeal to understand as well as hear, and of their reverence no less than their falling under its rebuke. For they listened, not with attentive ears only, but with smitten conscience.

"And when the seventh month was come and the sons of Israel were in their cities, all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the broad place that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which Jehovah had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation, both men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the broad place that was before the water gate from early morning unto midday, in the presence of the men and women, and of those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Uriah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchijah, and Hashum, and Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed Jehovah, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with the lifting up of their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped Jehovah with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. And they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading. And Nehemiah, which was the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto Jehovah your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto him for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye grieved; for the joy of Jehovah is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.

"And on the second day were gathered together the heads of the fathers' [houses] of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to give attention to the words. of the law. And they found written in the law, how that Jehovah 'had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the broad place of the water gate, and in the broad place of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and dwelt in the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly according unto the ordinance" (vers. 1-18).

Here, in all the stronger a way because incidental, we have the inspired testimony to the Pentateuch, as not only Moses' work, but authoritatively Jehovah's. How sad that nominal Christians should presume to question that holy deposit! Alas! they are but joining their older rationalistic leaders, unbelieving Jews; who having rejected their own Christ, because He was infinitely better and higher than their degrading unbelief expected, vent their spleen in sceptical criticism of the O.T. and in hatred of the New. At the bottom of this incredulity, Jewish or Gentile (one cannot call it Christian), is that glorying in man, and his mind or his learning as the case may be, which characterises those who have never judged themselves or known God in the light of the cross. To those who have, how precious is the written word, all of it, Old or New, because in one way or another it presents the unfailing resources of grace in the Second man when the first is found wholly wanting, especially in themselves; a bitter, but profitable lesson, filling even now with peace and joy in believing!

Again, we observe that the Rabbinism, which put a slur on women and children, till the Lord revindicated their place in spiritual things, did not yet prevail. For Ezra read in the law "in the presence of the men and the women, and of those that could understand" (who might be quite young in years). As Ezra read on a raised platform, supported by elders on either hand, the people stood up at the opened book, and Ezra blessed Jehovah, and they with uplifted hands answered Amen, Amen, bowing in worship to the ground. It was a beautiful and affecting sight. And there was earnest service of priests and Levites to expound all that was heard, and "cause the people to understand the law." It was no vain superstitious ceremony; but "they read in the law of God distinctly out of the book, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading."

But there was more, reserved for a somewhat higher intimation. "And Nehemiah, that is, the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy to Jehovah your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law" (ver. 9). It was no wonder, for God's word never spares evil; and they justly felt their sins. But we ought as His people to feel His grace to His own. There many fail, as the sons of Israel till they learnt better that day. "There is a time to mourn, and a time to dance," which was suited to that season. "And he said to them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions to them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy to our Lord; and be not grieved, for the joy of Jehovah is your strength. And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, Be still, for the day is holy; neither he ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them" (vers. 10-12).

Undoubtedly what is properly Christian has another and worthier character as reflecting Christ in the Spirit. But even the earthly people when right before Jehovah were far different from the legal gloom and narrowness and severity of Puritanism, which was a sad travesty of the gospel.

Such was the first day. We hear of no blowing of trumpets; but there was its spirit in their assembling thus to hear God's word after a long slumber. And on the second day the heads of houses gathered, if not all the people, the priests and the Levites, to Ezra, "even to give attention to the words of the law." This has its weighty place. Those who are fit and zealous to teach need themselves to be more perfectly instructed. And they had their reward. For they found written in the law which Jehovah had commanded through Moses that the sons of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month, as well as practical directions on which they acted (vers. 15-17). But how solemn is the inspired comment! "Since the days of Joshua son of Nun till that day had not the sons of Israel done so." Such facts as these are abused by sceptics to deny the writing of Moses and imagine another in Josiah's days when the original copy was found, or more boldly to conceive a still later date. The truth is, that the failure of Israel was painful and lamentable; as here we learn that the feast had never been duly celebrated from Joshua's day when first it could, till now in the days of revival after the return from Babylon.

Search and see that the lapse of the church has been sadder still from its far higher privileges. The last feast is the anticipated joy of glory. How is it kept in spirit by Christians? Alas! they have forgotten even Pentecost, which ought to be dear to them indeed. What has not passed out of mind as to its real import! But if the Galatian saints so soon slipped into a different gospel, which was not anothers, who can wonder at the sad change when all the apostles were gone?

Nehemiah 9.

1895 290 It was a great recovery from God's word, the celebration of the feast of tabernacles, after so long disuse; it presented, whether they apprehended it or not, the great ingathering after divine judgment whether in discernment or in vengeance (typified by the harvest and the vintage). They were probably as unintelligent about it as most Christians are now in the fog that prevails over Christendom. Even as to order there was lack and confusion still. Their assembling on the first day of the seventh month was quite in the spirit of that feast of trumpets, which is yet to summon the outcasts of Israel into the land when fulfilled in power. But it is remarkable that they seem to have slipped by the day of atonement on the tenth of the month, while they observed the feast of tabernacles with its eighth day. Had they been better instructed, they would have humbled themselves on that day of making reconciliation before the feast of joyful rest and universal blessing. It was thoroughly due to the Lord, and their souls felt the need, that they should afflict their souls before Him; but it was an unperceived incongruity to do so after that feast, instead of before it. Still it was done on the day after; and our gracious God was not unmindful, and here gives an affecting account of it.

"And on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel were assembled with fasting and with sack-clothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of Jehovah their God a fourth part of the day; and [another] fourth part they confessed, and worshipped Jehovah their God. Then stood up upon the stairs, of the Levites, Jeshua, and Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, [and] Chenani, and cried with a loud voice unto Jehovah their God. Then the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, [and] Pethahiah, said, Stand up and bless Jehovah your God from everlasting to everlasting: and blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.

"Thou [art] He, thou alone, Jehovah, who hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things that [are] thereon, the seas and all that [is] in them, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee. Thou [art] Jehovah the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham; and foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite, and the Girgashite, even to give it unto his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou [art] righteous. And thou sawest the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heardest their cry by the Red Sea; and showedst signs and wonders upon Pharaoh, and on all his servants, and on all the people of his land; for thou knewest that they dealt proudly against them; and didst get thee a name, as it is this day. And thou didst divide the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry [land]; and their pursuers thou didst cast into the depths, as a stone into the mighty waters. Moreover thou leddest them in a pillar of cloud by day; and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light in the way wherein they should go.

"Thou camest down upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments and true laws, good statutes and commandments; and madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them commandments and statutes and a law by the hand of Moses thy servant; and gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and commandedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst lifted up thine hand to give them. But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their neck, and hearkened not to thy commandments, and refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their neck, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage. But thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy, and forsookest them not. Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud departed not from over them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way wherein they should go. Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.

"Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing: their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not. Moreover thou gavest them kingdoms and peoples, which thou didst allot after their portions: so they possessed the land of Sihon, even the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan. Their children also multipliedst thou as the stars of heaven, and broughtest them into the land, concerning which thou didst say to their fathers, that they should go in to possess [it]. So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they took fenced cities, and a fat land, and possessed houses full of all good things, cisterns hewn out, vineyards, and olive-yards, and fruit trees in abundance. And they did eat, and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in thy great goodness. Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their back, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them again unto thee, and they wrought great provocations.

"Therefore thou deliveredst them into the hand of their adversaries, who distressed them; and in the time of their trouble, when they cried unto thee, thou heardest from heaven; and according to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours who saved them out of the hand of their adversaries. But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them. Yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest from heaven, and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies; and testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law. But they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments (which if a man do, he shall live in them), and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear. Yet many years didst thou bear with them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit through thy prophets; but would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless in thy manifold mercies thou didst not make a full end of them, nor forsake them; for thou [art] a gracious and merciful God. Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the travail seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day.

"Howbeit thou [art] just in all that is come upon us; for thou hast dealt truly, but we have done wickedly. Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them. For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works. Behold, we [are] servants this day; and [as for] the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we [are] servants in it. And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have power over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress. And because of all this we make a sure [covenant], and write [it]; and our princes, our Levites, [and] our priests, are at the sealing" (vers. 1-38).

It will be noticed that they do not rise to the ground of promise, though recounting the covenant made with Abraham, but take their stand on the legal conditions of Sinai, as their fathers did before them. Not so the generation to come, who will have Messiah and the new covenant, when subjection to the Gentile power passes forever. As yet, all was but provisional; yet God is always God, and good to all who call upon Him.

Nehemiah 10.

1895 306 Separation from all foreigners (Neh. 9:2) is a root principle in the activity to which zeal for God led the remnant at this time. It was of all things essential to those who, not publicly owned of God, all the more owned their sins and the iniquities of their fathers to God: for what had so justly brought on them His sentence of Lo-ammi? What had, compared with it, made idolatry tolerable first, then plausible, at length desirable, till the true God was lost in the he of Satan? Marriage with heathen in private life led to alliance in public; and all evil soon followed in. dishonour of God's law.

Here the chief men took the lead as became them; yet no small sign of their low estate was afforded by the Tirshatha signing first among the sealed. Then came faithful priests, followed by fewer Levites; and a fair quota of leading laymen.

"And those that were sealed were Nehemiah the Tirshatha, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah; Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah; Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah; Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch; Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah; Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch; Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin; Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah; these were the priests. And the Levites: namely, Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; and their brethren, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan; Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah; Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah; Hodiah, Bani, Beninu. The chiefs of the people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani; Bunni, Azgad, Bebai; Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin; Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur; Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai; Hariph, Anathoth, Nobai; Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir; Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua; Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah; Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub; Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek; Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah; and Ahaiah, Hanan, Anan; Malluch, Harim, Baanah."

We may observe from what follows that "the rest of the people" were not slack, not only the Jews proper but proselytes, "all they that had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands." These become important henceforth, as we read also elsewhere (Esther 8:17) among the Gentiles. Separation to God is as lowly and powerful morally, as human or Pharisaic separateness is proud, narrow, and powerless. It is obedience, and nothing else more becomes the faithful. Its perfection we see in Christ, nor does anything give it more scope than Christianity, and it is only the more imperative in a day of departure and corruption.

"And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinim, and all they that had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one that had knowledge and understanding; they clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of Jehovah our Lord, and his judgments, and his statutes; and that we would not give our daughters unto the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons: and if the peoples of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy of them on the sabbath, or on a holy day: and that we would forego the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt."

It will be noted that the Rabbinic contempt of "wives and daughters," had not yet raised its vain and wicked head. They joined no less than husbands and sons, "every one that had knowledge and understanding." And it is beautiful to see how fidelity to God humbles the high and exalts the low: "they clave to their brethren, their nobles." It is happy when God's will, not man's, welds all ranks together before Him Who is above all. Here it was as Jews to enter into a curse and into an oath to walk in His law. Alas! without the risen Christ, the object of faith, there was no power of the Spirit to work effectually; and there was soon a falling away.

The rest of the chapter shows how they applied the spirit of scripture to their then position. "And we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God; for the showbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for the work of the house of our God.

"And we cast lots, the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers' houses, at times appointed, year by year, to burn upon the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law: and to bring the first-fruits of our ground, and the first-fruits of all fruit of all manner of trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD: also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God: and that we should bring the first-fruits of our dough, and our heave offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, the wine and the oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites; for they, the Levites, take the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.

"And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levite shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house. For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the heave offering of the corn, of the wine, and of the oil, unto the chambers where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God."

"The house of our God" was precious even to those who knew the glory was no longer there. Such and more should be the name of Jesus, now that we are builded together for God's habitation in the Spirit — the Spirit of truth given to be with us forever.

Nehemiah 11.

1895 322 The provisional state of things imposed on Israel during "the times of the Gentiles" appears here in another form. Jerusalem had no longer the powerful attraction even for the people of God which it once possessed. No longer shone the Shechinah over the mercy seat in the Holy of holies. There was no king reigning of David's house. The latter glory of Jehovah's house was not like the former. The city was sadly decayed, and slowly emerging from its heaps of burnt rubbish and scattered ruins. As gain lay at that time in agriculture, the country held out greater hopes of it. And the world, especially the strangers imported into the land, indulged in contempt and spite and ill report, since the public chastening of God fell upon the Jews in their subjection to the Gentiles.

Devotedness to God's will was the chief lack and test; and as there were those that answered His call, so many were sought to rouse others from their neglect. For faith would still esteem Jerusalem as "the holy city"; and was it not to His shame that His people, when allowed to return, should think of their own things before His?

"And the princes of the people dwelt in Jerusalem; and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine parts in the cities. And the people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell in Jerusalem" (vers. 1, 2).

It was God's presence, so far as it was then vouchsafed, which gave its special blessedness to the city that He chose, mount Zion that He loved. That had they sinned away, but faith preserved its memory, and cherished the sure hope of its return, never more to depart.

This the Christian has in the promised presence of the Lord where "two or three" are gathered to His name. Where this is, He never fails, in this therefore contrasted with the sad gap in Israel's history; but where are saints thus gathered? Throughout Christendom the departure is as grievous as it is general. Not only do other names openly take His place; but doctrine and forms intrude into it, if not names; and most of all where historical continuity is men's confidence, seeing that God has solemnly warned that this would lapse into a powerless show wholly offensive to Him. If there be not spirit and truth, it is none of His to own, save in responsibility of profession to be judged in due time. They only please Him who cleave to Christ as their centre of gathering. As the church so began, so alone is it perpetuated, the Holy Spirit being here to glorify him. Thus are His members kept according to God and edified; for thus too is there room for the free action of every gift of Christ to the blessing of each and all.

"And these are the chiefs of the province that dwelt in Jerusalem; but in the cities of Judah dwelt every one in his possession in their cities, Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the Nethinim, and the children of Solomon's servants. And in Jerusalem dwelt some of the sons of Judah, and of the sons of Benjamin. Of the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalaleel, of the children of Pherez; and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, the son of Col-hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, the son of the Shilonites.

"All the sons of Pherez that dwelt in Jerusalem were four hundred threescore and eight valiant men. And these are the sons of Benjamin: Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jeshaiah. And after him Gabbai, Sallai, nine hundred and twenty eight. And Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer: and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second over the city.

"Of the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin, Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the ruler of the house of God, and their brethren that did the work of the house, eight hundred and twenty two: and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashur, the son of Malchijah, and his brethren, chiefs of fathers' houses, two hundred forty and two: and Amassai the son of Azareel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer; and their brethren, mighty men of valour, an hundred and twenty eight: and their overseer was Zabdiel, the son of Haggedolim.

"And of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; and Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chiefs of the Levites, who had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God; and Mattaniah the son of Mica, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, who was the chief to begin the thanksgiving in prayer: and Bakbukiah, the second among his brethren; and Abda the son of Shammua, the son of Galai, the son of Jeduthun. All the Levites in the holy city were two hundred fourscore and four.

"Moreover the porters, Akkub, Talmon, and their brethren that kept watch at the gates, were an hundred and seventy two" (vers. 3-19).

Next follows the record of the rest. "And the residue of Israel, the priests, the Levites, were in all the cities of Judah, every one in his inheritance. But the Nethinim dwelt in Ophel: and Ziha and Gispa were over the Nethinim. The overseer also of the Levites at Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mica, of the sons of Asaph, the singers, for the business of the house of God. For there was a commandment from the king concerning them, and, a settled provision for the singers, as every day required. And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabeel of the children of Zerah the son of Judah, was at the king's hand in all matters concerning the people.

"And for the villages, with [or hamlets in] their fields, some of the children of Judah dwelt in Kiriath-arba and the towns thereof, and in Dibon and the towns thereof, and in Jekabzeel and the villages thereof; and in Jeshua, and in Moladah, and Beth-pelet; and in Hazar-shual, and in Beer-sheba and the towns thereof; and in Ziklag, and in Meconah and in the towns thereof; and in En-rimmon, and in Zorah, and in Jarmuth; Zanoah, Adullam, and their hamlets, in Lachish and the fields thereof, Azekah and the towns thereof. So they encamped from Beer-sheba unto the valley of Hinnom. The children of Benjamin also dwelt from Geba onward, at Michmash and Aija, and at Beth-el and the towns thereof, at Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, Razor, Ramah, Gittaim; Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, Lod, and Ono, the valley of craftsmen. And of the Levites, certain courses in Judah were joined to Benjamin" (vers. 20-36). All things were to be done in decency and order; each was to do the work divinely appointed, and each had his due place.

It is not otherwise now, if we heed the word of the Lord. The scattered anomalous state of those that bear His name makes the difficulty great; but as the presence of the Holy Spirit cuts off all excuse for lack of power, so the written word abides the standard and touchstone of obedience. "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." It was the path of Christ, and it will be found and taken by him whose eye is single, for then the whole body is full of light.

Nehemiah 12:1-26.

1895 338 Here we have little to remark save that the Lord takes pleasure in recording even the names of His servants. The special object appears to connect the priests and Levites in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra at this point with those who at the first returned from the captivity, and with the intermediate generation. It is not only that He has been a dwelling place for His own in all generations, but He honours those that honour Him and records their names in His word now, as He will glorify their persons in the great day that hastens.

First then we begin with the earlier company.

"And these [are] the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra; Amariah, Malluch, Hattush; Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth; Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah; Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah; Shemaiah, and Joiarib, Jedaiah; Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the chiefs of the priests and of their brethren in the days of Jeshua" (vers. 1-7).

The reader must not confound the last two of ver. 1 with the inspired men of similar names, who were also priests, but at a different epoch; the one before, the other after, the return. Those enumerated were contemporaries of Jeshua or Joshua the high priest of that day, which was weak indeed compared with the past, shorn of its ornaments as became a remnant of the people now Lo-Ammi, but under all that provisional condition about to behold at length the Man that is Jehovah's fellow, His shepherd, smitten, and the sheep scattered, whatever the hand that protected the little ones. (Zech. 13:7). Yet neither that glory nor the dark cloud that veiled it appears in the book, which opens out the intermediate services of the humble, devoted, courageous, Israelite who was too glad to leave a splendid court to serve his poor and little grateful brethren for His sake Who watched over them aggrieved, but ever compassionate and faithful.

Next we have the Levites of the same early period. It is of interest to note that "the thanksgiving" did not fail in that day of shame and small things, any more than the "wards" or "watches." They were careful of order to God's glory.

"And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, which was over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren. Also Bakbukiah and Unno, their brethren, were over against them in wards" (vers. 8, 9).

In verses 10, 11, we have the succession of high priests from Jeshua to Jaddua. Now the history of the book does not carry us later than the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, and the high priesthood of faithless Eliashib and the unworthy son of Joiada his son. It is a brief record of humiliating ways to the last high priest of whom O.T. scripture takes any notice.

"And Jeshua begat Joiakim, and Joiakim begat Eliashib, and Eliashib begat Joiada, and Joiada begat Jonathan, and Jonathan begat Jaddua" (vers. 10, 11).

Then we have mention of the next generation, which accounts for "of" or "for" each of these persons, priests, chief fathers.

"And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers' [houses]: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; of Malluchi, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai; of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; and of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel" (vers. 12-21).

In due place follow the Levites, though first in a general way to the days of the latest high priest named (ver. 22), recorded (ver. 23) "in the book of the chronicles" until the days of the high priest before, Jonathan or Johanan. Then in vers. 24, 25, we have the specific services first of the chief Levites, next of door-keepers keeping the ward at the store-houses of the gates in the days of Joiakim, Jeshua's son, and in the days of Nehemiah and of Ezra. This gives the connexion, if not the reason for the insertion of the paragraph here.

"The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua, were recorded heads of fathers' houses: also the priests, in (or, to) the reign of Darius the Persian. The sons of Levi, heads of fathers' houses, were written in the book of the chronicles, even until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib. And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brethren over against them, to praise and give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, ward against ward. Mattaniah, and Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, Akkub, were porters keeping the ward at the store-houses of the gates. These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and of Ezra the priest the scribe" (vers. 22-26).

It is good to serve the Lord in the position He assigns each and for the end of attesting His glory; and it is full of cheer to know that He remembers each and would have all to forget not even the least one that serves Him.

Nehemiah 12:27-47.

1895 354 From ver. 27 is recounted the dedication of the wall, with the thanksgivings of the remnant. It was all in keeping with the circumstances of God's people; yet what a contrast with the building of the altar on their return from Babylon in the seventh month, or the laying of the foundations of the temple in the second year under Zerubbabel and Jeshua! Then too there was loud expression of joy on the people's part; but the chiefs, the ancient men who had seen the first house, wept no less loudly. Faith was feeble enough in both then; for how far were either from stedfast anticipation of His coming in the humiliation of grace, Who is to fill the house with glory! Now it was feebler still; for there was nothing but gladness, both with thanksgivings and with singing, cymbals, lutes and harps.

How different will all be when "a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall reign in judgment, and a man [not a wall] shall be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the storm; as brooks of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land." The eyes that look in that day shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tent that shall not be removed, whose stakes shall never be pulled up, nor any of its cords broken. And why but that there Jehovah is to be to His own glorious, in the place of rivers of broad stream; wherein shall go no galley with oars, nor shall gallant ship pass thereby? For Jehovah is their judge, Jehovah their law-giver, their king; He will save them. The afflicted city's stones shall be set in antimony, and its foundations with sapphires; its battlements will Jehovah make of rubies, its gates of carbuncles, and its borders of precious stones. Violence shall no more be heard in the land, wasting nor destruction within the borders; but Jerusalem shall call its walls Salvation and its gates Praise; no more Forsaken or Desolate, but called Beulah and Hephzibah; for Jehovah delighteth in it, and its land shall he married. What a change from the day when a pious son of David numbered the houses, and broke them down to fortify the wall! Immanuel there in glorious power makes the difference, for He will tread down the enemy and give effect to all suited blessing. And of the increase of His government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with judgment and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.

But as things were for the returned, they looked for the protection of a wall like the nations, and rejoiced over what their earnest and self-denying labour had reared, before envious adversaries, and in their midst false brethren truer to the Gentile than to Israel. And the inspired writer took his part in the celebration, and their heartfelt thanks the grace of God did not disdain, Who accepts according to what one has, not according as he has not. It was meet that they should be thankful, whatever they might lack.

"And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps. And the sons of the singers, gathered themselves together, both out of the plain round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of the Netophathites; also from Beth-gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth: for the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem. And the priests and the Levites purified themselves; and they purified the people, and the pates, and the wall.

"Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great companies that gave thanks and went in procession; whereof one went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate. And after them went Hoshaiah, and half of the princes of Judah, and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, Judah, and Benjamin, and Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, and certain of the priests' sons with trumpets: Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph; and his brethren, Shemaiah, and Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, and Judah, Hanani, with musical instruments of David the man of God; and Ezra the scribe was before them. And by the fountain gate, and straight before them, they went up by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall, above the house of David, even unto the water gate eastward. And the other company of them that gave thanks went to meet them, and I after them with the half of the people, upon the wall, above the tower of the furnaces, even unto the broad wall; and above the gate of Ephraim, and by the old gate, and by the fish gate, and the tower of Hananel, and the tower of Hammeah, even unto the sheep gate: and they stood still in the gate of the guard. So stood the two companies of them that gave thanks in the house of God, and I and the half of the rulers with me: and the priests, Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; and Maaseiah, and Shemaiah, and Eleazar and, Uzzi, and Jehohanan, and Malchijah, and Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang loud with Jezrahiah their overseer. And they offered great sacrifices that day, and rejoiced; for God had made them rejoice with great joy; and the women also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.

"And on that day were men appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the heave offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them, according to the fields of the cities, the portions appointed by the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that stood. And they kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, and so did the singers and the porters, according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son. For in the days of David and Asaph of old there was a chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God. And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and tire porters, as every day required: and they sanctified for the Levites; and the Levites sanctified for the sons of Aaron" (vers. 27-47).

The Levites and the priests were duly summoned and purified themselves; the princes, with the priests and the singers took their due place and part, dividing into two companies to complete the circuit, and meet with songs and great sacrifices at the house of God, and the joy of all with women and children heard afar off. As usual, the word of God was heeded all the more "according to the commandment of David and Solomon his son" (vers. 45, 46). The priests and the Levites were more assiduous in their functions to the joy of the people, and reaped proportionately from what was consecrated to the Levites, as the sons of Aaron did from the Levites' consecrations. When joy fails, duties are neglected, and love grows cold.

Nehemiah 13.

1895 370 But joy can never, as man is, be the sole portion of God's people, even if they possess not the spirituality that is quick to judge self and discern short-comings. To supply this wholesome check God does not fail to use His word. So it was in Jerusalem at this time.

"On that day they read in the book of Moses in the audience of the people; and therein was found written, that an Ammonite and a Moabite should not enter into the assembly of God for ever; because they met not the children of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them: howbeit our God turned the curse into a blessing. And it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude" (vers 1-3).

This self-judgment is attributed to none in particular, but to the effect of the scriptures on the people generally. Yet evil as was the allowance of "the mixed multitude" and in direct opposition to the law, there was a more flagrant offence of older date than that corrected as we have seen, which nobody ventured to touch till a later visit of Nehemiah.

"And before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being allied unto Tobiah, had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meal offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the wine, and the oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the heave offerings for the priests. But in all this time I was not at Jerusalem; for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went unto the king, and after certain days asked leave of the king, and came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meal offerings and frankincense" (vers 4-9).

Here it was not the sin of the people, nor yet of a ruler only but of the anointed priest. And it was an open affront to the house of God, and contempt of the oblations and the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes, to say nothing of the wrongs done to the Levites and the priests, by the very one who had the oversight and yet became a kinsman of a known and active adversary of the people, Tobiah the Ammonite. How vain to hope for a right sense of separation to Jehovah, when he who represented Him officially in the holiest set the example of deliberate transgression so complete and defiant in the temple itself! But Nehemiah on his return dealt vigorously with the evil, not only casting out of the profaned chamber all the household stuff of Tobiah, but purifying it and restoring the holy vessels with the oblations and the frankincense.

That priestly corruption, as usually happens, led to other serious consequences. The Levites had not been given their portions and had neglected God's work for their own interests. For this Nehemiah censured the rulers and himself rectified the disorder. The effect was great and immediate on "all Judah." And as stores now came in, he made storekeepers accordingly of priests, Levites, and people, thus binding all in an interest common to all before God.

"And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them; so that the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field. 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. Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the wine and the oil unto the treasuries. 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 business was to distribute unto their brethren. 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 observances thereof" (10-14).

Another great and prevalent sin caught his vigilant eye, the sabbath profaned by sons of Judah.

"In those days saw I in Judah some treading winepresses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses therewith; 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. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought in fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 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? 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. I commanded that the doors should be shut, and commanded that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I over the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. 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. And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember unto me, O my God, this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy" (vers. 15-22).

Need it be remarked how essential the sabbath was to Jehovah's glory and to His people? and all the more, because it depends on His will and word, apart from moral questions as in the rest of the "ten words." "A sign between Him and the sons of Israel for ever is" a sabbath of rest to Jehovah, so absolute that the doer of work therein was to be put to death. Christianity has brought in better and higher things, of which the first or resurrection day is the witness; but for the earth and God's earthly people the sabbath will be only the more honoured in the future glories of the kingdom.

Here again Nehemiah wrought with holy energy, and in every way set his face against sabbath profanation, with rulers and people, as well as with the foreign tempters.

The shameful defilement of the holy flesh by Gentile marriages he also dealt with most earnestly.
"In those days also saw I the Jews that had married women of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: 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. 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 for your sons, or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, and he was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did strange women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to trespass against our God in marrying strange women? 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. Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites" (vers. 25-29).

We do not see the grief as of Ezra in his chaps. 9; 10, but uncompromising zeal nevertheless in a way more natural to a Tirshatha (ver. 25). Nor could the highest religious position screen here; for as a grandson of the high priest was son-in-law of the notorious Sanballat the Horonite, Nehemiah chased him away, and here prayed that God might remember them, as polluters of the priesthood and of the covenant that attached to them and the Levites.

Finally, the purification from all foreigners was completed, and the charges appointed that priests and Levites should discharge each his service, with such dues as were needful.

"And I purged them from all strangers, and appointed wards for the priests and for the Levites, every one in his work; and for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good" (vers. 30, 31).

Is it not blessed in a day of weakness and humiliation to behold a ruler thus content to serve, and effectively for God's people as his eye was single to God and His word? At such a time sentiment is powerless; and allowance of natural ties specially dangerous. Nehemiah learnt and was faithful to what he knew from God. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."