Links to Other Parts of Scripture
Introduction to the Book:
Nekhemyah's name means "YHWH comforts", and his father's name means "whom YHWH enlightens." He was the butler, or cupbearer, to the king of Persia. (1:11) The Hebrew title literally means the one who brought the king's drink. He had the precarious position of testing the drinks served to the king to be sure no one was trying to poison him. But his mind is on the restoration of Yerushalayim to its calling as the home of the Temple of YHWH. Since YHWH is returning us from exile again and on many levels, Nekhemyah's calling is the same as ours, his story is not just historical, but instructive to us in an immediate way.
1. The words of Nekhemyah, son of Hakhalyah: Now what took place [was that] in the month of Kisleu, the twentieth year, when I was in Shushan the citadel,
Kisleu is the ninth month, in which Hanukah now falls.
2. Khanani (one of my brothers) came--he and men from Yehudah, so I asked them about the fugitive Jews who had been spared capture, and about Yerushalayim.
3. So they told me, "The remnant who were spared the captivity there in the magisterial district are experiencing severe adversity and scorn. Also, the wall of Yerushalayim is badly breached, and its gates have been burned with fire."
4. As it turned out, when I heard these words, I sat down and began to weep, and I was mourning for days, and I started fasting and interceding before the Elohim of Heaven,
Up until this time, being blissfully unaware of his homeland's condition, it was enough for Nekhemyah to tend to the king's wine. (1:11) His people were treated well in exile, but there came a time when YHWH's priority was for him to have his mind back on Tzion, and He is calling us to the same again today. Many of us did not even realize we were part of this people, but once we do know, our response should be as marked as Nekhemyah's. A modern account gives some of the sense of how he must have felt. Aish haTorah recounts how some Ethiopians immigrants, having only known of the history of Israel through King Shlomo, were incensed that their children's Hebrew teacher had told them the Temple no longer stood. When they were assured that this was the truth, they wept convulsively as if it had just been destroyed. The fact that we lack this commanded element of YHWH's order should have as strong an impact on us.
5. and I said, "I beg You, YHWH, Elohim of Heaven, the great and awesome El, who keeps watch over His covenant and [maintains] mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments,
6. "please let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, so as to hear the prayer of Your servant, which I myself am praying before You today--day and night--concerning the sons of Israel, Your servants, and confessing the sins of the descendants of Israel, which we have committed against You; both I myself and my father's household have sinned.
Confessing: literally, throwing down.
7. "We have offended You [and] acted corruptly in that we have not guarded Your commandments, prescribed customs, or just rulings [about] which You gave orders to Moshe Your servant.
8. "Please remember the word that You commanded Moshe Your servant, to quote: 'Go outside these boundaries [and] I will scatter you among the peoples,
9. "'but [if] you come back to Me and guard My commands and carry them out, even if you were banished to the farthest horizon, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen in which to set My Name.'
Farthest horizon: literally, the end of the skies (or heavens).
10. "Indeed, they are Your servants and Your people whom You have ransomed by Your great power and by Your mighty hand.
11. "I beg You, YHWH, please, let Your ear be attentive to the petition of Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who would delight to stand in awe of Your Name. And please, bring success to Your servant today and grant him pity in the presence of this man." (Now I was the butler for the king.)
Stand in awe of: literally, fear or tremble at. When we fear YHWH, we are free to be fearless of all else. Nekhemyah thus had the courage to go out on a limb to ask such a large favor of the human king.
Chapters 2 - 4
1. Now in the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artakhshasta the king, when wine came before him, that was when I took the wine up and was giving it to the king. Now I had never been sad in front of his face.
Nisan is the first month of the religious year established by YHWH for Israel at the exodus.
2. So the king said to me, "Why is your face sad when you are not sick now? There isn't this [kind of appearance] unless it is sadness of heart!" Then I become even more afraid.
3. But I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why would my face not be sad when the city [that is] the home of my ancestors' tombs is laid waste and its gates have been devoured by fire?"
4. So the king said to me, "What is it that you are looking for?" So I prayed to the Elohim of the Heavens,
5. then I told the king, "If it is beneficial in regard to the king, and if your servant is pleasing in your presence, that you might release me to go to Judea and to the city of my ancestors' tombs so that I can rebuild it."
6. And with the queen sitting beside him, the king said to me, "How long will your journey take? And when will you come back?" So it seemed right in the face of the king, and he released me to go, so I designated a time [limit] for him.
7. I also said to the king, "If it is beneficial in regard to the king, let letters be provided for me which will grant me passage until I reach Judea, on account of the governors [of the province] Across the River,
8. "and a letter to Asaf, the keeper of the forest preserve that belongs to the king, [specifying] that he will provide me with timbers to serve as beams for the gates of the enclosure that belongs to the House and for the wall of the city and for the house into which I will enter." And the king granted it to me, according to the kindness of the hand of my Elohim upon me.
9. When I came to the governors Across the River, I gave them the king's letters. (The king had also sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.)
10. When Sanballat the Khoronite and Tovyah the Ammonite servant heard, it was displeasing to them--very displeasing--that a person had come to seek the welfare of the descendants of Israel.
11. But I entered into Yerushalayim, and was there for three days,
Three days: the period Moshe told the congregation to purify themselves prior to their meeting with YHWH, and the same length of time Ezra records his entourage
12. then I got up at night--I and a few men with me--and did not tell a person what my Elohim had put in my heart to do for Yerushalayim, and there was no beast with me except the beast on which I was riding.
Nekhemyah did all of this secretly since there were many enemies all around him. I he had "cast his pearls before swine", he would not have accomplished this task. When Y'shua sent His disciples out to teach, He told them to first inquire who is worthy to hear their message. Paul's practice clarified what this meant; he would go into the synagogues first when looking for the Gentiles to whom his message was addressed. It was those whose hearts were already being drawn back to their brother Yehudah, were already wanting to learn the Torah and were keeping the Sabbath.
13. And I went out at night by the Gate of the Valley, that is, in front of the Fountain of the Dragon and toward the Refuse Gate to examine the walls of Yerushalayim that were badly breached, and its gates that were devoured by fire.
14. Then I continued over to the Gate of the Spring and to the king's pool, but there was no place for the beast [that was] under me to pass through.
Pool: or fishpond, from the word meaning "bless" or "bend the knee".
15. Then what I did was proceed by night through the dry river valley and examined the wall, then doubled back and entered by [way of] the Gate of the Valley and came back.
16. Now the deputies were not aware of where I had gone or what I was doing, nor had I reported yet to the Jews, the priests, or the freeborn nobles, or the subordinate rulers, or [any of] the rest who were carrying out the work.
He did not reveal any more than he had to until it was time for them to work, lest he let others in the door as well.
17. Then I told them, "You [can] see bad [situation] we are in--[one] in which Yerushalayim lies desolate and its gates have been burned with fire. Come! Let's rebuild the wall of Yerushalayim, and we will no longer be an object of scorn."
18. And I recounted to them about the hand of my Elohim which had been favorable upon me, and all the more, the words the king had spoken to me. And they said, "Let's rise up and build!" And they [worked hard to] make their hands strong for [this] worthwhile [undertaking].
19. But when Sanballat the Khoronite, and Tovyah the Ammonite servant, and Geshem ["rain"] the Arabian heard, they started mocking us and regarding us with contempt, and they said, "What is this thing that you are doing? Are you revolting against the king?"
The first two men listed here were the leader of the Samaritans and his son-in-law, who was the son of the high priest and whom he had bribed by offering to build his own temple on Mt. Grizim; hence the woman's words to Y'shua in Yochanan 4. Since Sanballat was not allowed to be part of it (v. 20), he counterfeited it. This temple was an exact replica of the one Ezra and Nekhemyah were building, so its recent discovery with much intact is a major highlight of archaeology. Sadly, it is in a dangerous Arab area and those who attempt to study it are often shot at.
20. So I gave them a word back, and told them, "The Elohim of the Heavens--He will cause us to succeed, so we His servants will rise up and build, but for you there is no share or right or memorial in Yerushalayim!"
It is holy--a concept they had as hard a time comprehending as many modern believers do. Yet the return of Israel in our day will also be an exclusive thing; today's Arabs have no share in the holy city either, no matter what seems "politically correct". Walls must be built to keep out the influence of belief systems that compromise Biblical truth, whether they be from Christianity or Judaism in the present form of either. If we accept the help of those unwilling to see themselves as Israelites who are under both Torah and the kingship of Messiah Y'shua (Acts 21:20; Rev. 12:17), they have a stake in how it turns out, and the pure truth will be lost again.
1. So Elyashiv the priest rose up along with his relatives, the priests, and they rebuilt the Gate of the Flock. They set it apart [as holy] and stood its doors up, and they consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred--all the way to the Tower of Hanan'El.
Elyashiv means "Elohim restores". Rebuilt: or, established. Gate of the flock: Y'shua called Himself by this very title in Yochanan 10:7. Hanan'El means "Elohim has shown favor".
2. Then next to him, the men of Yericho ["its moon"] were building, and next to him, Zakur [mindful], the son of Imri [eloquent], was building.
Next to him: literally, on his hand.
3. Then the sons of Hasnaah [the thorn] built the Gate of the Fish; they [were the ones who] made its beams meet and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars.
Bolts: deadbolts. Bars: i.e., to hold the doors shut.
4. And beside them, M'remoth [elevations] the son of Uriyah [YHWH is my light] the son of Qotz [thornbush] made repairs, then next to them M'shulam [one at peace] the son of Berekhyah [YHWH blesses] the son of M'sheyzav'El [Elohim shakes loose] made repairs, and next to them Tzadoq [righteous] the son of Baana ["in the affliction"] made repairs.
Made repairs: literally, made strong or firmed up.
5. And next to them, the Teqoites made repairs, but their chieftains would not bring the back of their necks into the service of their master.
6. Then the Old Gate was repaired by Yoyada [YHWH knew] the son of Paseakh [one who skips over] the son of B'sodyah [in the secret council of YHWH]. They made its beams meet and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars.
Old: from a word meaning to remain or last a long time, or to sleep.
7. And beside them, M'latyah [YHWH has cemented] the Giv'onite, Yadon [thankful] the Meronite, the men of Giv'on [high hill] and Mitzpah [watchtower] made repairs to the seat of the governor [of the province] Across the River.
Much of the focus of their repairs was on the gates, for they are not only the part most critical for defense; they are also the ancient equivalent of a courthouse, where the city's important decisions were made. A gate allows the city to monitor what comes in and what goes out. It lets us set the standard of what may come through, for this is where the enemy lies in wait. (Gen. 4:7) This is why judgment took place at the gate. If one entered a gate, he knew he was putting himself under the jurisdiction of that city's standards. These Israelites had to reset their once-Babylonian standards to those of YHWH's Torah, which was to be written on the gates--posted for all to read. If someone did not wish to live by these stricter standards of loving YHWH with his whole heart, he did not need to enter. Now the seat of the governor is set up--another aspect of the establishment of order that is so necessary from the start in order for a city (especially a holy one) to function. Each gate has its standards, as each camp of Israel had its own "standard" (banner). Each gate is associated with one of the twelve tribes. (Rev. 21) But now Yehudah claims to hold the standard by which all of Israel must enter, though it is a faulty one, built upon Rabbi Akiva's ideas rather than the foundations of the Apostles and prophets, as the city must be built. (Eph. 2:20) The Apostles belong to the Lamb (Rev. 21:14); without Him, the foundation is mere sand.
8. Then next to him Uzziel [El is my strength] the son of Kharhayah [hot fury of YHWH] of the refiners made repairs, and beside him Hananyah the son of the perfume compounders made repairs as far as the Broad Wall.
Broad Wall: perhaps the one built by King Hizqiyahu, some remnants of which are still intact today.
9. And beside them, R'fayah [YHWH has healed] the son of Khuwr [white cloth], the chief of the half part of Yerushalayim, made repairs.
10. And next to them, Y'dayah the son of Kharumath [split nose] made repairs--in fact, adjacent to his own house, and beside him Khattush [assembled] the son of Khashavn'yah [whom YHWH has regard for] made repairs.
11. Malkhiyah [YHWH is my king] the son of Kharim [dedicated] made repairs to a second part, and Khashuv [considerate] the son of Pakhath-Moav [Pit of Moav], the Tower of the Furnaces.
12. Then next to him, Shalum the son of Halokhesh [whisperer], the chief of the [other] half of Yerushalayim; he and his daughters made repairs.
13. Khanun [gracious] and the inhabitants of Zanoakh repaired the Gate of the Valley. They rebuilt it and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars, as well as a thousand cubits along the wall as far as the Refuse Gate.
A thousand cubits: approximately 1,500 to 1,650 feet, or 0.3 miles (0.5 km.).
14. But the Refuse Gate [itself] was repaired by Malkiyah the son of Rekhav [rider], the chief of [one] district of Beyth-haKerem [Place of the Vineyard]. He rebuilt it and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars.
Refuse Gate: on the south side of the Temple complex, where the contents and parts of the animals neither eaten nor used for sacrifice were carried out to be dumped in huge quantities.
15. And the Gate of the Spring was repaired by Shalun [retribution] the son of Kol-Hozeh [seeing everything], ruler of the district of Mitzpah. He rebuilt it, roofed it in, and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars, as well as the Pool of Shelakh, which belongs to the King's Garden and as far as the stairs that go down from the City of David.
Shelakh: the same as Shiloakh, meaning "sent". Y'shua indeed sent a man to this pool to be healed. (Yoch. 9:7)
16. After him, Nekhemyah the son of Azbuq [strong devastation], the ruler of half the district of Beyth-Tzur [Place of the Rock] as far as [the point] across from the tombs of David, that is, up to the [man-] made pool and as far as the mighty mens' house.
17. After him the Levites--R'khum [compassion] the son of Bani [built]--made repairs. Beside him, Khashavyah the chief of the half part of Qe'ilah, made repairs to his own district.
His own district: This was the precinct where he would have jurisdiction, so he would naturally be eager to secure it as well as he could.
18. After him, their relatives, Bawai the son of Khenadad, chief of the [other] half part of Qe'ilah, made repairs.
19. Then next to him, Ezer [help] the son of Y'shua [YHWH delivers], the ruler of Mitzpah repaired a second section from the ascent opposite the armory to the corner buttress of the wall.
20. After him, Barukh [blessed] the son of Zabbai [pure] furiously repaired another section from the corner buttress to the entrance to the house of Elyashiv the high priest.
21. After him, M'remoth the son of Uriyah the son of Qotz repaired another section from the entrance to the house of Elyashiv all the way to the end of Elyashiv's house.
22. Then after him, the priests, the men of the surrounding [district], made repairs.
23. Next, Binyamin [son of the right hand] and Khashuv made repairs alongside their own house. Then Azaryah [YHWH has helped] the son of Maaseyah [work of YHWH] the son of Ananyah [YHWH brings clouds] repaired [the part] adjoining his house.
Adjoining his house: As we know from the account of Rahav in Yerikho, some houses were built right into city walls. Adjoining his house: Again, this is masterful psychology, since for better or worse, we tend to take better care of what is our own. But until each of us guards his own gates (judges himself), the corporate gates of the new City YHWH is building will not be secure either.
24. After him, Binnui ["built up"] the son of Khenadad repaired another section from the house of Azaryah to the turning-buttress--that is, the corner.
25. Palal [intercessor] the son of Uzai, from adjoining the turning-buttress and the tower that proceeds from the king's upper house, which is toward the courtyard of the prison. After him, P'dayah [YHWH has ransomed] the son of Parosh [flea].
26. (Now the Assigned Ones were living on the Ofel as far as [the point] across from the Water Gate toward the sunrise and the tower that stands out.)
Ofel: a ridge of hills west of Yerushalayim fortified for the defense of the city.
27. After him the Teqoites repaired another section from adjoining the large tower that sticks out, and as far as the wall of the Ofel.
28. The priests repaired from above the Gate of Horses, each opposite his own house.
29. Next, Tzadoq the son of Immer made repairs across from his house. After him, Shema'yah [YHWH has heard] the son of Sh'khanyah [YHWH has dwelt] the keeper of the eastern Gate, made repairs.
30. After him, Khananyah the son of Shelemyah made repairs, then Khanun the sixth son of Tzalaf repaired another section. After him, M'shulam the son of Berakhyah repaired across from his chamber.
31. After him, Malkhiyah the son of the refiner repaired as far as the house of the Assigned Ones and the traders across from the Gate of the Visitor, then as far as the ascent of the corner.
32. And between the ascent of the corner to the Gate of the Flock, the [gold] refiners and traders made repairs.
This brings us full circle.
33. [4:1 in English] Now, as it turned out, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and began to be very upset and to ridicule the Jews.
34. And in front of his relatives and the army of Shomron, he spoke up and said, "What are these Jewish weaklings doing? Can they set themselves free? Can they do sacrificial slaughters? Can they finish [the job] in a day? Can they bring the stones out of the piles of burnt debris back to life?"
35. Then Tovyah the Ammonite, who was beside him, said, "If even a fox goes up on what they are building, it will break down their wall of stones!"
A fox weighs very little. There will always be mockers who, when we are doing a worthwhile thing, make us try to feel weaker than we actually are. Nekhemyah had the right response--calling on YHWH to deal with the situation:
36. Listen, our Elohim, because we are being held in contempt! And turn their taunts back on their own head, and hand them over as plunder into the land of captivity!
Land of captivity: the type of place from whence Nekhemyah just came.
37. And do not spread a covering over their perversity, nor let their sin be wiped away from before Your face, since they have brought anger to alongside the builders!
38. So we [kept] building the wall, and the whole wall was secured tightly to the part that [had been] divided from it, because the people had a determination to get it done.
This army of Samaritans even worshipped YHWh by name, but were opposed to His people, and were therefore standing against YHWH and His work. So a curse is called down on them.
1. But when Sanballat and Tovyah, along with the Arabians, Ammonites, and Ashdodites, heard that the restoration for the walls of Yerushalayim had gone up, since the breaches were being closed up, it made them very furious.
Only after the protective standards were set up did YHWH allow the enemy's onslaught, since this time His people's hearts were right.
2. So all of them banded together to come to fight against Yerushalayim and to cause confusion for it.
3. But we had made our prayer to our Elohim and stationed guards over them day and night because of their presence.
4. Then Yehudah said, "The strength of those who bear the burdens is faltering, and there is so much debris that we are unable to build the wall!
5. "And those who are oppressing us have said, 'They'll never know, and they won't notice until we arrive in their midst and kill them, and cause the work to cease.'
Work: from a root meaning "message". This clues us in on the nature of our work in rebuilding the city made of living stones. Many have fallen away, creating such debris and obscuring the well-defined lines YHWH wants set back up.
6. And indeed, when the Jews who lived near them came in, they told us ten times, "Any place from which you may return, [they are] against us!"
7. So I had them stand, from the lowest parts of the place, from behind the wall, in the glaringly bare areas, and I stationed the people by their families with their swords, spears, and bows.
Nekhemyah turned their pessimism into army intelligence. As they came into the city from outside, they saw where bands of enemies were stationed, so these were the parts of the wall they knew needed to be reinforced all the more.
8. Then I inspected [them], and got up and told the freeborn nobles and the deputies, and the remainder of the people, "Do not be afraid of their presence! Remember the great and awesome Adonai, and fight on behalf of your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!"
9. And it turned out that when our enemies heard that it was known to us and that Elohim had frustrated their conspiracy, then we all went back to the wall, each to his own task.
10. And from that day on, half of my young men did the work, while half of them kept a firm grip on the spears, the shields, the bows, and the body armor, and the officials were behind the whole house of Yehudah--
11. those who were on the wall building, those carrying burdens, those loading [each did so] with one of his hands--[one] that worked on the job, and [one] that held a weapon,
12. because each of the builders [had] his sword tied on his hip while he built, and the one who blew the shofar was beside me.
13. So I told the nobles, the deputies, and the rest of the people, "There is a lot of work and it's a big [task], and we are spread out on the wall, each a distance from his brother.
14. "Wherever you hear the sound of the shofar, assemble to us there; our Elohim will fight for us!"
We need to look not only to our own direct responsibilities, but rally to where the attacks are thickest.
15. So we worked at the task with half of them holding onto the spears from the rising of the dawn until the stars came out.
16. At that time I also told the people, "Let each man and his servant spend the night inside Yerushalayim, so that they may serve as a guard for us at night and labor during the daytime."
17. So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me--none of us took off his clothes; each man let down the water.
Let down the water: The meaning is ambiguous. It may mean they only opened their clothes far enough to urinate. Others interpret it to mean they only removed their clothing to wash, or that they carried their weapons with them even when going to draw water.
Chapters 5 - 6
1. Then there was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their brothers, the Jews.
2. Now there were [some] who were saying, "[With] our sons and our daughters, we are many! Let's seize grain, so we may eat and survive!"
3. And there were [others] who were saying, "In [our] hunger, we've mortgaged our fields, our vineyards, and our houses so we can acquire grain!"
4. And there were [some] who were saying, "We've borrowed silver for the king's measure of our fields and vineyards.
The king's measure: i.e., the portion he required as a tribute. They were becoming so poor that they had nothing left even to pay taxes. Some of the men of Yehudah who had returned to the Land were beginning to be selfish again and were greedy to attain wealth at the expense even of their countrymen instead of remembering that they were all part of the same community.
5. "Yet now our flesh is like the flesh of our brothers, and our children are like their children, and look! We are forcing our sons and daughters to be slaves, and there are some of our daughters are being brought into bondage, and our hands have no power, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others!"
They were buying their brothers for themselves rather than redeeming them from bondage so they could return to their own inheritance, as the Torah demands of capable kinsmen. (Lev. 25:47-49) They would not then be free in the modern sense--to go and do as they please. But every Israelite has a right to be brought back to his proper place so he can fill the role in Israel that he is meant to play. At present we also see some from Yehudah enslaving some from the Northern Kingdom who want to return from exile and follow Torah again, by luring them into a Judaism that allows no place for Y'shua, the very Jew who did redeem us. He has already fulfilled the function of kinsman redeemer; why should another of our kinsmen need to buy us as well? (Compare Galatians 5:1)
6. And when I heard their outcry and these words, it made me very angry.
7. But my heart ruled over me, and I lodged a complaint against the nobles and the deputies and began to say to them, "Each of you is lending at interest from his brother!" And I convened a great assembly against them.
My heart: not the deceitful heart Yirmeyahu 17:9 tells about, but a heart trained by Torah that longed to see his people reconnected with their Land so the proper structure of being a family rather than competitors could be reestablished. Lending at interest to fellow Israelites goes directly against the Torah. (Lev. 25:35ff)
8. Then I told them, "As we have had enough, we have bought our brothers, the Jews, who were sold to the Gentiles. Will you also sell your brothers now?! Or will they be sold to us?" And they quieted down, and could not find a thing [to say].
9. So I said, "The thing that you are doing is not right. Shouldn't you walk in the fear of our Elohim, from the taunts of our enemies, the Gentiles?
10. "So indeed I, my brothers, and my servants are lending them silver and grain; I beg you, let's give up this lending at interest!
11. "Please, give them back their fields, the vineyards, their olive [orchards], and their houses--today, in fact--along with the one percent of the silver, the grain, the new wine, and the fresh oil that you are extorting from them!"
12. So they said, "We will give [it] back, and we will not ask anything from them; we will do just as you are saying." So I called the priests and had them swear to act according to this promise.
13. I also shook out my lap and said, "May Elohim cause anyone who does not make this promise binding to be intensely shaken out from his house and from the property he has acquired. May he indeed be shaken out just like this and emptied!" And the whole congregation said, "Let it be so!" And they praised YHWH and the people did according to this promise.
14. Moreover, from the day that I was put in charge as their governor in the Land of Yehudah (from the twentieth year all the way until the thirty-second year of Artakhshasta the king)--twelve years [in all]--neither I nor my brothers ate the food of a governor.
15. The first governors who preceded me were too heavy upon the people and had taken bread and wine from them, after [already taking from them] forty sheqels of silver. Even their young men lorded it over the people. But I did not do it that way because of the fear of Elohim.
Compare Y'shua's words in Luke 22:25ff.
16. And I also held on strongly in the business of this wall, not even buying a field, and all of my young men were gathered together there on account of the work.
17. And the Jews and the deputies--150 men--and those who came in to us from among the nations that were around us were at my table,
18. and what was prepared for one day [was] one ox, six choice sheep; birds were also prepared for me, and every ten days in all the plentiful wine. Yet with all this I did not request the bread of a governor, since the service [that was] on the people was so heavy.
I.e., even with all these extra people to feed, he did not receive even the amount of food one in the position of governor considered his right. In fact, from the phrasing it appears that he himself may have only eaten the birds, not the beef or mutton.
19. Remember me, my Elohim, to favor all that I have done for this people.
1. But what took place was that, when Sanballat, Tovyah, Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach was left in it (though by that time I had not even firmed up the doors at the gateways yet),
2. then Sanballat and Geshem sent [word] to me, saying, "Let's meet together in the villages on the Plain of Ono." But they intended to do me harm.
3. So I sent messengers to tell them, "I am working on a big job, and I can't come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?"
A big job: or, a great work. Come down: not only in a physical sense. He would not lower himself to the level of answering someone who did not really want to learn from him. (Compare Prov. 26:4)
4. They even sent [word] to me four times in regard to this matter, but [each time] I repelled them in this way.
Repelled: or, gave back.
5. Then Sanballat sent his young man to me about this matter the fifth time with an open letter in his hand, in which was written,
Sanballat was trying to wear him down, but he himself apparently lacked the courage to come to Nekhemyah himself, possibly due to the fear that a face-to-face encounter would make it obvious that he was bluffing and that he was really the one who was afraid.
6. "Among the nations it is reported, and Gashmu says, "You and the Jews intend to revolt, and that is why you are building the wall--so that you can become a king to them"--according to these reports.
7. "You have even had prophets stand up and make a proclamation about you at Yerushalayim, saying, "A king in Yehudah!" And reports like these are what will be heard by the king! So come now and let's talk it over together."
Whenever we begin to build walls and set up standards, people tend to accuse us of arrogance and abuse of power, when instead these things are for the protection of those under the jurisdiction of this particular leader.
8. But I sent [word] to tell him, "Such things as you are saying are not [really] taking place, because you're inventing them from your own mind!"
He had the position of the greater leverage. What did it matter to him whether word got back to the king? He knew the truth that the human king in question had personally and directly granted him permission to do the very thing he was doing, besides the fact that he knew it was YHWH's will! It was all just a ruse of jealousy, as these men who thought they had authority in the Land were finding out that when it really mattered, they did not really have any jurisdiction at all.
9. Because they were all [out to] inspire fear in us [by] saying, "Their hands will grow weak from the work," so it would not get done. So now, strengthen my hands!
The last sentence in this verse is a prayer. He recognized the danger that this could actually take place, so he asked YHWH for the opposite to turn out to be the case.
10. So I came to the home of Shma'yah the son of Delayah, the son of M'heytav'El, who was in custody, and he said, "Let's set an appointment to meet toward the House of Elohim in the middle of the Temple, and let us shut the doors of the Temple, because they will come to murder you, and itÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s at night that they will come to murder you."
11. But I said, "Should a man like me run away? And what kind of man of my type would go into the Temple to survive? I won't go in."
This was not arrogance, but confidence in what YHWH was doing in and through him.
12. Because I discerned that, indeed, Elohim had not sent him, because he had spoken the prophecy against me, and Tovyah and Sanballat had hired him.
13. This is why he was hired--in order to make me afraid and act like this, so I would sin and come to have a bad name for them so that they could criticize me.
Criticize: or censure, taunt. They wanted to discredit him, and thereby everyone under him, and thus take away their worthiness (in men's eyes) to complete such a task. Sin: using the Temple for profane purposes. No one but the Levites are to be inside the Temple at night (though there was one exception; King Yoash was kept hidden there once to save his life when there was genuine threat) This might not be so obvious to those not well-versed in Torah, thinking it might be the safest course of action, but he saw through it and would not be ruled by fear.
14. My Elohim, remember Tovyah and Sanballat according to these things they have done, and also Noadyah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who [want to] inspire fear in me!
15. So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, on the fifty-second day.
This is one week before Yom Teruah, the civil new year, early in the autumn.
16. Now when this was reported to all of our enemies, and all the nations that were around us saw, they suffered a severe fall in their own eyes, because they recognized that this work was accomplished by our Elohim.
17. Also, in those days the nobles of Yehudah were increasing the [number of] letters they were having walked to Tovyah, and those belonging to Tovyah were coming to them,
18. since many in Yehudah were masters of an oath to him, since he was the [son] in-law to Sh'khanyah the son of Arakh, and his son Y'hokhanan had taken the daughter of M'shulam the son of Berekhyah [as a wife].
19. His beneficial deeds were also being reported in my presence, and my words were being taken out to him. Tovyah was sending letters to [try to] frighten me.
1. Now when the wall had been built and I had begun setting up the doors, and the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites had been stationed,
Wall: set up to define the holy place and keep everything unholy out. Our fellowship must be based on the truth of YHWHÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Torah. DoorsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ gatekeepers: Further standards set up to protect this clean place from being defiled. Only after these are all intact can true praise as well as service to YHWH begin. We canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t serve Him in the fullest way outside the wall.
2. then I gave my brother Khanani charge over Yerushalayim, along with Khananyah the ruler of the palace, because he was reliable as a man and feared Elohim more than most.
Khanani means "my favor" and Khananyah means "YHWH has shown favor". After the walls are set up, the worship begins, and sin is dealt with, grace and mercy will reign, and YHWH Himself will express His pleasure.
3. And I told them, "Do not let the gates of Yerushalayim be opened until the sun is hot, and until they present themselves, let them shut the doors and fasten them. And station the inhabitants of Yerushalayim as guards, each one at his guard-post and each near his own house."
Until the sun is hot: when there is plentiful light so whoever is entering can be fully examined. No darkness is to be let into this city. (Rev. 22:14-15) Present themselves: literally, stand. Those who want to enter YHWH's set-apart place must be willing to submit to scrutiny of their motives and worthiness. (Mat. 22:11-12; Rev. 3:18) Fasten: i.e., lock. The kinds of enemies that come against these doors are evil and will not be deterred by the doors merely being closed. Each near his own house: Again, excellent psychology on the literal level, since we naturally defend most passionately what is our own. But the deeper meaning is that it is everyone's job to guard the community of holiness, and we must begin at our own gates--the places we let influences into our own lives. What I allow to enter will affect all of Israel.
4. Now the city was spacious on both hands and large, but the population within it was small, and houses had not been built.
While outside influences were walled out, there were no walls between those who were within. They had time to examine each other before allowing anyone to settle in.
5. And my Elohim granted to my heart to gather the nobles and the deputies and the people to be enrolled according to genealogy, and I found a genealogical record of those who had come up at the beginning. And [this is what] I found written in it:
This record is also found in Ezra chapter 2.
6. "These are the sons of the district who came up from among the captives who had been exiled--whom Nevuchadnetzar the king of Bavel had taken away into exile, and who returned to Yerushalayim and to Judea, each to his own city:
Came up: as in v. 5, this term has a special reference to entering the Land of Israel from outside. Spiritually, it is always an ascension. Today it is again the term used of immigrating to Israel from out of a much longer exile.
7. "The ones coming with Zerubavel: Y'shua, Nekhemyah, Azaryah, Raanyah, Nakhmani, Mordekhai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, N'khum, Baanyah; the count of the [mortal] men of the nation of Israel:
8. "The descendants of Par'osh [numbered] 2,172.
9. "The descendants of Sh'fatyah, 372.
10. "The descendants of Arah, 652.
11. "The descendants of Pakhath-Moav, belonging to the sons of Y'shua and Yoav, [numbered] 2,818.
12. . "The descendants of Eylam, 1,254.
13. . "The descendants of Zattu, 845.
14. . "The descendants of Zakkai, 760.
15. . "The descendants of Binnui, 648.
16. "The descendants of Vevai, 628.
17. "The descendants of Azgad, 2,322.
18. "The descendants of Adoniqam, 667.
19. "The descendants of Bigwai 2,067.
20. "The descendants of Adin, 655.
21. "The descendants of Ater, belonging to Hizqiyahu, 98.
22. "The descendants of Khashum, 328.
23. "The descendants of Betzai, 324.
24. "The descendants of Kharif, 112.
25. "The sons of Giv'on, 95.
26. "The men of Beyth-Lekhem and N'tofah, 188.
27. "The men of Anathoth, 128.
28. "The men of Beyth-Azmaveth, 42.
29. "The men of Qiryath Ye'arim, Kfirah, and Be'eroth, 743.
30. "The men of Ramah and Gava, 621.
31. "The men of Mikhmas, 122.
32. "The men of Beyth-El and Ai, 123
33. "The men of the other N'vo [numbered] 52.
34. "The descendants of the other Eylam, 1,254.
35. "The descendants of Kharim, 320.
36. "The sons of Yerikho, 345.
37. "The descendants of Lod, Khadid, and Ono, 721.
38. "The descendants of SnaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ah, 3,930
39. "The priests: The descendants of Y'dayah, of the household of Y'shua, 973.
40. "The descendants of Immer, 1,052.
41. "The descendants of Pashkhur, 1,247.
42. "The descendants of Kharim, 1,017.
43. "The Levites: the descendants of Y'shua, belonging to Qadmi'El, belonging to the descendants of Hodvah, 74.
44. "The singers: the sons of Asaf, 148.
45. "The gatekeepers: the descendants of Shallum, the descendants of Ater, the descendants of Talmon, the descendants of Akuv, the descendants of Khatita, the descendants of Shovai, 138.
46. "The Assigned Ones: descendants of Tzikha, descendants of Khashufa, descendants of Tabbaoth,
Assigned ones: or, Designated Ones; literally, those given. They were the Giv'onites, assigned to the priests and Levites for service in the sanctuary since Yehoshua had made a treaty not to kill them before he realized that they were natives of the land of Kanaan. They came to be esteemed as highly as the Levites for whom they worked, but were not permitted to intermarry with them.
47. descendants of Qeyros, descendants of Siy'a, descendants of Padon,
48. descendants of LÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢vanah, descendants of Khagava, descendants of Shalmai,
49. descendants of Khanan, descendants of Gidel, descendants of Gakhar,
50. descendants of R'ayah, descendants of Retzin, descendants of N'qodah,
51. descendants of Gazzam, descendants of Uzza, descendants of Paseakh,
52. descendants of Besai, descendants of Meunim, descendants of NÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢fiushesim,
53. descendants of Baqbuq, descendants of Khaqufa, descendants of Kharkhur,
54. descendants of Batzlith, descendants of M'khida, descendants of Kharsha,
55. descendants of Barqos, descendants of Sisra, descendants of Tamakh,
56. descendants of N'tziakh, descendants of Khatifa,
57. descendants of the servants of Shlomoh, descendants of Sotai, descendants of Sofereth, descendants of Pridah,
58. descendants of Yaalah, descendants of Darqon, descendants of Gidel,
59. descendants of ShÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢fatyah, descendants of Khattil, descendants of Pokhereth haTzÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢vayim, descendants of Amon--
60. all the Assigned Ones and the descendants of the servants of Shlomoh [totaled] 392.
61. And these are the ones who went up from Tel Melakh, Tel Kharsha, Kruv, Adon, and Immer, but who were not able to tell whether they, their ancestral household, or their seed were of Israel:
62. The descendants of Delayah, descendants of Tovyah, descendants of NÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢qoda, 642.
63. And from among the priests, the descendants of Khavayah, descendants of the Qoz [thorn], descendants of Barzillai, who took one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gil'adite as a wife, and was called by their name.
Why would one already as dignified as a Levite want to take on someone elseÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s name? Because Barzillai was a powerful man who used his resources to sustain King David when Avshalom revolted against him (2 Shmuel 19), and helped restore him to his rightful throne. Association with such a man is highly valuable. His name means "my iron", a reminder of David's descendant the Messiah, who will rule with a rod of iron--an unbending standard against which to measure all things.
64. These were searching for their documentation among those who were enrolled according to genealogy, but it was not found, so they were released from the priesthood.
65. And the governor told them that they should not eat of the holiest of the holy [things] until a priest with the Urim and Thummim should be established.
The governor: Nekhemyah himself. (8:9) These men could still eat of what was brought home by the priests, but not of those sacrifices delineated in Lev, 7:1-5; 10:12; 14:13.
Thummim: A mechanism for determining YHWHÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s response to inquiries which was not reestablished after the exile. So this priest has not yet been established. But not every priest is to be of the tribe of Levi (Hebrews 5:6-10)
Urim means "lights", and in Hebraic context this refers to the Torah (Ps. 119:105), and since the term is plural, it would include commands, decrees, and rulings as well.
Thummim means "perfections" or "mature ones". So though the physical objects are not yet identified, we know that they symbolize mature leaders who understand the Torah and can therefore tell Israel which way to go. YHWH is raising up such leaders now as the Time of the Restoration of All Things dawns. Thus soon the prophecy in Yeshayahu 66:19-21 --that priests will be raised up from those who join themselves to other tribes of Israel--can be fulfilled. Lineage may not be as important to the position as those whose hearts and vessels are pure before YHWH. By that time, Y'shua, this High Priest who does search hearts, will be in His rightful place to make this judgment call.
66. The whole congregation as a unit [consisted of] 42,360,
67. apart from their servants and handmaids; these were 7,337, and among them 200 male and female singers.
68. Their horses [numbered] 736, their mules 245,
69. their camels 435, and their donkeys 6,720.
70. Now some of the heads of the ancestral [households] donated to the work. The governor donated to the storehouse [for] the work 1,000 darkmonim of gold, 50 pitchers, and 530 tunics of the priests.
Nekhemyah had been given provisions by the king, so he was especially obligated to give. Darkmonim: a Persian weight equal to 128 grains (8.32 grams).
71. Also, some of the heads of the ancestral [households] donated to the storehouse [for] the work 20,000 drakmonim of gold and 2,200 manim of silver.
Manim: singular, maneh; the exact value varied from 60 (for silver)to 100 sheqels (of gold), and was 1/100 of a talent (
72. And what the rest of the people donated was 20,000 drakmonim of gold, 2,000 manim of silver, and 67 tunics for the priests.
73. Then the priests, Levites, and [those] of the people--the singers, the gatekeepers, and the Assigned Ones--settled in their own cities, and all [the rest] of Israel in their cities. And as the seventh month was being reached, the descendants of Israel were in the cities.
1. And all the people assembled themselves like one man into the open [plaza] that is I front of the Water Gate, and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the Torah of Moshe, which YHWH had put Israel in charge of.
2. So Ezra the priest brought the Torah in front of the congregation (from men to women, whoever had the understanding to obey) on day one of the seventh month.
This is Yom T'ruah (the day of shouting or trumpet-blasts), one of the seven prescribed appointments with YHWH, often known today as Rosh haShanah.
3. Then he read it aloud, in front of the open [plaza] that is facing the Water Gate from the [first] light until the middle of the day, near by the men and women who could understand, and the ears of all the people were toward the Book of the Torah.
Who could understand: This is who YHWH chooses as His forerunners in re-establishing His holy place, for they in turn can teach others.
4. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose, and Matithyah, Shema', Anayah, Uriyah, Khilkiyah, Maaseyah stood beside him on his right hand, while on his left [stood] Pedayah, Misha'El, Malkiyah, Khashum, Khashbadanah, Z'kharyah, and M'shulam.
Purpose: literally, word. Beside him: or, jointly with him.
5. Then Ezra opened the book for the eyes of all the people (because he was higher than all the people). And as he opened it, all the people stood up.
6. And Ezra bowed the knee to YHWH, the great Elohim, and all the people answered, "Amen! Indeed, let it be so!" while lifting up their hands. Then they bowed and worshipped YHWH with their noses to the earth.
7. And Y'shua, Bani, Sherevyah, Yamin, Aquv, Shabbethai, Hodiyah, Maaseyah, Q'lita, Azaryah, Yozavad, Khanan, P'la'yah, and the Levites provided the people with understanding of the Torah, while the people stood in their place.
In their place: not only literally where they stood, but order was restored to Yehudah as the Torah was again proclaimed.
8. And they read aloud clearly in the book of ElohimÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s instruction, and established the sense, and they were perceiving [what was] read at the calling-out.
Established the sense: clarified what the context was meant to be, as well as probably translating into Aramaic for these returning exiles so there would be no ambiguity about the text. Calling-out: or convocation, sacred assembly. The greatest insight into Scripture comes only when we are in the covenant of not only qualified teachers but the whole congregationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s presence as well. Y'shua's congregation is also called the "Called-out Ones".
9. Then Nekhemyah, who was the governor, along with Ezra the priest (the scribe) and the Levites who had brought the people understanding of the Torah, said to all the people, "Today is dedicated to YHWH your Elohim. You must not mourn [for yourself] or weep." (Because the people were all weeping when they heard the words of the Torah.)
10. And he told them, "Go ahead and eat of the best parts, drink of the sweet [wine], and send portions to him for whom nothing is arranged, because today is dedicated to our Master. So don't be grieved, because the gladness of YHWH is your stronghold!"
Note YHWH's concern for those who do not have a family with whom to share the feast.
11. Then the Levites began settling the people, saying, "Quiet down, because today is set apart; donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t be grieved."
12. So all the people went to eat, to drink, and to send away portions, and to make great merriment, because they had understood the words that were made known to them.
13. Then on the second day, the heads of the ancestral [households] of the whole nation, the priests, and the Levites gathered themselves unto Ezra the scribe and for the purpose of gaining insight into the words of the Torah.
14. And they found written in the Torah by which YHWH had given orders through the hand of Moshe that the descendants of Israel must dwell in temporary shelters during the feast of the seventh month,
15. and that they should make it heard and cause [the announcement] to pass throughout all their cities as well as in Yerushalayim, saying, "Go out [from] the mountain and bring olive branches and branches of the oily trees, branches of myrtle, and branches of date palms, and branches of trees with dense, interwoven foliage to make sukkoth [temporary shelters], as it is written."
The mountain: that is, the Temple Mount, where they were assembled. Temporary shelters: Their homes were not built yet, so in a very real way they were re-enacting their ancestors' dwelling in tents in the wilderness before inhabiting the Promised Land.
16. So the people went out and brought [these things], and made sukkoth for themselves, each man on his roof or in their enclosed courtyards or in the courts of the House of Elohim, as well as in the plaza of the Water Gate and the plaza of the Gate of Efrayim.
Plaza: literally, wide open space. Gate of Efrayim: This gate was not mentioned anywhere earlier in Nekhemyah's account, since this return pertained to the Southern Kingdom of Yehudah, but it foreshadows our own day when the people of Efrayim are now returning to the same practices after a 2,730-year exile!
17. So the whole congregation of those who returned from captivity made sukkoth and sat in the sukkoth, because since the days of Y'hoshua, the son of Nun until that day, the descendants of Israel had not carried this out. There was indeed very great merriment!
This failure to obey the Torah was one of the reasons for their exile in the first place. How much more should we, whose exile was so much longer and more complete, not go all-out to keep the feast in the most perfect way possible?
18. And he read aloud in the book of the Torah of Elohim day by day--from the first day until the last, and they accomplished the festival-gathering [for] seven days, and on the eighth day there was an encore, as the Torah [commands].
Festival-gathering: based on a word meaning "to reel" or "to dance", especially in a circle. So to fulfill the feats, this element should be present. Encore: the word includes the senses of continuation or carrying on what has been going on, an affectionate farewell, holding over, as well as bringing closure. Imagine what Sukkoth will be like when the Messiah returns and we carry out the feast together with Him in the Temple courts!
Chapters 9 - 10
1. Then on the twenty-fourth of this month, the descendants of Israel gathered themselves with fasting and with burlap and earth on themselves,
Twenty-fourth: the day after the eighth day added to Sukkoth. They were told to stop mourning on Yom T'ruah (the first of the month) since it was a day set apart to YHWH. They then discovered the instructions for Sukkoth and carried them out, but no mention was made of Yom Kippur, which falls between them. As soon as it was again permissible to fast, they are doing so, perhaps to fulfill the obligations for Yom Kippur, which was missed. But also, after hearing the Torah read and experiencing a taste of the Kingdom, the reality of how short they have fallen is weighing heavily on them. In addition, their countrymen were still in exile, and the city was not yet complete. When they recognized where they stood, fasting and prayer was the logical next step.
2. and the seed of Israel set about to separate themselves from all the sons of the foreigner, and they were standing and confessing to one another their sins and the perversities of their ancestors.
Strangely, the root from which this word for "foreigner" stems means "what is recognized, acknowledged, or respected". But this gives us a clue as to some other things we as returning Israelites in our own day need to separate ourselves from. What is recognized is something close to us. This reminds us of Y'shua's teaching that His true mother and brothers and sisters are only those who do YHWH's will. (Mat. 12:48-50) What is acknowledged and respected by those foreign to Israel--other attachments, ideologies, or priorities--is what we need to leave behind, even if it is what preserved us through our exile. For example, religious tolerance is a great help to us now where we are minorities, but in YHWH's Land, there is no room for it. Notice that they took the necessary steps to distance themselves from what the pagans around them were doing before they dared to bring their confession to YHWH, for we can hardly confess sins that we are still clinging to.
3. As they rose up upon their standing-place, they read aloud in the book of the Torah of YHWH their Elohim for a fourth of the day, and for a fourth of the day they were confessing and prostrating themselves to YHWH their Elohim.
4. Then Y'shua, Bani, Qadmiel, Sh'vanyah, Buni, Sherevyah, Bani, and Khanani got up on the staircase of the Levites and called out with a loud voice to YHWH their Elohim,
5. and the Levites--Y'shua, Qadmiel, Bani, Khashavniyah, Sherevyah, Hodiyah, Sh'vanyah, and P'thakhyah--said, "Rise up and bend the knee to YHWH your Elohim from age to age." Then, "May the weightiness of Your Name, which is raised up above all blessing and adoration, be blessed!
Notice all the references to rising or ascending in verses 3-5. This is the opposite of sitting or settling down, because in order to accomplish such a repentance, we cannot remain where we are. They also could not kneel while remaining seated. Though we have made significant progress, we have not yet reached our goal, so we must keep ascending.
6. "It is You, O YHWH who alone have made the heavens--the heavens of heavens, and all their armies, the earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that is in them, and You keep them all alive, and the army of the heavens bows down to You.
7. "You are the One, YHWH, the Elohim who chose Avram and brought him out from Ur of the Khasdim, and appointed him the name Avraham,
8. "and you found his heart to be reliable before Your face, and cut with him the covenant to entrust the Land of the Kanaanite, the Khittite, the Emorite, the Prizzite, the Y'vusite, and the Girgashite--to give [it] to his seed, and You have upheld Your words, because You are righteous.
Upheld: or carried out, made effective, caused to rise up.
9. "You also noticed the oppression of our ancestors in Egypt, and listened to their cry of distress at the Sea of Reeds,
10. "and You employed distinguishing sign and miracles on Par'oh and on all his servants and on all the people of his land, because You knew that they were dealing arrogantly against them, and You made a Name for Yourself, just as [You have done on] this day!
11. "Then You split the sea in front of them, and they crossed over in the middle of the sea on dry land. And You threw the ones who were chasing them into the depths like a stone into the fierce waters.
12. "Then by day You guided them with a column of cloud, and a column of fire by night to light for them the way in which they should walk.
13. "And on Mount Sinai You came down and spoke with them from the heavens and gave them straightforward [standards by which] to judge and trustworthy instructions, prescribed customs, and beneficial commandments,
14. "and You made known to them Your set-apart Sabbath, and by the hand of Moshe Your servant You ordered them [with] commands, prescribed customs, and instruction.
15. "You also gave them bread from the heavens for their hunger, and brought them water out of a rock for their thirst, and You promised that they would go in and take possession of the Land You had raised Your hand to give them.
All of these are also pictures of YÃ¢â‚¬â„¢shua (Yoch. 4:7-14; 6:31-58; 1 Cor. 10:4); indeed, we cannot enter the Promised Land without first partaking of Him.
16. "But they and our fathers acted insolently and hardened the backs of their necks, and did not listen to Your commands.
17. "and they utterly refused to obey, and did not remember Your wonders that You had done among them. Rather, they hardened the back of their necks and in their rebellion appointed a head to go back to their bondage. But You are a forgiving Eloah, showing favor and full of pity, slow to anger and great in mercy, and You did not forsake them.
18. "Even when they had made for themselves a cast-metal calf and said, 'This is your Elohim, who brought you up out of Egypt' and acted with great contempt,
19. "still, in Your abounding pity, You did not abandon them in the wilderness; [You] did not turn the pillar of cloud away from them by day to lead them on the way or the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way in which they should walk.
20. "You also gave them Your Spirit of Appropriateness to cause them to act with consideration, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst.
21. "Indeed, forty years You carried them through the wilderness; they suffered no lack. Their outer garments did not wear out, and their feet did not become blistered.
22. "Then You granted them dominions and peoples and distributed the plunder to the side, and they took possession of the land of Sikhon, that is, the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan.
Distributed the plunder: or assigned them portions (i.e., of land). Bashan: called the Golan Heights today.
23. "And You multiplied their descendants like the stars of the skies and brought them into the land that You had promised to their fathers, so that [they should] go in and take possession of it.
24. "So the sons went in and dispossessed the Land, and You brought the inhabitants of the Land--the Kanaanites--into subjection before them, and handed them over to them--both their kings and the people of the Land, to do with them as they pleased.
Sons: of those to whom the promise was made, but who forfeited it by their lack of faith.
25. So they seized inaccessible cities and robust soil and took possession of houses full of all [kinds of] nice property, wells [already] dug, vineyards, olive [orchard]s, and abundant trees from which one can eat, and they did eat and were full, and became fat, and delighted themselves in Your great beneficence.
26. "Still they disobeyed and rebelled against You and cast off Your instruction behind their backs, and they murdered Your prophets, who testified against them in order to turn them back to You, and acted with great contempt.
27. "So You handed them over to their adversaries, who oppressed them, and in the time of their anguish, when they cried out to You [for help], You heard from the heavens, and in accordance with Your plentiful mercies, You granted them deliverers, who liberated them from the hands of their oppressors.
28. "But after they had a respite, they went back to doing evil in Your presence, and You left them in the hand of their enemies, and they trod them down. But they came back and cried out to You [for help], and from the heavens You heard and in accordance with Your compassions, You rescued them many times,
29. "and solemnly warned them to turn them back to Your Torah, but they were proudly defiant and did not listen to Your orders, and missed the target in Your legal procedures (which, if a person carries out, he will thrive by them), and they showed a stubborn shoulder and hardened the back of their neck, and would not listen.
A person: literally, Adam. Thrive: or, be revived. This is an allusion to Va-Yiqra (Leviticus) 18:5. The Torah is the way YHWH gave way Adam's descendants to get back to the Garden he lost.
30. "Yet for many years You postponed [the judgment] on them and solemnly warned them by Your Spirit through the hand of Your prophets, but they would not give ear, so You handed them over to the peoples of the lands.
31. "Yet in Your abundant compassions, You did not make a complete end of them, nor did You forsake them, because You are a compassionate El who shows pity.
32. "So now, our Elohim--the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring El--who keeps covenant and [retains] lovingkindness, do not let all the hardship that has fallen upon us (for our kings, our leaders, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and Your whole people) since the days of the kings of Ashur to this day seem trivial before You--
33. "though You are just in regard to all that came upon us, because You have acted reliably, but we have been guilty,
34. "in that our kings, our leaders, our priests, and our ancestors have not carried out Your instruction nor obeyed Your orders or listened to the evidence that You brought as witness against them.
35. "And in their kingdom, despite Your great beneficence that You bestowed on them and the wide and rich Land that You had laid out before them, they did not serve You nor turn from their evil practices.
36. "Look at us today--we are slaves, and the Land that You gave to our ancestors to eat of its fruit and of the beneficence of the Land, indeed, we are slaves within it,
37. "and it is yielding abundant produce for the kings whom You have set over us in our sinning, and they are exercising dominion over our bodies and our livestock whenever they wish, and we are in great distress.
They have a strong sense of still robbing YHWH because what is rightfully His is being turned over to earthly kings.
1. "So in all of this, we are cutting a covenant and documenting it, and our leaders--Levites and priests--are in the process of being sealed."
2. Now the ones being sealed [were] Nekhemyah the governor, the son of Hakhalyah, as well as Tsidqiyah [YHWH is My righteousness],
3. Serayah [YHWH is ruler], Azaryah [YHWH has helped], Yirmiyah [YHWH has appointed],
4. Pashkhur [freedom], Amaryah [YHWH has promised], Malkiyah [My king is YHWH],
5. Khattush [assembled], Sh'vanyah [increased by YHWH], Malukh [counselor],
6. Kharim [dedicated], M'remoth [elevations], Ovadyah [servant of YHWH],
7. Daniel [El is my judge], Ginthon [gardener], Barukh [blessed],
8. M'shulam [man of peace], Aviyah [my father is YHWH], Miyamin [from the right hand],
9. Maazyah [consolation of YHWH], Vilgai [my cheerfulness], Shema'yah [YHWH has listened]; these [were] the priests.
10. And the Levites were both Y'shua [deliverance] the son of Azanyah [YHWH gives ear], Binnui [built up] of the sons of Khenadad, Qadmiel [El is the ancient One],
11. as well as their relatives, Sh'vanyah [increased by YHWH], Hodiyah [YHWH is my majesty], Q'lita [crippled], P'layah [YHWH does wonders], Khanan [favor],
12. Mikha [who is like him?], Rekhov [broad place], Khashavyah [YHWH has considered],
13. Zakkur [mindful], Shrevyah [YHWH has scorched], Sh'vanyah,
14. Hodiyah, Bani [built up], Beninu [our son].
15. The heads of the people [were] Par'osh [flea], Pakhath-Moav [pit of Moav], Eylam [eternity], Zattu [his brightness], Bani,
16. Buni [built up], Azgad [Gad is mighty], Bevai [my cavities],
17. Adoniyah [my master is YHWH], Bigvai [in my bodies], Adin [delicate],
18. Ater [one who binds], Hizqiyah [my strength is YHWH], Azur [assistant],
19. Hodiyah, Khashum [rich], Betzai [conqueror],
20. Kharif [plucking off], Anathoth [answers to prayer], Neubai [flourishing],
21. Magpiash [moth-killer], M'shulam, Khazir [swine],
22. M'sheyzav'el [Elohim delivers], Tzadoq [righteous], Yaddua [knowledgeable],
23. Platyah [YHWH brings escape], Khanan [favor], Anayah [YHWH has answered],
24. Hoshea [salvation], Khananyah [YHWH has shown favor], Khashuv [considerate],
25. Halokhesh [whisperer], Pilkha [slicing], Shoveq [free],
26. R'khum [compassion], Khashavnah [reasoning], Maaseyah [work of YHWH],
27. and Akhiyah [YHWH is my kinsman], Khanan, Anan [cloud],
28. Malukh, Kharim, Baanah [in affliction].
29. And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Assigned Ones, were all being separated from the peoples of the lands unto the Torah of Elohim, along with their wives, their sons, and their daughters--[who were] all perceptive [and] having insight--
30. [and] were holding fast to their kinsmen, their majestic ones, and entering into an oath, swearing to walk in the Torah of Elohim that was given through the hand of Moshe, the servant of Elohim, and to guard and carry out all the orders of YHWH our Master, as well as His legal procedures and prescribed customs.
31. We also [swore] that we would not give our daughters to the people of the Land, nor would we take their daughters for our sons,
32. and when the people of the Land bring merchandise or foodstuffs on the Sabbath day, we would not accept [anything] from them on the Sabbath or a holy day, and let [the Land] lie fallow the seventh year, along with the interest of every hand.
33. And we set up ordinances over ourselves to set aside a third of a sheqel for the service of the House of our Elohim,
This was more than what YHWH required, but, like modern government war bonds, was what was necessary in order to bring His sanctuary back to what it should be after having been neglected for so long. It was to be used for no other purpose.
34. for the Bread set in order, for the regular tribute, the regular ascending offering for the Sabbaths, new moons, for the appointed times, the sin offerings to effect a covering over Israel, and all the work of the House of our Elohim.
In order: or, in battle array. Sabbaths and new moons: or perhaps, or, monthly Sabbaths.
35. Then we let the lots fall for the priests, Levites, and the people for the bringing near of the pieces of wood, to bring it into the House of our Elohim for our ancestral household year by year to burn on the altar of YHWH our Elohim at the fixed times, as it is written in the Torah,
36. and also to bring the firstfruits of our soil and the firstfruiits of all trees year by year to the House of YHWH,
37. and to bring the firstborn of our sons and our livestock, as it is written in the Torah, and to bring in the firstborn of our herds and flocks to the House of our Elohim for the priests who minister in the House of our Elohim,
Livestock: since distinguished from herds and flocks, this is probably a reference to the redemption of the donkey. (Ex. 34:20)
38. and that we would bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, and the fruit of every tree, new wine and fresh oil to the chambers of the House of our Elohim for the priests, and the tithes of our soil for the Levites, and that they, the Levites, might receive the tithes in all the cities where we labored,
39. and that the priest [who is] the son of Aharon should be with the Levites during the tithing of the Levites, and the Levites should bring a tenth of the tithe to the House of our Elohim--to the rooms of the storehouse,
40. because the descendants of Israel and the sons of Levi must bring the contribution of the grain, the new wine, and the fresh oil, and the utensils of the sanctuary will be there along with the ministering priests, the gatekeepers, and the singers. Indeed, we will not abandon the House of our Elohim!
We need to have the same resolve as we are again in the same process of restoring what our ancestors forfeited. Notice, thought, that they did more than make a resolution; they put themselves under an oath (v. 30-31), which is essentially a curse on themselves if they failed to fulfill it. (Compare Mal. 4:5-6)
Chapters 11 - 13
1. While the rulers of the nation settled in Yerushalayim, the rest of the people let lots fall to bring one of the ten percent to live in Yerushalayim, the holy city, and the [other] nine hands in the [outlying] cities.
Ten percent: They may have been recalling Yaaqov's promise that he would give YHWH ten percent of all that was his. This would include his descendants. (Gen. 28:22)
2. And the people blessed all the men who volunteered to remain in Yerushalayim.
Blessed: literally, bent the knee to. Those who without pressure left their inheritance behind to seek first the reestablishment of the holy city were acknowledged as honorable and given more authority than the others. Theirs are the names that are listed below; the others had their jobs to do for Israel, but were not given as much recognition by YHWH. Their names are in this "book of life". It was written 2,500 years ago, and they are still remembered. If your name is written in the Lambâ€™s Book of Life, it is also your job to restore the Kingdom to Israel, along with Yâ€™shua.
3. Now these are the heads of the district who lived in Yerushalayim (while in the cities of Yehudah [each] man dwelt on his inherited property within their cities of Israel): the priests, the Levites, the Assigned ones, and the descendants of Shlomohâ€™s servants.
4. Also, some of the descendants of Yehudah and some of the descendants of Binyamin lived in Yerushalayim. From the descendants of Yehudah [there were] Athayah the son of Uzziyah the son of Z'kharyah the son of Amaryah the son of Sh'fatyah the son of Mahalal'el, of the descendants of Paretz,
5. as well as Maaseyah the son of Barukh the son of Kol-Khozeh the son of Khazayah the son of Adayah the son of Yoyariv the son of Z'kharyah the son of the Shilonite.
6. All the descendants of Paretz who lived in Yerushalayim [totaled] 468 capable men.
Capable: or valiant, mighty, efficient, brave, forceful, warring, assertive. We need people trained to be this way again, with all wisdom and discernment, as the Kingdom of Israel is reestablished.
7. And these are the descendants of Binyamin: Sallu the son of Mâ€™shulam the son of Yoed the son of P'dayah the son of Qolayah the son of Maaseyah the son of Ithiel the son of Yâ€™shayah,
8. and after him, Gabbai, Salai, 928,
9. and Yoel the son of Zikhri [was] in charge over them, and Yehudah the son of Snuah [was] second over the city.
10. From the priests: Y'dayah the son of Yoyariv, Yakhin,
11. Serayah the son of Khilqiyah the son of M'shulam the son of Tzadoq the son of M'rayoth the son of Akhituv, the overseer [who ruled] the House of Elohim.
12. And their relatives who did the work of the House [numbered] 822. And Adayah the son of Y'rokham the son of Pelalyah the son of Amtzi the son of Z'kharyah the son of Pashkhur the son of Malkhiyah,
13. and his relatives, heads of the fathers' [households], 242. And Amashsai [burdensome] the son of Azar'el the son of Akhazai the son of M'shilemoth the son of Immer,
Heads of the fathers: leaders among the leaders.
14. and their relatives, mighty men of valor, [numbered] 128, and Zavdiel, son of the great men, was in charge over them.
Mighty men of valor: the terms emphasize their ability to fight. This was necessary in order to reestablish the Kingdom. Those who did the work deserved more honor. It was YHWHâ€™s strength in which they had to walk, but they had to walk in it nonetheless. YHWH's command to Moshe was to make Yehoshua strong. Passiveness would not be useful then, and in our day it will not be either. Nekhemyah risked his life to go to the king to ask for permission to return in the first place; he could have seemed very ungrateful for all the privileges he had in the king's court. All those who came to rebuild the Temple were brave since they were surrounded by enemies. The Maccabees even determined to fight on the Sabbath, since they were being decimated when they did not.
15. And from the Levites [there were] Shema'yah the son of Khashuv the son of Azriqam the son of Khashavyah the son of Buni.
16. And Shabtai and Yozavad, from among the heads of the Levites, [were] over the external business of the House of Elohim.
17. And Mathanyah the son of Mikha the son of Zavdi the son of Asaf was the head of the opening of thanksgiving for prayer, and Baqbuqyah was the second among his brothers, along with Avda the son of Shammua the son of Galal the son of Y'duthun.
18. All the Levites in the Holy City [numbered] 284.
19. Then the gatekeepers, Aquv, Talmon, and their relatives who guarded the gates, 172.
20. And the rest of Israel, the priests, the Levites, [were] in all the cities of Yehudah, each on his inherited property.
21. And the Assigned Ones lived in the Ofel, and Tzikha and Gishpa were over the Assigned Ones.
22. And the one in charge of the Levites in Yerushalayim was Uzzi the son of Bani the son of Khashavyah the son of Mathanyah the son of Mikha. Of the descendants of Asaf, the singers were to the front of the work of the House of Elohim,
23. because it was the king's command concerning them that certain [ones should be] over the singers, the day's matter on its day.
24. And P'thakhyah the son of M'sheyzavâ€™el, from the descendants of Zerakh the son of Yehudah, was at the kingâ€™s hand in every matter concerning the people.
25. And for the [enclosed] villages in their fields, some of the descendants of Yehudah lived in Kiryath-haArba and its suburbs and in Divon and its suburbs, and in Y'qabtz'el and its suburbs,
Suburbs: literally, daughters.
26. and in Yeshua and in M'ladah and in Beyth-Palet
27. and in Khatzar-Shual and in Be'er-Sheva and its suburbs
28. and in Tziqlawg [winding] and in M'khonah [foundation] and its suburbs
29. and in Eyn-Rimmon [spring of the pomegranate] and in Tzar'ah and in Yarmuth,
30. Zanoakh, Adullam, and their [enclosed] villages, Lakhish and its villages, Azeqah and its villages; and they camped from Be'er-Sheva all the way to the Valley of Hinnom.
31. And the descendants of Binyamin from Gava' [lived in] Mikhmash, Aiyah, and Beyth-El with its suburbs,
32. Anathoth, Nov, Ananyah,
33. Khatzor, Ramah, Githayim,
34. Khadid, Tz'voim, Nâ€™vallat,
35. Lod, and Ono, the Valley of the [Secret] Craftsmen.
Valley of the [Secret] Craftsmen: a few miles east of Lod (site of the Ben-Guryon Airport today), founded by Yoav of Othniel's family.
36. And from the Levites, the allotments of Yehudah belonged to Binyamin.
It seems that since so many Levites moved to Yerushalayim, some other Israelites lived in their Levitical towns. Yehudah's and Binyamin's tribal lands are adjacent; in fact, the Temple Mount is on the border between them.
1. Now these are the priests and Levites who went up with Zerubavel the son of Sh'altiel and Y'shua: Serayah, Yirmeyah, Ezra,
2. Amaryah, Malukh, Khattush,
3. Sh'khanyah, R'khum, M'remoth,
4. Iddo, Ginthoy, Aviyah,
5. Miyamin, Maadyah, Bilgah,
6. Shema'yah, Yoyariv, Y'dayah,
7. Sallu, Amoq, Khilqiyah, Y'dayah; these were the heads of the cohanim and their brothers in the days of Y'shua.
Might this have a secondary reference to the days when King Y'shua returns? He is our high priest as well as our king. But notice that many more names than just the high priest are mentioned. He officiates (the meaning of the word
cohen in Hebrew); the rest carry out the work.
8. And the Levites [were] Y'shua, Binnui, Qadmiel, Sherevyah, Yehudah. Mathanyah [was] over the songs of thanks--he and his brothers.
9. Then Baqbuqyah and Unni; their brothers [were] toward the front of them to keep guard.
10. And Y'shua fathered Yoyaqim, then Yoyaqim fathered Elyashiv, and Elyashiv fathered Yoyada,
11. and Yoyada fathered fathered Yonathan, and Yonathan fathered Yaddua.
12. Now in the days of Yoyaqim [those] who were the heads of the fathers' [households among the] priests [were]: for [the household of] Serayah, Merayah; for [the household of] Yirmeyah, Khananyah;
13. for Ezra, M'shulam; for Amaryah, Y'hokhanan;
14. for Mâ€™likhu, Yonathan; for Sh'vanyah, Yosef;
15. for Kharim, Adna; for M'rayoth, Khelqai;
16. for Iddo, Z'kharyah; for Ginthon, M'shulam;
17. for Aviyah, Zikhri; for Minyamin, belonging to Moadyah, [was] Piltai;
Note the difference in spelling of Miyamin's name here, but the meaning ("from the right hand") does not change, though the value of his name numerically increases by 50 (from 150 to 200).
18. for Bilgah, Shammua; for Shema'yah, Y'honathan;
19. for Yoyariv, Mathnai; for Y'dayah, Uzzi;
20. for Sallai, Qallai; for Amoq, Ever;
Sallai is substituted for Sallu here. Possibly this is an alternate nickname, but numerically, the value of his name is increased by 4 (from 96 to 100).
21. for Khilqiyah, Khashavyah; for Y'dayah, N'than'el.
22. The Levites in the days of Elyashiv--Yoyada', Yokhanan, and Yaddua--were listed as the heads of the fathers along with the priests, until the reign of Daryush the Persian.
23. The sons of the Levites, the heads of the fathers, are listed on the Scroll of the Words of the Days [which records] up to the days of Yokhanan the son of Elyashiv.
Words of the Days: or matters/affairs of the days, but each Israelite was instructed literally to pick up a word per day of
manna. (Ex. 16:4) Y'shua said He was the true bread that came down from heaven (i.e., what the
24. And the heads of the Levites [were] Khashavyah, Sherevyah, Y'shua the son of Qadmiel, with their brothers toward the front of them to make them shine, to give thanks by the command of David, the man of Elohim, posted guard alongside of posted guard.
To make them shine: or, for praise.
25. Mathanyah, Baqbuqyah, Ovadyah, M'shulam, Talmon, [and] Aqub were guarding the gates--the guard posted at the threshold of the gates.
Threshold: or, gathering-place, for the elders would meet in the gates to make decisionsâ€”the place to be guarded most closely.
26. These [were] in the days of Yoyaqim the son of Y'shua the son of Yotzadaq, and in the days of Nekhemyah the governor and Ezra the priest, the scribe.
27. Now at the dedication of the wall of Yerushalayim, they searched out the Levites from all their places, to bring them to Yerushalayim, to effect the dedication with joy, with thanks, and with song, cymbals, harps, and lyres.
Dedication: Heb., hanukkah.
28. And the sons of the singers gathered themselves both from the district around Yerushalayim and the villages of N'tofathi,
N'tofathi: from the word for "drop", hence probably the lowlands beyond the mountains that surround Yerushalayim.
29. as well as from the House of Gilgal and out of the fields of Gevaâ€™ and Azmaveth, since the singers had built villages for themselves all around Yerushalayim.
30. And the cohanim and Levites purified themselves; then they purified the people, the gates, and the wall.
31. Then I brought the leaders of Yehudah up onto the wall, and appointed two great thanksgiving-choirs and [set up] a procession to the right from on top of the wall to the Refuse Gate.
32. Then after them went Hoshayah and half of the leaders of Yehudah--
33. that is, Azaryah, Ezra, M'shulam,
34. Yehudah, Binyamin, Shema'yah, and Yirmeyah,
35. and some of the priests' sons on [silver] trumpets--Z'kharyah the son of Yonathan the son of Shema'yah the son of Mathanyah the son of Mikhayah the son of Zakkur the son of Asaf,
36. and his relatives, Shema'yah and Azar'el, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, N'than'el, and Yehudah Khanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of Elohim, and Ezra the scribe was in front of them
37. Then at the Gate of the Spring and in front of them, they went up by way of the stairs of the City of David at the ascent of the wall above the House of David and as far as the Water Gate toward the sunrise.
38. And the second thanksgiving-choir that walked opposite them, and I followed it along with half of the people from on top of the wall from above the Tower of the Furnaces as far as the Broad Wall,
39. and from above the Gate of Efrayim and above the Old Gate and above the Gate of the Fishes and the Tower of Khanan'el and the Tower of the Hundred as far as the Gate of the Flock, and they stopped at the Prison Gate.
40. Then the two thanksgiving-choirs took their stand in the House of Elohim along with myself and half of the deputies with me,
41. then the cohanim, Elyaqim, Maaseyah, Minyamin, Mikhayah, Elioeynai, Z'kharyah, [and] Khananyah, with trumpets,
42. then Maaseyah, Shema'yah, El'azar, Uzzi, Y'hokhanan, Malkiyah, Eylam, and Ezer, and the singers sounded aloud, with Yizrakhyah being in charge.
43. And on that day they slaughtered great offerings and rejoiced, because Elohim had made them glad with great joy, and the women and children also rejoiced, so the rejoicing of Yerushalayim was even heard from far away.
44. And on that day, men were appointed [to be] over the rooms for the storehouses, for the contributions, for the first[fruits], and for the tithes, to collect them in for the fields of the cities from the portions [assigned by] the Torah for the priests and for the Levites who were stationed,
Stationed: that is, on duty in Yerushalayim and unable to work their own fields, thus deserving of the support of the rest of the nation whom they served.
45. and both the singers and the gatekeepers guarded what their Elohim had put them in charge of according to the command of David and his son Shlomoh,
46. since in the former days of David and Asaf [there had been] heads for the singers and songs of praise and thanks to Elohim.
47. So in the days of Zerubavel and in the days of Nekhemyah, all of Israel donated portions [assigned] to the singers and gatekeepers, a day's item on its day, and they would set apart [what was] for the Levites, and the Levites would set apart [what was] for the sons of Aharon.
A day's item: or, a day's word. Notice the flow of how the contributions were made holier and holier in turn when Israel was functioning as it was intended to. This is the goal toward which we must begin gearing all of our activities today, as the Kingdom draws nearer and nearer. The framework and infrastructure must be set up so that when Y'shua arrives, the flow can begin and not cease again.
1. On that day they read aloud from the Book of Moshe in the hearing of the people. And in it there was found written that the Ammonite and the Moavite should never come into the congregation of Elohim,
The references is to Devarim/Deut. 23:3-5. The Ammonites and Moavites were descendants of Lot's incest with his daughters when they got him drunk. (Gen. 19) So already they were illegitimate, and this is in itself a reason to be excluded from the congregation. (Deut. 23:2; Leviticus 20 details what this means.)
2. because they did not meet the descendants of Israel with bread and with water, but hired Bilaam against them to curse them, but our Elohim turned the curse into a blessing.
Meet: or anticipate. Balak, king of Moav, anticipated them instead with plans to destroy them from within or from without. (Numbers 22-24). This is a clue as to why they were considered unacceptable to YHWH. They were relatives of Israel, but did not treat them as brothers in their time of need. (Compare Mat. 25:31-46.) Curse: literally, to make lighter, diminish in significance, or treat as of little account.
3. And when they heard the instruction, what they did was separate all the mixed multitude from Israel.
Mixed: not necessarily full-blown pagans, but partly descendants of people whose past included opposition to Israel.
4. Now prior to this, Elyashiv the cohen who was entrusted with the chamber of the House of our Elohim, had become close to Tovyah
Tovyah (in the context of v. 1) was an Ammonite and the servant of Sanballat. (2:10)
5. and had prepared for him a large chamber, where they used to put the grain offering, the frankincense, the utensils, the tithes of the grain, the new wine, and the fresh oil, the orders of the Levites, the singers, and the gatekeepers, as well as the contributions of the priests.
6. But during all this I was not in Yerushalayim, because in the thirty-second year of Artakhshasta, King of Bavel, I approached the king, and at the end of days I asked [leave of absence] from the king,
7. When I came to Yerushalayim and realized the evil thing that Elyashiv had done for Tovyah by preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the House of Elohim,
8. and it grieved me deeply [to the point of trembling], and I threw all the utensils of Tovyah's household out of the chamber.
9. Then I gave the order, and they purified the chambers, and I put the utensils of the House of Elohim back there along with the grain offering and the frankincense.
10. And I found out that the portions [belonging to] the Levites had not been donated, so each of the Levites and singers who carried out the work had hurried to his field.
Hurried: or fled; the term has the underlying sense of being driven. Note the high esteem in which singers (who led worship) were held--close to that of the priests and Levites.
11. So I complained to the deputies and said, "Why has the House of Elohim been abandoned?" Then I gathered them together and stationed them in their standing-place.
Not caring for the servants of the House was counted as letting YHWH's Temple "starve".
12. Then all of Yehudah brought the tithe of the grain, the new wine, and the fresh oil into the storehouses.
13. And I set treasurers over the storehouses: Shelemyah the priest, Tzadoq the scribe, P'dayah from the Levites, and at their hand was Khanan the son of Zakkur the son of Mathanyah, because they were considered reliable, so it was [put] upon them to assign portions to their kinsmen.
14. (Remember me, O my Elohim, in this regard, and do not let the kind deeds that I have done for the House of my Elohim or its observances be wiped out!)
15. In those days I noticed in Yehudah some treading out winepresses on the Sabbath, bringing sheaves and loading up donkeys—in fact, even wine, grapes, figs, and all [kinds of] burdens—and they were bringing them into Yerushalayim on the Sabbath day! So I solemnly warned them on the day they sold foodstuffs.
16. And people from Tzur lived in her, and brought in fish and all [kinds of] merchandise and were selling to the descendants of Yehudah and in Yerushalayim on the Sabbath.
17. So I complained to the nobles of Yehudah, and said to them, "What [kind of] evil thing is this that you are doing, and profaning the Sabbath day?
Profaning: defiling, desecrating, polluting. It means to make it just like any other day, but the word is also used for violating a woman's honor.
18. "Didn't your ancestors do the same thing, so that our Elohim brought all this misery on us and on this city? Yet you'd bring still more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath?"
19. So when the gates of Yerushalayim began to grow shaded before the Sabbath, I ordered that the gates be shut, and ordered that they not be opened until after the Sabbath, and I stationed some of my young men over the gates, so that no burden should be brought in on the Sabbath.
20. And all the traders and sellers of merchandise passed one or both nights outside Yerushalayim.
21. Then I protested against them and said to them, "Why are you staying right in front of the wall? If you do [it] again, I will let a hand loose against you!" From that time [on], they did not come on the Sabbath.
Protested against: or, warned. Let a hand loose: an idiom for using force.
22. And I told the Levites that they should purify themselves and come as the guards of the gates to set the Sabbath day apart. ([For] this, too, remember me, O my Elohim, and look with compassion upon me according to the abundance of Your lovingkindness!)
In case they would not listen, the priests literally guarded the Sabbath, much as they did at the Tabernacle. (Numbers 1:51)
23. In those days I also saw the Jews who had provided a dwelling for women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moav,
Provided a dwelling: an idiom for marrying.
24. and their children spoke half in the language of Ashdod, and they had no recognition of the Jewish language, but according to the language of [one] people or [another] people.
Recognition of: or, respect for; i.e., they did not care to speak Hebrew.
25. So I protested against them and treated them with contempt, and struck some of the men among them, and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by Elohim: "If you give your daughters to their sons, or carry away their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.
26. "Wasn't it by such things that King Shlomoh, like of Israel, sinned? Though among all nations there was no king like him so beloved by his Elohim, and Elohim set him as king over all of Israel, but the foreign women caused even him to sin.
27. "Should we listen to you and do all this great evil by acting treacherously against our Elohim by living with foreign wives?"
28. Now one of the sons of Yoyada', the son of Elyashiv the high priest, was Sanballat the Khoronite's son-in-law, so I chased him away from me.
Josephus the historian gives more detail (
Antiquities of the Jews XI:8:2:308): Menashe, brother of then-high priest Yaddua, was about to cooperate with Nekhemyah and divorce his wife, but Sanballat bribed him by saying he would give him his very own temple and the high priesthood there if he did not, and he did just that. He made an exact replica of the Temple (uncovered by archaeologists in 1995) at Sh'khem on Mt. Grizim (the mountain of blessing in Yehoshua's day), and this is what the woman at the well (Yochanan 4) was referring to about the Samaritans worshipping "on this mountain", for its use continued that long. This was nearly the only difference between Jews and the Samaritans whom the Assyrians had brought in to replace the Northern Kingdom, and who had adopted the worship of YHWH since lions were devouring them. Other priests and Levites who did not want to divorce their wives defected along with Menashe, and Sanballat then used them to try to divide the Jews so they would not be a viable force against Alexander the Greek after Sanballat forsook his promised loyalties to Daryush and sided with Alexander against him.
29. (Remember them, my Elohim, on account of [the fact that] they have desecrated the priesthood, the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites!)
He asks YHWH to remember these demonstrations of loyalty that today would be called excessive and even unrighteous! He not only remembered him, but enabled us to remember him as well by the passing down of this account to our own day.
30. So I purged them of all foreign elements, and appointed the priests as guards and the Levites, [each] man to his job--
31. that is, for the bringing near of the wood at the appointed times and for the firstfruits. (Remember me, O my Elohim, for pleasant [things]!)