Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible

Nehemiah Ch.13 / 13 Ch.s


* Nehemiah turns out the mixed multitude. (1-9) Nehemiah's
reform in the house of God. (10-14) Sabbath-breaking restrained.
(15-22) The dismissal of strange wives. (23-31)

#1-9 Israel was a peculiar people, and not to mingle with the
nations. See the benefit of publicly reading the word of God;
when it is duly attended to, it discovers to us sin and duty,
good and evil, and shows wherein we have erred. We profit, when
we are thus wrought upon to separate from evil. Those that would
drive sin out of their hearts, the living temples, must throw
out its household stuff, and all the provision made for it; and
take away all the things that are the food and fuel of lust;
this is really to mortify it. When sin is cast out of the heart
by repentance, let the blood of Christ be applied to it by
faith, then let it be furnished with the graces of God's Spirit,
for every good work.

#10-14 If a sacred character will not keep men from setting an
evil example, it must not shelter any one from deserved blame
and punishment. The Levites had been wronged; their portions had
not been given them. They were gone to get livelihoods for
themselves and their families, for their profession would not
maintain them. A maintenance not sufficient, makes a poor
ministry. The work is neglected, because the workmen are.
Nehemiah laid the fault upon the rulers. Both ministers and
people, who forsake religion and the services of it, and
magistrates, who do not what they can to keep them to it, will
have much to answer for. He delayed not to bring the Levites to
their places again, and that just payment should be made.
Nehemiah on every occasion looked up to God, and committed
himself and all his affairs to Him. It pleased him to think that
he had been of use to revive and support religion in his
country. He here refers to God, not in pride, but with a humble
appeal concerning his honest intention in what he had done. He
prays, "Remember me;" not, Reward me. "Wipe not out my good
deeds;" not, Publish them, or record them. Yet he was rewarded,
and his good deeds recorded. God does more than we are able to

#15-22 The keeping holy the Lord's day forms an important object
for their attention who would promote true godliness. Religion
never prospers while sabbaths are trodden under foot. No wonder
there was a general decay of religion, and corruption of manners
among the Jews, when they forsook the sanctuary and profaned the
sabbath. Those little consider what an evil they do, who profane
the sabbath. We must answer for the sins others are led to
commit by our example. Nehemiah charges it on them as an evil
thing, for so it is, proceeding from contempt of God and our own
souls. He shows that sabbath-breaking was one of the sins for
which God had brought judgments upon them; and if they did not
take warning, but returned to the same sins again, they had to
expect further judgments. The courage, zeal, and prudence of
Nehemiah in this matter, are recorded for us to do likewise; and
we have reason to think, that the cure he wrought was lasting.
He felt and confessed himself a sinner, who could demand nothing
from God as justice, when he thus cried unto him for mercy.

#23-31 If either parent be ungodly, corrupt nature will incline
the children to take after that one; which is a strong reason
why Christians should not be unequally yoked. In the education
of children, great care should be taken about the government of
their tongues; that they learn not the language of Ashdod, no
impious or impure talk, no corrupt communication. Nehemiah
showed the evil of these marriages. Some, more obstinate than
the rest, he smote, that is, ordered them to be beaten by the
officers according to the law, #De 25:2,3|. Here are Nehemiah's
prayers on this occasion He prays, "Remember them, O my God."
Lord, convince and convert them; put them in mind of what they
should be and do. The best services to the public have been
forgotten by those for whom they were done, therefore Nehemiah
refers himself to God, to recompense him. This may well be the
summary of our petitions; we need no more to make us happy than
this; Remember me, O my God, for good. We may humbly hope that
the Lord will remember us and our services, although, after
lives of unwearied activity and usefulness, we shall still see
cause to abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes, and to
cry out with Nehemiah, Spare me, O my God, according to the
greatness of they mercy.