(1-3) Reform as to mixed marriages.
(1) On that day.—Probably the season of the Feast of Tabernacles, as before. But portions were selected to be read.
They read in the book of Moses.—“It was read” in the Pentateuch, and specially Deuteronomy 23. This is introduced for the sake of the action taken, and the history is given in brief, with a striking and characteristic parenthesis of Nehemiah’s own concerning the curse turned into a blessing.
Therein was found written.—What to the people generally was not known.
For ever.—No Ammonite or Ammonite family could have legal standing in the congregation, “even to their tenth generation;” and this interdict was to last “for ever.” It virtually though not actually amounted to absolute exclusion.
(3) The mixed multitude.—For the “mixed multitude,” or Ereb, which plays so prominent a part in Jewish history, see on Exodus 12:38. The process here was that of shutting out heathens who were in the habit of mingling with the people in the services. In Nehemiah 9 it was, as we saw, the people’s separation from the practices and spirit of the heathen.
(4) Eliashib the priest, having the oversight.—Probably the high priest of Nehemiah 3:1, whose office alone would not have given him control over “the chamber:” that is, the series of chambers running round three walls of the Temple. He “was allied unto Tobiah,” but in what way is not stated.
Before this.—That is, before the return of Nehemiah; indeed, there is a suspicious absence of Eliashib’s name throughout the high religious festivities of the preceding chapters.
King of Babylon.—Probably it was at Babylon that Nehemiah found the court, and therefore he does not say “King of Persia.”
After certain days.—The time is left indefinite. But the “two and thirtieth year” shows that he had been in Jerusalem twelve years before his return to the king.
(10) Fled every one to his field.—They who performed the work of the Temple were obliged to seek their sustenance by cultivating the fields apportioned to them in the Levitical cities (Numbers 35:2).
And I gathered them together.—The Levites were summoned back from their fields.
(15) Saw I in Judah.—In the country Nehemiah marked the most determined profanation of the Sabbath; and this extended to Jerusalem, into which all kinds of burdens were on that day, as on others, carried.
Remember me.—In this prayer also Nehemiah commits his fidelity to the merciful estimate of God. But something in connection with the Sabbath, or with his retrospect of his own conduct, gives the passing prayer a peculiar pathos of humility.
(23) Saw I Jews.—The punishment shows that these were exceptional cases; but the transgression was of the most flagrant kind (see Nehemiah 13:1).
Certain of them.—Some were selected for special punishment and humiliation. Ezra, on a like occasion, humbled himself by plucking off the hair of his own head (Ezra 9:3). Then they were obliged to repeat the oath of the covenant.
And of the Levites.—God chose the tribe of Levi for Himself, specially the house of Aaron, and every priest was to be “holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 21:8). This was “the covenant of the priesthood;” though there may be an undertone of reference to the great covenant in Nehemiah 10.
(30) This is a brief recapitulation of the special Work of Nehemiah after his return.
Thus cleansed I them.—After the acts of discipline described above, there was doubtless some formal service of expiation.