Nehemiah 10- 2020-07-28
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Commentary: Nehemiah 10
10:30 Given the prominence of the theme of separation in the book as a whole (Ezra 9; Neh 9:2) and the aversion for intermarriage (Ezra 9), it is hardly surprising that this concern heads the list of covenant commitments. While some groups (cf. Neh 13:23: Ashdod, Ammon, Moab) may have been more prominently associated with the practice than others, the generic terminology of the “peoples of the lands” here resonates with usage in this chapter and Neh 9 and gives the impression of a wider proscription akin to Ezra 9. Here, as there (Ezra 9:2; Neh 13:26), the giving of both sons and daughters to those outside the community reflects the abiding suspicion of intermarriage as the inevitable prelude to religious infidelity. While the actual fate of any existing marriages with proscribed partners is unclear, the failure to mention their dissolution here gives the impression at least of a more lenient line than was taken in Ezra 9–10.
10:31 While the regulation of the Sabbath in the Torah did not specifically include commerce in its prohibition of work, Amos 8:5 suggests that selling on the Sabbath had already been restricted before the exile, and the extension of the proscription to buying here is an illustration of the progressive regulation of the Sabbath that had thus begun long before the return from exile and would continue long after it. That this commitment is made specifically in relation to again the “peoples of the land” may well have answered a legitimate query regarding the application of the law, but reflects in any case the consuming interest in maintaining the boundaries of identity and community. […]
10:32–33 Whether early imperial financial support (Ezra 6:9; 7:21) had subsequently waned or simply proved insufficient, the voluntary contributions of the community had always been encouraged and noted (1:4, 6; 2:69). Even if it was a one-off contribution (cf. Exodus and Joash’s levy in 2 Chr 24:4–14), and all the more if it was a regular commitment akin to the later temple tax (Matt 17:24), such a voluntary subscription represented a significant step forward, both as a concrete expression of solidarity and as a tangible investment in the institution of the temple and the cultic establishment. The full extent of this investment and the scale of the cult is well illustrated by the range of activities to be supported (Neh 10:33) for the sake of “our” God (10:32–33).
10:34–39 […] The gift of firstfruits (deconsecrated to allow for use of the rest) was mandated (e.g., Exod 23:19), but the further specification of “all the fruit of every tree” appears to be an example of rigorist extension of the law to cover additional cases. The firstborn males of family and flock also are required (and may presumably be redeemed; cf. 34:19–20) while only the clean animals will be offered to the priests (Neh 10:36). Nehemiah 10:37 completes the list with the mention of the first portions of foods produced, but not otherwise covered, with the repetition of the “fruit of every tree” justified now by that which it produces—“wine and oil.” […] The final commitment of 10:39 (“we will not neglect the house of our God”) while certainly resonant with Nehemiah’s accusatory question in 13:11, serves to sum up the pledge of support for the temple articulated toward the end of this chapter (10:32–39) and the theological motivation for offering it (i.e., “our God”). 
 Sherpherd, David J. and Christopher J.H. Wright, Ezra and Nehemiah, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018) 52-54.
Bible Text: Nehemiah 10:1-29
1 “On the seals are the names of Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8 Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah; these are the priests. 9 And the Levites: Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10 and their brothers, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11 Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13 Hodiah, Bani, Beninu. 14 The chiefs of the people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, 15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, 18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, 19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, 24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, 25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah.
28 “The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his rules and his statutes.
Questions to help us go deeper
- Note that for practical purposes, not everyone could fix their seals in making the binding agreement to follow the Law of God and to obey fully all of God’s commands. However, everyone was able to join in the same commitment. What is my view of my commitment to follow God and his laws regardless of my position within the church?
- Reflect on the fact that the people “separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God.” How does this apply to me specifically?
- In what ways have I entered into “a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law … and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord”?