Nehemiah’s Final Reforms
Verse 3 – “All who were of foreign descent” refers to the Moabites and Ammonites, the two nations who were bitter enemies of Israel.
They had blocked the path that Moses wanted to take during the time when he was leading the Israelites into the promised land. This had nothing to do with racial prejudice. The relationships that had been formed in the past with these two nations had caused the Jews their captivity in the first place.
Verses 6, 7 – Twelve years after Nehemiah had been in Jerusalem, he returned to Babylon. He was fulfilling an agreement to Artaxerxes, the king. It is not known how long he stayed there, but when he returned to Jerusalem, he found that Tobiah, one of his major opponents in rebuilding the walls, had been given his own room in the “temple!” Tobiah was an Ammonite, which was forbidden, by God, to even enter the temple. Eliashib, the priest, had married Tobiah’s daughter. (chapters 2, 4, and 6 tell about Tobiah.)
Verse 10 – Too much had changed in the time that Nehemiah had been in Babylon to the point of, even the priests were no longer being supported. They had left the temple and returned to their farms to support themselves, neglecting their temple duties and spiritual welfare of the people.
Verse 17 – God had commanded Israel not to work on the Sabbath but to rest in remembrance of creation and the exodus (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5;12-15). Jerusalem’s busy Sabbath trade directly violated God’s law, so Nehemiah ordered the city gates to be shut from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.
Verse 25 – Here again, in Nehemiah’s absence, the Israelites started marrying pagans. Nehemiah’s severe treatment of the people showed how serious this commandment from God was.
Verse 26 – Nehemiah used the example of Solomon’s mistake of marrying foreign women to teach his people. If one of the greatest kings of Israel could fall into sin because of being united with unbelievers, others could too. Although Solomon was a great king, his marriages to pagan foreign women brought tragedy to the entire kingdom.
Nehemiah’s life story provides many principles of effective leadership that can still be applied today. (1) Had a clear purpose that alines with God’s will. (2) Being straightforward and honest made Nehemiah clear in what he wanted to accomplish for God. (3) Live above reproach. The accusations against Nehemiah were empty and false. (4) Everything Nehemiah did, glorified God. Nehemiah was able to accomplish a huge task against incredible odds because he knew there would be no success without the risk of failure. This book is about rebuilding a great city wall but also showed a great spiritual reward, rebuilding a peoples dependance on God. When we take our eyes off the savior, our lives will begin to crumble.