Nehemiah takes a census and finds about 50,000 people.
Ezra reads from the Bible all morning to all the people, on a raised stage/pulpit.
The people are grieved, but the leaders call for a joyful feast.
They celebrate the feast of booths, which hadn't been done since Joshua's day.
Nehemiah prays a prayer of confession that first recounts Israel's history according to the Pentateuch, which they read in chapter 8. God has been faithful, and Israel has been consistently sinful. Israel makes a written covenant to this effect.
The signers of the covenant are listed, and then what they commit to, from the Law:
- to keep all God's commands
- to not marry with unbelievers
- to not buy and sell on the Sabbath
- to not charge interest on debt
- to give the land rest every 7 years
- to pay the temple tax and tithe
Most go to their towns to work their land, but a few volunteer to stay in the city.
These men are listed, and the places where others lived.
Priests and Levites listed.
All the Levites assemble and make music at the wall dedication. Ezra leads one choir and Nehemiah the other, while they play on instruments made by King David.
The Levites' musical and sacrificial duties are organized going forward, and their tithes.
Nehemiah goes back to Persia for a time.
When he returns and it becomes known that the Bible says no Ammonite may enter the temple, Nehemiah throws Tobiah the Ammonite (see 4:3) out of the temple.
He enforces many laws the people had resolved to do, but neglected:
- tithing to Levites
- working and selling on Sabbath
- putting away foreigners and unbelieving wives
How this is about Jesus
He teaches the people to be pure in heart and life, pointing them to the Word, like Nehemiah.
He is zealous for God's house, cleansing the temple and corrupt financial dealing.
In the broad sweep of redemptive history, perhaps Nehemiah thought he was fulfilling Amos 9:11-15 (below), but that fulfillment awaited Christ's coming and the inclusion of the Gentiles in the New Testament church.
Nehemiah is often considered a historical root of Pharisees. Their emphasis was on their obedience to the Law of God being the key to God blessing or cursing Israel. This results in great zeal to obey the Law, which is commendable. But by Jesus' day this had become self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and emphasizing minor and extra-biblical duties. Our focus needs to remain on God's sovereign grace, that He blesses us without our help, and also maintaining a zeal to obey God out of gratitude for that grace we have received.
On that day I will raise up
The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down,
And repair its damages;
I will raise up its ruins,
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom,
And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,”
Says the LORD who does this thing.
13 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
“When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
The mountains shall drip with sweet wine,
And all the hills shall flow with it.
14 I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them;
They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
15 I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the LORD your God.