Now those that sealed were, Nehemiah, the Tirshatha, the son of Hachaliah, and Zidkijah,Nehemiah 10:1. Now those that sealed — Both in their own names, and in the name of all the rest. It may seem strange that Ezra doth not appear among them. But that might be because he was prevented by some sickness, or other extraordinary impediment. It is true we meet with Ezra after this, at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, (Nehemiah 12:36,) and therefore he was then freed from this impediment, whatsoever it was. It appears from hence, that the government of the Jews was an aristocracy, or a government in which the nobles were the rulers. This mode of administration continued till the time of the Asmodæan princes, and from thence, by a natural translation, passed into an absolute monarchy, or rather tyranny.
Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,
Pashur, Amariah, Malchijah,
Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch,
Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,
Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,
Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,
Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah: these were the priests.Nehemiah 10:8. These were the priests — That is, the chief of them; for there are but twenty-one of them named here.
And the Levites: both Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel;
And their brethren, Shebaniah, Hodijah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,
Micha, Rehob, Hashabiah,
Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,
Hodijah, Bani, Beninu.
The chief of the people; Parosh, Pahathmoab, Elam, Zatthu, Bani,Nehemiah 10:14. The chief of the people — It would have been tedious to make all the people subscribe and seal the writing, therefore the chiefs and princes of each family signed and sealed it in the name of the rest; and they seem to have subscribed in the name of him from whom the family was derived.
Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,
Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,
Ater, Hizkijah, Azzur,
Hodijah, Hashum, Bezai,
Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,
Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,
Meshezabeel, Zadok, Jaddua,
Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,
Hoshea, Hananiah, Hashub,
Hallohesh, Pileha, Shobek,
Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,
And Ahijah, Hanan, Anan,
Malluch, Harim, Baanah.
And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding;Nehemiah 10:28. And the rest of the people, &c. — Those that did not subscribe and seal, because there were too many, yet gave their consent to what the fore-named persons did. And not only the men, but their wives and their children, who were arrived at years of discretion, engaged themselves to abide by what their brethren the nobles had done. And all that had separated themselves — All those of the heathen who had abjured idolatry and joined themselves to the worship of the Jews.
They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes;Nehemiah 10:29. They clave to their brethren, their nobles — The commonalty owned and ratified what the nobles had done in their names, declaring their assent to it by their words, or by lifting up of their hands, as the manner was. Great men never look so great as when they encourage religion, and are examples of it: and they would by that, as much as any thing, make an interest in the most valuable of their inferiors, who would cleave to them closer than they can imagine. Observe, their nobles are called their brethren; for in the things of God, rich and poor, high and low, meet together. And entered into a curse, and into an oath — That is, an oath under an execration. They obliged themselves by an oath to walk in God’s law, with an imprecation upon themselves, if they violated it; wishing, probably, that all the curses written in the law might fall upon them, if they did not observe it in all things.
And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons:Nehemiah 10:30. And that we would not give our daughters — Namely, in marriage. Having sworn obedience to God’s laws in the general, they now specify some particular instances, wherein they had lately transgressed, or were most prone to transgress. In our covenants with God, we should engage particularly against those sins that we have been most frequently overtaken in and injured by.
And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.Nehemiah 10:31. And if the people of the land — The heathen; bring ware or victuals on the sabbath day to sell, we would not buy it — They not only would not sell goods themselves for gain on that day, but they would not encourage the heathen to sell by buying of them, no, not victuals, under pretence of necessity, but would buy in their provisions for their families the day before. They that covenant to keep all the commandments of God, must particularly covenant to keep the sabbath holy. For the profanation of this is a sure inlet to all manner of profaneness. Or on the holy day — That is, on days of rest from labour, such as the passover, the first and seventh day of unleavened bread, Exodus 12:16, the feast of trumpets, Leviticus 23:25, and others. And that we would leave the seventh year — Let the land rest from ploughing or tilling in that year, and leave the fruit of it, which grew of itself, for the poor, as the law required. See the margin. And the exaction of every debt — Would remit, in that year, the debts owed by the poor. The Hebrew משׂא כל יד, masse cal jad, is literally, the burden of every hand. Debts may be so called, because they are commonly contracted or confirmed by a bill, declaration, or promise, given under the debtor’s hand. Or the meaning is, as in Isaiah 58:6, that they engage to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break off every yoke.
Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God;Nehemiah 10:32. To charge ourselves — Every particular person among us; yearly with a third part of a shekel — About ten-pence of our money; for the service of the house of our God — To provide the show-bread for the table, two lambs for the daily offerings, four for the sabbaths, and more costly sacrifices for other festivals, occasional sin-offerings, and meat offerings, and drink-offerings for them all, the charge of which was great and constant. Formerly these things had been provided from the treasures of the temple, (1 Chronicles 26:20,) and when these failed, from the king’s treasures: but now, both these failing, provision is here properly made for them another way.
For the shewbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.
And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law:Nehemiah 10:34. And we cast lots among the priests, &c. They now determined, by casting lots, how much wood every one should bring in, for his share, to maintain the fire continually upon the altar to burn the sacrifices; and in what order it should be brought; and at what times of the year.
And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD:Nehemiah 10:35. And to bring in the first-fruits — That is, they took an oath to do it; for this is to be understood, and not that they cast lots about it, as they did about the wood-offering mentioned in the foregoing verse. All the particulars of the first-fruits are exactly and distinctly mentioned, that none might pretend ignorance when they withheld any part of the priests’ dues, which, at that time especially, the people were very prone to do, through poverty, or covetousness, or profaneness, and that the priests’ rights might be firmly assured to them. Thus encouragement was given to the priests to mind their duty, and care was taken that they should be under no temptation to neglect it, in order to make the necessary provision for their families. Then the work of the house of God is likely to go on, when those who serve at the altar live comfortably upon the altar.
Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God:
And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.Nehemiah 10:37-38. That the Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage — That is, the tithes of all the fruits of the ground belonging to our several cities. And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites — As the people gave the tithe of their land to the Levites, so the Levites gave a tithe of their tithes to the priests. And it is here ordered, that when the people brought them to the Levites, one of the priests should be present to inspect them, and to see that they tithed the tithes, that is, set apart the tenth of the tithes they had received for the priests, which were brought to the chambers of the house of God, wherein they were deposited for their use.
And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.
For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers: and we will not forsake the house of our God.Nehemiah 10:39. The offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil — See the margin. Unto the chambers where are the vessels, &c. — Where holy things were kept, and where God’s ministers attended, for whose use they were designed, and they were brought thither at the charge of those who offered them. And we will not forsake the house of our God — We do here solemnly declare and engage ourselves, that we will take care, from time to time, that the house and service of God be not neglected or forsaken, for want of necessary provisions to support it. Though they paid great taxes to the kings of Persia, and had much hardship put upon them, they would not make that an excuse for not paying their tithes; but would render to God the things that were his, as well as to Cesar the things that were his. We must do what we can in works of piety and charity, notwithstanding the taxes we pay to the government; and cheerfully perform our duty to God amidst our burdens, which will be the surest way to ease and liberty in God’s due time.