Nehemiah 12-13

Nehemiah 12‑13  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The dedication of the walls; unfaithfulness and recovery
by the written Word; order and cleansing reestablished
We have already seen that gladness was the portion of the people; a joy which acknowledged God, for God had preserved the people and had blessed them. But the princes of the people had immediately relapsed into unfaithfulness; and during Nehemiah’s absence the chambers of the temple, in which the offerings had been formerly kept, were given up to Tobiah, that subtle and persevering enemy of God’s people. But at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem the joy of the people and the faithfulness of Nehemiah brought them back to the written Word, and Israel separated themselves again from the mixed multitude. Tobiah’s stuff is cast out of the chamber prepared for him in the temple. The observance of the Sabbath is again enforced. Those who had married strange wives, and whose children spake partly the language of strangers and partly that of the Jews, are put under the curse and sharply rebuked and chastised. The order and the cleansing, according to the law, are reestablished, and this leading thought of the book, as to the people’s condition, closes the narrative.
That which we have said will give an idea of the great principle of this book.
I will add a few more remarks in this place.
The Jews’ position in the land till the coming of the Messiah
The Book of Nehemiah places Israel, or rather the Jews, in the position they were to hold in their land until the coming of the Messiah; separate from the nations, faithful in keeping the law, but deprived of the privileges which had belonged to them as the people of God; under the yoke of the Gentiles, capable of rendering unto God the things that were God’s, but deprived of His presence in their midst, as they had formerly enjoyed it in the temple; and, finally, bound to render unto Caesar the things that were Caesar’s. When the Messenger of the covenant came (the Son of God, who could have cleansed the temple and placed the glory there), they received Him not; and they continue under the burden of the consequences of this rejection. This is now their condition until the coming of Christ.
Nehemiah’s faith connected with God’s government
It is this which gives to the Book of Nehemiah its importance. Nehemiah’s faith embraced those promises of God which were connected with His government-such, for instance, as those contained in Leviticus 26. But his faith went no farther. (See chapter 1.) There was blessing upon this faith, and it accomplished the purposes of God; but it left Israel where they were. The precious phrase, “His mercy endureth forever,” is not found in this book. Nehemiah’s faith did not rise so high. He is himself the servant of the Gentiles, and he acknowledges them. Such trust in God as is expressed in the words just quoted was linked with the altar and the temple, where Jehovah was everything to faith, and the Gentiles nothing, except as enemies (Ezra 3-4).
Immediate blessing, but no prophetic future
Although it leaves the Jews in a much better condition than that in which they had previously stood, through the good hand of God upon them for immediate blessing, yet the Book of Nehemiah has no prophetic future, no future for faith.1 The Jews are still Loammi (not my people). The presence of God, sitting between the cherubim, was not with them; nor could it be, seeing that God had removed the throne into the midst of the Gentiles. I speak of His presence in the temple, the habitation of His glory. Set thus in blessing and under responsibility, the Messiah’s coming was to put everything to the proof. The result disclosed an empty house, swept and garnished, from which the unclean spirit had gone out, but in which there was nothing. The unclean spirit will return, and others worse than himself with him. Having rejected Christ, this unhappy people will receive the Antichrist; but this was only manifested by the coming of Christ.
(1. And where faith was not, and they had inwardly departed from God, their legal exactitude without grace in the heart became narrowness of heart and hypocrisy. Scrupulousness is not uprightness.)
The prophecies of Zechariah and Haggai connected with Zerubbabel’s work; the altar the means of blessing
In Nehemiah the people are only set, meanwhile, in this place of blessing. The prophecies of Zechariah and Haggai are connected with the work of Zerubbabel, and not with that of Nehemiah; with the simple faith that reared the altar as the means of blessing and safety. There (Zech. 1:1616Therefore thus saith the Lord; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. (Zechariah 1:16)) Jehovah could say that He had returned to Jerusalem with mercies; but it is “after the glory” that He will come to dwell there (ch. 2:8-13). The prophecy encourages them by blessing, and promises them the coming of Christ, and the presence of Jehovah at a still future period. Chapter 8 of the same prophet connects these two things together to encourage the people to walk uprightly; but it will be seen in reading it that the fulfillment is there clearly marked as taking place at the end of the age, the rejection of Christ (ch. 11) becoming the occasion of the judgments that were to fall upon them, and to give occasion, in a still more striking manner, for that sovereign grace which will use the power of the rejected Messiah for the deliverance of His people, when they are utterly ruined in consequence of their sin.
The prophecy of Malachi, which was uttered after this, declares and denounces the corruption already brought in after the blessing restored in a measure by mercy; and the coming of Jehovah in judgment.
To these remarks it may be added, that neither in Zechariah nor in Haggai does the Lord call the people, My people. It is said, prophetically, that this shall be the case in the time to come, in the latter days, when Christ shall come to establish His glory. But the judgment pronounced in Hosea has never been revoked, and there is not one expression used that could gainsay it.
The people in the land that the Messiah may be presented to them
The Book of Nehemiah gives us, then, the partial and outward reestablishment of the Jews in the land, without either the throne of God or the throne of David, while waiting for the manifestation of the Messiah, and His coming to seek for the fruit of so much grace; in a word, their restoration, in order that He may be presented to them. The people are provisionally in the land, on God’s part, but under the power of the Gentiles who possess the throne.