Book of Nehemiah Chapter 10:28-39 Antique Commentary Quotes

Cambridge Bible

Nehemiah 10:28

And the rest of the people] This may be understood in two different ways: (a) according to some it denotes the mass of the laity, as distinguished from their princes and elders, like ‘the people’ (Neh_10:35), ‘the residue of Israel’ (Neh_11:20), and ‘Israel’ (1Ch_9:2); (b) according to others under this head are included the various classes of the community mentioned in the present verse, but distinct from the representative names which have occupied the previous lists. It is not another group, but stands at the head of the verse in apposition to the groups to be mentioned. ‘The priests’ are the individual members of the great houses whose representatives had taken part ‘in the sealing.’ So also the subordinate religious orders, who are here divided into their classes of (a) Levites proper, (b) porters, (c) singers, (d) Nethinim. With the last name we should also probably associate ‘the servants of Solomon,’ Neh_7:57; Ezr_2:43-54.

Nethinims] R.V. Nethinim.

all they that had separated themselves] See note on Ezr_6:21. By this class are probably intended Jews who had not gone into exile, but, having either in foreign lands or in Palestine been faithless to their religion, had since separated themselves from idolatry. Another explanation, which has some support from the words ‘from the peoples of the lands,’ understands by this expression ‘proselytes who had attached themselves to the Jewish faith.’

from the people (R.V. peoples) of the lands unto the law of God] The antithesis is striking. Not ‘from the peoples of the lands to the people of Israel,’ but ‘from the peoples of the land,’ who were identified with abomination and filthiness (Ezr_6:21), to ‘the law of God,’ which was the one standard of the claim to be a true Israelite.

having knowledge, and having understanding] R.V. that had knowledge and understanding. See note on Neh_8:2-3; i.e. all of age and intelligence to know and understand the law. Vulg. ‘omnes qui poterant sapere.’

their brethren, their nobles] i.e. the representatives of the great families who subscribed to the sealing of the Covenant. The people warmly supported them.

a curse … an oath] The ‘curse’ is the penalty which they invoked if they were faithless to the Covenant; the ‘oath’ is the solemn obligation of a duty which they vowed to perform.

For the phrase ‘enter into an oath,’ cf. Deu_29:12 ‘that thou shouldest enter into the Covenant of the Lord thy God and into his oath.’

to walk in God’s law, &c.] Compare the similar terms of the Covenant in Josiah’s reign, 2Ki_23:3.

the Lord our Lord] i.e. Jahveh (= Jehovah) our Lord.


Pulpit Commentary


They clave to their brethren, their nobles. They gave their support and adherence to their more distinguished brethren who had attached their seals to the document, approving what they had done, and ratifying it. Entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law. Something of this kind seems to have occurred in the wilderness, when God’s law was first given to his people (Deu_29:12); and therefore, when renewals of the covenant were made, and the people were required to ratify the act, it was natural to recur to the old sanction, An oath was probably taken of the people in the time of Josiah (2Ki_23:3), when they are said to have “stood to the covenant.” Moses the servant of God. The epithet “servant of God,” or “servant of the Lord,” attaches to Moses in a peculiar way. God called him (Num_12:7) “my servant Moses, who is faithful in all my house;” and henceforward “servant of God” was his epitheton usitatum (see Jos_1:1; Jos_8:31, Jos_8:33; 1Ch_6:49; 2Ch_24:9; Dan_9:11; Heb_3:5; Rev_15:3). St. Paul contrasts “Moses, the servant” with “Christ, the Son” (Heb_3:1-6).


Cambridge Bible

Nehemiah 10:30

30. Prohibition of Intermarriage with the Heathen

we] Observe the first person plural here introduced and maintained to Neh_10:39 throughout the rest of the Covenant details.

people] R.V. peoples.

This prohibition of intermarriage with the people of the land had been strenuously upheld by Ezr_9:2. (See note.) The difficulty of enforcing it appears from Neh_13:23-28. The words of the prohibition seem to be based on Deu_7:3 ‘Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.’ Cf. Exo_34:16; Jos_23:12; Jdg_3:6.

It is to be noticed that the so-called Priestly Code gives no such prohibition unless it is implied in Gen_26:35; nor is it found in the central legislative portion of Deut. (12–26).

The Covenant introduces no new enactment, but affirms the Deuteronomic teaching which itself appears to be an expansion of the oldest law in Exo_23:32-33, ‘Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me.’


Cambridge Bible

Nehemiah 10:31

31. Prohibition of Traffic on the Sabbath; and Observance of Sabbatic Year

people] R.V. peoples. ‘The peoples of the land (’ammey haârec̣) are the heathen dwellers in the land. The title ‘the people of the land’ (’am haârec̣) was used in later days of the unlearned multitude ‘which knoweth not the law’ (Joh_7:49).

ware] The Hebrew word occurs only here in the O.T. (LXX. ἀγορασμούς, Vulg. ‘venalia’).

on the sabbath day] The prohibition is not found in so many words in the Pentateuch. But it represents the natural expansion of the command to keep the Sabbath holy. Pollution would most easily be contracted by the interchange of wares with the heathen.

Complete abstention from such occupation was the only safeguard for the purity of the people, as well as for the observance of the Sabbath as a day of rest, cf. Neh_13:15. This abstention was practised in the kingly period in respect of the sabbath and the new-moon days. Amo_8:5, ‘When will the new moon be gone that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat?’

on the holy day] R.V. on a holy day. The days set apart to be observed as ‘holy-days’ are described in Numbers 28, 31.

That these were to be observed as ‘days of rest,’ and were thus on the same footing with the Sabbath-days argues the acquaintance of the writer with the Levitical Law of the Priestly Code.

leave] R.V. forgo. The same word that is used in Exo_23:11 for ‘let lie fallow.’ LXX. ἀνήσομεν.

the seventh year] See Exo_23:10-11, ‘And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the increase thereof; but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest (marg. ‘release it’) and lie fallow.’ This observance of the Sabbatic year is not referred to in the Deuteronomic Law which only speaks of it as the year of release from debt (Deuteronomy 15). But the Priestly Law in Lev_25:2-7 enters with some minuteness into the agricultural ‘rest’ of the seventh year. This regulation was not, for practical reasons, scrupulously carried out; its neglect is the subject of rebuke, Lev_26:34-35; Lev_26:43; 2Ch_36:21. It seems to have been observed in later times, cf. 1Ma_6:49; 1Ma_6:53; Jos. Ant. xi. 8. 6, xiii. 8. 1, &c. Tacitus, who is prejudiced against the Jews, attributes the custom to national laziness, Hist. Neh_10:4.

and the exaction of every debt] This is a technical expression taken from Deu_15:2, and constitutes the expansion, for the requirements of a more developed time, of the principle laid down in the agricultural Law of the Sabbatic Year (Exodus 23). By a common error it has been supposed that debts were on this year altogether remitted. The analogy of the ‘fallow’ land shows that the debts remained, but were not exacted; payment was ‘hung up’ for a whole year. Some render ‘the exaction of every man’s pledge.’ The versions are literal, LXX. ἀπαίτησιν πάσης χειρός. Vulg. ‘exactionem universae manus.’ The remission of ‘the exaction of debt’ on the seventh or Sabbatic year is found in the Deuteronomic, but not in the Levitical Laws. The covenant to which the Israelites were now subscribing did not rest on a Levitical code alone, but recognised the authority of other portions of the Pentateuch.

This is one indication among others that the Law, which Ezra administered, contained substantially all the component parts of our Pentateuch, though not necessarily every item, as we now have it, in each component part.


Cambridge Bible

Nehemiah 10:32

32. A poll-tax of ⅓ of a shekel imposed for the maintenance of the service of the Temple

32. we made ordinances for us] The verse shows that Ezra and his colleagues, although establishing the authority of the written law, were ready to expand or modify it according to the requirements of the time—a significant indication of the way in which the numerous instances of minor variation in the laws of the Pentateuch may reflect changes and qualifications required at different epochs. ‘Ordinances.’ The plural shows that the reference is not to be limited to the Temple tax.

the third part of a shekel] See Exo_30:11-16; in which passage every Israelite, ‘from twenty years old and upward,’ is required to give ‘the offering of the Lord,’ i.e. ‘half-a-shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary:’ ‘the rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than the half shekel, when they give the offering of the Lord, to make atonement for your souls.’ The sum of ‘half a shekel,’ or two drachmæ, is mentioned as the regulation tax in Mat_17:24, ‘Doth not your master pay the half-shekel?’ (didrachma). Cf. Josephus B. J. vii. 6. 6, ‘The emperor commanded every Jew to pay the two drachmæ annually to the Capitol which they had before been accustomed to pay to the Temple at Jerusalem.’

A poll-tax of ⅓ shekel for the services of the Temple differs both from the regulation of Exodus 30 and from the later Jewish custom. In Exo_30:11-16 a tribute of ½ shekel is to be levied, not annually, but on the occasions when the census of the people was taken. From Josephus we learn that the contribution of ½ shekel was annually levied from every Jew. Here the Jews charge themselves with an annual tribute of ⅓ shekel.

In order to explain this apparent discrepancy, some scholars maintain that the tax mentioned in Exodus, being only occasional, has no connexion with the annual poll-tax, and that the ⅓ shekel was in later days raised to ½ shekel when the Jews were wealthier, in order to assimilate the annual tax to the sum of the occasional ransom tax mentioned in the Pentateuch. It is an objection to this view that (1) there is no reference here to the occasional tax, (2) we have no mention anywhere of the coexistence of two taxes, one occasional and the other annual, for the maintenance of the Temple, (3) the reference in 2Ch_24:5-9 to the Mosaic law seems to contemplate a regular and not an occasional tax.

Others have conjectured that the requirement of the ½ shekel in Exodus 30 is an interpolation later than the time of Nehemiah, made in the interest of the priests. To this it may be replied that, if such an interpolation had been made, it would surely also have been directed towards securing an annual tribute, instead of a payment to be made only at the time when the people were numbered.

It is more probable that the discrepancies reflect the gradual growth of the custom. The law in Exo_30:11-16 goes back to the days when to number the people was associated with human presumption, for which expiation was to be made. Cf. 2 Samuel 24. The necessities of the Temple service caused this occasional tax to become a regular one under kings favourable to the priests (2 Chronicles 24). After the Return the poverty of the Jews made it difficult to maintain the Temple services. The regular contributions promised by the Persian king (Ezr_7:2-23) ceased, or were only for a short period. The imposition of an annual poll-tax of ⅓ shekel would be cheerfully accepted at the time of religious reformation under Ezra. In later times, when the power of the High-priest became more absolute and the prosperity of the Jews grew, the tax was raised from ⅓ to ½ shekel, in imitation of the occasional ‘census’ tax which had become obsolete, but whose memorial existed in Exodus 30.[3]

[3] An interesting explanation has recently been suggested: “In Exodus each male Israelite contributed a bekah, or half a shekel (of the Sanctuary) to defray the cost of the Tabernacle: this half-shekel was a drachm of about 65 grs. Troy.… The Babylonian silver stater of [the age of Nehemiah] weighed about 172.8 grs. This formed the standard of the Empire, and doubtless the Jews of the Captivity employed it like the rest of the subjects of the Great King. The third part of this stater or shekel weighed about 58 grains; so that practically the third part of the Babylonian silver shekel was the same as the half of the ancient light shekel, or shekel of the Sanctuary.” (Ridgeway’s Origin of Currency and Weight Measures, p. 281.)


Pulpit Commentary


For the shew-bread. See Le 24:5-8. Small as the cost of the shew-bread was, consisting, as it did, of no more than twelve cakes of fine flour weekly, it is yet placed first on account of its importance, being the bread of God’s presence, the type of the sacramental bread of the new covenant. The continual meat offering is that offering of flour mingled with fine olive oil which God had required to be offered twice a day, at morning and at evening, in conjunction with the two lambs, which constituted the continual burnt offering (Num_28:5). Of the sabbaths. i.e. “for the offering of the sabbath days,” which consisted of two lambs with appropriate meat and drink offerings, in addition to the offering of every day (Num_28:9, Num_28:10). Of the new moons. Two bullocks, one ram, seven lambs, with appropriate meat and drink offerings (ibid. Neh_10:11-14). For the set feasts. The passover, the feast of Pentecost, the feast of trumpets, and the feast of tabernacles. The offerings required at each are given with great exactness in Num_28:1-31, and Num_29:1-40. The holy things. “Wave-offerings” and “peace-offerings” (Le Num_23:10, Num_23:17, Num_23:19) are probably intended. They were “holy to the Lord for the priest” (ibid. Num_29:20). The sin offerings are those commanded in Num_28:15, Num_28:22, Num_28:30; Num_29:5, Num_29:11, Num_29:16, Num_29:19, etc. And for all the work of the house. The internal “work” of cleansing and keeping in proper order the apparatus of worship is probably intended, not external repairs.


Cambridge Bible

Nehemiah 10:33

This verse gives in detail ‘the service of the house of God.’ (Neh_10:31).

the shewbread] See Exo_25:23-30; Exo_37:10-16; Lev_24:5-9. The shewbread consisted of 12 unleavened cakes of fine meal, which were laid fresh every Sabbath in two rows of six upon the table in the Holy Place. Their preparation fell to the duty of the Kohathite Levites (1Ch_9:32). The antiquity of this rite is shown by the story of David. 1Sa_21:2-7. The name by which ‘the shewbread’ is here designated is ‘bread of arrangement,’ ‘lekhem hammaa-reketh’ (Vulg. ‘panes propositionis). The LXX. renders εἰς ἄρτους τοῦ προσώπου, ‘bread of the face,’ which is the translation of the other Hebrew name by which it was known, ‘lekhem happβnξm:’ we should have expected εἰς ἄρτους προθέσεως.

for the continual meat (R.V. meal) offering, and for the continual burnt offering] We have mention of ‘the continual meal offering’ or ‘minkhah,’ which was offered every evening, in 1Ki_18:29; 1Ki_18:36; 2Ki_16:15; Ezr_9:4; Dan_9:21. In 2Ki_16:15 we find ‘the morning burnt offering (olah),’ as well as ‘the evening meal offering,’ spoken of. Now in the Priestly Laws (Exo_29:38-42; Num_28:3-8) we find the regulations for a burnt offering, with a meal offering, morning and evening. This is what is probably intended in the present passage, in Ezr_3:3; Ezr_3:5, and in the Books of Chronicles, e.g. 2Ch_31:3. We need not expect to find so full a ritual in practice before, as there was after, the influence of Ezra’s work made itself felt: nor can we hope to find in the historical narrative full illustration of all the details of worship required by the ideal of the Priestly Law.

Sacrifices were ‘continual’ (tamidh) in the sense of being regular and at stated times, as distinct from occasional, voluntary, and irregular offerings. Thus the ‘shew-bread’ is ‘continual bread,’ ‘lekhem hattamidh’ (Num_4:7).

of the sabbaths, of the new moons] i.e. for the ‘continual offering’ of the sabbath and of the new moon, and for the special offerings required for those days, as recorded in Num_28:9-10 (Sabbath), 11–15 (new moon), from which the rule in Eze_46:4; Eze_46:6 differs considerably.

for the set feasts] A description of these ‘days of holy convocation’ is found in Num_28:16 to Num_29:38.

for the holy things] Such, for instance, as ‘the thankofferings’ of the community. Cf. 2Ch_29:33, ‘And the consecrated things were six hundred oxen and three thousand sheep,’ 2Ch_35:13, ‘the holy offerings.’

the sin offerings] i.e. Those offered for the community, (a) regularly, along with the burnt offerings, Numbers 28, 29, (b) on exceptional occasions of national transgression, Lev_4:13.

for all the work, &c.] The preposition ‘for’ is carried on from the beginning of the verse. This general expression ‘all the work’ completes the list of objects upon which the ⅓ shekel tax was expended. LXX. εἰς ἔργα. Vulg. ‘in omnem usum.’


Pulpit Commentary


We cast the lots for the wood offering. The “wood offering” is now first heard of. Fuel had probably been more plentiful in the times of the monarchy than it had now become, and the temple treasury had been rich enough to provide what was needed in order to keep the altar fire perpetually burning (Le Neh_6:13). But times had changed. The hill-country of Judaea had gradually been stripped of its forests. The temple was, comparatively speaking, poor, and some permanent arrangement for the supply of the required fuel had become necessary. It would seem, from the present passage, that the arrangement actually made was one by which different families or districts undertook the duty of furnishing the wood in turn, and lots were cast to determine the order in which they should discharge the office. According to Josephus (‘Bell. Jud.,’ it. 17, § 6), the wood needed for a year was brought in on a particular day—the fourteenth day of the fifth month—which was kept as a festival, and known as the “Xylophoria.” At times appointed year by year. It may be gathered from this that, originally, no single day was selected for bringing in all the wood; much less one and the same day appointed for every year. The original system was variable and elastic; but in course of time a rigid uniformity was introduced and established. As it is written in the law. See Le Neh_6:12.


Cambridge Bible

Nehemiah 10:34

And we cast the lots] R.V. And we cast lots. The use of the article in the Heb. does not here call attention to the use of any peculiarly sacred ‘lots,’ but generally to the means employed for ascertaining the Divine will. For decision by the casting of lots, cf. the choosing of the goat on the day of Atonement (Lev_16:8-10), the distribution of the Promised Land (Jos_14:2; Jos_18:10), the selection of the first king (1Sa_10:19), the distribution of offices among the 24 priestly houses (1Ch_24:5; 1Ch_25:8; 1Ch_26:13), and of the priestly duties among the individual members (Luk_1:9). Here the lot was to decide the succession of the houses, which took it in turn to supply the wood for the sacrifices of the Temple.

for the wood offering] Cf. Neh_13:31. The supply of wood for the enormous number of sacrifices offered at the Temple of Jerusalem must have represented a large annual sum. The difficulty of procuring wood must have been very great: (1) the area of territory occupied by the Jewish community was small, (2) the trees in the neighbourhood must have suffered during the Chaldean invasion and siege.

after the houses of our fathers] R.V. according to our fathers’ houses. Another translation, ‘even into the house of our fathers,’ i.e. ‘into the Temple’ would certainly be possible according to the Hebrew, but is not to be accepted, as its use occurs nowhere else, and after the mention of ‘the house of our God’ there would be no special appropriateness for the employment of another name.

at times appointed] Cf. Neh_13:31; Ezr_10:14. According to the Talmud on nine days in the year.

as it is written in the law] There is no statute in the Levitical code regulating the supply of firewood for the sacrifices. The only reference to the wood of the offering in ‘the Law’ is contained in Lev_6:12-13, ‘And the fire upon the altar shall be kept burning thereon, it shall not go out; and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay the burnt offering in order upon it, and shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings. Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out.’ If the words ‘as it is written in the law’ contain a reference to a passage in the Pentateuch, it must be looked for in connexion with ‘the burning on the altar’ (e.g. Lev_6:12-13), not with ‘the wood-offering.’ Against this it may fairly be urged that ‘the wood offering,’ being the principal subject of the verse, is also the most probable subject for this quotation from Scripture. But if ‘as it is written in the law’ alludes to ‘the wood offering,’ ‘the law’ must be understood in a general sense of the traditional regulations of the priests, which apparently were not all embodied in our Pentateuch. New circumstances necessitated new regulations; and we have to suppose that among the new written regulations of the priests was one relating to ‘the wood offering.’ We may conjecture that after the return from the exile the scarcity and expensiveness of fuel for the sacrifices made it necessary to draw up special regulations by which ‘the houses’ took it in turn to supply the wood. The burden was thus distributed over the community. The new regulation had been committed to writing; but, as appears from our Pentateuch, it was never incorporated in the canonical ‘Thora,’ perhaps from the reason that its history was known to be recent. Josephus (Bell. Jud. ii. 17. 6) mentions that on the 14th day of the 5th month Loos (Ab) was the Festival of Wood-bringing (Ξυλοφόρια), at which every Jew used to bring wood for the altar of burnt offering, that there never might be wanting a supply of fuel for the sacred fire.


Pulpit Commentary


And to bring the first-fruits … unto the house of the Lord. The idea of offering “first-fruits” may be ascribed to natural piety. They were well known to the Greeks and Romans (ἀπαρχαί, primitiae). But in the Mosaic law they were commanded (Exo_22:29; Exo_23:19; Lev_23:10, Lev_23:17, etc.), and thenceforth became a matter of religious obligation. The present passage furnishes, however, distinct evidence that the obligation had now for some time been disregarded. The first-fruits of all fruit. First-fruits were required not merely of wheat and other grain, bat also expressly of wine and oil, the produce of the vine and olive, and by implication of all other fruit trees (see Num_18:12; Deu_18:4, etc.).


Cambridge Bible

Nehemiah 10:36

the firstborn of our sons] The firstborn of the children of Israel ‘from a month old’ were redeemed ‘for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary.’ Num_18:16; cf. Exo_13:13; Exo_34:20.

of our cattle, as it is written in the law] The firstlings of oxen, sheep and goats were not redeemed; they were holy; their fat was offered as a burnt offering; the flesh was the portion of the priests. See Num_18:17-19. But the firstborn of all unclean beasts were redeemed for a price. Cf. Exo_23:19; Num_18:15.

herds … flocks] i.e. the goats and sheep mentioned in Num_18:17.


Cambridge Bible

Nehemiah 10:37

and that we should bring] The change of construction (cf. the infinitive ‘to bring’ in Neh_10:35-36) somewhat favours the suggestion that this and the next two verses are a later insertion, introduced for the purpose of recording in detail the Jewish practice of paying firstfruits and tithes.

the firstfruits of our dough] R.V. marg. ‘Or, coarse meal.’ See Num_15:21, ‘Of the first of your dough (marg. Or, coarse meal) ye shall offer up a cake for an heave offering.’ The firstfruits or ‘the first’ (rêshith) is equivalent to ‘the best.’ Cf. Lev_23:17.

and our offerings] R.V. and our heave offerings. Before this expression we have also to understand ‘the firstfruits of.’ The priests did not receive the whole ‘heave offerings’ (terumoth), but ‘the firstfruits’ or ‘first’ of them. This is also the teaching of Eze_44:30, ‘And the first of all the firstfruits of everything, and every oblation (marg. Or, heave offering) of everything, of all your oblations, shall be for the priests.’ The portion thus assigned to the priests was called ‘the heave offering for the priests’ (Neh_13:5). The word rendered ‘heave offering’ was used in a general sense to denote ‘a gift’ (Pro_29:4), but was applied in a special sense to gifts or offerings for a sacred purpose, e.g. contributions to the tabernacle, Exo_25:2 sq., or the portions of sacrifices set apart for the priests, Lev_7:32. In 2Sa_1:21, ‘fields of offerings’ are fields from whose rich pasture the firstlings of the flock would be taken.

and the fruit of all manner of trees] See on Neh_10:35. We should understand these words to depend upon ‘the firstfruits of.’ The structure of the verse is certainly in favour of this interpretation. ‘The first-fruits,’ devoted to the priests, are distinguished from the ‘tithes’ which are given to the Levites.

wine] R.V. marg. ‘Or, the vintage.’ ‘The wine and the oil,’ not in apposition to ‘the fruit of all manner of trees,’ but separately mentioned on account of their peculiar value. Cf. Num_18:12.

to the chambers of the house of our God] See on Neh_10:39, Neh_12:44, Neh_13:4; LXX. εἰς τὸ γαζοφυλάκιον οἴκου τοῦ θεοῦ.

the tithes of our ground] According to Lev_27:30. On the omission of reference to tithe of ‘herd and flock’ mentioned in Lev_27:32, see note at end of chapter. Passages in the O.T. dealing with tithe are Gen_14:20; Gen_28:22; Lev_27:30-33; Num_18:21-32; Deu_14:22-29; Deu_26:12-15; Amo_4:4; Mal_3:8-10; 2Ch_31:5-6, and Neh_10:37-39; Neh_12:44; Neh_13:5.

that the same Levites might have the tithes] R.V. for they, the Levites, take the tithes. LXX. δεκατοῦντες. Vulg. ‘accipient decimas.’ The word in the Hebrew which generally denotes ‘to pay tithe of something,’ is here used in a special sense of collecting tithe, in which it is found in the later Hebrew of the Mishnah. It occurs here in the sense of ἀποδεκατόω in Heb_7:5 ‘to take tithes of the people.’

in all the cities of our tillage] LXX. ἐν πάσαις πόλεσιν δουλείας ἡμῶν. Vulg. ‘ex omnibus civitatibus operum nostrorum.’ Cf. 1Ch_27:26, ‘over them that did the work of the field for tillage of the ground.’ The translation of ‘abodah’ by ‘tillage’ gives the only probable sense. The alternative, ‘cities of our service’ would be meaningless. The words are important as determining the agricultural character of the area from which this tithe was collected. It is implied, though not stated, that the tithe thus collected by the Levites was of ‘the fruits of the field’ (cf. Deu_14:22-29; Deu_26:12-15) and did not include the tithe of ‘the herd or the flock.’ See note on Neh_10:39. The word ‘Abodah’ was in later times technically used for ‘worship.’ Cf. the saying of Simon the Just in the Pirqe Aboth, ‘On three things the world is stayed; on the Thorah, and on the Worship (Abodah), and on the bestowal of kindnesses’ (Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, Taylor, p. 26).


Cambridge Bible

Nehemiah 10:38

the priest the son of Aaron] This is not the high-priest; but in every ‘city of their tillage’ one of priestly descent was to superintend the paying in of the tithe which had been collected by the Levites, so that the interests of the priesthood should not suffer.

the tithe of the tithes] This was paid by the Levites to the priests, according to Num_18:25-28. The law of ‘tithe’ in Deu_14:22-29; Deu_26:12-15 differs very widely from that in Numbers, except in the point that it was to be derived from the produce of the soil. The characteristic features of the Deuteronomic law of tithe are (1) the annual social feast (Deu_14:22-26), (2) charity to the Levite (Deu_14:27), and (3) a special tithing every third year on behalf of the Levite Deu_14:28, Deu_26:12-15). But of these regulations we find no trace in the present passage.

to the chambers, into the treasure house] i.e. those chambers which were set apart as a treasure house for contributions paid in kind. Cf. Neh_13:5. Other chambers were employed for other purposes. The LXX. for ‘into the treasure house’ has εἰς οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ by an accidental repetition.


Cambridge Bible

Nehemiah 10:39

For] Explaining the mention of ‘the chambers’ as the receptacles of all these offerings.

the children of Israel] i.e. the laity as distinguished from the priests and the Levites.

the offering] R.V. heave offering. This ‘heave offering’ includes both ‘the firstfruits’ of the children of Israel (Neh_10:36-37) and ‘the tithe of the tithe’ paid by the Levite to the priests (37). It is the special designation of the tithe paid both by Israel and by the house of Levi in Num_18:24-28.

the new wine] R.V. the wine. Marg. ‘Or, the vintage.’ the word in the Hebrew is the same as that used in Neh_10:37.

and the oil] R.V. and of the oil.

On ‘the chambers’ see especially Neh_13:4-12.

the vessels of the sanctuary] In Neh_13:9 it is again mentioned that ‘the vessels of the sanctuary’ were stored in these chambers. What they were, we are not told; but that they comprised instruments for sacrifice, vessels for libations and lustrations, and plate for sacred feasts, would appear from the short inventory in Ezr_1:9-10.

priests … porters … singers] i.e. the Aaronic house and those of the Levites whose work was especially connected with the maintenance of the Temple and the Temple worship. From this combination we might conclude (1) that the Levitical community, with the exception of the ‘porters’ and ‘singers,’ were for the most part in Nehemiah’s time not resident at Jerusalem, but quartered in the country districts, cf. Neh_11:20, Neh_12:27; (2) that the porters and singers participated with the priests in the offerings of the people.

we will not forsake] The object of the new regulations is to maintain the efficiency of the Temple worship and to provide for the welfare of those that ministered in it; ‘we will not forsake’ is equivalent to ‘we will not neglect or diminish the contributions to the Temple, which we have publicly undertaken.’

Note on ‘the Tithe.’ It must be noticed that ‘the tithe’ spoken of in this context is described as ‘tithes of our ground,’ ‘tithes in all the cities of our tillage,’ and is probably here (Neh_10:39) represented along with ‘the heave offering,’ as consisting of corn, wine and oil, as indeed it is spoken of in Neh_13:5; Neh_13:12. In other words ‘the tithe’ is a vegetable one; and this is also the impression which we gather from the description of ‘tithe’ in Numbers 18 and Mal_3:8-11.

Now in Lev_27:32-33 ‘a tithe of the herd or the flock’ is called ‘holy to the Lord,’ and with this agrees the mention of ‘the tithe of oxen and sheep’ in 2Ch_31:6. It is needless to point out what an enormous addition this ‘tithe of the herd or the flock’ would make to the wealth of the Priesthood and the treasury of the Temple. How then does it come to pass that neither in the regulations contained in Numbers 18 and Deuteronomy 14, nor in Nehemiah 10, 12, 13 is any allusion made to the tithe of herd and flock? Two explanations are forthcoming:

(1) It is possible that Lev_27:32 embodies a primitive pastoral law of tithing, which having fallen into desuetude was omitted at the time of the codification of the laws in Numbers 18 and Deuteronomy 14. In support of this view it should be remembered that Jacob’s vow to dedicate a tenth (Gen_28:22) certainly referred to the tithe of property in herds and flocks, while the possibility of exacting a ‘tenth’ of the flocks even for civil purposes is contemplated in 1Sa_8:17. According to this view, Hezekiah would have revived a religious custom, which was inherited from the time when the nation was more pastoral than agricultural. It is natural to suppose that the Jewish community at Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s days was too poor to maintain this additional burden. The objection to this explanation is that the appearance of Lev_27:32 in relation to its immediate context is not that of a survival from an earlier legislation; while the children of Israel could never have so far abandoned the pastoral in favour of agricultural life as to make it worth while to surrender the claim to so important a source of revenue for the service of the Temple.

(2) It is possible, as is maintained in some quarters, that ‘the animal tithe-law’ of Lev_27:32 may be an interpolation later than Nehemiah’s time, made in the interest of the Priesthood. There is more to be said for this startling supposition than might perhaps be expected. A close inspection of Lev_27:30-33 shows that Neh_10:32 is strangely and abruptly introduced between Neh_10:31 and Neh_10:33, which deal with the subject of the redemption of the vegetable-tithe mentioned in Neh_10:30. Again, in 2 Chronicles 31 we find that, after the mention in Neh_10:5 of ‘tithe of all things’ being given by ‘the children of Israel’, another sentence (Neh_10:6) tells us that ‘the children of Israel and Judah that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep and the tithe of consecrated things, &c.’ which is not improbably a later expansion of the previous words. It is obviously an objection to this view that the insertion of a clause making so large a claim upon the property of the Jews could rarely at any time have been secretly foisted into the text of the Pentateuch; and that, supposing it to have been possible, such an interpolation made in the interest of the Priestly families would have had the smallest chance of success at a time when the Scribes controlled the transcription of the text.

The solution of the problem has not yet been reached. The difficulty illustrates the variations in Israelite law, in which are reflected the altered circumstances of different centuries. It must be admitted that Lev_27:32 wears an appearance not altogether free from suspicion; and an interpolation in an age, when, as we know from the LXX. version, the text of the Pentateuch was not yet fully settled, is not outside the range of probability.

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