Sunday: Nehemiah’s Reaction
Read Nehemiah 13:23-25. What happened here, and how do we explain Nehemiah’s reaction to the situation?
Since the children didn’t speak Aramaic (the language used during the Exile) or Hebrew, they couldn’t understand the teachings from Scripture. This was a real problem, because the knowledge of God’s revelation could thus be distorted or even disappear. The scribes and priests expounded on the Torah mostly in Aramaic in order to make the preaching clear to the people.
However, since the mothers were from Ammon, Ashdod, and Moab and were generally the primary caregivers for the children, it is not surprising that the children didn’t speak the language of the fathers as well. The language we speak informs the way we think about concepts, because we use the vocabulary of that culture. Loss of the biblical language would have meant losing their special identity. Thus, for Nehemiah, it was unthinkable that families were losing touch with the Word of God and consequently their connection with the living God, the Lord of the Hebrews.
Biblical scholars point out that the actions of Nehemiah were most likely a public shaming of the people as part of prescribed punishments at that time. When it says that Nehemiah rebuked them and cursed them, we shouldn’t think of Nehemiah using foul language and expletives, but rather that he was speaking over them the curses of the Covenant. Deuteronomy 28 outlines the curses that would happen to those who broke the covenant. It is very possible that Nehemiah chose the words of the Bible to bring them to the realization of their wrong action and the consequences of their poor choices.
Moreover, when the text says that Nehemiah “beat some of the men and pulled out their hair” (Neh. 13:25, NIV), instead of seeing Nehemiah in a rage and reacting with fury, we should note that a beating was a prescribed form of public punishment. This kind of behavior was applied only to “some” of them, meaning to the leaders who caused or promoted this wrong behavior. These acts were to serve as methods of public shaming. Nehemiah wanted to ensure that the people understood the gravity of their choices and the results that would ensue from them.
|How should we react when we see what we believe is wrong-doing in the church?|
To be fair, we are dealing with a very different culture to our modern culture. Justice and punishment was often public and humiliating. Deuteronomy makes interesting reading. For example. If a man died childless, then it was the responsibility of the husbands brother to take her as a wife and give her a son so that his name would not disappear out of Israel. If he refused to do so, then they were to take a shoe form him and spit in his face and curse him for not doing his duty.
This was carried out in the time of Ruth where Boaz wanted to take Ruth for a wife but there was a closer relative who should have first option. A discussion was held in the presence of the elders and the other relative did not want to take the option. Rather than condemnation, the transaction was reduced to the removal of shoes but no spitting was involved.
As the lesson authors suggest, the public shaming of those who were in mixed marriages probably followed the prescribed course of cursing as outlined in Deuteronomy.
I think the situation as described in Nehemiah must be tempered today with the words of Paul in 1 Cor 7 where the subject of mixed marriages is discussed in the context of the developing Church.
Clearly, Paul had in mind the salvation of all concerned.
Reaction to wrong doing should achieve two aims
1. to restore the person's relationship with the LORD which has been damaged
2. sometimes to be an example to others
Growing up influenced in Hindu culture even Christians are swayed by the meaning of karma.
True every action has consequences but not all results can be directly correlated to a specific action all the time.
Perhaps that is one of the reason Hindus walk the straight and narrow fearing the consequences of their action.
When you are falling in love, you are not thinking about the long term consequences of the relationship.
I know a person who is married to another faith, you can tell by the smile if the spouse is with him on the worship day.
Marriage has an emotional vulnerability unlike any other relationship.
Unlike any other relationship this affects your children and grand children.
The ten tribes of Israel had disintegrated from the face of the earth through intermarriage.
Not addressing this problem head on would lead to the destruction of Judah.
Therefore, Nehemiah reminds the people of the curses mentioned in Deuteronomy.
Reading past history we have the luxury of time to analyze, dissect and pick a part the action of Nehemiah.
When a house is being burnt down, you would yell and pull the person out of the fire and face the consequences of the action.
Nehemiah is establishing zero tolerance for such behavior lest satan should succeed in destroying the line of Judah.
satan is constantly and consistently chipping away at the grand scheme of our redemption.
Compare the action of Nehemiah with Numbers chapter 25
When God’s Word does not agree with our intentions or desires, we tend to have doubts about its divine origins. Likewise, the people and the leaders had doubts about Jeremiah. Apparently, in Israel, only the circumstances had changed, but the people remained the same in their thinking and in their heart. They excused themselves from their vow by attacking the prophet Jeremiah. However, they did not want to attack the aged Jeremiah directly. So they blamed Baruch, his friend and sometimes scribe, and turned their wrath against him, claiming that he had turned the prophet against them....
We really are, at least when we talk about western cultures, in a diferent cultural scene now. But, perhaps the lesson to extract from this time of Israel is that although the cultures may change, God gives us counseling that can last all generations for our own good! In a time when everything seems to be relative, God continues to be Absolut! He does not change, we need to change!
Guide me Holy Spirit.
When the Lord called Israel as a nation he laid out all the rules to govern the nation. (Like every/all the nations of the earth in that or our times).
One of their law was about marriage in its entirety. Paul came hundreds of years after and realized times were different because the message were spreading to the heathen and gentiles were being baptized into the faith without their spouse. Paul stated what he said 1 Cor 7:13-17. In Nehemiah time the gentiles weren't baptized into the Israelite faith. No such thing existed.
In our times,some people were born in the SDA faith. Some came in as married single, (other spouse does not believe in Jesus).Some came in as single never married, while others came in married together.
If someone who was married and their spouse was not a Christian, Paul stated it was okay to divorce. I understood those situation. Many times marrying and staying to a non believer is hectic. You cook and do all the things you don't want to do on the sabbath. etc.
And these as the things God is trying to save us from when he said don't be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. And that is a prime example. But there are exceptions as in the examples you gave lyn and God in His mercy understands this hence He gave Paul the wisdom to speak about this situation and gave counsel to the gentile world.
If you do not agree, I will be happy to hear other comments.
I’ve been accused of criticizing “God’s Church” by doing so in the past, but I do NOT believe it is! Although it may not be related to the specific question, I believe Isaiah 58:1 holds part of the answer which reads:
KJV: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins”.
NIV: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins - ESV)
NIV: “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
I here what you are saying George but I am also mindful that a lot of criticism of the church that I hear can be classified as "I am conservative and the church is too liberal" or "I am liberal and the church is too conservative". And if you know a lot about sociology you can come up with some very good rationales for that sort of division. Granted the church does need constructive criticism, and there are leaders, media personalities and others that need to be told when they are off the track. But we need to remember too, it is our church and we need to be inclusive of ourselves in any constructive criticism.
The church is to be a hospital for sinners. What did Christ do with Mary? He did not shame her. He said, where are your you accusers? They are all gone Master. Ok then neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more. And if she did fall again, and she turned to Him for repentence, He was there to pick her up, and not cast her down. Thus it is with us we are to do as Christ did. So often that is not the case. What we say we are held accountable.