From Nehemiah 10-11
Those who reaffirmed and signed the covenant were recorded in the book of Nehemiah. Today’s passage describes what they committed themselves to.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
28 “The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29 join with their brothers, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord and his rules and his statutes. 30 We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 31 And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt. (Neh 10.28-31)
In addition to taking an oath to walk in all the commands of Moses they place extra emphasis on a select few. They vow not to intermarry with the peoples of the land. They also devote themselves to honour the sabbath by not doing any work and to cancel all debts every seventh year.
32 “We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the showbread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the Sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed feasts, the holy things, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. (Neh 10.32-33)
The people will provide the upkeep for the house of the LORD. Here we have most of the ceremonies of the Jewish law.
34 We, the priests, the Levites, and the people, have likewise cast lots for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our fathers’ houses, at times appointed, year by year, to burn on the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the Law. (Neh 10.34)
This seems fairly pragmatic. But I’ve never heard of a wood offering before. I’m sure they used wood a lot with the sacrifices (e.g. burnt offering) that it became necessary to keep a good supply chain of wood.
35 We obligate ourselves to bring the firstfruits of our ground and the firstfruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the LORD; 36 also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the Law, and the firstborn of our herds and of our flocks; 37 and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor. (Neh 10.35-37)
The firstborn commands apply to both people and cattle. The people could be redeemed or put into service of the house of the LORD.
38 And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes. And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. 39 For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.” (Neh 10.28-39)
All these offerings promoted the upkeep of the temple and maintained the temple as the centre of worship for the Jews.
Story of Israel
This temple remained in service for quite some time. The Jews maintained its service and obeyed the law of Moses as best they could observing all the ceremonies, making sacrifices, giving their firstborn and remembering the LORD. This continued through the reigns of a few foreign powers and a few hundred years.
Story of Jesus
However over time some bad practices crept in because Jesus kicked up a stink when he entered at the start of his ministry.
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Jn 2:13–17)
The upkeep and service of the house of the LORD turned into profiteering. Eventually the temple would be destroyed again (c.e. 70). Till this day it hasn’t been rebuilt. But it doesn’t matter because Jesus has become the centre of worship.
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. (Jn 2:18–22)
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