Nehemiah 13:15
In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, along with wine, grapes, and figs. All kinds of goods were being brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. So I warned them against selling food on that day.
Sabbath ObservanceAlexander MaclarenNehemiah 13:15
The Blessing of God on an Active Life Founded Upon His WordR.A. Redford Nehemiah 13:1-31
Personal Purification of the BelieverW. P. Lockhart.Nehemiah 13:7-31
The Devoted PatriotM. G. Pearse.Nehemiah 13:7-31
The Religious ReformerW. Ritchie.Nehemiah 13:7-31
Nehemiah's SincerityRobert Burns, D. D.Nehemiah 13:14-22
The Law of RewardA. Maclaren, D. D.Nehemiah 13:14-22
The Mercy of God Chin Origin of the Reward of Good WorksJoseph Mede, B. D.Nehemiah 13:14-22
An Argument for Sabbath-KeepingNehemiah 13:15-22
Keeping the SabbathD. J. Burrell, D. D.Nehemiah 13:15-22
Keeping the SabbathMonday Club Sermons., De Witt S. ClarkeNehemiah 13:15-22
Loyalty to the SabbathNehemiah 13:15-22
Profanation of the SabbathJ. Hambleton.Nehemiah 13:15-22
Sabbath DesecrationA. Maclaren, D. D.Nehemiah 13:15-22
Sabbath ObservanceJohn Budgen, M.A.Nehemiah 13:15-22
The Benefit of the SabbathJ. Venn, M. A.Nehemiah 13:15-22
The Sabbath DayW. Clarkson Nehemiah 13:15-22

Among other deplorable departures from the Law of the word, Nehemiah found on his return to Jerusalem that his countrymen had fallen into flagrant disregard of the sabbath. It was a most serious defection, demanding a most vigorous reform. We look at what he found-and what he wrought.

I. A SERIOUS DELINQUENCY. The law of the sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Exodus 31:13-17; Numbers 15:32-36) was openly defied. Husbandmen were treading their wine-presses and were bringing corn into the city, and were lading asses on that day of sacred rest (ver. 15); all kinds of fruit were also carried in and sold (ver. 15). Tyrian traders were allowed to bring in and sell their fish and "all manner of ware" (ver. 16). The sacred character of the day was set at naught, and was fast disappearing. Persian rulers, Samaritan neighbours, Phoenician traders, had prevailed over Jewish principles, and the sabbath was most seriously threatened. There needed -

II. A VIGOROUS REFORM. Nehemiah set himself to change the whole aspect of affairs. He

(1) remonstrated energetically - he "contended with the nobles of Judah" (ver. 17), charging them with bringing this about - "What evil thing is this that ye do?"- by their guilty connivance, and prophetically threatening them with the wrath of God for their sin (ver. 18);

(2) caused the gates to be shut some time before, and to remain shut till some time after, the commencement and conclusion of the sacred day (ver. 19): he set his own servants (some of his own retinue), on whom he could most reckon, to see that this order was impartially carried out;

(3) not only obliged those who came to sell to remain outside all the day, but threatened to apprehend them if they did this again (vers. 20, 21); and

(4) enlisted the sympathy and aid of the Levites, that, when he was recalled and his own servants were withdrawn, they might maintain what he now instituted. These energetic measures succeeded; they had an immediate effect (ver. 21), and they appear to have had a permanent influence, as, from this time, we have reason to think that the Jews became scrupulous, even to a fault, on this question of sabbath observance. Nehemiah's reform was admirable and effective because -

(a) It was bold and impartial. He confronted and reproached the nobles as well as the traders and salesmen.

(b) It was energetic and full of action. He used magisterial rights; not exceeding his authority, but using it, and acting in harmony with the powers of his commission and the law of God.

(c) It was anticipative of future wants. He prepared for a time when he would not be there, and when other men like-minded would be prepared to continue his work (ver. 22). Concerning the observance of the sabbath or the Lord's day by ourselves, we may remark that it is -


1. It was sanctified from the very beginning of our race (Genesis 2:2, 3).

2. It was included in the religious and moral statutes given by God to Moses, as if it belonged to that which is permanent and perpetual (Exodus 20.).

3. It was insisted upon by the prophetic voice, and declared to be decisive of national prosperity or decline (Jeremiah 17:19-27; Isaiah 58:13, 14) - the prophets being the upholders of the moral in preference to the formal and ceremonial.

4. It was declared by the Lord Jesus Christ to be "made for man" (Mark 2:27).

5. It was continued in the shape of the Lord's day after the resurrection (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10); these incidental notices pointing to a general apostolical observance.


1. Bodily; for man and beast live longer and work better with than without it.

2. Spiritual; for without the spiritual refreshment and revival of sabbath services, more especially in these days of absorbing work and care, the light of life would burn even more dim and faint, until it went out into darkness. All those who hate (spiritual) death may well love and guard and use it well. Our duty in regard to it is -

(1) To avail ourselves of the bodily rest it brings, and to see that others have the same advantage - our children resting from their lessons, servants (domestic and public) resting from their toil.

(2) To make it a day of special spiritual privilege, including

(a) worship-drawing nigh to God;

(b) instruction - enlightenment, edification, the "beholding the beauty of the Lord and inquiring in his temple;" and

(c) inspiration - fresh determination, invigorated resolution that as for us and our household we will serve the Lord Christ. - C.

In those days I saw in Judah some treading wine presses on the Sabbath.
In reforming the evil of Sabbath desecration Nehemiah —

I. CONTENDED WITH THE NOBLES, OR JEWISH ARISTOCRACY. It was their trade that kept the marts open. Were they to hold aloof, the Sabbath-breakers would fail for want of patronage.



IV. HE TOOK MEASURES TO PERPETUATE THE REFORM. Conclusion: Reflect on the considerations which underlie the duty of Sabbath rest.

1. The institution of the Sabbath is coeval with the race. Adam in paradise kept the holy day. This is evidenced by the primitive division of time into weeks. The word "remember " in the fourth commandment shows that this injunction was but the revival and re-emphasising of one which had all along been binding upon them.

2. It is based upon a ground which in the nature of the case makes it perpetual. The Lord "rested on the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it."

3. The Sabbath law was interwoven with the nerves and sinews of the human constitution before it was inscribed on the tables of stone.

4. The injunction, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," when placed in the Decalogue, received the formal sanction of Jehovah as an essential part of the moral law.

5. Christ came to fulfil the ceremonial law; at His coming it vanished as shadows do before the sun. But as to the moral law, He came to fasten it more and more permanently on the hearts and consciences of men.

6. The change from the seventh to the first day was in no wise a violation of the original injunction, but rather in pursuance of it. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ, and thus a new and living branch of joy was engrafted upon it.

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

Monday Club Sermons., De Witt S. Clarke.
The several points suggested by this narrative are specially suited to times like our own.

I. IT REMINDS US OF THE BLINDING AND, HARDENING POWER OF WORLDLINESS. It blunts conscience, deadens spirituality, and estranges from God.





(Monday Club Sermons.)Keeping the Sabbath —

I. Sabbath observance has to contend with the greed of men with wealth.

II. Sabbath observance secures the community and nation from peril. Divine requirements have always a wise and loving purpose in them. A God-fearing nation is strong because it has learned, in its several elements, to exalt those things which have abiding power in them. Charity and integrity, reverence, purity, intelligence, and self-control are mighty forces. Against these immorality, intemperance, extortion, ignorance, surge like a desolating flood. The Sabbath is a protecting dyke raised across their path, so clear and effective that they each hate and would abolish it. A million soldiers under arms cannot defend us as sixty million citizens without other weapon than recognition of God's claims and their fellows' rights will do. The former may be defeated as Rome's numerous legions were. The latter are invincible.

III. SABBATH OBSERVANCE MAY BE DECREED BY PUBLIC STATUTE AND ENFORCED BY THE CIVIL MAGISTRATE. The State may, and must maintain itself. It may, and should, forbid those practices which threaten its life. It must respect the religious nature and requirements of its citizens. Its province is, not to say how any shall observe the hours of rest, but simply to guarantee that they shall have them.

(De Witt S. Clarke.)

Consider it —





(J. Venn, M. A.)

The last page of many a reformer's history has been, like Nehemiah's, a sad account of efforts to stem the ebbing tide of enthusiasm and the flowing tide of worldliness. The heavy stone is rolled a little way up hill, and, as soon as one strong hand is withdrawn, down it tumbles again to its old place. The evanescence of great men's work makes much of the tragedy of history. Our lesson is particularly concerned with Nehemiah's efforts to enforce Sabbath observance.

I. THE ABUSE CONSISTED IN SABBATH WORK AND TRADING. It is easy to ridicule the Jewish Sabbath and "the Puritan Sunday." No doubt there have been and are well-meant but mistaken efforts to insist on too rigid observance. No doubt it has been often forgotten by good people that the Christian Lord's Day is not the Jewish Sabbath. Of course, the religious observance of the day is not a fit subject for legislation. But the need for a seventh day of rest is impressed on our physical and intellectual nature; and devout hearts will joyfully find their best rest in Christian worship and service. The vigour of religious life demands special seasons set apart for worship. Unless there be such reservoirs along the road, there will be but a thin trickle of a brook by the way. It is all very well to talk about religion diffused through the life, but it will not be so diffused unless it is concentrated at certain times. They are no benefactors to the community who seek to break down and relax the stringency of the prohibition of labour. If once the idea that Sunday is a day of amusement takes root, the amusement of some will require the hard work of others, and the custom of work will tend to extend, till rest becomes the exception and work the rule. There never was a time when men lived so furiously fast as now. The pace of modern life demands Sunday rest more than ever. If a railway-car is run continually, it will wear out sooner than if it were laid aside for a day or two occasionally; and if it is run at express speed, it will need the rest more. We are all going at top speed; and there would be more breakdowns if it were not for that blessed institution which some people think they are promoting the public good by destroying — a seventh day of rest.

II. THE VIGOROUS REMEDIES APPLIED BY NEHEMIAH WERE ADMINISTERED FIRST TO THE RULERS. He sent for the nobles, and laid the blame at their doors. "Ye profane the day," said he. Men in authority are responsible for crimes which they could check but prefer to wink at. Nehemiah was governor for the Persian king, and so had a right to rate these nobles. In this day the people have the same right, and there are many social sins for which they should arraign civic and other authorities. Christian principles unflinchingly insisted on by Christian people, and brought to bear, by ballot-boxes and other persuasive ways, on what stands for conscience in some high places, would make a wonderful difference on many of the abominations of our cities. Go to the "nobles" first, and lay the burden on the backs that ought to carry it.

III. THEN NEHEMIAH TOOK PRACTICAL MEASURES BY SHUTTING THE CITY GATES ON THE EVE OF THE SABBATH, AND PUTTING SOME OF HIS OWN SERVANTS AS A WATCH. The methods adopted may yield suggestions for all who would aim at reforming abuses or public immoralities.

1. One most necessary step is to cut off, as far as possible, opportunities for the sin. There will be no trade if you shut the gates the night before. There will be little drunkenness if there are no liquor-shops. It is quite true that people cannot be made virtuous by legislation, but it is also true that they may be saved temptations to become vicious by it.

2. Once more, the guard of Levites may suggest that the execution of measures for the reformation of manners or morals is best entrusted to those who are in sympathy with them. Levites made faithful watchmen, Many a promising measure for reformation has come to nothing because committed to the hands of functionaries who did not care for its success. The instruments are almost as important as the means which they carry out.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

"I tell our directors that if they compel conductors to break the fourth commandment they have no right to expect them to keep the eighth." That was the Hon. William E. Dodge's business way of putting to railroad companies the argument for Sabbath-keeping.

A ferry company, with a fine prospect of a lucrative business, desired the late Governor Gamble to make an investment in their stock, which he declined, because they ran their boats on the Sabbath. "We are obliged by law to do so," was the excuse offered. "Yes," he replied; "I know that the law requires your company to run its boats on the Sabbath, but the law does not require me to invest my money in your stock."

Consider —



III. PRACTICAL REMEDIES. Nehemiah is here our pattern.

1. He took no part in the sin himself.

2. He made a public protest.

3. He promoted active measures for the suppression of Sabbath profanation.

(J. Hambleton.)

This passage contains a detailed statement of the transgressions of the Israelites in this particular, as well as of the testimony of God through Nehemiah against them; and as it distinctly indicates certain transactions on the Sabbath as grossly sinful, the guilt of which is by some considered as at least questionable, it will be profitable to closely examine the sacred writer's words, in order to evince the iniquity of such practices.


1. Agricultural work on the Sabbath. "In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine-presses, and bringing in sheaves," etc. The feeding of cattle and similar labours on the Sabbath are clearly permitted, because the life or health of the beast depends on its nourishment; but all other sorts of work are plainly evil, and as much just subject of rebuke from the Christian minister as the labours of the Jews were from the Jewish.

2. Sabbath traffic (ver. 16). The pleas of opposition, convenience, and such-like, cannot be allowed even in palliation; for the law of God must not be bent or modified to suit the will and caprices of man. Here no subterfuge, or sophistry, or excuse, is permitted.


1. He testified against them. It is the duty of ministers on any symptoms of irreligion in their respective districts to rebuke and raise their voices against it. For that purpose they are appointed as sentinels and guardians. Now this word "testify" is a comprehensive term, and will signify, first, that he indicated the evil — that he expressed his dislike of the practice — that he showed them its sinfulness, and the punishment surely consequent upon it. He then charged them with it. "Ye do it." "What evil thing is this that ye do?" The better sort were not sellers, but buyers; they connived at the practice, and encouraged it. The prophet accordingly accuses them with being accessories, over on the ground of bad example. The people naturally took their tone from them, and when they saw the Sabbath traffic of the nobles, they, also, profaned the Sabbath day. He rebukes them, too, for contempt of God and want of patriotism. "What evil thing is this that ye do," etc. Now this instance of the destiny of Israel proves the fact, that God does not reserve His wrath against the Sabbath-breaking nation for the next world, but here inflicts at least a part of the retribution.

2. He exerted his authority to prevent the entrance of the traders into me city. "I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the Sabbath," etc. The authority he exercised was exclusively secular. Therefore, though the state should be cautious of interfering in matters purely ecclesiastical, yet with this case before us it is evident that the magistrate may interpose to carry out the Divine ordinances. The authority, then, vested in magistrates or others by the state for this purpose is a legal authority, according to Divine law; and the conduct of Nehemiah in this case sets a proud example to officials of every time and place, with equal zeal and prudence to execute their functions.

(John Budgen, M.A.)

Artaxerxes, Balaam, Eliashib, Hanan, Israelites, Joiada, Levites, Mattaniah, Pedaiah, Sanballat, Shelemiah, Solomon, Tobiah, Tobijah, Tyrians, Zaccur
Ammon, Ashdod, Babylon, Jerusalem, Moab
Admonished, Asses, Bringing, Burden, Burdens, Corn, Crushing, Donkeys, Figs, Forewarned, Getting, Goods, Grain, Grapes, Heaps, Jerusalem, Judah, Kinds, Lading, Loading, Loads, Manner, Marketing, Presses, Protested, Provision, Provisions, Putting, Sabbath, Sabbath-day, Sacks, Selling, Sheaves, Sold, Sorts, Testified, Testify, Therewith, Treading, Victuals, Warned, Wherein, Wine, Winepresses, Wine-presses, Wine-vats, Witness, Yea
1. Upon the reading of the law, separation is made from the mixed multitude.
4. Nehemiah, at his return, causes the chambers to be cleansed.
10. He reforms the offices in the house of God;
15. the violation of the Sabbath;
23. and the marriages with the strange wives.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Nehemiah 13:15

     4440   fig-tree
     4458   grape
     4546   winepress
     5057   rest, physical

Nehemiah 13:15-16

     7240   Jerusalem, history

Nehemiah 13:15-18

     7429   Sabbath, in OT

Nehemiah 13:15-21

     5818   contempt

Nehemiah 13:15-22

     5242   buying and selling
     5407   merchants
     5587   trade

Nehemiah 13:15-27

     5345   influence
     8466   reformation

Sabbath Observance
'In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. 16. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 17. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The True Manner of Keeping Holy the Lord's Day.
Now the sanctifying of the Sabbath consists in two things--First, In resting from all servile and common business pertaining to our natural life; Secondly, In consecrating that rest wholly to the service of God, and the use of those holy means which belong to our spiritual life. For the First. 1. The servile and common works from which we are to cease are, generally, all civil works, from the least to the greatest (Exod. xxxi. 12, 13, 15, &c.) More particularly-- First, From all the works of our
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

Two Famous Versions of the Scriptures
[Illustration: (drop cap B) Samaritan Book of the Law] By the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, on the coast of Egypt, lies Alexandria, a busy and prosperous city of to-day. You remember the great conqueror, Alexander, and how nation after nation had been forced to submit to him, until all the then-known world owned him for its emperor? He built this city, and called it after his own name. About a hundred years before the days of Antiochus (of whom we read in our last chapter) a company of Jews
Mildred Duff—The Bible in its Making

The Last Days of the Old Eastern World
The Median wars--The last native dynasties of Egypt--The Eastern world on the eve of the Macedonian conquest. [Drawn by Boudier, from one of the sarcophagi of Sidon, now in the Museum of St. Irene. The vignette, which is by Faucher-Gudin, represents the sitting cyno-cephalus of Nectanebo I., now in the Egyptian Museum at the Vatican.] Darius appears to have formed this project of conquest immediately after his first victories, when his initial attempts to institute satrapies had taught him not
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 9

The Formation of the Old Testament Canon
[Sidenote: Israel's literature at the beginning of the fourth century before Christ] Could we have studied the scriptures of the Israelitish race about 400 B.C., we should have classified them under four great divisions: (1) The prophetic writings, represented by the combined early Judean, Ephraimite, and late prophetic or Deuteronomic narratives, and their continuation in Samuel and Kings, together with the earlier and exilic prophecies; (2) the legal, represented by the majority of the Old Testament
Charles Foster Kent—The Origin & Permanent Value of the Old Testament

Questions About the Nature and Perpetuity of the Seventh-Day Sabbath.
AND PROOF, THAT THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK IS THE TRUE CHRISTIAN SABBATH. BY JOHN BUNYAN. 'The Son of man is lord also of the Sabbath day.' London: Printed for Nath, Ponder, at the Peacock in the Poultry, 1685. EDITOR'S ADVERTISEMENT. All our inquiries into divine commands are required to be made personally, solemnly, prayerful. To 'prove all things,' and 'hold fast' and obey 'that which is good,' is a precept, equally binding upon the clown, as it is upon the philosopher. Satisfied from our observations
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath Day and Defends his Act.
(at Feast-Time at Jerusalem, Probably the Passover.) ^D John V. 1-47. ^d 1 After these things there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [Though every feast in the Jewish calendar has found some one to advocate its claim to be this unnamed feast, yet the vast majority of commentators choose either the feast of Purim, which came in March, or the Passover, which came in April. Older commentators pretty unanimously regarded it as the Passover, while the later school favor the feast
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

Some of the most complicated problems in Hebrew history as well as in the literary criticism of the Old Testament gather about the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Apart from these books, all that we know of the origin and early history of Judaism is inferential. They are our only historical sources for that period; and if in them we have, as we seem to have, authentic memoirs, fragmentary though they be, written by the two men who, more than any other, gave permanent shape and direction to Judaism, then
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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