’Did not Solomon King of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?’
Did Nehemiah then break up the marriages which had already taken place, and send the wives away? We are not told that he did. Probably he only insisted, and insisted very strongly, that no more such marriages should take place. For he knew that if the custom was continued it would lead to ruin, shame, and disgrace, and he was therefore perfectly right to take strong measures to put a stop to it.
One man he saw fit to make an example of in a still more decided way—one offending member he felt must be cut off. This was Manasseh, the grandson of the high priest, the very one who had been the cause of Tobiah’s entrance into the temple, and of the friendly feeling that existed between Eliashib and the Samaritans.
Here was Manasseh, a priest, living in the temple itself, dressed in the white robe, and taking part in the service of God, yet all the time having a heathen wife, and allowing heathen ways in his household. Manasseh’s wife was actually Sanballat’s daughter; and so long as he and she remained in the temple precincts, Nehemiah felt they would never be free from Sanballat’s influence.
Accordingly we read:
‘I chased him from me.’
Nehemiah banished him from the temple and from Jerusalem, and Manasseh went away with his wife to her father’s grand home in Samaria.
No doubt Nehemiah was far from popular in Jerusalem that night. There were many who thought he had been too severe, too narrow, too particular. And doubtless there were many who, if they had dared, would have rebelled against his decision. But Nehemiah had done everything; he had taken all these strong measures, not to please men, but to please God. If the Master praised him, he cared not what others might say of him. ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ was the constant prayer of Nehemiah’s heart; and though the work was oftentimes unpopular and disagreeable, Nehemiah did it both boldly and fearlessly.
The wheel of time goes round, and history, which works ever in a circle, constantly repeats itself, and so also does sin. The sin of Nehemiah’s days is still to be seen; the same temptation which beset those Jerusalem Jews, besets us even in these more enlightened days.
We all love company. There is in us a natural shrinking from being alone and desolate. That feeling is born in us; we inherit it from our first father Adam. ‘It is not good for the man to be alone,’ said the Lord in His tenderness and His pity.
But a choice lies before us, a choice of friends. Our relatives are given us by God, no man can choose who shall be his father, or mother, or brother, or sister. But our friends are of our own choosing, and we do not sufficiently consider that upon that choice may hang our eternity. Heaven with all its brightness, hell with all its darkness and misery, which shall be for me? The answer may hang, it often does hang, on the choice of a friend.