Nehemiah 13:1-9 – CLEANING THE TEMPLE

Over the years, with short notice, I have requested that church deacons or elders accompany me on a hospital visit or to meet with someone to help handle a delicate situation. It was not unusual for me to hear men say something like this: “Sure Pastor! Just let me get cleaned up!” These words meant that the man wanted to quickly wash himself and change his clothes.

When a person gets word that a relative is coming to spend a few days, the cleaning begins. The room where the guest will stay is cleaned. The kitchen, dining room, family room and/or living room are vacuumed, dusted, and washed. Even the yard is placed in good order.

I had a friend who was in charge of maintenance in a school district in upstate New York. Before a new school year began he was responsible to make sure that rugs and floors were washed, that desk tops were cleaned, that classrooms were painted and that the school, in general, was ready to open.

Cleaning is very much a part of our lives. In these verses Nehemiah is challenged with the project of cleaning God’s temple.

After the wall had been completed and dedicated, and after the Israelites had made commitments to the Lord, Nehemiah went back to his original occupation. He was again the cupbearer for the King of Persia. A few years later Nehemiah again returned to Palestine to be the Governor of Israel. When he returned, Nehemiah discovered that the temple needed cleaning.

To get the most out of our message, we must realize that there is a definite parallel for us. According to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (Also see Romans 8:9.). Our bodies and spirits belong to God because they were purchased with the blood of His Son. Therefore, we are to glorify God in body and spirit because they belong to God. We must realize that just as the temple in Nehemiah’s day came to a point of need cleaning, our lives become polluted with sin and also end up needing cleaning.


Vss. 1-3 – On the day that the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated, a decision was made by the Jews to separate themselves from those that did not belong as part of God’s assembly. This included the Moabites and the Ammonites, who had not shown kindness to Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3-6).

Vss. 4-7 – In spite of this decision of separation, an alliance was formed between Eliashib, one of the priests and Tobiah, one of the key enemies of the Jews (Nehemiah 2:10, 4:1-8). While Nehemiah was out of town (Vss. 6-7), Tobiah was allowed to move into a great chamber which had been used for storage of tithes and offerings. Tobiah was an Ammonite.

When we make alliances with unsaved people and with ungodly thoughts and actions in our human temples we are displeasing God. We need to take to heart the admonition of 2 Corinthians 6:14-16


When Nehemiah discovered what had happened, he was unhappy. Whenever we discover an unholy alliance in our temples, we should be unhappy as well. Sin should grieve us (James 4:9).


Tobiah was evicted.

The sin and compromise within our human temples should also receive action. See 2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1. We need to clean up our acts! See 1 John 1:9 and James 4:1-10.