Chapter 13 establishes in verse 1 and 2 that the Ammonites were never to enter the house of God for their historical unkindness to the children of Israel. Moreover, one relentless enemy of the rebuilding project and of Nehemiah was Tobiah the Ammonite (remember him?). How shocking would it have been that upon Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem after 12 years from the court of Artaxerxes, the Ammonite sidekick of his arch nemesis was sitting in the inner offices of the house of God (13:7)! Verse 8 and 9 record Nehemiah throwing Tobiah’s things out of the house of God and commanding the rooms to be cleansed. [Note: just because it is recorded in Scripture does not justify manhandling other’s personal property.]
Secondly, Nehemiah perceived that the Levites were not being given the tithes from the land. So he restored the tithe system and the storage of the tithed goods, while establishing the personnel of treasurers (13:11–13).
Why was Nehemiah so vehement in his behavior? This might not go over well in a 21st century postmodern context. Not worried about political correctness, Nehemiah may have had a couple of things on his mind. First, the house of God and the tithe were holy. The tenth of all increase was a holy portion. The holy portion went to the Holy God. The holy portion for the Holy God had a holy purpose. And the holy portion for the Holy God had the holy purpose of sustaining the holy priesthood of the house of God, which itself was holy.
Secondly, Nehemiah remembered that he had signed his name on the covenant made with the leaders of Jerusalem. Should they have kept it, they would have been blessed; but in breaking it, they were inviting curses. As a result, throughout this chapter, Nehemiah attempts to restore the four covenantal elements, concluding each time with the prayer of “remember me, O my God.” In other words, Lord, don’t include me in the curse section, because I don’t subscribe to this rebellion.