“On that day they read from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people. It was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God. They had not met the Israelites with bread and water, but hired Balaam to curse against them. Yet our God turned the curse into a blessing. When the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent.”
They then read from the book of Moses. This passage comes from Deuteronomy, chapter 23, almost word for word. The Ammonites and Moabites could not be part of the assembly of Yahweh. Yahweh wanted the Israelites to be very harsh with these people because they refused food and water when the Israelites were about to enter the Promise Land in their Exodus from Egypt. In fact, the Moabite king tried to hire a prophet Balaam to curse them. Numbers, chapters 21-25, has more information about these groups. Although this admonition was only against the Ammonite and Moabites, the people at the time of Nehemiah decided to be more universal against all foreigners. They separated themselves from all people of foreign descent. It must be remembered that some of these Jewish people were born in Persia. However, the blood line of the father determined who was a Jew in Jerusalem and Judah. Perhaps this passage should have been earlier in this work.