The exclusion of foreigners (Neh 13:1-13:3)

“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.

Balaam and Balak meet (Num 22:36-22:41)

“When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at Ir-moab, on the boundary formed by the Arnon, at the farthest point of the boundary. Balak said to Balaam, ‘Did I not send to summon you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honor you?’ Balaam said to Balak, ‘I have come to you now, but do I have power to say just anything? The word God puts in my mouth that is what I must say.’ Then Balaam went with Balak. They came to Kiriath-huzoth. Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent them to Balaam and to the officials who were with him. On the next day, Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal. From there they could see part of the Israelites.”

When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went to meet him at the border by the Arnon. Balak wanted to know why Balaam had not come to him. Balaam responded to Balak the he could only say the words that God puts in his mouth. Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath-huzoth. There Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent them to Balaam and the officials with him. The next day, Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal, a small mountain on the Arnon, where they could see part of the Israelites. This is the only biblical mention of the towns of Ir-moab, on the border of Moab, as well as Kiriath-huzoth and Bamoth-baal, both near the Arnon River.