Why did Nehemiah threaten violence?


I have a question: I know Hebrews speaks about how the Old Testament was just a shadow of the New Testament. I was reading Nehemiah and noticed that when the people disobeyed (in chapters 12 and 13) he executed violence and threatened to lay hands on outsiders trying to sell on the Sabbath. Since the Old Testament is just a shadow and since Jesus' kingdom is not of this world, was Nehemiah's right to execute violence? Since that'd be wrong under the New Law, does that further prove that the Old Testament was a shadow and the New Law is purely spiritual?

It's tough for me to word it, but I have had this on my mind for a while.

Your help is always appreciated!


You need to remember that the Old Law was both a spiritual guide and a civil law for the Jews. Nehemiah was the governor of Jerusalem. As the head of the civil government at that time it was his responsibility to enforce the laws. What I noticed is that Nehemiah typically gave a warning before he ordered force to be used. For example, in Nehemiah 13:19-21 he had to warn merchants once or twice to not camp outside of Jerusalem waiting to sell on the Sabbath day. He told them if it continued he would use force, but he never had to do so because they heeded his warning.

Under the New Law, civil functions are placed in the hands of governments. "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor" (Romans 13:1-7). Notice that the civil government has the authority to use force (the sword) to gain compliance with its laws. Of course, since those governments have their authority from God, their laws ought to be in accordance with God's laws.

When Hebrews said that the Old Law was a shadow, it meant that the things in the Old Law dimly represented the reality of the New Law. For example, the Altar of Incense was a shadow of the prayers saints raise to God. "Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "See," He says, "That you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain." But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises" (Hebrews 8:4-6). One of the reasons it was important for Moses to strictly adhere to the patterns of articles and orders of worship was because those things would represent things in the New Testament church. Even though the Israelites did not understand why God wanted things done in these particular ways, we see the shadows of the reality of the church cast back into the Old Testament.


That makes sense! Nehemiah, as the governor, had the right to do that as do governing authorities today. It completely slipped my mind.

Thank you very much!

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