The last significant Old Testament priest in chronological terms, Eliashib, served in the time of Nehemiah during the 5th century BC. Eliashib’s name has a wonderfully optimistic meaning in Hebrew - ‘God restores’. Appropriate to his name, this high priest lived in a restoration period; there was a civic rebuilding programme in Jerusalem, while at the same time a spiritual revival was taking place.

We discover two key lessons from the life of Eliashib. First, he teaches us the value of cooperation, Neh. 3. 1, and, secondly, the danger of compromise, 13. 4-9, 28-31. Both lessons involve our hearts and who we allow to get close to us. In the first case, Eliashib sets a good example to follow, but, in the second case, his bad behaviour is to be avoided.

The value of cooperation

As Nehemiah’s rapid reconstruction programme rolled into action, the high priest was at the forefront, 3. 1. Some influential individuals, v. 5, refused to get involved but Eliashib was highly enthusiastic, setting to work with energy and Phinehas-like zeal, Num. 25. 11.

Eliashib’s labour was performed as part of a team -he collaborated with ‘his brethren the priests’, Neh. 3. 1. Unity marked their service. One person could not build a city wall on his own. Indeed, for the most part, effective Levitical service involved working with others.

The ‘sheep gate’ was used for transporting animal sacrifices to the temple, so the priests’ project was promoting sacrificial giving for others. These builders consecrated what they constructed - only the priests consecrated their part of the wall -dedicating it to the Lord and to His glory.

In practical terms, we must work ‘heartily’ in our service for God, Col. 3. 23. Working together with fellow believers is essential. As we serve with mutual affection and respect, ‘God … giveth the increase’, 1 Cor. 3. 7.

The danger of compromise

As part of his high priestly duties, Eliashib oversaw the various rooms in the temple precincts, Neh. 13. 4. A large room that had been used previously as a warehouse for sacrifices was repurposed as a guest room for Tobiah the Ammonite. Nehemiah was out of town at this time, unaware that Eliashib was fraternizing with the enemy Tobiah had a hostile history of opposition to Nehemiah and the rebuilding work in Jerusalem. How could God’s enemy find a shelter in God’s house?

When Nehemiah returned, he exposed the ‘evil’ of Eliashib, v. 7. Nehemiah had no qualms in identifying sin and dealing with it. To harbour antiGod sentiment, cultivating worldly associations, is evil - displacing devotion to God, damaging things that belong to God, and potentially causing harm to God’s people. Nehemiah decisively removed Tobiah and his property from the temple. The rooms were cleaned and restored to their rightful use. Once again, provision was made available for the Levites and the regular sacrifices could be resumed properly, vv. 9-12.

This episode presents serious warnings to us. F. B. Meyer frequently refers to the ‘secret chamber’ in our lives, a hidden place where we keep our treasures.1 Is the enemy residing there, like a fifth column seeking to sabotage our spirituality? We must remember that our bodies are ‘a temple of the Holy Spirit’, 1 Cor. 6. 19, and we should be devoted entirely to the Lord. exposed as he compromised with the enemy But God can always recover His people from failure. As Eliashib’s name delightfully testifies, God restores.

The root cause of Eliashib’s compromise is an unholy alliance with the enemy. We learn more about this at the end of Nehemiah’s narrative.

Eliashib’s grandson married a daughter of Sanballat, Neh. 13. 28, another enemy operative. Again, Nehemiah needed to root out the evil. No priest was allowed to marry a Gentile, Lev. 21. 14. Eliashib and his family needed to guard their affections. We must adopt similar caution, ‘Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers’, 2 Cor. 6. 14, whether in marriage, business, or any other area of life.

Ultimately, our devotion to the Lord will determine our attitude and our actions. At first, Eliashib the high priest seemed fully committed as he participated in the rebuilding. Later, his heart was exposed as he compromised with the enemy. But God can always recover His people from failure. As Eliashib’s name delightfully testifies, God restores.



The ‘secret chamber’ crops up frequently in F. B. Meyer’s Through the Bible Commentary.