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"Before this" probably refers to the considerable length of time it must have taken to accomplish the annulment of all the mixed marriages after the renewed covenant. Nehemiah had to go back to Babylon after serving some twelve years in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 13:6) and, while he was away, many people had already broken the promises of their covenant.
KJV Defenders Study Bible, by Dr. Henry Morris, Ph.D.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
DEF 10 ISBN 0-529-10444-x
DEF 10-1 ISBN 0-529-10445-8