Rich believers were oppressing the poor. Nehemiah rebukes the rich people. Nehemiah does not exploit his office for personal gain. [UPDATED]
VERSE 1. Then there arose a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brothers the Jews.
a great cry of the people. That is, “a great outcry of the common people” (NAB translation).
VERSE 2. For there were that said, “We, our sons and our daughters, are many. Let us get grain, that we may eat and live.”
Let us get grain, that we may eat and live. There was a food shortage. It was because the people were rebuilding the walls instead of tending their fields.
It became a famine.
VERSE 3. There were also some that said, “We are mortgaging our fields, and our vineyards, and our houses. Let us get grain, because of the famine.”
We are mortgaging our fields, and our vineyards, and our houses. Some people were desperate. They mortgaged their property to rich people.
VERSE 4. There were also some who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute using our fields and our vineyards as collateral.
We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute. Some people had to borrow money from rich people to pay King Artaxerxes for “protection.”
And the rich believers charged them exorbitant interest rates.
VERSE 5. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children as their children. Behold, we bring our sons and our daughters into bondage to be servants, and some of our daughters have been brought into bondage. It is also not in our power to help it, because other men have our fields and our vineyards.”
Behold. This word is from הִנֵּה. It means look at, take notice, observe, see, or gaze at. It is often used as an interjection.
we bring our sons and our daughters into bondage. To pay back the money they had borrowed from the wealthy believers, some people had to sell their own children into slavery.
I was very angry when I heard their cry. Nehemiah was angry when he heard what rich people were doing to poor people.
VERSE 7. Then I consulted with myself, and contended with the nobles and the rulers, and said to them, “You exact usury, everyone of his brother.” I held a great assembly against them.
You exact usury, everyone of his brother. Rich believers were charging usury.
But the LORD God forbade that:
Exodus 22:25. If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor. You shall not charge him interest.
VERSE 8. I said to them, “We, after our ability, have redeemed our brothers the Jews that were sold to the nations; and would you even sell your brothers, and should they be sold to us?” Then they held their peace, and found not a word to say.
VERSE 9. Also I said, “The thing that you do is not good. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the nations our enemies?
VERSE 10. I likewise, my brothers and my servants, lend them money and grain. Please let us stop this usury.
VERSE 11. Please restore to them, even today, their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, that you are charging them.”
VERSE 12. Then they said, “We will restore them, and will require nothing of them. We will do so, even as you say.” Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they would do according to this promise.
VERSE 13. Also I shook out my lap, and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house, and from his labor, that doesn’t perform this promise; even be he shaken out, and emptied like this.” All the assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. The people did according to this promise.
VERSE 14. Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brothers have not eaten the bread of the governor.
VERSE 15. But the former governors who were before me were supported by the people, and took bread and wine from them, plus forty shekels of silver; yes, even their servants ruled over the people; but I didn’t do so, because of the fear of God.
forty shekels. A shekel is about 10 grams or about 0.35 ounces.
VERSE 16. Yes, I also continued in the work of this wall. We didn’t buy any land. All my servants were gathered there to the work.
We didn’t buy any land. All my servants were gathered there to the work. Even those in spiritual leadership roles must walk with God and act justly. Nobody is exempt!
VERSE 17. Moreover there were at my table, of the Jews and the rulers, one hundred fifty men, in addition to those who came to us from among the nations that were around us.
VERSE 18. Now that which was prepared for one day was one ox and six choice sheep. Also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days a store of all sorts of wine. Yet for all this, I didn’t demand the governor’s pay, because the bondage was heavy on this people.
VERSE 19. Remember to me, my God, for good, all that I have done for this people.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.