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Nehemiah 5 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 5

Social and Economic Problems. Then there rose a great outcry of the people and their wives against certain of their Jewish kindred.[a] Some said: “We are forced to pawn our sons and daughters in order to get grain to eat that we may live.” Others said: “We are forced to pawn our fields, our vineyards, and our houses, that we may have grain during the famine.” Still others said: “To pay the king’s tax we have borrowed money on our fields and vineyards. And though these are our own kindred, and our children are as good as theirs, we have had to reduce our sons and daughters to slavery, and violence has been done to some of our daughters! Yet we can do nothing about it, for our fields and vineyards belong to others.”

I was extremely angry when I heard the reasons for their complaint. After some deliberation, I called the nobles and magistrates to account, saying to them, “You are exacting interest from your own kindred!”[b] I then rebuked them severely, saying to them: “As far as we were able, we bought back our Jewish kindred who had been sold to Gentiles; you, however, are selling your own kindred, to have them bought back by us.” They remained silent, for they could find no answer. I continued: “What you are doing is not good. Should you not conduct yourselves out of fear of our God rather than fear of the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I myself, my kindred, and my attendants have lent the people money and grain without charge. Let us put an end to this usury! 11 Return to them this very day their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses, together with the interest on the money, the grain, the wine, and the oil that you have lent them.” 12 They answered: “We will return everything and exact nothing further from them. We will do just what you ask.” Then I called for the priests to administer an oath to them that they would do as they had promised. 13 I shook out the folds of my garment, saying, “Thus may God shake from home and fortune every man who fails to keep this promise, and may he thus be shaken out and emptied!” And the whole assembly answered, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. Then the people did as they had promised.

Nehemiah’s Record. 14 Moreover, from the time that King Artaxerxes appointed me governor in the land of Judah, from his twentieth to his thirty-second year—during these twelve years neither I nor my kindred lived off the governor’s food allowance. 15 The earlier governors,[c] my predecessors, had laid a heavy burden on the people, taking from them each day forty silver shekels for their food; then, too, their attendants oppressed the people. But I, because I feared God, did not do this. 16 In addition, though I had acquired no land of my own, I did my part in this work on the wall, and all my attendants were gathered there for the work. 17 Though I set my table for a hundred and fifty persons, Jews and magistrates, as well as the neighboring Gentiles who came to us, 18 and though the daily preparations were made at my expense—one ox, six choice sheep, poultry—besides all kinds of wine in abundance every ten days, despite this I did not claim the governor’s allowance, for the labor lay heavy upon this people. 19 Keep in mind, my God, to my credit all that I did for this people.

Footnotes:

  1. 5:1 Certain of their Jewish kindred: probably Jews who had returned from Babylonia who formed the social and economic elite in the province.
  2. 5:7 You are exacting interest from your own kindred!: contrary to the Mosaic law (Dt 23:20).
  3. 5:15 The earlier governors: both Sheshbazzar (Ezr 5:14) and Zerubbabel (Hg 1:1, 14; 2:2, 21) are said to be governors, and Mal 1:8 mentions a governor but does not name him. Other names are known from seal impressions of uncertain date.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Nehemiah 5 New International Version (NIV)

Nehemiah Helps the Poor

Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”

Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”

Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.

So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”

12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.”

Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!”

At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.

14 Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. 15 But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels[a] of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we[b] did not acquire any land.

17 Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. 18 Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.

19 Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.

Footnotes:

  1. Nehemiah 5:15 That is, about 1 pound or about 460 grams
  2. Nehemiah 5:16 Most Hebrew manuscripts; some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Vulgate and Syriac I
New International Version (NIV)

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