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About this time there was a great outcry of protest from parents against some of the rich Jews who were profiteering on them. 2-4 What was happening was that families who ran out of money for food had to sell their children or mortgage their fields, vineyards, and homes to these rich men; and some couldn’t even do that, for they already had borrowed to the limit to pay their taxes.

“We are their brothers, and our children are just like theirs,” the people protested. “Yet we must sell our children into slavery to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters, and we are helpless to redeem them, for our fields, too, are mortgaged to these men.”

I was very angry when I heard this; so after thinking about it I spoke out against these rich government officials.

“What is this you are doing?” I demanded. “How dare you demand a mortgage as a condition for helping another Israelite!”

Then I called a public trial to deal with them.

At the trial I shouted at them, “The rest of us are doing all we can to help our Jewish brothers who have returned from exile as slaves in distant lands, but you are forcing them right back into slavery again. How often must we redeem them?”

And they had nothing to say in their own defense.

Then I pressed further. “What you are doing is very evil,” I exclaimed. “Should you not walk in the fear of our God? Don’t we have enough enemies among the nations around us who are trying to destroy us? 10 The rest of us are lending money and grain to our fellow Jews without any interest. I beg you, gentlemen, stop this business of usury. 11 Restore their fields, vineyards, olive yards, and homes to them this very day and drop your claims against them.”

12 So they agreed to do it and said that they would assist their brothers without requiring them to mortgage their lands and sell them their children. Then I summoned the priests and made these men formally vow to carry out their promises. 13 And I invoked the curse of God upon any of them who refused.[a]

“May God destroy your homes and livelihood if you fail to keep this promise,” I declared.

And all the people shouted, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the rich men did as they had promised.

14 I would like to mention that for the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah—from the twentieth until the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes—my aides and I accepted no salaries or other assistance from the people of Israel. 15 This was quite a contrast to the former governors who had demanded food and wine and $100 a day in cash, and had put the population at the mercy of their aides who tyrannized them; but I obeyed God and did not act that way. 16 I stayed at work on the wall and refused to speculate in land; I also required my officials to spend time on the wall. 17 All this despite the fact that I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides visitors from other countries! 18 The provisions required for each day were one ox, six fat sheep, and a large number of domestic fowls; and we needed a huge supply of all kinds of wines every ten days. Yet I refused to make a special levy against the people, for they were already having a difficult time. 19 O my God, please keep in mind all that I’ve done for these people and bless me for it.


  1. Nehemiah 5:13 I invoked the curse of God upon any of them who refused, literally, “Then I shook out the lap of my gown.”

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,(A) our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”(B)

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

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!”(G) So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: “As far as possible, we have bought(H) 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.(I)

So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach(J) 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!(K) 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest(L) 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(M) to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook(N) 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,”(O) and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.

14 Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes,(P) when I was appointed to be their governor(Q) 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(R) I did not act like that. 16 Instead,(S) 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(T) 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(U) me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.


  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