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Other Jewish Landowners: We are borrowing money so that we can pay King Artaxerxes’ tax on our fields and vineyards because of the famine.

All the Jews: Even though we debtors are of the same people as our creditors—the same flesh, the same blood—and even though our children are the same as their children, we are raising this money for taxes by selling our children into slavery. In fact, some of our daughters are slaves already. We are helpless to do anything about it. Why? Because our fields and our vineyards now belong to our creditors!

Nehemiah is the picture of a benevolent ruler. As a Persian-appointed official, he has the right to exact a sizable tax on the people of Jerusalem. Previous governors have had special jars made for collecting grain and oil and fruit from the people. This food went to support the governor and all of his formal dinners. But Nehemiah does not exact this special tax because he realizes his people are already burdened by the Persians’ heavy taxes.

As Artaxerxes’ cupbearer, certainly Nehemiah is a wealthy man; therefore he has no need for additional resources from Jerusalem’s people. On his own, Nehemiah is able to regularly host all 150 of Jerusalem’s officials and frequent diplomats from other provinces, and the abundant meat and wine served at those functions proves that Nehemiah spares no personal expense. He manages to fulfill every duty assigned to him—those required of a Persian governor, and those required of a man of God.

When I heard this outcry, these charges filled me with anger.

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