5 Now there was a great outcry of the [poorer] people and their wives against their Jewish brothers [to whom they were deeply in debt]. 2 For there were some who were saying, “We, along with our sons and our daughters, are many; therefore allow us to get grain, so that we may eat and survive.” 3 There were others who were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to buy grain because of the famine.” 4 There were also others who were saying, “We have borrowed money on our fields and vineyards for the [Persian] king’s [heavy] tax. 5 Now our flesh (skin) is the same as that of our brothers (relatives), and our children are like their children, yet here we are forcing (selling) our sons and our daughters to be slaves; and some of our daughters are forced into bondage already, and [a]we are powerless [to redeem them] because our fields and vineyards belong to others.”
6 Then I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words [of accusation]. 7 I thought it over and then challenged the nobles and the rulers. I said to them, “You are exacting usury (excessive interest) from your own brother (relative).” So I held a great assembly to confront them. 8 I said to them, “According to our ability we have redeemed (purchased back) our Jewish brothers who were sold to the [Gentile] nations; now would you even sell your brothers, that they might be sold to us?” Then they were silent and could not find a [single] word to say. 9 So I said, “What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunting by the [pagan] nations, our enemies? 10 And likewise I, my brothers, and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop [charging] this interest.11 Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, and also a hundredth part of the money, the grain, the new wine, and the oil that you are lending them.” 12 Then they said, “We will give it back and not require anything from them. We will do exactly as you say.” Then I called the priests and took an oath from them that they would act in accordance with this promise. 13 I also [b]shook out the [c]front of my garment and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not keep this promise; like this may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said, “Amen!” And they praised the Lord. Then the people acted in accordance with this promise.
14 Moreover, from the day that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, for twelve years, neither I nor my relatives have eaten the governor’s food allowance. 15 But the former governors who were [in office] before me put heavy burdens on the people and took food and wine from them in addition to forty shekels of silver [as an excessive monthly salary]; even their servants assumed authority over the people. But I did not do so because of the [reverent] fear of God. 16 I also applied myself to the work on this wall; we did not buy any land, and all my servants were gathered together there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table a hundred and fifty Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. 18 Now the following were prepared for each day: one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls (poultry) were prepared for me; and in intervals of ten days all sorts of wine was provided in abundance. Yet for all this, I did not demand the governor’s food allowance, because the servitude was heavy on this people. 19 Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all I have done for this people.
Nehemiah 5:13The folds of a robe over the chest formed a place where objects could be carried and protected, so Nehemiah’s gesture was a vivid illustration of the divine punishment he was invoking upon violators.
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