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Nehemiah 5 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Social Injustice

There was a widespread outcry from the people and their wives against their Jewish countrymen. Some were saying, “We, our sons, and our daughters are numerous. Let us get grain so that we can eat and live.” Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to get grain during the famine.” Still others were saying, “We have borrowed money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. We and our children are just like our countrymen and their children, yet we are subjecting our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters are already enslaved, but we are powerless[a] because our fields and vineyards belong to others.”

I became extremely angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints. After seriously considering the matter, I accused the nobles and officials, saying to them, “Each of you is charging his countrymen interest.” So I called a large assembly against them and said, “We have done our best to buy back our Jewish countrymen who were sold to foreigners, but now you sell your own countrymen, and we have to buy them back.” They remained silent and could not say a word. Then I said, “What you are doing isn’t right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God and not invite the reproach of our foreign enemies? 10 Even I, as well as my brothers and my servants, have been lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop charging this interest.[b] 11 Return their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses to them immediately, along with the percentage[c] of the money, grain, new wine, and olive oil that you have been assessing them.”

12 They responded: “We will return these things and require nothing more from them. We will do as you say.”

So I summoned the priests and made everyone take an oath to do this. 13 I also shook the folds of my robe and said, “May God likewise shake from his house and property everyone who doesn’t keep this promise. May he be shaken out and have nothing!”

The whole assembly said, “Amen,” and they praised the Lord. Then the people did as they had promised.

Good and Bad Governors

14 Furthermore, from the day King Artaxerxes appointed me to be their governor in the land of Judah—from the twentieth year until his thirty-second year, 12 years—I and my associates never ate from the food allotted to the governor. 15 The governors who preceded me had heavily burdened the people, taking food and wine from them, as well as a pound[d] of silver. Their subordinates also oppressed the people, but I didn’t do this, because of the fear of God. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the construction of the wall, and all my subordinates were gathered there for the work. We didn’t buy any land.

17 There were 150 Jews and officials, as well as guests from the surrounding nations at my table. 18 Each[e] day, one ox, six choice sheep, and some fowl were prepared for me. An abundance of all kinds of wine was provided every 10 days. But I didn’t demand the food allotted to the governor, because the burden on the people was so heavy.

19 Remember me favorably, my God, for all that I have done for this people.

Footnotes:

  1. Nehemiah 5:5 Lit but there is not the power in our hand
  2. Nehemiah 5:10 Or us forgive these debts
  3. Nehemiah 5:11 Lit hundredth
  4. Nehemiah 5:15 Lit 40 shekels
  5. Nehemiah 5:18 Lit And that which was prepared each

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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